Austin’s Mother Fal­con takes on Ra­dio­head

Young orches­tra-pop group brings cre­ative twist to ‘OK Com­puter’ and show­cases orig­i­nal tunes from new al­bum.

Austin American-Statesman - - ARTS - By Luke Quin­ton Spe­cial to the Amer­i­canS­tates­man

If you’ve ever glanced at your liv­ing room and thought it felt a lit­tle cramped, you should watch what 11 mu­si­cians squeeze out of a hun­dred square feet in­side Tamir Kal­ifa’s East Austin bun­ga­low.

This is the main re­hearsal space for Mother Fal­con, and the orches­tra-pop group has some­how made room for their in­stru­ments: a dou­ble bass, two cel­los, vi­o­lins, a trum­pet, drum kit, sax­o­phone, gui­tars and an ac­cor­dion.

“We’re very used to be­ing in con­fined spa­ces,” says trum­pet player Matt Krolick. “Packed like sar­dines in a tin box,” some­one adds.

The young Austin group is re­hears­ing for their up­com­ing show at Scot­tish Rite The­ater, which will pre­miere work from an up­com­ing al­bum, and, in a new move for the band, have them cov­er­ing Ra­dio­head’s “OK Com­puter” from start to fin­ish (the two groups share a pub­lish­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor, and those folks com­mis­sioned Mother Fal­con to cre­ate the or­ches­tral ar­range­ment).

Nick Gregg’s cello is pulling out the first lines of “Airbag,” the Ra­dio­head al­bum’s open­ing track. “I am born agaaain,” he sings, bring­ing a touch more sin­cer­ity to the orig­i­nal lyric.

If you’ve lis­tened to rock mu­sic in the har­mony is re­con­sid­ered.

One group de­ci­sion the band would not di­vulge is how they’re plan­ning to per­form “Fit­ter Hap­pier,” in which a com­puter voice nar­rates a long, freaky list of self-help cliches.

Mother Fal­con’s take on it will be worth watch­ing and hear­ing. And, as singer Nick Gregg says, “It’s cheaper than see­ing Ra­dio­head.”

In the last decade, Ra­dio­head be­came a fa­vorite of high­brow mu­si­cians, with cover al­bums from pi­anists like Christo­pher O’Ri­ley and blue­grass phe­nom Chris Thile.

One thing that sets Mother Fal­con apart from th­ese play­ers is the stag­ger­ing fact that when “OK Com­puter” came out, the band’s youngest mem­ber was 4 years old.

The group’s mem­bers range from 19 to 25, and when many of them heard Ra­dio­head for the first time, it was years later, and years out of con­text; the com­puter fu­ture that seemed darkly in­evitable in ‘97 was their na­tive en­vi­ron­ment. Some in the band ad­mit that the record wasn’t that ap­peal­ing to them.

But they’ve come around. “I just found (Ra­dio­head’s lead singer) Tom Yorke in­side of me,” jokes Gregg. pre­vi­ous two decades you’ve lis­tened to Ra­dio­head, the Bri­tish band who moved be­yond the norms of ’90s Brit-rock by mak­ing some­thing al­to­gether dif­fer­ent, with two of the most ac­claimed records ever made: the enig­matic, elec­tronic “Kid A,” and the record that paved the way to the elec­tronic fu­ture, “OK Com­puter.”

“I like, wor­shiped that al­bum,” says Kal­ifa, Mother Fal­con’s ac­cor­dion­ist and colead singer. “That al­bum helped me get through high school.”

This is a com­monly held feel­ing among those of us who be­came slightly ob­sessed with the al­bum when it was re­leased in the sum­mer of 1997. So, hear­ing one of your fa­vorite rock records be­ing over­taken by a group that has lit­tle in com­mon with the sound of ’90s rock is both strange and com­pelling.

To put it plainly: Ra­dio­head has three elec­tric gui­tars; Mother Fal­con has two cel­lists and an ac­cor­dion.

There is no mis­tak­ing Mother Fal­con’s sound. The ac­cor­dion gives it a klezmer-band feel, and the sheer num­ber of in­stru­ments brings out more tex­tures, asides and in­vented riffs that a rock band can’t do.

“We want to be true to the mu­sic, but also bring our own cre­ativ­ity to it,” Kal­ifa says. That means each sec­tion of Mother Fal­con split off from the moth­er­ship to cre­ate its own take on the al­bum. As they take a brief re­cess from the first song, a se­ries of sax­o­phone scales is spi­ralling out from the hall­way.

This re­hearsal is bring­ing those lit­tle parts back into the fold. Melodies are aug­mented, drum parts re­fined, a


Mother Fal­con per­formed at 101X Home­grown Live at the Mo­hawk in Austin in 2010. They play Satur­day at Scot­tish Rite The­ater. Mother Fal­con When: 9 p.m. Satur­day Where: Scot­tish Rite The­ater, 207 W. 18th St. Cost: $10-$20

In­for­ma­tion: www. scot­tishriteth­e­

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