Local Noise: Low Mass Tone

“We’re a pretty musically diverse bunch, as long as your idea of musical diversity is restricted to loud, guitar-oriented rock,” laughs Kurt Engfehr, guitarist with Low Mass Tone. The New York and New Jersey-based band is just putting the finishing touches on their first album, which has been a long time coming since the group has been together since 2001. “We’ve had a big push in the last year, finishing three songs and having three more in various stages of completion,” he adds. “And once those are mixed, hey, we’ve got an album! Once that’s done, we’ll be hitting the streets.”

Although this will be their first official release, the band has already had some success with song placements in movies and shows. The recent film Greedy Lying Bastards contains their track “Bastards And Swine Forever” as its end credit song.

Kurt is joined in the group by John Alpers on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Patrick Gambuti, Jr. on drums, and Rikki Portner on bass. Their sound has been heavily influenced by a variety of both classic and more recent acts, including The Who, Rage Against The Machine, Neil Young, AC/DC, The Cult, REM, Pink Floyd, The Monkees, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. “As for direct influence, we like to say that Patrick is the second coming of Keith Moon,” says Kurt. “John is channeling a still living Eddie Vedder, Rikki plays bass as if Geddy Lee was in The Smiths, and I have the aggressive attitude of Sid Vicious and the skill level of, well, Sid Vicious!”

Kurt and Patrick actually met while working together as film editors at the New Yorkvideo facility National Video, where the movie Tootsie was filmed and where MTV had their studios for many years. They found John through an advertisement in the Village Voice, and several years and many bass players later, Patrick stumbled upon Rikki, yet another co-worker at National Video. This lineup has managed to stay together since 2001.

Kurt actually finds a lot of similarities between their work in film editing and the work they do with the band. “Mostly in interpersonal dynamics,” he explains. “A lot of people think that the director of a film is the main creative force and that he does almost everything himself. And that couldn’t be more wrong. Every great film has an equally great team assembled and often the director is more of a project manager than the actual creative force. But if the team has a goal and a purpose and are working together, it will usually be a successful project. And this is the hard part, if people can put their egos aside and execute the best idea, no matter who comes up with it, then when the project’s a success, everybody benefits. We’ve come to believe that being a part of a great project offers far more rewards than being the sole creative director of something that’s not that successful. And the same goes for being in a band. Working together, coming up with great ideas, producing great music. That’s the goal and that’s what we strive to achieve.”

While it is definitely a collaborative effort, about half the songs start with John bringing in the words and the music. Rikki also brings in a few of her ideas, and Kurt and Patrick often collaborate. “Whenever one of us writes a song, that person brings the band the song with chord progressions and basic structure ready to go,” says Kurt. “Then, as a band, we’ll slowly mutate it and make it loud, which also changes the dynamic of the song. Once Patrick lays down a drum track, all bets are off!”

The highlight of the live show is often the song “Violet,” which they describe as a rousing, stomping, Irish metal jig. “We end the shows with that,” Kurt relates. “Leave them smiling. Or, in our case, with bleeding ears and a disturbing sense that the current economic system might not be working for everyone. Another song people seem to like is one that was the opening number in a documentary called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. “It was a cover of the Men At Work song, ‘Down Under,’ and seems to be getting a good response judging from the comments people have left on YouTube,” Kurt adds.

The name of the band actually relates in a contradictory way to what they do during the day. “Low mass tone is an analog term regarding the weight of a tone arm used on turntables,” says Kurt. “We really liked that, considering what three of us do for a living, editing films and tv shows on the latest high-powered computer and digital systems, and naming ourselves after something analog seemed deliciously ironic.”

Look for Low Mass Tone to be hitting area stages to support the new release in the near future. “We’re kinda putting our efforts towards that right now, but when it’s done, be prepared,” Kurt warns. “I’m not sure WHAT you should be prepared for, but I’d get ready just the same!”

You can find out more information about Low Mass Tone, including the new release and upcoming tour dates, at reverbnation.com/lowmasstone.