M.G.R. (ex-Isis) prep new EP (listen to the Joy Division cover)
Mustard Gas & Roses (aka M.G.R.) is the current and long-running project of Michael Gallagher, formerly of the now-defunct Isis and the '90s post-hardcore band Cast Iron Hike before that. They're releasing a new EP, We Are One, on November 10 via Pax Aeternum (pre-order), which includes the new song "Shadows," covers of Joy Division's "Exercise One" and Spiritualized's "Cop Shoot Cop," and an acoustic version of the title track of 2016's Becoming. The EP description was penned by Brian Cook (Botch, Russian Circles, Sumac, etc), who writes in part:
M.G.R. was largely quiet in the years following the release of Becoming, with one of their rare live appearances occurring at Portland’s Stumpfest in 2017. With M.G.R.’s creative core reduced to Gallagher and bassist J Bennet, the duo recruited guitarist Marc Brandi (Lowcaster) and drummer Patrick Crawford (Nite, Older Sun) for a short run of shows up to the Northwest. In the fleeting preparations for the mini-tour, M.G.R. managed to develop two new songs for the set. “Shadows” taps into the dire slow-burn hymns of pre-hiatus Swans and Angels Of Light before blossoming into a kaleidoscope of interwoven guitars and pounding, propulsive rhythms. The other full-band contribution was a scorching cover of Joy Division’s “Exercise One,” which harnesses the original’s gloomy aura but makes the instrumentation far more sonically oppressive. Given the automatic chemistry of the new formation, a few hours of studio time were booked after the Portland date and the two songs were tracked live.
In subsequent years, Gallagher found moments to further push M.G.R.’s sound into new territories. The title track from Becoming was revisited and approached as a somber acoustic track. With a little help from musical compatriot Bryan Tulao (Chelsea Wolfe, Mother Tongue, Black Math Horseman), M.G.R. captured the song in its original genesis, stripped down to its most basic, harrowing components. The biggest sonic risk comes with the EP’s closing track, a ten-minute cover of Spiritualized’s “Cop Shoot Cop.” Recorded by Sanford Parker and rounded out by musical contribution from Bryan Tulao and Sash Popovic (Mother Tongue, Black Math Horseman), the song taps into the original’s bluesy gospel vibe while giving every component an additional sonic and emotional weight, effectively transforming the track into a hypnotic meditation that eventually explodes into a maelstrom of noise.
Mike himself also had a lot to say about the EP:
The EP really is much a vehicle to get these orphans out into the world.
I was always happy with the musical delivery of the original version of "Becoming" but never totally satisfied with my vocals. That was my first attempt at sharing my singing with people and I always felt that there was a lot of room for improvement, I also felt that the core of the song lent itself to an acoustic makeover because that's how it was originally conceived. So, this version of the song kind of naturally came together as a way for me to take the song back to its origin and try to improve my evolving vocals
The cover of "Cop Shoot Cop" has been something that I've wanted to tackle for a while mostly because I love the song, but also because I've been borrowing the song's loud / quiet dynamic shift for most of my musical career.
I had the opportunity to take MGR up to Stumpfest in Portland, OR. But due to scheduling conflicts, I needed another guitarist and drummer. I spoke with my friend Marc about this and we were able to schedule a practice with him and Patrick in their hometown of San Francisco. We fleshed out a few songs from the record "Becoming" and I was feeling really positive about the connection that we were forging together. On my drive back to Los Angeles my phone was playing music on random and "Exercise One" came on and I immediately thought that it would be a nice come together moment if we worked that song out together. About a week after that first practice, I was messing around in my home studio and I came up with "Shadows" and brought it, and the idea of "Exercise One" up to Marc and Patrick. Thankfully, they were down to work it out and take it on the road.
Recording "Shadows" and "Exercise One" with Patrick, Marc and J was basically a celebration of the connection that the four of us were finding together. The night we played Stumpfest I was introduced to Adam Pike, the Front of House engineer of the fest and was able to book studio time with him for the following day. We recorded the two songs in a couple hours, and they came together really nicely. Normally my recording experiences are more methodical and planned out than this. This was the first time I just went for it without any planning and it was really liberating.
Currently I have an entire record written and am in the process of demoing the songs with the boys whenever we all have the time to work together. It’s been a slow process, but everything is sounding really good and I’m happy with the latest metamorphosis of the band. We should be able to record in about four months if we can continue at this pace.
They recently released "Shadows," and we're now premiering the Joy Division cover, which is pretty faithful to the original but a little heavier and more modern sounding. Listen to both below.