Once Pitchfork wrote ‘Like drawing a perfect circle, making a good power-pop record is an elusive task. Portland’s Mo Troper come closer than many have in awhile, with snot-nosed charm.’, about a Mo Troper record.
Exposure & Response is another good power pop record. Actually, it’s a GREAT power pop record!
Do you feel part of a community, the power pop community?
The “power pop community” in Portland, Oregon is pretty nonexistent, despite this being the birthplace of one of the best power pop bands ever, the Exploding Hearts. There are some people here who supposedly like that style of music, but I feel like they’re mostly drawn in by the aesthetic—light wash denim, vintage Sweet t-shirts, Chelsea boots, cocaine, etc. I haven’t really been embraced by the power pop “old guard,” either, and I’m still trying to figure out why. I think maybe my lyrics are a little too intense for that scene.
Which is the song you wish you had written every time you hear it? And why?
“Short People” by Randy Newman. It’s the only song with a structure that just really baffles me every time I hear it. It’s so rare for the bridge to happen that early in a pop song, and I think it’s one of the things that makes it so effective. It’s a perfect song.
What was the biggest fun during the making of the last album?
I had a lot of fun working with the symphonic players who performed on the album. It was really humbling to watch classically-trained musicians just sort of do their thing all over my dinky pop songs. Specifically, working with Shannon Rose, who played viola and violin on the record and also plays in the band Typhoon, was huge for me. I think her performances really sell those parts.
The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?
For me, success in music is a mixture of two things: Whether or not I feel good about it in retrospect, and whether it actually resonated with people in a significant way. It doesn’t matter how many people. This record generated this unexpected, grassroots interest among music dorks. 1/3 of the records we’ve sold have been international orders. I still get messages from people all over the world who tell me how much they liked the record. I find that way more validating than paying a publicist thousands of dollars to get on a website like Pitchfork, only to disappear from the public consciousness a day later. That stuff can be exciting, but it’s ultimately fleeting.
What would change if Disney would call and tell you they are going to use your song in their next movie?
Maybe my bank account balance, but that’s about it.
What’s up for the rest of the year?
I’ve spent the last three months working on a new record, and it will hopefully be done by the end of the year. I’m trying to make the best power pop album of all time.
Last year Portland songwriter Mo Troper released the excellent Exposure & Response, a record packed with decadent power-pop hooks and decadent musical arrangements. But more than just being a collection of songs where nearly each one can get rotation in my subconscious for months), Troper weaves narratives and parables with a cast of delightfully obtuse characters that would give a Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel a run for its money.