There’s really only one rule regarding the multi-faceted local band The Mostest, according to frontman and primary songwriter Mark Ransom.
“If Patrick isn’t involved in what I do,” he said last week in an interview at a local restaurant, “then it isn’t The Mostest.”
Patrick is Patrick Pearsall, local bassist extraordinaire who’s in, like, a million bands. And beyond Pearsall and Ransom, there seems to be no limit to who is, was, can be, could be or should be in The Mostest.
“It’s a collective of musicians that starts with me and Patrick,” Ransom said. “Tony (Houston, former Mostest drummer who now lives in Washington) is still in the band. In fact, we’d like for him to move back here so we get to play with him on a regular basis.
“We play with (El Dante’s) Mitch Peay from time to time. We play with Lindsey (Elias) from the Empty Space Orchestra,” he continued. “When Tony’s in town we play with Tony, and when we do a more acoustic thing, we play generally with (local percussionists) Shireen Amini or Dale Largent, if there is a percussionist.”
And get this: That’s just the drummers!
“Sometimes Julie (Southwell) plays violin. Sometimes our friend (and Bond Brother) Tim Schroeder plays guitar,” Pearsall said. “Jason Graham. Brent Alan. Glenn Brookman every once in a while steps in and plays a little pedal steel. Joe Schulte’s played with us a couple times on the mandolin.”
You get the point, even if you can’t quite draw the family tree.
We’re here today, however, to talk about a particular version of The Mostest that powered the band’s — ahem, collective’s — new album, “Masala Mostest,” which will get a proper party in its honor Wednesday night in Bend (see “If you go”).
“Masala” is a mix of spices used primarily in Indian cuisine, Ransom said, and it’s a perfectly evocative word that describes both the band that recorded the album — which also includes Southwell and Amini — as well as the sound that band makes.
All four members are veterans of the local music scene, and all agreed to play a string of gigs together last summer at Black Butte Ranch. The result had a global flavor, thanks to Southwell’s Indian-influenced playing style and Amini’s hand-percussion skills.
Before the first Black Butte show, the group decided to record the performances. Those recordings (plus one at Bend’s Parrilla Grill) became the foundation for “Masala Mostest,” Ransom said. The players did a few overdubs to beef up the sound and added a couple of songs after the fact, but crowd noise and other ambient sounds were left in place to give the album a live aesthetic.
Like all of Ransom’s music, “Masala Mostest” is a fun, breezy collection of tunes that go well with a cold beer, sunshine and a view of the mountains. Ransom’s influences — Beatles, Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, James Taylor, to name a few — bubble up everywhere, as do harmonies, with Amini and Southwell contributing vocals throughout.
“It’s a folk album, in my opinion,” Ransom said. “I think a lot of people come out and they see us playing with a big back beat, with a drummer and electric guitars, and that’s really only about half of what we do. The other half is much more acoustic.”
The album is also Ransom’s first doesn’t focus primarily on his own songs. “Masala Mostest” includes Mostest-ized covers of Phish, The Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, Willy Porter and Madonna, designed to give the listener the feel of a live show.
Right now, Ransom is more interested in simply playing great songs than stubbornly pushing his own work on people, he said.
“Without good songs, you don’t have anything to interpret. You don’t have anything that people hear and say, ‘I understand that. That resonates with me,’” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily need to be a song that somebody’s heard before, but it has to have elements that people kind of objectively relate to, and that’s what we call a good song.
“At this point in my life it’s arrogant to believe that in my lifetime, I’m going to be able to write a number of songs that are better than the millions of great ones that are out there,” he said. “The thing that makes a live show good to me is that it’s interesting from a performance standpoint, but also that the … material is receivable by a wide audience.”
The point was driven home, Pearsall said, when he and Ransom saw folk legend Richie Havens perform at the Tower Theatre a year ago.
“He played for two hours, and probably 80 percent of the set was covers,” Pearsall said. “What I took from that is why don’t you play the best two hours of music you can play, and maybe some of that’s yours and some of it (was written by) other people.”
All that said, Ransom still considers himself a songwriter first. For him, it’s about growing a song from seed to full bloom.
“I like the process of coming up with the idea, fitting it all together like a puzzle, honing the melody, introducing it to a band, performing it in front of a crowd, getting feedback,” he said. “Over time, you decide, ‘We’re going to record that one,’ (and) you get it on the CD and you get more feedback, and that inspires you to write another song.
“That’s my process,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been putting my nose to over the last 15 years: playing, performing and having those electric moments when everything comes together.”