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Once a Provo band, The Moth and the Flame returns to Utah with record deal, new material

Published October 25, 2013 11:45 am

Local Sounds • Band releases new EP "&" Nov. 5 on Hidden Records.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When it came time for the members of The Moth and the Flame to name their record label debut, they chose a symbol, not a word. And then they flipped that symbol upsidedown.

The Moth and the Flame will release their EP "&" — naturally pronounced "ampersand" but stylized as an upside-down logogram — Nov. 5 on Hidden Records. It's a cryptic, even counterintuitive album name for a band still clawing its way toward stardom and widespread recognition, but it also represents a kind of coda to the band's years of hard work — much of it done in Utah.

The first distinct recollection I have of The Moth and the Flame is from mid-2011, when during a particularly cold winter the band — then still a two-piece made up of Brandon Robbins and Mark Garbett — appeared in an Occidental Salon video on the frozen waters of Utah Lake. Though the music itself was somewhat embryonic — especially compared to the more sophisticated textures on "&" — the piece was striking and otherworldly. Surrounded by jagged slabs of lake ice and an endless frozen expanse, it was an early exercise by the band in ethos-building.

Later that same year — on Nov. 11, or "11.11.11" on publicity materials — the band released its self-titled debut at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo. The record was not available online, but was nevertheless well-received and sold out.

That also was the period in which the band began experimenting with the inverted ampersand. The symbol appeared on huge banners and bleak, washed-out-looking posters with no text but"11.11.11" printed on them. People in Provo who didn't even know the band's music collected the images.

During a recent phone conversation, Garbett — who does keyboards and vocals — said the band has been drawn to the ampersand since the beginning, when he and Robbins were playing open-mic nights and tiny shows.

"It's kind of something we stumbled upon," Garbett explained. "We just really like the visual aspects."

Robbins, who handles vocals and guitar, added that turning the symbol upsidedown also made sense because the band sometimes forges a counterintuitive path to their objectives.

"We kind of seem to go about things upsidedown," he said. "We released our first album physical-only in a digital world."

The band's early years and "upside-down" take on progress were important steps that led to later success. Robbins and Garbett originally started playing together under the moniker "Norther" in 2010, before changing the band name and adding drummer Andrew Tolman in 2011. During that period the band made important contacts with members of the Provo music community and, perhaps most important, admiration of Velour owner Corey Fox.

From the beginning, the band members told Fox — who also played a prominent role in the careers of Neon Trees, Imagine Dragons and other bands — they were serious about music. He responded by gradually ushering them up the local music ladder.

"I think Corey was kind of the one who instilled in us or kind of affirmed in us that he could see us doing this," Robbins said. "I don't think we could have done it anywhere else."

Tolman added that the Provo music scene generally is particularly supportive.

"The environment that's been created is a very accepting environment," he said. "It's great for beginning bands."

By early 2013, The Moth and the Flame began moving from the local to the national stage. In April — while the deal with Hidden Records was "in the works," according to Robbins — the band moved to L.A. and took up residency at the Silver Lake Lounge, playing a show every Monday night. Each show was bigger than the last.

"Monday night is kind of one of the better nights to play," Robbins said. "It's weird. Monday is like Friday."

Robbins said the lyrics on "&" are "more to the point" than those on previous records. Garbett added that themes of "betrayal and regret" underlie the songs.

But all three band members expressed excitement to play the new material live. Performance has always been important to The Moth and the Flame, and the musicians don't expect that the change with the new album. The band begins touring in support of the record tonight in L.A. and will play in Provo on Saturday. It will then leave for Europe to support Imagine Dragons on tour.


The Moth and the Flame release "&"

PTThe Moth and the Flame performat Velour Live Music Gallery, in anticipation of the Nov. 5 release of "&."

Where • 135 N. University Ave., Provo.

When • 8 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets • $12.50 including service fees, available at 24tix.com.

More info • To hear the band's new song "Sorry," visit Nylon Magazine.