On January 19th, the debut album from Gobotron, the solo project of guitarist Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra, will be released digitally via Favorite Gentlemen Recordings. A personal pet project two years in the making, ON YOUR MARK, GET SET... is a purposeful blend of blown out distortion mixed with saccharine sweet poppy hooks and choruses that will make fans of bands like The Lemonheads pucker up for joy.
Gobotron started in the summer of 2008 in the basement of Robert McDowell's parent's house in Atlanta, Georgia. Manchester Orchestra was off the road and McDowell was anxious to creatively move in a new direction aside from working with the band. "I had been a bit lazy when we got off tour. I wasn't recording or writing at all then, so I went to Guitar Center and got a little MIDI controller and just started messing around," he said. "I didn't even really tell anyone I was doing the album until it was done. It was just me alone in my parent's basement."
ON YOUR MARK, GET SET... is a true one-man army of an album with McDowell doing all of the writing, playing and recording himself. Mixed and mastered a full year later in the summer of 2009, he's been busy circling the world the past year with Manchester Orchestra in support of their critically acclaimed sophomore effort Mean Everything To Nothing. "Once I was done creating the album in 2008, Manchester Orchestra went directly into pre-production for our new album. It wasn't until the next summer that I was even able to start mixing Gobotron," McDowell states. "It was nice to be able to work on this solo, because for the past few years everything musically that I was part of was a team of people. I think that's the way it should be, but it's also good to occasionally try approaching things the exact opposite way."
The breakneck pacing of the record kicks off with album opener "Nothing" and blends directly into the first single "Nice Things", a bittersweet ditty that chronicles the mind rush that comes with travelling the four corners of the country and everything in between. "Never Turn Around" is an infectiously fuelled two and a half minutes of pop goodness. McDowell talks on the sound quest that he had in making Gobotron sparkle: "Sonically, I was going for Neutral Milk Hotel. Especially with vocals. I didn't want to sing like them, per se, but they have exactly the tone and lo-fi quality I was striving for."
The Gobotron moniker comes from the initial nickname "Robot" given to McDowell years ago as a play on words with Robert; that evolved into Robo, Robo Cop, Robotron, Robby Robot, Rorby, Gorby, Gorbatraz and many more before ultimately and finally graduating into Gobotron. The album title is inspired from a dream he had after watching The Simpsons one night. "I was falling asleep, drifting in and out. The episode mixed in with one of my dreams and made me think of the title. I woke up laughing and wrote it down. It's nothing deep, it just made sense for the album title."
On the creative process for this album, McDowell says "The goal for ON YOUR MARK, GET SET...was to put every song into overdrive right from the start. The writing would begin with a verse, chorus, or just a riff. I'd set up a mic in the middle of the room and build up parts running from one instrument to another. Once I could hear what it was going to sound like, I would write the rest of the song and re-record the entire song. Then when everything was laid out, I started from scratch again and recorded the version that made it on the CD. This is a computer album that could have never been done if it were on tape. It became a science project rather than a band."
Gobotron combines delicate and simple phrasings influenced from Ben Kweller to Brian Wilson, processed through pop-friendly static and piped through ear-buds waxed with Pavement.
Start your engines!