To Deconstruct a Mockingbird
“I’m not a jerk,” says Adam, “I think people get the impression that I’m hard to talk to. I don’t really get that.” Walking into Adam Bird’s house, complete with scattered instruments, a fluffy white dog, and the new Mastodon album competing with a randomly flicked-to TV show for precedence as background noise, the scene set here is normal in the nicest of homes, and Adam’s is no exception. If anything puts this public assumption of difficulty to rest, it’s the free-wheeling two-hour interview that followed stepping inside.
For those who don’t know, Adam Bird is the lead singer of Those Mockingbirds and an overall veteran of the N.J. music scene, playing in Avery and Perfuma before his current band. He also helped establish The Oval Portrait, Hearts and Parts, and The Sun The Moon The Stars. Historically, Adam’s bands tend to carry his past material: “Every band I’ve ever done has had songs overlap from the previous band. ‘The Deer and the Derrick’ was written for Perfuma, and ‘C.O.G.S.’ And ‘Honest, Honest’ were as well.” However, what seems to be a clear chain of events beelining to Those Mockingbirds, a band whose outcast sound has surprised Adam with its success, has actually consisted of scattered points along a line of best fit.
Amidst an internal duality of imagining life in alternative histories, and staying grounded to reality through zen buddhism, Adam claims only to be truly passionate about one thing: music. But this was not always the case. Back in fourth grade, before Adam ever sang to a crowd at Maxwell’s (or to anyone at all), he took up drums for the school band. “I sucked,” he exclaims, “I didn’t get music at all. To me, it was just reading; I was really uninterested in music then for a while.” It wasn’t until seventh grade, after discovering Green Day (remember, this is just around the time Nimrod dropped. Green Day still had clout then.) and swerving from a three month stint on bass to a committed life on the guitar, fourteen-year-old Adam formed the band Unknown Julius, and convinced their music teacher to let them perform at the middle school’s spring concert. Primed with a set list of Nirvana’s “About a Girl” and Bush’s “Machinehead,” playing this first show was the most horrified he had ever been, only becoming the vocalist because he could “kind of hit pitches.” One would think this created the perfect setup for Adam’s participation in the N.J. scene, playing shows throughout high school. Nope. In fact, he had no idea a scene existed until he was a senior. “I was just in my own little world of writing songs and making demos,” he says, “I only started playing shows at the end of high school / beginning of college.”
Adam entered the scene in Avery, an otherwise all-female band who was looking for a guitarist. He ended up playing drums. And while he learned a lot about how the scene functions — setting up shows, gigging with other bands, promoting — most importantly, he realized that he wanted to primarily sing and play guitar.
From here, Adam launched Perfuma and then Those Mockingbirds a few years later, both bands standing as outcasts in the scene. “This has been my bane the entire time,” says Adam, “I like rock and roll. There was just no place for what I was doing in the scene.” He explains that Perfuma “never blossomed beyond ‘interesting’ because N.J. was home to Drive-Thru records pop-punk.” But something with Those Mockingbirds has allowed them to stand out, even in the wake of feeling irrelevant to the current scene’s sound. Adam uses this to his advantage, believing that since local music has waned from regularly sold-out punk shows and become less fluid, people are more open to different types of music. The idea that the old scene will see a resurgence, though, bothers him:
People are aching for the scene to come back, but it only benefit one or two styles … it disintegrated because a lot of the venues shut down. There was always damage. The one rowdy kid would ruin it for everybody … People who knew it miss it out of nostalgia, and the kids coming up now didn’t know it, but they heard about it and thought it was awesome, so they want to be a part of it too. But some promoters around still are taking advantage of it, making bands sell tickets for an all-local show at a shitty venue for $12 a pop. That doesn’t help … To recreate that scene — we’re not in the same time. There are too many variables.
All of this from the opinionated front-man is no surprise; like his band, Adam considers himself an outcast, saying, “I’ve been outcast my whole life. I’ve never really fit into anything. I think I’ve developed a strong personality due to that.” Never being a part of a larger group or merging his identity with the hive-mind is what keeps him going. “I’m an underdog,” he says, “but it’s happenstance, trust me. I’m actually poor and in a bad place to be doing this.” True to character, he continues, “I like things going to the beat of their own drum. The first serious thing I’ve ever wanted to do is be a musician, and I haven’t stopped.”
Though Adam may suffer the occasional dark cloud (i.e. a list of incidents too far-flung and insane to mention; e.g. having a shark swim between his legs because it was hunting him), he is ultimately unyielding. But remember, just because he has a strong personality, he is not a jerk. “Let’s just be friends, people,” he says, “That’s all.”