- Ben Province
Q&A: Charlotte, N.C.'s The Mystery Plan Releases Moody EP, 'What A Day'
Credit: Daniel Coston
The Mystery Plan formed as a duo in 2010, with members Jason Herring and Paul Jensen as the sole producers and writers. Years later, they expanded to a five-piece with Jason Herring's wife Amy Herring, Otis Hughes, Patty McLaughlin Thomas and Jefferson Chester joining the collective.
Another change from more than a decade ago is the Mystery Plan has since called upon English record producer John Fryer, who has worked on multiple releases with the band.
As a performer, Fryer was part of the duo This Mortal Coil with Ivo Watts-Russell. Russell (along with Peter Kent) co-founded the record label 4AD, which has signed some of the most iconic alternative bands since being established in 1980.
Some of Fryer's early production work was with bands signed to 4AD and other similar U.K. labels. And in his 40-plus years as a producer, Fryer's extensive list of credits range from Depeche Mode and NIN to the "Clerks" and "Seven" film soundtracks.
The "What A Day EP" serves as a precursor for the Mystery Plan's forthcoming seventh full-length album, "Haunted Organic Machines." But don't ask co-founder Jason Herring to pick a favorite song from the EP – that would be like asking him picking a favorite child.
Ben Province: You recently worked with John Fryer. How did you first connect with him?
Jason: I met John Fryer on [Facebook] of all places. Back in 2016, 4AD band Swallow's Louise Trehy posted our video of "those stars" and said it was her favorite song about stars; John Fryer liked it. Not only was I amazed that Louise would post our song, I really freaked out when I saw that John had liked it. Of course, I reached out to him and we became friends on [Facebook]. A few months later, we were going back and forth about music, and I asked him if he would produce [and] mix a few of our songs. He said I should come to LA, so we can work it out. I was in Los Angeles a month later, and we did, indeed, work it out. A very lovely man.
Ben: What kind of an impact does someone with such an extensive production resume have on your band?
Jason: John Fryer's impact was huge. I had to bring my game up to his level. Working with him made me a better player, songwriter and producer.
Ben: I noticed you did some remixing in the past. What do you enjoy most about the production side of things?
Jason: I love making records. It's my absolute favorite thing. As far as remixes go, it's the deconstructing then reconstructing songs that brings me joy. Hearing certain musical phrases in a different context tickles my brain.
Ben: I've seen your band described as "bliss-pop." How do you describe that sound?
Jason: I really like that description. I've always told folks we are sort of moody dream pop. I really like fizzy, bubbly, fuzzy sounds, and putting those in a pop music context, with hooks and a great arrangement – well, that's what it's all about for us.
Ben: And I saw this description on your Facebook page: "Moody, folk, post punk, sometimes electronic, sometimes cellos. Sort of sorry and glad together." I get the sense you would rather not be boxed-in artistically, right?
Jason: One of the main reasons we are called the Mystery Plan is because it's a mystery what style of music we'll release next. Yeah, I don't want to be known as being just one genre of music.
Ben: Do you have a favorite song from the "What A Day" EP?
Jason: I do not have a favorite song from the "What a Day EP"; they're all my babies.
Note: This interview was conducted by email, and it has been edited for style and clarity.