“I literally cannot imagine my life without music,” said Fiona Celli, drummer of Mote and a freshman majoring in Italian.
Celli is a part of the student band Mote alongside Ella Kasper, a freshman majoring in psychology, on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Jackson Galati, ‘21, on lead guitar and occasional vocals and Oli Bochenek, a freshman majoring in art and design, on bass.
In saying that, Celli sums up the thoughts of their fellow bandmates. The members of Mote speak about music reverently. They adore it. They worship it. Music is everything, and each of them pours that into their work in the band.
Mote was formed in November, when Galati and Kasper met.
“I really had a drive my whole life to really have a band,” Galati said.
Galati said that the COVID-19 pandemic affected music in a deep way. He lost out on the experience of being in a band in college and made a decision to come back to Binghamton University after he graduated to try to find some fellow music lovers and form a band. In November, the Student Association hosted a musician social. There, Galati met Kasper.
“I got the vibe from Ella, like, she was the only person there that really seemed to want to play fucking original music,” Galati said. “I was enthralled with [Ella’s] passion.”
Galati wrote a few songs after meeting Kasper, the two played together that Sunday and the rest is history. Mote was born.
“It’s been so great since then,” Kasper said. “I met Fiona, who plays drums, through a mutual friend. I met Oli in acting class, so we all just came together and it’s been awesome.”
Mote has played many public performances since it was formed, but Kasper says it all started in the Appalachian Collegiate Center. Mountainview College’s collegiate professor, Dana Stewart, put together a program called “Mountainview Jams” where students are given the opportunity to play at an open mic once a month on a Friday night at Appalachian Collegiate Center.
“That is kind of where we built our platform,” Kasper said. “Without Dr. Dana, I don’t know if we’d be in the same place, so thank you, Dr. Dana.”
For the members of Mote, music is the bedrock of their lives. Bochenek moved to Binghamton when she was 13. As the new kid in school, she found that it was difficult to make friends, so she turned to Binghamton’s music scene.
“I sort of found myself and found friends by going to open mics by myself,” Bochenek said. “You really wouldn’t know how awesome of a music scene Binghamton has.”
Music is a unifying force for the members of Mote, but it’s something mystifying and powerful for them, too.
“Music is a love language,” Galati said. “It’s really something beautiful. I’m just happy to be able to speak that tongue.”
For the members of Mote, music is a thing to be worshipped. The band is not concerned with end goals or achievements — rather, they are focused on their passion: creating music together.
“At the end of the day, what this project is is to try and reach some next-level existence, like, musically,” Galati said.
Celli had a similar sentiment, expressing that music is about the experience to them.
“I just try to enjoy writing and playing music with these wonderful, talented people,” Celli said.
Bochenek said that Mote is about the thing she loves — music — above any monetization.
“My entire life, I’ve been convinced that if I have a hobby I should be able to monetize it,” Bochenek said. “And that’s not necessarily the case. I’ve realized I can do things that make me happy, and they don’t have to be like what society deems ‘productive’ or ‘successful.’”
Mote discussed that deep, unwavering love for their recently released LP, “Defying Ephemera,” the first the band has released. Kasper wrote the song “Clinomania” on the LP — it was the first song they wrote for Mote. In writing it, Kasper tapped into her bad experience with the hookup culture on BU’s campus and the attachment issues that students tend to have.
“I think a lot of people can relate to that song,” Kasper said. “And just about, like, wanting a deeper connection.”
Galati agreed with Kasper, saying that “Defying Ephemera” is an album that plenty of students can relate to.
“Young love is a theme of [‘Defying Ephemera’],” Galati said. “It’s just real experiences on there, and I think people can find commonality with their own lived experience.”
However, Galati noted that not every listener would find something in “Defying Ephemera,” but based on the feedback so far, he seems hopeful that those who don’t connect with the album will be a small minority.
“It’s not for everyone,” Galati said. “But we’ve gotten feedback that some people are seeing the deeper shit that’s going on there. Musically, thematically, stuff with the lyrics and the whole structure of the album, I think people are picking up on.”
“Defying Ephemera” isn’t just for students. The deeper meanings of the album are relatable to listeners of all ages, such as Celli’s father. On a drive from campus to their home during a break, Celli played the original mix of the album for their father. He said he was impressed with the sophistication of the writing and the relatability of the songs.
“[My dad] was like, ‘This sounds so adult,’” Celli said. “‘These experiences are not those of young teenagers. This is complex.’”
According to Celli, the praise was particularly sweet considering how big of an inspiration Celli’s father is to them.
“[My dad is] like honestly one of my biggest inspirations, just because he’s so talented,” Celli said. “He taught me how to play drums, and he’s, like, kind of the reason I was in bands in high school and I’m in Mote now in college.”
Bochenek’s father was similarly important in her finding her love for music and performing. In the car during drives back and forth between his house and Bochenek’s mother’s, he would play Modest Mouse, Bright Eyes and Red Hot Chili Peppers. When she was 6 years old, he helped her write her first song in the living room about her hamster Sammy, typing up the lyrics on the computer as Bochenek sang them.
“He’s so excited that I’m, like, in a band,” Bochenek said. “He’s just my biggest fan. He’s convinced I’m a rock star. I love my dad.”
While Kasper’s and Galati’s parents were similarly influential in their lives, particularly in the case of Galati, as he credits them for his music taste, they draw inspiration from other artists.
Galati went to school with Sal Fratto, who plays the guitar and does vocals for the band Elephant Jake. In middle school, after he put out a CD on his own, Galati was freshly inspired.
“That blew my mind, just that anybody could put out a CD,” Galati said. “Don’t have to be on some major label or some bullshit. That’s been very inspiring — to have him in my life, and we still keep in contact.”
Galati is also hugely inspired by Sonic Youth and, more particularly, Lee Ranaldo. Galati, who happened to be wearing a Sonic Youth shirt that his partner embroidered for him, spoke of Ranaldo adoringly. Galati had the chance to interview him over the winter break, which totally changed his outlook on music.
“After talking with [Ranaldo], it was like ‘You know what?’” Galati said. “I can just fucking do this. Why do anything else?”
Ranaldo is a BU graduate from the class of 1978, a fact that Galati holds dear in his everyday life.
“To walk the same halls and play the same places [Ranaldo’s] played, there’s almost a spiritual aspect to it that I feel connected to,” Galati said.
For Kasper, a love of music started with musical theatre. She fell in love with “Spring Awakening,” a rock musical by Duncan Sheik, and from there found 5 Seconds of Summer and the Arctic Monkeys. Above all those bands, Kasper’s true love lies with the band Alvvays.
“Somehow I found the band Alvvays in high school [and] became so obsessed with them,” Kasper said. “I saw them in Central Park in 2019 and Molly Rankin, the lead singer, smiled at me and, like, I just thought she was the coolest person ever — this was, like, the coolest thing anyone could do.”
After begging her mother for a guitar for a year after that, Kasper finally got one at the start of the pandemic and taught herself how to play it. But Alvvays is not Kasper’s only influence. Much of their vocal style is inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement, particularly Kathleen Hanna.
“People have definitely come down on me about my voice but I don’t know if anyone is super familiar with the Riot Grrrl scene around here,” Kasper said. “That’s kind of what I try to base my style off of as well.”
Both Kasper and Mote have been the subject of hate online, especially after the release of “Defying Ephemera.” Kasper said that people use anonymous forums to make fun of her singing, which is something that they’ve since learned to brush off.
“People are very used to, like, the ‘industrial auto-tuned pop female singer’ sound,” Kasper said. “And I’m hoping that, with our band, we can help people try something new. Like, maybe my style isn’t something that a ton of people are into, but I’m fine with that. I’m just doing what I love.”
Celli agreed with Kasper, saying that people tend to hate on the things they are not comfortable with.
“Obviously the Riot Grrrl vocal style is not popular and is not a common sort of tone that’s in a lot of popular music, so people just aren’t used to it and they’re like automatically like, ‘Oh, that’s weird, and I don’t like it,’ and they just love to hate on stuff they’re not, like, familiar with,” Celli said.
Galati explained that an outpouring of harsh criticism came after the release of “Defying Ephemera,” mainly on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak, which allows users to post anonymous messages that other users nearby can read. It is an app that is popular on college campuses, particularly here at BU.
The members of Mote refused to let any sort of online hate get to them. At the end of the day, they all came together because of a mutual drive to make music, so harsh criticism is something that doesn’t bother them.
“I would definitely rather make music that’s expressive of who I am and who we are as a band, rather than just music that’s just, like, industry-pleasing, fake kind of stuff,” Celli said. “I’d rather get that hate for being like who we are, than just, like, make things for the sake of other people.”
Galati agreed with that, echoing Celli’s thoughts that critics tend to automatically hate something that they’re unfamiliar with.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the amount of support we’ve gotten so far, but at the end of the day, we don’t make commercially viable music,” Galati said. “It’s real shit, and that is kind of scary to people, I think: being so authentic and putting it out there. To have it be criticized sucked, but, at the end of the day, it just is what it is. Our music’s not going to please everyone, so, fuck ’em.”
Mote might not be starry-eyed when it comes to critical reactions to their music, but they invoke stars in their everyday lives, especially in their name. The band’s name is both a reference to a Sonic Youth song and a reference to the actual definition of the word “mote.”
“A mote is a speck of dust,” Galati said. “If you ever see a speck of dust in light, it looks like stars. So, stars are a big motif of ours.”
Stars are a massive part of the band member’s everyday outfits. Galati has a star tattoo, and the other members of the band wear star accessories. Kasper has stars painted on their Dr. Martens boots.
“We’re always wearing stars and shit like that as a kind of reference to the grander motif of the Mote speck,” Galati said. “Mote-if.”
As for the future of the Mote speck, big things are coming. They have a few more gigs coming up this summer, the dates and venues for which can be found on their Tumblr page, including an upcoming show at the Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan.
“This is just the beginning,” Galati said. “We already have more originals and shit … We’re just always creating.”
That constant creation is important to the members of Mote, especially Kasper.
“I’m finding that [music] is the only thing that’s been bringing me peace lately,” Kasper said. “I’m so grateful for my bandmates, and I’m so grateful to be a part of this scene.”
Celli shared the same thought, sharing her gratitude for finding a group of people with such similar passions for music. When it comes down to it, the members of Mote have devoted followers of their music. It is the all-unifying, all-power force in their lives. No one can take that worship away from them.
“If you’re doing what you love, who gives a fuck what anyone else thinks?” Bochenek said. “You’re doing what makes you happy. No one can take that away from you.”
Check out Mote on Instagram, at @motetheband.
Editor’s note: one member of Mote, Jackson Galati, was previously affiliated with Pipe Dream. Galati was formerly Assistant News Editor.