A couple of weeks ago, J. Trafford tweeted his song “Good Exercise” to City Paper, describing it as “about as palatable as I can muster.” In an interview with CP last week, the Greensburg-based musician called it “about as far backward as I’m willing to bend.”
In the context of Trafford’s discography — released under the name Suavity’s Mouthpiece — “Good Exercise” is basically white-picket pop. Its structure, chords and production are measurably friendlier than his standard output, which is theatrical, flamboyant and capable of startling, on-a-dime transitions between genres. Some names the music calls to mind: Butthole Surfers, Dirty Projects (particularly David Longstreth’s vocals) and of Montreal.
The music is a little challenging, and like Trafford himself, colored by coy, sardonic humor that’s sometimes difficult to parse. Of the underwhelming response to 2014’s Peerless Suavity (which features “Good Exercise”), Trafford said, “... more folks could have done well to turn around and see the brush fire. What’s not to be was not to be, through no fault of the music (and through every fault of [U.S. Sen.] Pat Toomey [R-Pa.]). I think of that album now as clear and as demanding as it was upon release.”
Some Mouthpiece tracks not to miss: “The Beatles Would’ve Hung Themselves,” “Charisma,” “Jesus Christ Girl” and “UPMC Mercy.”
Peerless was the last Mouthpiece record to feature bandmates Meredith Bigatel, Nicholas Bigatel and Brian Zalewski, but Trafford has persisted with similarly minded, if not more minimal, music. On March 18, he’ll perform at an event he coordinated at the Venus Fly Trap, benefiting the Trans Women of Color Collective, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. Trafford learned of the group last year, and shortly after, set all proceeds from Mouthpiece’s online store to go to TWCC.
Says Trafford: “Being that physical music sales are perpetually on the teeter, I had been meaning to arrange this benefit, which would surely get the organization’s name out in Pittsburgh to better effect.”