Noisy Cavern Q&A with "a tiny band in big ol' Los Angeles" - The Mumfees
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The Mumfees immerse themselves into a unique musical space by fusing the idiosyncrasies of different influences to create a particular sound. The experimental attributes with dream pop aptness and quirky indie leads evoke strong emotions that are meant to carry the listener through a cinematic journey.
The duo in theory doesn't fit a particular label, but the format isn't new. Two-piece groups have been successful utilizing a production-heavy and guitar driven formula before, consider Legrand and Scally. Tonally, the vocals are submerged in a sea of reverb and as a result this emphasizes the contralto range which appears to be a trademark throughout the tracks.
The Mumfees self-released a demo EP titled "It Feels" in early 2018. The EP showcases Danielle and Zepeda's artistic adherence with a blend of contemporary inclinations and classic musings. Their three-song EP "The Sky" which was release later the same year features a similar experimental sound coupled with a taste of Nashville as is evident with the song "No Service".
Go explore the sounds of The Mumfees and get a feeling of what a "tiny band in big ol' LA" can sound like.
Noisy Cavern caught up with Maggie and Alexander of The Mumfees, here is what they shared.
JC: Tell us about yourself (each member) and the music project?
Maggie: My name is Maggie, grew up in Las Vegas, was born in the South. I’ve always been a big dabbler in the arts. As a child and adolescent I liked acting, singing, dancing, writing, directing, photography, styling, and even some doodling. The Mumfees is probably the first time in my life I fully committed to an art and it’s kind of funny to me because it’s probably the thing I have the least background knowledge in and the least natural inclination to be good at. Generally I love music, so I think my main goal in our project is to just make more music that I love. Has that happened with every song? Not really, but I think we’re getting there.
Alexander: My name is Alexander, grew up in Las Vegas, was born in Chicago. I started messing around with Piano when I was 10 and fell in love with making my own music and sounds, and its catharsis. When I was I younger, I butted heads with piano lessons and working with music teachers, not enjoying replicating classical songs. It felt really weird and inauthentic to be learning and playing other people’s music. Although I don’t feel that way anymore, it stunted me from having a formal sense of music training. Though I liked writing and improvising I have always struggled with structure, so The Mumfees was a perfect collaboration because Maggie is someone who has great taste and can edit down and better translate what I’m trying to create.
Overall The Mumfees is music made by two people who consider themselves “non-musician musicians” and it’s really up to you if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
JC: What kind of musical style will listeners experience when they hear The Mumfees, and what kind of moods or feelings are you hoping to evoke from the listener?
Alexander: I would say our style is a handpicked selection of music from the past that evokes nostalgia and feelings of comfort, longing, and is also semi-cinematic. The influences come from genres that might not even seem related, but in 2019, in the era of playlists we are able to categorize music based off of similar qualities such as the emotion that it induces regardless of genre. So following the guideline of a specific emotion, we are able to pull from the Nashville Sound, Tropicália, Yé-yé, Spaghetti Westerns, Dream Pop, and Impressionism. When we write we hope to evoke swells of emotion, to take the listener on a journey.
JC: What is the difference when playing for your fans/family/friends as opposed to new listeners live? What would you say is the biggest surprise one can expect from a show?
Maggie: Pretty much all listeners are new listeners at this point. The biggest surprise is probably that we’re only two people and that we’re using a laptop. I think people might expect there to be a full band, but for us, getting anyone else to be committed to our project has been far too much of a hassle. Right now we’re just seeing if we can even get away with only having two people.
JC: Is there a routine you have when preparing for a show?
We rehearse a little bit. Maggie tries to cut half the songs from the set and then realises there will be no set if that happens. Then we rehearse a little bit more and Maggie asks Alex if we’re even remotely good. Alex says we’re fine. We rehearse a bit more. Maggie gains some confidence and then decides she wants to write three whole new songs and work a cover in. Alex lets her figure out on her own that this is not feasible in the amount of time allotted. Once she accepts this, we rehearse once more before Alex’s neighbor bangs on the door and confronts us for “blasting up the music” on a Saturday morning. Showtime!
JC: "It Feels" was released early in 2018 when The Mumfees was comprised of three members, has there been an adjustment to the creative process now that the group is down to just two, and what has been the most difficult part?
When we were attempting to release “IT FEELS” we wanted The Mumfees to be a four piece, instead of a three piece. The creative process back then was very similar to what it is now, where the two of us create the structure of the song and then material was passed on to the other members. Unfortunately, a difference in commitment led to us becoming a two-piece, which was actually more liberating for our creative process. The biggest difficulty we’ve had since has been defining ourselves to others, as we are too production-heavy to be a band, and too guitar-heavy to be an electronic act. We personally don’t see anything wrong with this, it’s just unusual for the majority of people.
JC: I read somewhere that on top of the music project you guys do some modeling. Was the music just an outlet for fun? Did Alex learn to play and compose through any formal musical training?
Alexander: I would actually say the modeling is the outlet for fun, and the music is the essential expression. Music has been the most pure medium to express ourselves as the artists we were trying to be. Both of us have a background in writing, and so when we decided to collaborate on music, it was through a lense of telling a narrative and creating a world. In terms of musical training, we both have a very elementary foundation with Alex having an on-and-off-but-mostly-off relationship with music theory, although the majority of our technical skill has all been self-taught.
JC: Maggie, you seem to embrace the contralto vocal range, does this add temperament to the music? Are there any particular vocalists that you emulate or that have lend a bit of inspiration?
Maggie: Growing up I attended both the middle and high school arts schools in Las Vegas as a theater major. I was fairly nervous whenever I had to sing for musical theater training, but found I was most comfortable in “character” roles. Putting on a voice that wasn’t necessarily my own seemed to alleviated some of my anxiety. In each song we write, I’m singing as a slightly different person and each of those people has their own sound.
As far as having a tendency to sing in a lower vocal range, I think part of it is natural instinct but I also want to have the freedom to sing as aggressively as male singers that I admire. It bothers me that it feels like there is a necessity to sing “beautifully” because I am a woman. I would say specifically I try to emulate Julie Andrews(which almost contradicts my answer because she sings phenomenally) and Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, they are two of my all time favorite vocalists.
JC: Let's talk about the "Magic Genes" music video, which I think is great! Was the concept an easy sell, which I'm assuming was Stevie Southard's?
Alexander: Almost the entirety of the music video was Stevie’s. They did the directing, editing, filming, make-up, wardrobe and concept. It was our first time collaborating, so we were pretty open to the final outcome. The first script for the video was actually much larger, involving a whole desert scene and extras, but the way scheduling turned out we were only able to film what were able to in our time frame. It was a great learning experience as we were able to allow an artist full control over their interpretation of our music.
JC: Sticking to Videos, "Aww Shucks" reminded me of an old Morrissey video for "September Spawned a Monster". You elicit some of Morrissey's gestures and movements (hip swaying) and even use flowers in a way Morrissey would to pay homage to Oscar Wilde. Is this just coincidence or is there some sort of reverence for Morrissey?
Maggie: I’ve never seen that music video, I don’t listen to Morrissey that much. I like The Smiths, but I wouldn’t say I’m a Smiths Stan. I really only know the hits. I love Oscar Wilde though, The Importance of Being Earnest is one of my favorite plays ever. So yeah, completely a coincidence!
JC: What is your take on the overall LA/OC scene and how do you fit into it? I know you mention you're a "tiny band based in big ol' LA".
Maggie: The LA music scene, is THE music scene in my opinion. People move here to make it in the music industry. Because of that, it’s really hard to get a grip on what the scene actually is. We’ve had pretty nice experiences playing with other bands though, so that’s been nice. I’m not necessarily sure how we fit in.
JC: I saw you did a Patsy Cline cover, are you a fan of classic country pop, and did this have an influence on your track "No Service" off of the EP From the Sky? I noticed it is scattered with slight elements of honkytonk even adding the conspicuous whistle through the first half.
Maggie: Yes! I like classic country pop. Whenever we’re writing I’m always saying “I want that to sound a little more honkytonky.” I just like the way it sounds, I think it’s playful. I really love sounds and certain sounds just delight me, in this case, specifically elements like whistles and plucky strings make me happy and I’d like to bring that happiness to other people.
JC: What is in store from the Mumfees this coming year? Will we see more music videos?
We’re working on a lot of new music and hoping to be playing live much more often. We always want to be creating visuals, so more than likely, yes. They might not be full size music videos, as we’ve learned that organizing production for that on a budget can be really difficult. But we definitely aim to be providing multimedia content for whoever is interested in us. Also we have a secret project, but it’s a secret for a reason! Sorry, that’s the most un-fun thing to say.