Interview: The Mowgli’s talk “Where’d Your Weekend Go?”, and bringing people together

(L-R) David Appelbaum, Andy Warren, Josh Hogan, Colin Dieden, Katie Jayne Earl, and Matthew Di Panni of The Mowgli’s. (Photo: Morgan Demeter)

Blending the Laurel Canyon folk and pop traditions of bands like The Byrds and The Beach Boys with the quirky modern indie pop of bands like Fun. and Grouplove, along with meaningful lyrics and keeping pace with world issues, The Mowgli’s will release their third studio album, Where’d Your Weekend Go?, on September 30th via Photo Finish Records. They’ve been known for putting out songs in support of anti-bullying, corporations like the International Rescue Committee, and recently performed a song about the fear of becoming the worst version of yourself live at Perez Hilton’s studio.

In our new interview, vocalist Katie Earl discusses the making of Where’d Your Weekend Go?, what it’s like to create music in support of refugee-relief, and more.

Where’d Your Weekend Go? is going to be your third studio album, and you said that it’s a true representation of the all of you as a band, and as individuals. How would you sum yourselves up to a fan whose just discovering The Mowgli’s?

Good Question. We try to write meaningful art that comes from a positive place. We find that to be more challenging than writing meaningful art that comes from pain. We try to write art that is meaningful and honest, that connects with people to make them, in whatever they’re feeling, feel less alone.

You did a song that was originally an anti-bullying song as well.

Yeah! That song has an interesting story. Originally we wrote it for this anti-bullying campaign after we thought we had finished the record. (laughs) Then our team said “hey this is a really cool song and we think it could reach a lot of people and the message is right in line with your guys theme.” They pushed for us to put it on the record, then it became our single.

It’s fun when things happen like that.

Yeah, it was a pleasant surprise if you will.

The album name has a bit of a nostalgic, reflective sound to it. When comparing that title to your last, it sounds like you may be coming forth with a different vibe. How would you say this album differs from Kids In Love?

We’ve definitely grown up a lot since a lot of those songs were written. We’ve experienced a lot of different life issues and what not. Where’d Your Weekend Go? to me… it’s a lyric in a song… it kind of sums up the idea that time is just flying by really fast and what do you do with that time? So to me, that’s what it’s about, and we definitely touch upon some heavier themes than we normally do.

We talk about loneliness a lot. The idea that everybody is on this personal and lonely adventure together. Which hopefully makes people feel a little less alone when they feel lonely. They realize that everybody is lonely. We definitely tap into some heavier themes and talk about some more personal stuff, as opposed to the more broad messages that we’ve spoken out about in our first two albums.

You’re no stranger to touching on deep topics, like battling inner demons, and bullying with songs like “I’m Good”, and now, with “Monster”. Where do you pull inspiration from when writing songs like that?

“Monster”, I think is less about the monsters outside of ourselves, and more about the monster inside ourselves that everybody has and can tap into at any time. Making the conscious choice to not let that monster get the best of you. We’re together a lot as a group and we have so much down time, we talk about a lot of things, we explore a lot of different themes. I think when we sit down to write music, those things organically come out and find their way into our lyrics.

Do you ever pull from anything personal?

Oh yeah, definitely. I think every song and lyric comes from a pretty personal place of whoever specifically wrote that lyric. We write a lot of the lyrics together, or sometimes somebody brings a full song to the band and they’re like “here’s my song.” They’re definitely always personal. They’re definitely always drawn from personal experience, personal feelings. Some of those feelings are buried a little bit deeper than other ones, some of them are right on the surface and it’s very clear that that individual felt that way, or who wrote that lyric. Sometimes the lyrics are someone’s only way of expressing something that they don’t usually express or tap into. So they definitely all come from a pretty honest place, depending on which individual wrote the specific lyric.

I find that pretty interesting too, because with music, it’s always coming from such a place with the person who’s writing it, but it’s kind of like that universal language, where everybody interprets it differently when they listen to the song.

Totally. We’ve talked about that as a band so many times. Somebody will ask Colin, “what does that mean to you, when you wrote that lyric, what were you thinking?” He can verbalize what it meant to him and I’ll say “oh that’s so funny, because when I sing it I think this. I think it means this.” Josh will say “that’s so weird, because to me, it always means this and I always think about this when I sing it.”

So yeah, we each kind of have our own relationship with the work and the music in each and every song that we put out. I think for every band member that often times is a different personal experience. Especially when we write the lyrics together, but we’re all coming from our personal places.

Which kind of goes back to what you said about loneliness too right. You’re not always by yourself, even if you’re feeling differently, you’re kind of together at the same time.

Yeah, totally. Even when we’re all together, everyone is having their own personal experience. Everybody is alone, but we’re all alone together. We’ve talked about that a lot, because you can feel very lonely in a group of people. You can feel lonely surrounded by people and you can feel very content when you’re completely alone. But ultimately, no matter how alone you feel, like I said, we’re all alone together. We’re all having our own personal experiences right next to each other and amongst one another. That in itself, even in loneliness, is kind of a beautiful thing.

Yeah I definitely find that you can even feel the loneliest when you’re surrounded by people.

Being that we tour so much, that’s a theme that we’ve learnt a lot. We’re always with each other, we’re never alone, but sometimes we feel loneliness, especially on the road. I’ve been diving into that and wondering why that is. Why should I feel lonely when I’m always around my best friends? I really truly love all of the people in my band and I love what we do. Why should I ever feel lonely when I’m surrounded by them? But sometimes I do. We really explored that a lot with this record and I think we came out of the other end of that question and found light on the other end of the tunnel. It’s something that I think is a natural exploration for people. People have to wonder that.

Do you think you guys explored that in yourselves while you were making this album?

I think so, for sure. I think in some ways we’ve been exploring that since our career took us on the road full time

It must be a pretty crazy experience, especially when it is your best friends, to be involved so much with them at all times.

Yeah, and again, if you ever feel lonely or something, you really do have to ask yourself why. I’m not surrounded by people I don’t like. I’m not lacking friends. I have this band full of my best friends and at home I have my childhood friends and I’ve got my family. There’s no reason why I should feel alone, but sometimes you do, I think everybody does.

“Room For All Of Us” was released in support of the refugee-relief organization, International Rescue Committee. That’s another very inspiring cause for a band to make music in support of. What fuelled you guys to do that?

I think in general, the refugee crisis was a pretty shocking, pretty humanizing experience. I think when the Syrian refugee crisis hit a peak about a year ago and we were seeing these photographs of children washing up on shore and people losing their families and their lives and being separated for an infinite amount of time from their parents, their children, their brothers, their sisters, it was hard to not respond to that somehow. It was a little bit harder to just turn off the TV and pretend that it wasn’t happening. We had this song idea going and it just seemed right and perfect for the situation to flesh the song out and donate it to this cause.

Proceeds to this day still go to that cause and we still sell a poster that raises proceeds for that organization. They’ve been doing what they do for over 100 years. The Syrian refugee crisis is probably the most recent, shocking instance that really put us all face to face with what’s happening, but the IRC has been helping people for hundreds of years all over the globe relocate to safe protected environments. People who are in refugee camps in Africa, South America, people that are fleeing from natural disasters, or impoverished neighbourhoods, people who are seeking out a better life and who are displaced from some kind of conflict in their home countries.

This organization helps those people settle and it’s such an important organization that’s never going to stop needing help and is never going to stop needing awareness. The more help and awareness they have, then the more help that they can offer. We just thought it was a really easy thing to do to help these people.

Do you think that as unfortunate as it is, these things happening brings more light to these organizations, gives people the chance to speak out for a committee like IRC and more people actually get to know them?

Yeah, I mean I hope that that’s the case. I just think it’s sad that it takes a child washing up on shore being photographed for all of us to go “oh shit, other people.” It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own life. Especially in the parts of the world that we live, where we’re housed and we’re fed and we’re pretty blessed in a lot of ways. It’s really easy to forget that the whole world isn’t living like that. I think every once in a while without it being too heavy or too depressing, people do need a reminder. I think people naturally want to help in those situations, I think people want to do good. They want to help their fellow man, they just need somebody to go “hey, here, really easy way to help” and they’re happy to do it. We just don’t always know how. If we can offer them a “hey, all you have to do is buy this poster and you’re helping.” If we can offer them that, most people are more than just down to help. They want to, they’re willing to, they’re eager to. They just need a little direction.

That’s another thing I’ve noticed recently about social media. While like you said, we do get trapped inside our own little worlds, especially with stuff like that, it can be used for very good things. There’s this project called Miracle Messages that went out and got video testimonials from homeless people and asked them where they’re from, what they’re doing, if they’d spoken to their families. There was this man who hadn’t spoken to his family in I think 25 years and they’re reconnecting the families, most of them resulting in them moving back home, which I found amazing.

Wow. That’s amazing. The homeless crisis in Los Angeles in particular I can speak most knowledgable on because I live here, but I do see it all over the country. We’re reaching a pretty crazy… what I think looks like an epidemic. There’s just far too many homeless people parallel to all of these empty buildings, it just doesn’t make sense. A little bit of research has led me to find out that it actually costs us so much more to keep people homeless than it would cost us to house them. We have more than enough as far as resources go, to house and feed a homeless person and we just don’t do it, it’s so strange. It’s a problem globally. I know Canada has their share of homeless people, Europe, Asia. Everybody does, but it seems ridiculous to live in a country where somebody has six cars, four houses, and three speedboats, but there’s a family of homeless people on our streets, it just doesn’t really make much sense.

Hopefully it reaches a point where we just have to do something about it.

Yeah it’s like when they started putting up spikes on the streets so that people couldn’t sleep in those little cubbies and I find that ridiculous, because like you said, that abandoned building could be filled. It would probably cost the same amount as those spikes did to put up to just give them a building.

I guess I just don’t… this maybe sounds ridiculous, but I don’t really understand how something could be considered private property necessarily. This is our planet. It belongs to us. It seems crazy to put spikes up and say “you don’t get to sleep here.” It’s not your planet. It’s your concrete maybe, but what’s under it doesn’t belong to anybody.

Although your lyrics touch on some pretty deep subjects, there’s still that upbeat West Coast pop sound to the songs. Do you implement anything specific in the recording process when trying to achieve that contrast?

It’s really important for us to connect emotionally and honestly with our fans. Finding themes that are honest to us and speak to us is the best way to do that. I think tapping into our most honest place lyrically and being open with our thoughts and feelings when we’re writing is for us the most successful way to come out with something that’s actually meaningful. To us at least, and hopefully if it’s meaningful to us it translates and is meaningful to other people as well.

You recently performed “Monster” live at Perez Hilton’s studio. What was that like?

It was so fun. We’ve obviously been following Perez for years, I think who hasn’t. He’s become such a loud voice in our world. Getting to share new music with his audience was a pretty huge gift, we were very excited about it.

Could you have ever pictured yourself… five years ago what would your reaction have been to know you were going to be standing there now?

Oh my gosh. I mean all of this stuff, every day, I’m always constantly amazed at what my job is. I never really thought that I’d end up here and I’m always surprised to wake up and remember that I make music for a living. That I get to do things like a Perez Hilton premiere, and that we’re leaving on Thursday for a nationwide tour. It’s so easy to forget those things when you’re at home drinking coffee, or getting stoned on your couch, or whatever. (laughs) Then I remember what we do for a living and I’m so… yeah, no, five years ago I would not have… I thought we were just going to be playing in bars after our day jobs for years.

Pretty nice awakening I’m sure.

Pretty nice, I can’t complain. (laughs) I like this job much better than the ones I had before.

Last weekend you hit the stage at KAABOO Del Mar Festival in San Diego to kick off your fall tour in support of the album. You said that when “Spacin’ Out” was being written, you felt like it was going to affect both the audience, as well as you guys when you take it to the stage. What type of emotions do you think will come over you as a band the first time you play it live?

We’ve been rehearsing a lot this past week and it’s been really fun. A lot of these older songs off of the first and second record, we’ve been playing for years, it’s almost like a second nature to us. We know the songs inside and out, backwards and forwards, it’s going to be really fun to get back on our toes and play something… it’s like when the song starts you’re kind of like “okay, can’t fall off the rails.” It’s boing to be really fun to be back in that place where we’re back on our toes and excited… not that we’re not excited about the old songs too, but it’s just different playing these newer songs. It’s going to be really exciting for us and feel fresh and new again.

That must be nice, especially having such a long break between.

Yeah, totally. We spent this whole last summer at home working on the record. Hitting the stage with all of the work we’ve put into these new songs is going to feel really really good, we’re really looking forward to it.

“San Fransisco” was your first hit song, off of Waiting for the Dawn, which premiered at #4 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart. It’s now also featured in trailers for Cameron Crowe’s new TV series Roadies. Had you ever considered making music for film before.

It’s one of those like the gift that keeps on giving. I would not have expected all these years later for “San Fransisco” to continue to offer us these opportunities. We keep writing new songs and then something like that happens and you realize that “San Fransisco” is still doing a lot for us. We’re really grateful for it. It’s a good feeling to know that this work that you put in all this time ago is still paying off.

It must’ve been pretty cool to flick on the TV, or the computer screen, wherever you watched it, and see imagery that you could never have imagined with your song.

Totally. Almost Famous, I think everybody, if you’re in music or not, that movie is such an awesome movie. I remember watching it when I was 13, 14 years old and just thinking it was so cool and everybody in it was so cool. It had such an impact on me, so to be a part in any way of a new Cameron Crowe project is wild. It feels surreal.

You’ll be joined in Tucson by Colony House and Dreamers for the majority of the remainder of the tour. What are you most looking forward to with this tour?

Every time we go out with a different band, they bring out such energy. I’m really excited for Colony House and Dreamers, their music is really awesome and our fans love it. I think that they’re going to bring a lot of really positive energy and I think the kids are going to be really excited by the time we hit the stage because of the vibes those bands are putting out.

What do you think these two acts will bring to the experience?

They’re very cool, very hip. I think that that actually not necessarily helps or hurts, but it’s definitely for us really cool to have these bands that we like and enjoy setting the tone for the night. We’ll have to see one of the first few nights, I think it’s going to be a really good energy, I think they’re going to set a really positive, feel good tone. It’s weird how much that tends to affect the energy of the room. I think it’s going to make a lot of the people come to the shows early, they’ll probably be already feeling good and a little tipsy before we hit the stage.

I hope people come early and check them out, because they’re really really good.

What are your feelings on that moment, going in there for the first time right before the show?

I’m pretty wired right before a show, I get pretty stoked. Every mile we put on the van or in the bus, every truck stop we have to eat dinner at, every bumpy sleep we have, it’s all leading up to the time we get on stage and play. So right before that show, we’re buzzing, we’re really stoked to get out there and do our thing. It’s the whole reason we’re there.

Can you compare it, we were talking about Almost Famous and I got that imagery of them in the little huttle before they go onto the stage, do you do anything like that?

Oh the huttle is real. It’s really important to us to connect with one another before we actually go out there, so we all try to touch in some way, we all put our hands in just to connect with one another. Pick an inside joke from the day or something and yell that. It’s nice to tune into one another before you go out and make something together.

If you were able to share the stage with any musician or group, who would you choose?

Oh that is so tough, god, that’s a hard hitter. Probably the Beach Boys, I’ve been listening to a lot of Beach Boys lately and I’ve never gotten the chance to see them live. I’d love to see them live, especially in their day. I think they have done so much, they’re such a cool band. The choices that they make and the way they make simple songs complex and interesting. They’re just one of the best bands of all time and I’d love to share the stage with them for sure.

Do you think that would turn into a little band debacle, if you all got together in a room and said you guys can pick one band?

Oh yeah. It’s gotta be like us trying to choose a cover. It’s just not going to happen. (laughs) We just can’t make it happen.

The Mowgli’s stop by the Velvet Underground in Toronto with Colony House and Dreamers on Sunday, October 2nd. Tickets are available here.

This interview can also be found on Aesthetic Magazine’s website.

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