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One of the most exciting things in all of music is discovering a band early on, following them throughout their career and watching that moment as they come into their own. For California alt-pop band THE MOWGLI'S that moment is two-fold on their superb third album "Where'd Your Weekend Go?," due fall 2016. They not only get to share their songwriting growth with fans who have followed the band since they formed in 2010, the band got to experience it themselves.
Ask singers and principal songwriters KATIE EARL, JOSH HOGAN and COLIN DIEDEN the secret to the band's growth on this new album and they will all say it came from within. "Involving the whole band in the writing process was a hugely important factor in this new record. When everyone's there you just have more brains, more minds," HOGAN says. EARL echoes this: "A lot of our songs start with one or two people's ideas and the band puts their mark on them later. This time we spent a great deal of time in the room together as the six of us, building many songs from the ground up."
The results of incorporating band members whose tastes run from "musical theater to black metal to pop" according to HOGAN, are an incredibly diverse collection of songs that run like a musical time machine through the best of the past four decades of music.
From the jangly folk/pop of the Sixties-infused "Arms & Legs,"and the groovy Seventies feel of "Monster" to the 80's inspired "Bad Thing" and anthemic "Spiderweb" this latest collection is a testament to songwriting.
One recent song released from the LP, "Spacin Out" is one of the first tracks that came together from jamming in the studio. "'Spacin Out' has a kind of jazzy feel, but it's very Mowgli's, "says HOGAN. "In the bridge we cut to a seven/eight time signature -- it's little things like that come from the fact we have some really amazing musicians in our band." In addition to Dieden, Earl and Hogan, the band is rounded out by MATTHEW DI PANNI (bass), DAVID APPELBAUM (keys) and ANDY WARREN (drums).
The band has been previewing some of the new songs on recent tour dates with great success. "'Monster,' it's just crazy the reaction we've been getting from audiences," DIEDEN says. "It's an immediately familiar-sounding song." They're also playing the album's first released track, "Freakin' Me Out," a thoroughly engaging and winning blend of summer-like pop, R&B and soul that is one of the band's favorite songs since their first LP's debut single "San Francisco."
HOGAN, EARL and DIEDEN freely admit that the success of "San Francisco," which led to TV appearances on The Tonight Show, Conan and Jimmy Kimmel, sold-out tours and, arguably most excitedly, a prominent role in the San Francisco Giants' World Series title in 2012 (the team played it regularly on their way to the championship) had influence on the sophomore record, Kids in Love.
Making that second LP, they felt rushed and pressured by often conflicting outside opinions. But as the cliché goes, "That which does not kill you...." HOGAN credits that experience with motivating the band to take a stand against external forces on this collection. "With this record we were very clear about doing it ourselves and we just said, 'Give us a little time and we'll write you a sick record,'"
They backed it up, showing growth, not only musically, but lyrically as well. "These songs are about really digging deeper into personal issues because there are only so many times you can sing about loving each other. It's not that we have moved past that message necessarily, it's that we want to explore other concepts," HOGAN says. "There's one song on the record, 'Last Forever,' that was meant for the second album but we ended up reworking it a lot. It's a song I was writing going through a breakup and life changes, with a line in the song that says, 'If we lose it altogether, maybe love will last forever.' That, to me, is the opposite of what the Mowgli's would normally say. But I hope people can connect with that sentiment."
Helping them channel all these changes into the growth on the new album is producer Mike Green (Pierce The Veil, All Time Low, The Wanted), who the band was so confident they wanted to work with that they revised their whole recording schedule to accommodate his availability.
To EARL, it was absolutely the right call. "We're a lot of really big personalities, a lot of energy and Mike has this really calming, relaxed vibe that's much different from any of the rest of ours. And he works so fast that nothing gets lost or overthought," she says. "It just felt like the right fit. We had never worked with him before, so we did a trial run, and just clicked."
DIEDEN agrees. "Mike has a really good sense of contemporary popular music but I think he's very aware of how to make ideas sound different and unique. He also understands what people want to hear right now, which is a great balancing act." The band also collaborated with U.K. producer Rob Ellmore on "Automatic" and "Bad Thing," the LP's first radio single. "'Bad Thing'' says Dieden, "is a song about the kind of person who feels so good they're dangerous. The kind of person you want to run away from and pull closer to you simultaneously. The song also makes ya wanna shake your butt with your pals."
All of these elements -- Green, the band's renewed independence and collaborative process -- have weaved together seamlessly to make The Mowgli's third record a career album, that moment where the band steps to the next level as artists. HOGAN and EARL hear it proudly as they listen to the album all the way through.
"It's been really cool to learn and experience everything we have and now, us as people, we're very close and I think we're just at our best," HOGAN says.
"This record is the truest representation of who we are, not just as individuals, but as a band," EARL says. It's the sound of collaboration, it's the sound of listening to and working with each other in ways that we've never done before. I'm really, really proud of every moment. Everybody shines more than they've ever shone. To me, it feels like a rebirth for us."
Equally influenced by vinyl collections that range from Springsteen to Cold War Kids and the works of poets such as Lou Reed and William S. Burroughs, Mainland finds elegance in simplicity. Throughout their music, shuddering piano and loose guitar augment bare bones pop hooks. It’s a style that’s been carefully refined to perfection over the years and especially so since the boys traded New York City (the place of their meeting) for California (where all three respectively call home).
In many ways, the Golden State always subconsciously called back to them. Mainland first met in NYC, bonding over their shared roots. After independently releasing their Shiner EP in 2014, they landed a deal with 300 Entertainment as one of the label’s marquee rock acts. Following the release of the Outcast EP in 2015, they hit the road with the likes of Melanie Martinez and Jukebox the Ghost.
Along the way, they released fan favorite singles such as “Beggars”, "Outcast", and “Permission Slip”—which each amass over 1 million Spotify streams each. Between touring, the musicians recorded the songs comprising their 2018 full-length debut led by “I Found God.”
Now, this scene is about to get a lot brighter. The warmth of Mainland’s new music truly feels like home.
“We got some fresh perspective by going back to California,” Topf leaves off. “Being in our new surroundings that were familiar, yet so different really influenced the album. We want to make music that fulfills us on a personal level. These songs are heart-on-your-sleeve. This is the arrival of who we are as a band.”
With the rush of piano chords and uplifting lyrics resound as real-world couples of all races and creeds come together in one another’s embrace on the street of a non-descript American suburb. In this day and age, it’s beautiful in its stark absence of agenda. This is not a statement. This is not a commentary. This is not a judgment. Rather, this is a timeless slice of life and true love communicated through sound and visuals. This is something that never goes out of style. This is the music video for “I Found God” the 2017 single from California trio Mainland—Jordan Topf [vocals, guitar], Corey Mullee [guitar, keyboards], and Alex Pitta [bass]. Directed by female duo SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT, this visual introduces the next phase in the career of these three best friends, and it merely hints at the power, passion, and poetry of their songwriting.
“‘I Found God’ is about the spiritual connection that arises when you experience real love — an emotion so strong it unifies humans from all walks of life,” explains Topf. “It’s simple. Love is love. The power of love sees no boundaries and it transcends race, sex, and identify.”