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Tuesday, March 04, 2008


While up in San Francisco this past weekend for NOISE POP, MR ROBOTO tipped me off to a band out of San Jose that have me all excited. The band is a seven-piece called THE MUMLERS, and they just dropped their debut record on February 12th on Galaxia Records called "Thickets & Stitches".

I've seen where they've been compared to people like YO LA TENGO, CALEXICO and LAMBCHOP, which all knock on the door to a sound, but to me they move it back to DR JOHN, MUNGO JERRY, BOOKER T & THE MG'S, and even 'Family Affair' SLY & THE FAMILY STONE. I hear a bit of THE BAND ("Across The Great Divide"), LEON REDBONE, ARCHIE BELL & THE DRELLS, and even JOHN CLEARY, because it feels part New Orleans and part Stax. A little ways back I fell for the band, LITTLE BARRIE, for preciously this same sort of sound that hits the mark so dead on, and have been waiting for someone else to pop up and claim it. Of course it will always come from a place such as San Jose, or Tulse, or someplace like that where the hipster crowd has aped themselves so many times they don't know whether or not they are trying to be the "new" Arcade Fire this week, Beirut, or Vampire Weekend (all great bands btw). Their track, "Shake The Medication" is simply outstanding and you should head over to their Myspace page and listen immediately.

Spin, Filter, Rolling Stone and NPR have caught wind of this act, and thankfully I finally have caught up as well. You'll hear me yap about these guys plenty going forward, watch out.

Red River Hustle HERE (mp3)

The band is built around Will Sprott and he kindly gave me some time and answered my questions. Here goes...

Q: The Mumlers are a seven-piece unit, and I’ve read of the wild instrumentation within the band, can you provide a rundown of all the players and their respective instruments?

Sure. Our main rhythm man is Andy Paul. He mainly bangs on drums but has also been known to bang on a marimba now and then. I mention him first because he's always hiding behind his drums and nobody sees him. For some reason whenever he's photographed he gets red eyes & looks like a cyborg. Paolo Gomez is our master of lower frequencies. He usually sticks to his upright bass. He's a deep reservoir of talent. He also plays guitar and saxophone like a dream but we have not yet called him to duty in those departments. Mercedes El Vencere handles the tambourine, shaker and harmonica playing. She keeps us all laughing by constantly laughing (at us). She also makes jewelry. James Fenwicke plays French horn, trumpet, keyboards, guitars and can whistle better than the devil. He's prone to enigmatic declarations. Müller plays guitar, pedal steel and other slide-type instruments and clarinet. He's our technical wizard. He's like that guy James Bond goes to see for new devices in the spy trade, except with music. I'm Will Sprott. I mostly play guitar and piano and sing the songs. Everybody else sings harmonies and stuff too. Then there's Felix Archuleta...

Q: Tell me about Felix Archuleta?

Felix is a crazy genius if I've ever met one. He's one of of those guys that can play anything he touches. For The Mumlers he mostly plays baritone horn, trumpet, various keyboards, and guitars. He is also a tornado on the dance floor.

Q: I’m going to hit you with the very familiar “what are your influences” question, mostly because your band doesn’t seem to be playing from the same deck of cards as most. After hearing the tracks on “Thickets & Stitches”, I need to know what old albums are in your collection that are worn out.

I can't speak for the whole band because there are so many of us. Our listening really goes far and wide. Every time I'm in Felix's car, for instance, he's listening to either the classical station or the Mexican station. Paolo knows a lot about Jazz. Personally, I like a lot of old soul music and a lot of old folk music. If I was stuck on a desert island I'd probably take Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music and the Stax/ Volt Singles collection 1968-71.

Q: I need to see you live, what are your touring plans for this album? Do you need a bus like the Partridge Family to fit all of you for road shows?

Well, right now we're trying to get it together with a booking agent. If that happens we'll be getting on the road as soon as possible. I would love to play all over. For now we've got a bunch of Northern California shows booked. Our record just came out a couple weeks ago so we've been playing as much as possible just to spread the word around. We've done a few shows in far flung places in the past and it is pretty funny to see us all crammed into a van with all our stuff. Stand-up basses take up a lot of room. Usually somebody has to sit on the floor.

Q: Where was the record recorded and with whom?

The bulk of the record was recorded at Snowghost Music in Whitefish, Montana with Brett Allen in November of 2006. Brett was nice enough to let us stay at his his studio so we braved the snowstorms and the icy interstates and recorded it out there, which was great. It was really good to be so far from the distractions of home and just do nothing but work on music. Over the next few months after that we did some other recording back in San Jose. Muller is a recording engineer as well so we did it at his house which he calls the Felony College of the Streets. We added a few more touches with John Baccigaluppi at his studio, the Hangar, in Sacramento. Then we mixed it at the Hangar with Thom Monahan.

Q: “Red River Hustle” is such a cool track, and I understand there’s a story behind it – can you share?

I hate to break things down to much but basically I was moved to write it by all the shady things that we're happening outside my window. I was living in a corner apartment on the second floor of this beautiful old Victorian house that had been converted into dirty little apartments. The windows looked out over this intersection and there was always something going on so I used to just sit there and watch the world go by. On one corner there was a house full of transvestite prostitutes who used to stand on the corner and wave down tricks. On another corner there was a crack house which one night erupted in a giant street-brawl and a police raid. There was a guy who used to push shopping carts down the street full of stuff at four in the morning. I'd hear the clatter of the cart and look out and see him with a television and a lamp hanging out of his shopping cart and I'd wonder what he was up to. So basically that song is a little glimpse of that world.

Q: Your home base is San Jose, CA, which I remember as being a very pop-punk & emo kind of town, with a fair amount of jock-rock thrown in. How does the home crowd react to this blues-infused funk?

People in San Jose have been nothing but supportive. I honestly didn't think anyone would care about us here either but I guess maybe people are excited for something different. Through making music here I feel like we've unearthed a whole secret city within the city. A city this big has a lot woodwork for people to hide in.

Q: Are there other bands on the SJ scene that we should all be aware of? What’s the best venue?

Some bands I like a lot are the Stars Misplaced, Doctor Nurse, Beachkrieg, Thee Mansion, Eiafuawn, Worker Bee & Settler. There's really a lot of good music here but it's pretty insular. There's a lot of people who have no commercial ambitions making music for themselves. If they have ambition they usually leave. I could rattle off a list of people you wouldn't know are from San Jose but that's their business. I heard COOLIO is from here. That's just a teaser.

Q: What’s the best thing about San Jose?

Lots and lots of Mexican food.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions Will, and I’m hoping to see you many times in the upcoming years and wish you success with this release.

Thickets & Stitches” was released on February 12th on Galaxia Records and is also available on Itunes.




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