The Mowgli’s are perhaps best known for their positive, love-fueled hit song “San Francisco,” but in mid-April, the band “in love with love” found a more complex platform from which to spread good vibes on their sophomore album, Kids In Love.
The California seven-piece’s new record finds them maturing both sonically and thematically – a result, no doubt, from the band’s tireless touring. Kids In Love is adventurous, but recognizable – the perfect combination for a sophomore attempt – in that The Mowgli’s manage to retain their signature anthemic, free-spirited sound whilst expanding their utility to accommodate new motifs, emotional depths, and musical concepts. Songs like the album’s catchy single “I’m Good,” the arena-sized, compassionate opener “You’re Not Alone,” the alt/folk-pop heart-wrencher “Make It Right,” and the boppy title track are great examples of how The Mowgli’s have vastly improved upon while staying true to themselves.
Kids In Love is dynamic, fluid, and well thought-out. It’s a lot softer than the band’s debut album, which means that when The Mowgli’s do hit hard, they make a much bigger impression. In short, Kids In Love is everything a sophomore album should be, and it proves The Mowgli’s to be much more than a one-off band. The band still has much in the way of sonic and musical exploration left to do – while listening to Kids In Love, I can’t help but find myself wondering, “Where will they go next?” – but this record certainly marks growth in the right direction for a band who ran the risk of being pigeon-holed by their debut.
That is not the case anymore, meaning The Mowgli’s are now free to explore a realm full of possibility. While I support and immensely enjoy that which The Mowgli’s have provided to us so far, I truly believe that their finest days are yet to come.
To that end, I sat down with The Mowgli’s a day after Kids In Love’s release to learn more about their journey over the past few years. Hanging out upstairs at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg, I chatted with Colin Dieden (vocals, guitar, percussion), Katie Earl (vocals and percussion), and Josh Hogan (guitar and vocals) about band life, the new album, their individual insecurities, and best of all, the band’s amazingly cute dogs, Suki and Abby.
Watch: “I’m Good” – The Mowgli’s
A THERAPY SESSION WITH THE MOWGLI'SAtwood Magazine: I love this dog, Katie! She's absolutely beautiful - what breed is she?
Katie: Thank you! She’s a mutt. Yeah, she’s the best. I’m super lucky. She’s just a cool little… Josh calls her a “Heinz 57,” because there are so many breeds in there – some salt, some vinegar, some red pepper, some chili.
And she's been with you for almost the entire existence of the Mowgli's?
Katie: [Our dog] Abby has been with us since the get-go; this is our sixth year of being together, and Abby’s been around since the very beginning. Suki got involved a couple years later, but we’re happy to have her!
They're absolutely adorable.
Katie: They make life pretty good.
Josh: They’re perfect for each other – they keep each other balanced, and they keep all of us balanced. It’s really awesome – it’s like having a couple of therapists on the road. [laughs]
Do you bring them on every tour?
Katie: When we can, yeah – most tours, unless we’re flying to SXSW or something, then it’s a little hard and we usually get a friend to stay with them. If we’re going to be gone in a bus for three months, then totally! They’re with us. Even in the van for three months, they’re with us.
When you're off touring, do you all live close by?
Katie: We used to all live together, actually! Colin, Andy and I had a house in West Hollywood, and Josh and Spencer were there all the time. That was pretty much the Mowgli headquarters, and then we found that we were never home – ever! So Josh and I got a cool little, tiny spot in LA, and everybody else moved back home with their parents to save the money. We see each other all the time, whether it’s band practice, or vocal practice, or a meeting, or – there’s always a reason for us to all be together at least four times a week.
Josh: We also get off tour and like, two days goes by and we’re all calling each other like, “Hey, what are you doing? I’m bored…”
Colin: It’s pretty brutal – we’re not very good at being apart.
Katie: At the end, we’re like, “I just want to get off tour and not see you guys for a second.” Then two days later, I’m like, “You want to get dinner, Josh? Colin?”
Colin: Yeah, I flew one day and didn’t hang out with these guys, and when I saw them I was hugging everyone and missed everyone a lot. I texted Katie and Josh saying, “I just landed! I’ll see you guys soon!”
It sounds like The Mowgli's are best friends.
Colin: We are, yeah.
Katie: We’re like a weird family. We’re like a little, weird, functioning, dysfunctional family.
That's the best kind of family there is!
Katie: It’s great. It’s definitely awesome to be doing this with people we enjoy being around and have fun with. If we were doing it with a bunch of people we didn’t, I think that would suck – I can’t even imagine how much that would suck.
So when you're touring together, it's that much easier to be in close quarters?
Katie: Yeah, it’s pretty funny – we have some funny times. It’s good!
Are you excited to be getting back on tour this year?
Katie: Oh yeah! I feel like when we get home, we’re happy to be there, but then after a few weeks, we’re just like, “What are we doing? We’ve got to get back on tour!” This is what we do, and it’s just nice to be doing what we do again. It feels good – for me, personally at least, I feel like, “Alright! This is what I do with my life.” I’m glad to be doing it.
This was actually the longest hiatus in the past couple of years.
Katie: Yeah, we were doing the record! Colin and Josh, I feel, love being in the studio – [to the guys] is that right?
Josh: Yeah, I mean whether it’s writing or making the record, that process is so cool.
Colin: I like being home – I can write a lot easier at home, so it’s nice to be able to do that. But we’re out here now, and we’re out in the middle of this tour, and it’s been really good, so everything’s great right now. Glad to be out here.
Katie: And it’s fun to be playing new material.
How did the songwriting process differ for this album and your debut record?
Colin: Definitely, yeah. For the first album, we had forever to write – you know what I mean? People always say that with your first album, you have your whole life, and with your second album, you have, like, six months.
Katie: And we were kind of just making that first album just because.
Colin: yeah, and so we made that first album with no pressure, just on the beach in Venice, writing songs or whatever. I think that’s a lot of the reason that the record sounds the way it does, and this record was written under a whole different set of circumstances, and a whole different set of cities, and a whole different set of, like –
Katie: – intentions –
Colin: – emotional sentiments, and whatever was going on with us was so different than it was then. So the songs sound different, and that’s apparent in the music, I think. It wasn’t written on the beach; it was written all over the country. We were experiencing different things and going through things and different places, so a lot of that is very apparent in the songs.
Katie: [to Colin] I mean, especially for you, too. On the first album, you were a twenty year old, and now you’re a good ole’ twenty-five year old!
Colin: Nineteen! I was nineteen, dude!
Josh: You’re an actual man now.
Katie: So you’re, like, a new man, you know? That’s just inherently a big difference.
[This record] wasn’t written on the beach; it was written all over the country.
Your first full-length came out two years ago, but those songs came from a lot longer than two years.
Katie: Oh yeah. Colin is one of the writers on “San Francisco,” and I feel like that song was written six years ago, and it was the reason we kind of became a band. It was like, “Hey, we need a band to play this song that we have.”
Colin: Yeah, we were like, “This song’s pretty good, so let’s have a real band now!”
Watch: “San Francisco” – The Mowgli’s
Katie: Yeah, totally! And so, even just thinking about how long ago that was, and how much younger we all were – and I guess, externally, looking at somebody like Colin – we’ve been friends for six years – and [to Colin] thinking of who you were six years ago, versus who you are, you know, sitting next to me today is kind of a trip.
Yet through all that, this is but the second album, which says so much already.
Katie: Only the second, yeah.
Do you miss that beachside feeling?
Colin: I don’t. I really, truly don’t. Like Katie just said – and it was a very good point – I was nineteen, and now I’m twenty-five. I don’t really want to sit by the beach anymore and just write songs forever. Maybe at some point again, I will, but right now, I’m energized and I want to be out there traveling, and experiencing, and writing from that – instead of just writing, like, songs that sound like Zac Brown songs by the beach, drinking a beer. I want to experience and be everywhere, and I want to pull from that for music for the next few years.
Josh: Yeah, and that experience is, to me, a huge difference between the first and second albums. On that first record, we were just chilling on the beach – really literally – and we’ve been out in the world and we’ve met people whose lives and hearts have been touched by our music, and that’s super inspiring for us to keep doing that. We didn’t really have that kind of drive with the first album.
Colin: And I do want to say that, Zac Brown, if you’re reading this, I love you – you’re one of my favorite writers. That wasn’t a jab at Zac Brown – I love Zac Brown as a writer! Every time we do an interview, you have to cut something I say – it’s so weird…
Katie: Another big difference between the first and the second album is that we wrote the first album because we were a band and we wanted to make an album. I don’t want to say that it was necessarily for us, but it wasn’t for anybody else, per se.
Colin: We didn’t have a band!
Katie: And this time, we really wanted to come out with an album for the people who were waiting for it, who wanted it, and we wanted to give them something that was worth the wait, and worth their time, and worth their energy coming out to shows. It feels like this project is so much bigger than us now; it’s theirs too, and by “theirs,” I mean whoever comes to the show and whoever buys the music. It’s their music, too.
It feels like this project is so much bigger than us now.
Do you feel like there was pressure?
Colin: I did – I felt pressure in making this record; I actually felt a lot of pressure making this record, but – I’m sure everyone’s experience with this record is different. My personal experience was one of, like, “I want to make the f***ing best record in the world, and I want to make a record that’s more successful than anybody else’s” –
Katie: – And maybe, not that it’s a bad thing, but maybe you put that pressure on you –
Colin: – I’m competitive; I’m very competitive!
Josh: Yeah, I told this guy, five times a day, “Don’t stress, don’t worry, we’re going to do this, we’re fully capable of this.”
Katie: [to Colin] You put the bar up for yourself
Colin: Yeah, I wanted this record to be f***ing amazing. There’s no other option.
Josh: [to Colin] But you didn’t just make that pressure up. That pressure is real.
Colin: Yeah, that pressure is real. When you’re writing songs, and you’re like, “I could go anywhere with this part right here; I could do anything with this. It’s gotta be the right move; it’s gotta be great…” And beating that, and beating every single part, and sitting there for hours and hours, listening and re-listening, and – that’s the process that I was involved in, and that we all were involved in this record.
I wanted this record to be f***ing amazing
Listening to the record, I felt like there were two motifs that shine through. There's celebration, 'you will do well', 'you are going to do well' - it's like a fortune cookie -
Colin: – That’s very interesting that you said that. I actually never… I wonder if some of that’s like, us talking to ourselves.
Katie: I was going to say, Colin, I think that I notice, as somebody who is not you guys, I think both you and Josh write to yourselves a lot, unintentionally.
Josh: I do, for sure; I know that about myself.
Katie: Yeah, and I see that a lot in your guys’ songs and lyrics and stuff – it’s almost as if you’re expressing a message to yourself that you know you need to hear, but can’t really say outside the music. And maybe that’s why these songs kind of hit people on a personal level – because it is; you mean it, when you’re writing it to yourself. And you are writing it from a place of having “been there,” because, you know, you’re writing it to yourself!
The second theme that I was going to say is on insecurities and overcoming your insecurities.
Katie: Oh, there you go!
Colin: Oh, I don’t have any of those, so… [Josh laughs] I’m like, one walking insecurity, so yeah, you know that.
Katie: A lot of people say that our music sometimes speaks to them and their personal experiences, but again – and not to sound repetitive – but I really do think that comes from this place where they are being written from very honest experiences and feelings… It translates in an honest way.
Josh: Also in some sense, we as songwriters know that we have to have relatable songs, and everybody’s insecure. To have those feelings ourselves, it’s easy to write about that kind of stuff that we know other people can attach themselves to and connect with.
Katie: It also feels good to sing about those things with you sit with them. We all sit with insecurities and these negative feelings, so to sing about them in such, like, a ‘grandeur’ way feels really liberating sometimes, for me, I guess. I’m sure for you guys, having written some of those words, it’s even more so.
Let's continue down this line of though. What was the most fun part of this process?
Colin: The most fun for me, personally, was the amount of writing and re-writing. Treating these songs like a puzzle, and writing different than I ever have before. Writing from a place where it’s like a science, and getting into these songs and thinking about every single aspect in a way that I had never done before – I’ll never write songs the same way in my life after this record.
Katie: [to Colin and Josh] I feel like you would go in with people and you would come out with something that wasn’t unexpected; it’s almost like the chemistry between you two, and whoever that third member is, can really bring something out; it’s pretty cool.
So songwriting isn't a science, per se, but... What is it?
Colin: I don’t know, man. It’s sort of like wringing yourself out like a wet towel.
I love that.
Josh: I think that, for me, my personal favorite part was – our producer, Tony Hoffer, is a guitar player, and he’s got this insane pedal collection. Spencer and I had a floor filled with pedals, and we would swap them in and out, trying different ones. As a guitar player, it was so cool for me to really dive deep and try different guitars, amps, and pedals, and explore tones… That’s something I don’t think I ever had the opportunity to do. I just kind of like, chose ‘this’ overdrive pedal and went for it… So that was pretty cool.
It sounds like it was just such a different experience than beforehand, and it definitely shows.
Katie: We were given a lot more opportunities with this, too. Collaborating with different producers and cool songwriters… it was just different.
For me, the album also sounded very geared toward the live performance.
Josh: I always had that in mind. In the studio, I was always going, “Oh! And when we do it live, the kids will sing that part!” or “We’ll be able to clap here!” or whatever – little moments like that are always in the back of my head.
Katie: I think we all had that as an intention – that before we actually went in or knew what songs were going to be on the record, we collectively knew that we were going to be touring this music, and that whatever went onto this album was going to be a really fun show to play live. I think that’s important to every member of the band – that we put on a great show.
Listen: “Kids In Love” – The Mowgli’s
I don't think you need to label yourselves as one or the other, but do you feel that the album is a reflection of the live performance, or is the live performance a reflection of the album?
Colin: Live performance is a reflection of the album.
Katie: Yeah. We made an album that we’re all very excited to play live; it’s fun.
Josh: That’s kind of weird, because with our first album, I don’t think that our live performance was necessarily a reflection of that. I think it was like, “Here’s these songs we recorded, now here’s how we play them. What do you think?” I thought the live thing was one this whole other planet, sort of.
Katie: Yeah, we played a lot of the songs off the first album differently than they were on the record, anyway –
Josh: – And that’s not necessarily so much the case with this second album –
Katie: Yeah. I feel like some of the songs on the first album had to be amped up for the live show – we either had to raise the tempo a little bit, or slow down the tempo a little bit, or figure out ways to boost the stuff – and this time, it was kind of like, “These songs are big. How are we going to execute them?” And it’s been really fun; we’ve been playing them pretty much exactly, or as close as we can get them to what they sound like on the record.
What was the most exciting thing, pre-Kids In Love, for you in terms of your experiences and your opportunities?
Colin: I think all the late-night shows.
Katie: I was going to say the same thing.
Colin: Conan, Kimmel, Leno, Andy Cohen, the festivals – Lollapalooza was amazing…
Josh: The festivals were huge for me. I met Vampire Weekend at Lollapalooza, and they were all like, “Oh, The Mowgli’s! You guys are having a great year!” and I’m like, holy shit!
Colin: Yeah, the AWOLNATION guy walks up, like, “You guys are having a great year,” we’re like, “Whoa…”
Josh: Meeting the other artists, I think, is one of my favorite things.
Katie: That’s been also really great, and kind of a little backstage thing that’s been cool, out of the spotlight, has been that everybody’s been given this opportunity to write with a lot of different people. When we’re home, these two [Colin and Josh] are in a different writing session every other day, and they’ve met some great people and cool things have come out of it. That’s been a really exciting thing and it’s helped each and every one of us grow as writers and artists in general.
What do you want to get out of the next year?
Colin: We’re gonna go dark [everybody laughs] We’re getting real dark. The labels gonna drop us, it’s gonna be like, super dark, and it’s not gonna make sense anymore…
Katie: We’re going to get super weird and experimental, really dark stuff, depressing lyrics…
Colin: It’s gonna be like a Bjork thing.
Katie: Kind of a Euro kind of pop.
For you personally, if you had to choose one track off the album that really shone through the darkness, what would it be?
Colin: It’s interesting that you use that phrase. For me, personally, it’s “Make It Right.” I almost cry every time we play it live. That song fucks me up.
Josh: It’s so crazy how much we all can attach to that song in a different way.
Katie: Yeah, I think it speaks to each of us as an individual. I know for Colin, he wrote it, and [to Colin] I know that it hits all of the personal notes, and gets you in all the places you were when you wrote it. For me, I didn’t write the song, but I relate it to my own personal things and I am affected by it in its own way, and I know Josh has emotional experiences of his own – so that song’s pretty heavy.
Colin: I don’t think I’ve ever written a song before that – actually I have, but like, it’s been a while since I’ve written a song that’s sucked so much to write. To have to go there – you know what I mean? And in order for the song to be honest, to admit those things –
Katie: – To yourself? –
Colin: Yeah, it sucks…
Katie: Being honest with yourself is the hardest thing to do.
Colin: Writing that song was a whole thing, and then singing it every night is probably good – it’s probably cathartic, or therapeutic or something, but it also just sucks.
Katie: But I do think it’s important to touch on those deeper, darker emotions. I think that’s important because it’s the balance in life – it’s the ying and yang, you know? If you don’t know about that side of the coin, then you can’t appreciate all of the other things that are good in the world.
Listen: “Make It Right” – The Mowgli’s
What's the best thing about the live performance and what are you most excited for?
Colin: Kids singing along, man. Last night – the record came out yesterday, you know? – and we played in Boston last night. Night one, and every kid in the front that I could see was singing the new songs and the old songs. It was really good.
Katie: The shows are so fun. Sometimes people say to us, “Hey I felt really bummed, I was really sad, I was this and that, and then I came to your show and I felt better,” and I feel like for us, it’s the exact same thing. Whatever we’re going through – if we had a weird day on the bus, or if we had a weird show last night, or if we had whatever – or a really weird interview – whatever it is we go through, once we get onstage and we perform every night, I feel like we get offstage and we feel better. We feel like the fans singing back at us made us feel like… At the end of a show, we’re like *boom* all of the weight from the day is gone, and that’s got so much to do with the people coming out and singing at us.
That's amazing... Congratulations, guys.
Katie: Thank you! We’re so excited about all of this and we’re so excited that people care.
Kids In Love – The Mowgli’s
Learn more about The Mowgli’s at themowglis.net