Ten years into their career, indie pop mainstays The Mowgli’s scale new creative peaks. We sit down with them to discuss their boisterous new single “Fighting with Yourself” and what the future holds for a band continually on the rise.
“Fighting with Yourself” & “Wasting Time” – The Mowgli’s
Ten years is a long time. As we cross over the decade line, the fresh world of 2020 in some ways hardly resembles that of 2010. Time rolls forward, at times creeping like a glacier and racing like an out of control train at others,
With its advancement, we morph with the landscape around us. As our faces and bodies change, so too do our inner lives. Our journey reveals us like precious gems washed of sediment. Except we’re never quite rinsed clean. We only become ourselves again and again – whatever that may be – changing even as we seem to stay the same.
A lot of bands don’t survive to their big 1-0, but those that do often mirror this trajectory of growth and change. Bowie passed from Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, and beyond; the Rolling Stones traversed new avenues late into their silver years; even Mumford and Sons burned their banjos to see what exists beyond their tweed vests and 1910’s aesthetic. Likewise, LA indie pop group The Mowgli’s continue to surprise as their outfit rounds the bend into the decade club.
From their mainstream splash with 2012’s “San Francisco,” through their major-label years with Photo Finish and Island Records, and into their current spout of independent freedom, they’ve moved like mercury through several stages – even as their music has remained undeniably fun and catchy. As much as they inhabit the role of the effervescent pop band and are a perfect fit for any Indie Dance Night playlist, their discography shows a distinct trajectory, no album quite like the last. Their major-label debut Waiting for the Dawn revels in the joy of people coming together, while 2016’s Where’d the Weekend Go? settles in the comfort of chosen family and how effortlessly art can arise when you’re with your people.
Their recent EPs I Was Starting to Wonder and American Dreams blend a certain anxiety into their carefree sound. The first deals with the ambivalence of tour life, rejoicing in the novelty and possibilities of new places and new shows, while the latter explores how technology acts as both facilitator and barrier to people coming together. Beneath the danceable beats, they unpack the gloom that makes us grateful for the sunshine.
“Music brings people together, into shared spaces, whether that be a concert or a nightclub, and sharing yourself on songs allows people who listen feel less alone in their personal experiences. Songs can travel all around the world and reach more people than I alone ever could.”
Many musicians have called themselves Mowgli’s over the years (the lineup bloomed to ten members in their early years), but today they’re made up of founding members Katie Jayne Earl (vocals), Josh Hogan (vocals and guitar), Matthew Di Panni (bass), Dave Appelbaum (keys), and Andy Warren (drums). The past decade has seen them through many highs – late-night TV spots, rewarding collaborations with charities, and exhilarating performances in legendary venues the world over. But it’s also presented them with trials – lost band members, the tour life grind testing friendships, and the struggle to maintain equanimity through the highs and testing lows.
Their bond has seen them through it all. And after a successful fall tour co-headlining with The Plain White T’s and New Politics, they show no sign of slowing.
They tipped their hats to the decade with their latest single “Fighting with Yourself,” a sonic curveball that boasts the pop-punk flavor of Warped Tour more than their usual jangle-pop sugar rush. It also turns a keen eye inward, joining the self-care movement with a guiding hand.
Stop fighting with yourself, this time
Cuz you’ve been before and
You never win the war so
Start reaching out for help, it’s fine
To know you’ve hit the bottom
Like their best work, it’s a message that bubbles beneath a raucous call to the dance floor. But it’s also a mantra that encourages growth and reaching for that hand when you need a little lift.
A decade into their career, and The Mowgli’s still feel like they’re warming up. At least that’s how it should be under a trajectory of constant evolution. “Being in a touring band is hard work,” says Katie, “but inspiring. It only works because people care about the band and we have a core who supports us, people who have both been there since the beginning and joined along the way.”
And the journey continues to unfurl.
Atwood Magazine recently chatted with Katie about the band’s history, her 2017 marriage to bandmate Josh Hogan, and the rewards and challenges of being a creative unit for so long. Get all of the info in our exclusive interview!
A CONVERSATION WITH THE MOWGLI’S
Atwood Magazine: You've been making music together for almost a decade. What's one of the biggest challenges you've overcome in that time?
Katie: I think tapping into the resilience to keep going when it seems like it’s a bad idea has been the biggest struggle, but we have somehow managed to do it. There have been endless obstacles over the course of our career, and a lot of times, quitting seemed like a good idea. Believe it or not, the music industry isn’t all private jets and penthouse suites. We work really, really hard, year-round and sometimes, when we are home, we still have to dog sit or pick up shifts to make rent. The highs are high, and the lows are low… constantly reminding ourselves that we do this because we love to do it, we love music, we love our fans and we don’t have a boss… remembering all of that when the chips are down can be hard, but it’s as important as any other part of this job.
How has your creative process changed since parting with your original label in 2017?
Katie: Well, I think in the most simplistic of terms, we don’t have to send out demos to people at the label for input anymore. We no longer have to go back and forth, applying notes that people in New York gave us about our songs. When it feels right and good and ready to us, the artists, then we can put it out into the world! I think it makes our product more authentic.
Has there ever been a mission statement for the Mowgli’s as a band?
Katie: There has been, we wrote one in 2012, but I can’t really remember it. I know that it essentially stated that we would always try to leave our listeners feeling better, and less alone than they felt before they put our music on… and there was a promise that we would love each other no matter what. That’s been challenging at times but somehow, we have managed to keep the love alive all these years later.
What’s one of your favorite things about tour life? What’s one of the most challenging?
Katie: Playing shows is and always has been my absolute favorite part of touring. The time we spend on stage makes all of the hardships that come with touring (homesickness and discomfort, mainly) worth it.
What ways do you see to combat the growing disconnection you explore in 'Mr. Telephone' and 'Talk About It'?
Katie: Touring has been a big part of our combatting the disconnect. Showing up in a city, and playing music for a room full of people, sharing space and an evening together – that is a tangible experience, and it’s an in-person connection that you could never get through a device.
Do you see music as a communal experience that can offset a lot of that isolation and if so, how?
Katie: I do. Music brings people together, into shared spaces, whether that be a concert or a nightclub, and sharing yourself on songs allows people who listen to feel less alone in their personal experiences. Songs can travel all around the world and reach more people than I alone ever could. I think that’s powerful.
How has marriage - to guitarist Josh Hogan - affected your dynamic as a band if at all?
Katie: Well, I live with a really good guitar player now, so I’ve been learning to play. It’s a massive bonus. Other than that, we work hard to not let it affect the group dynamic as best as we can. We are individuals with our own thoughts and feelings. We don’t always agree and why should we? Our band is a democracy and our interpersonal relationships should never jeopardize our shared goal of putting out the best music we can and playing the best shows we can.
When I think about the Mowgli’s, I think of fun, carefree, hook-heavy indie pop. What made you decide to adopt a (still fun) pop-punk sound for “Fighting with Yourself”?
Katie: We grew up listening to music like that, so it was pretty organic, to be honest. There wasn’t a ton of calculation behind it. Josh just wrote from the heart and that’s what came out.
Your previous music seems to tackle interpersonal relationships to a large extent while “Fighting with Yourself” is more about taking on personal struggles. What influenced that paradigm shift? Is something we can expect more of with future releases?
Katie: We’re just trying to write from the heart. I guess that’s where our heads are at right now. We can’t predict what we will want or need to write about or sing about in the future, we just have to take life day to day, try to remain true to ourselves, and see what comes out of us.
What do you see as some uniquely modern obstacles to living mindfully and being kind to oneself?
Katie: Well, we live in a system that wants us to feel like shit and keep from coming together. It’s literally designed that way, because if we feel like shit, if we hate ourselves, and we hate our neighbor, we can’t reach our full potential. That calculated negativity is everywhere: in music, in advertising, in fashion and politics – it’s everywhere, almost impossible to escape. I think as we begin to open our eyes to the injustices all around us, it becomes easier to be kind and to feel compassion and empathy for the people around us. I hope more people start to see that we are in this together. Once we eventually come together, we can really start to heal our society.
What inspired the idea for the “Fighting with Yourself” video?
Katie: I was chatting with my best friend, Ryan Newcomb about video ideas that could be easy to execute, and that could incorporate some kind of connection to our fan base. We discussed how excited the band was to start playing this song live because the lyrics were something I need to remind myself of regularly. Over a few beers, we came up with this concept to have our fans sing the song to themselves because the message is ultimately one we all need to tell ourselves. He worked hard with our friend Cortney Armitage, who is an excellent photographer and videographer to execute the vision and with the help of some amazing fans, we made it happen. I was really happy with the outcome. It’s amazing what can happen when people come together.
What’s up next for The Mowgli’s after your tour with Plain White T’s and New Politics?
Katie: We are going to the UK for the first time ever in our career this January, and for the first time ever, my mom (and the rest of my family) will see The Mowgli’s play live.
For fans of Tunes & Tumblers, how would you describe your sound with a cocktail?
Katie: A can of Coors Light with blue mountains.
Stream: “Fighting with Yourself” – The Mowgli’s
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© Courtney Armitage
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