Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Q&A with Mainland

Photo Credit: George Brooks 

It’s going to be an intense few weeks for New York City band Mainland. The punk quartet is releasing its debut EP Shiner today, and is set to take their act to SXSW this March. Shiner is a 4-song EP brimming with a refreshing zeal for punk-inflected rock ‘n’ roll. Mainland’s guitarist and lead singer Jordan Topf checked in with The Musically Inclined via email to talk about working with Spoon’s Jim Eno, surviving NYC, and pursuing some serious barbecue while in Austin. 

How did you guys start playing together?

The band started a couple years ago, but this lineup began Spring of 2013 after our old bass player quit the band to live in a seminary and preach the word of God.

So, you’re about to release your EP Shiner; tell me a bit about it.

Shiner is a record we made in Austin, Texas. It combines raw New York City rock bands like Jonathan Fire*Eater, Television, and our friends into a pop context.

And you got to work with Jim Eno from Spoon, what was that like? How did you get hooked up with him?

We were introduced to Jim by our future manager Kimberly De Los Angeles. We met him while on tour in Austin. Working with Jim was a really exciting time because he was genuinely excited about our songs and our energy in the studio. We just went for it all day and night until we couldn't breathe. He brought a lot of urgency and determination to make these songs greater out of our souls. He's an amazing producer.

Tell me about how you guys write a song. Is there a division of duties, or everyone pitches in?

I write the songs in my apartment (lyrics and chords), and then bring the songs to the band. We act in the same way a committee acts, with a separation of roles. We sit and talk about the song itself, the influence, and where we want to take it based on demos I send to the band prior to a writing session. Then we hash everything out together as a band and edit tirelessly.

You’ve got a pretty identifiable sound– what pulled you guys toward late ‘70s punk?

We call ‘70s punk a reference because we are fond of the culture and bands that came from that era. Whether we sound like them is another story. 1977-1980 and 1995-2001 in New York might have been some of the most pioneering eras of music in history. The passion that these artists held for creating something unique and timeless is only matched by the fact that many listeners didn't realize this until 40 some odd years later. Suicide, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Thurston Moore, Glenn Branca, DNA, Teenage Jesus & The Jerk, Mars, Ramones, Jonathan Fire-Eater, Pussy Galore, etc. Their impact on our city is as evident as it ever was 40 years ago. It shows in the truest New York artists who understand the importance of the precursors and take their influence to influence creativity of their own.

So, I’m from Nashville, which can be a tough city for bands. Good, but tough. I imagine New York is as well. What are the best and worst things about being a band starting out in NYC? 

New York is a great place to be in a band, because there are so many places to play, and people that can potentially open doors for you like nowhere else in America. After being in the music scene for awhile, figuring out where we fit in, we realized what was legit and not just a trendy niche thing. We connect more with the bands that play in the Lower East Side than in Brooklyn. The bands coming out of Manhattan seemed way less pretentious and just more concerned with writing good songs than what was cool at the time. That, in my opinion, is the best– when you can disregard everything else that is going on around you and focus on what you're doing. New York can be tough for a lot of people if they get bogged down in what other people are doing.

Photo Credit: Henri Groux-Holt

You guys are heading to SXSW this year– do you have a strategy for making the most of that convergence of humanity?

Our strategy is to do what we always do at shows, and that's putting on a memorable live show. We'd also like to eat lots of barbecue whilst watching tons of awesome bands. There will also be meetings with folks who might put us on bigger tours/put us in the studio again.

Apart from playing, are there any bands you’re hoping to catch live?

Skaters, The Orwells, Eagulls, WET, New York Night Train.

What’s a song you wish you could have written?

I wish I could have written "Junk" by Paul McCartney. It's my favorite song of all time, because the melody is so hypnotizing and beautiful. He writes amazing melodies that seem so effortless, but he's McCartney and he makes everything seem so easy. Also "I Ran With Love (But I Couldn't Keep Up)" by an unknown English band called Spectrals. Louis Jones is the brains behind the now defunct band, but that song I have always called “the soundtrack to my life.” It's a really heartbreaking song.

I was snooping on your Twitter and saw you caught Her. Thoughts? I loved it but really hated all the high-waisted tweed pants.

Hahaha, I better watch what I say on Twitter. That movie got so many mixed reviews, but Spike Jonze posed a very interesting topic. Are electronics taking over human interaction to a point where we could fall in love with them? The stylizing of the film was so geeky 1970s it cracked me up, but it still felt so modern.

Tell me about your live shows. What can folks expect?

We have projections at our shows, because we want to create an experience. We're pretty energetic on stage, and believe that if playing the show isn't physical, then we're not communicating the songs to their fullest potential. Quite frankly, it's a wild time.

What’s next for you guys?

Our new EP Shiner drops February 25th! Along with 4 music videos for each song on the record. SXSW we are playing the Neon Gold Records party along with many other shows. We're currently writing our full length album.

Connect with Mainland

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