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Mumblr and a Van Full of Snakes!

July 9, 2014
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MumblrSmall03Text and portraits by Michael Bucher. Show images by Chris Narisi.

Mumblr is now a band with a van, a certain status symbol among up-and-comers. The 1989 Dodge Ram is a badge of honor, though it wouldn’t impress anyone on face value.

“It’s what you think a $1,000 van looks like,” says bassist Sean Reilly. “Like the urban decay crack epidemic world it was forged in.”

But the van symbolizes freedom. It defines a band’s commitment to sharing their music. That’s exactly what Mumblr intends to do, whether it’s through basement shows in Philly or in an upcoming tour across the country.

The four band members, who are originally from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, met at Temple University and became a band about a year and a half ago. All have either dropped out or taken an indefinite break from school. After Nick Morrison was two absences beyond the number allowed to pass a class, his future became clear to him.

“I can’t physically pass this class anymore because I stayed home and played music,” says Morrison, the lead singer and guitar player. “So I should just not go to school anymore. I should  play music. That’s obviously what I want to do.”

The band recognizes Mumblr’s existence could be fleeting – unlike college, which isn’t going anywhere. Instead of working toward a degree none of them were sure they wanted, each member of Mumblr is now unified in their clear determination to make music together.

“College ended up not being the resource we thought it was,” says Morrison. “We figured the city was a better resource than college because we weren’t putting as much into it. We didn’t really know what we wanted to do.”

“We all came to Philly individually and transformed for different reasons,” adds guitar player Ian Amidon. “I see us more like a family. People pay each other’s rent. We made sacrifices for each other. Nick was out of work for a month and we straight fed him. Sorry to bring that up.”

The bandmates share a true sense of honesty with each other, usually met with laughter. They don’t hold back, whether it’s about hooking up with another band member’s ex-girlfriend, their learning disabilities or what wasn’t working with some of the songs Morrison was writing for their upcoming LP, Full of Snakes. And that honesty extends to their music.

“I’m trying to make someone relate to this ,” says Morrison, who writes most of the lyrics, “without it being about girlfriend problems or boyfriend problems or lost love.”

“If you just talk about what happened, you’re obviously not getting anything from it,” adds Reilly.

“We’re not trying to document events,” says Amidon. “We’re trying to document feelings.”

Their music is raw and abrasive. It comes in waves, teasing the listener until the power erupts in a swift crash of drums, sizzling guitars and screaming vocals. The emotion is not only evoked through lyrics, but in synchronized energy.

“I can be pretty out of control with my emotions,” says drummer Scott Stitzer. “It took a lot of work to get at the point where I could have the emotion and then hit a brick wall before I act on it. Music is the thing where I can have the emotion and not have the brick wall and act on the emotion. It’s the only place it’s right.”

The bandmates agree that Philadelphia is the right place for their style of music. Mumblr grew from the strong house show scene – Golden Tea House, Mount Misery and Hong Kong Garden – and was partly inspired by Stitzer’s uncle’s band, Rasputin’s Secret Police.

“Coming into this, we all had a Philly attitude,” says Morrison. “We’re suspicious of people. We’ll tell people exactly how we feel about shit. Everybody is real cool here but you have to prove yourself to them. Philly became the perfect place for all of us to come together and use what we had grown up with and push it into this environment that we think is a cultivated place for it.”

Stitzer notices the Philly music scene is really well organized compared to other towns.

And Mumblr is now another one of those many hard-working bands in the Philadelphia music community. About two weeks after releasing Full of Snakes on Fleeting Youth Records, they’ll take a short, two week tour. That will be  followed by a countrywide tour beginning on Sept. 11, including stops in Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, and up through the Carolinas.

Let’s hope the ‘89 Dodge Ram can hold it all together.

Catch Mumblr at the Red Bull Sound Select show at Underground Arts on July 19 for only $3! Spank Rock will headline with Prowler opening and DJ SYLO spinning all night. RSVP here.

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