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INTERVIEW: Catalan quartet Mourn on new album 'Ha, Ha, He', gear and sexism in music

Daniel Gumble
INTERVIEW: Catalan quartet Mourn on new album 'Ha, Ha, He', gear and sexism in music

Lead vocalist and guitarist from Barcelona alt rock outfit Mourn, Jazz Rodríguez Bueno, tells MI Pro editor Daniel Gumble about the making of their new album Ha, Ha, He, gender discrimination in the music industry and how recording their debut at such a young age has helped them to develop as musicians…

When Mourn unleashed their eponymous debut album upon the world in the early part of 2015, much of the media opted to focus on the band’s personnel over the music contained within. Aged between just 15 and 18 at the time of release and yet to perform outside of their hometown, many marvelled at the consummate musicianship and song writing prowess of the precocious Catalan quartet.

Recorded to tape in just a few days and drawing comparisons to early PJ Harvey, Nirvana and a varied assortment of other lazily thrown together ‘90s alt rock outfits, Mourn was short, sharp, visceral and occasionally brash. Many of its tracks clocked in at under two minutes, while frontwoman and guitarist Jazz Rodríguez Bueno’s canny ear for melody and commanding vocals continually brought something fresh to proceedings, which is no mean feat in a genre that – in the wrong hands, at least – can end up feeling hackneyed and tiresome. Groundbreaking? Perhaps not, but it certainly marked them out as ones to watch for the future.

Now, less than 18 months later, Mourn return with their sophomore effort Ha, Ha, He - a collection of songs that offsets their youthful exuberance with a more, dare one say, mature sound. The sheer energy that powered some of Mourn’s more abrasive moments has been delicately tempered, providing a more considered, accomplished tone.
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According to Bueno, this new, progressive dimension to their sound is a result of their experiences recording and touring Mourn at such a young age; an opportunity that allowed them to hone their playing abilities before taking to the studio to make Ha, Ha, He.

“We’ve learnt a lot since then and touring made us improve our skills a lot,” she says. “So at the time of recording the second album we could try new and different things. We all play much better now. We feel more comfortable playing at home, in rehearsals and on stage. Touring made us feel more confident about what we do and I think this is reflected in the new songs.”

The band’s songwriting process has also evolved over the past 18 months. With three quarters of the band still studying at college – Bueno being one of them – their creative process has always been fairly malleable in order to accommodate various extra-curricular activities.

“I always carry a notebook with me and when something comes to mind I write it down,” she elaborates. “Then at home I read everything and I decide what I like and how I can structure it. I do the same when I play guitar - I play until I find something I like and then I record it (with my phone most of the time).

“Sometimes what I make with my guitar inspires me to write lyrics, other times the lyrics inspire me for the music and other times I just mix the recordings with the lyrics I’ve been writing to see if they work well together. When I have something solid I show it to the rest of the band. At rehearsals they write their parts and we start playing together. I always like what they do; we complete each other.

“Carla [Pérez Vas, guitar] and I used to meet to write songs together when we were writing the first album, but now we’re too busy. We all are studying. Well, Carla is already working, so we can only meet on Sundays to rehearse, so I write on my own at home.”

In spite of, or, perhaps, because of their college/work commitments, Mourn appear to have mastered the art of getting things done quickly. Within less than two months of the band forming they were in the studio recording Mourn, which they rattled out in a mere few days, and it’s taken less than 18 months for a follow-up to surface.

The roots of such demonstrable efficiency lie both in the fact that they have been playing music from a very young age and that Bueno grew up in a very musical household; something that proved particularly inspiring for Bueno and her sister/bandmate - bassist Leia Rodríguez Bueno - during their formative years.

“My dad is a musician, so I’ve seen him playing and touring since I was little. I met a lot of his friends that were also in bands, so I always thought this was an amazing thing to do. I started playing when I was 13, I think. I started playing drums and then when I was 15 I decided I wanted to play guitar, too. Leia picked up her bass for the first time when she was 11. Antonio [Postius Echeverría] has played drums since he was eight and Carla started playing guitar at 11, I think. We had been together a couple of months, or maybe just a month, before recording the album.”

Her father aside, Bueno has previously cited the likes of Nirvana, Elliott Smith and PJ Harvey as major influences, although she says that one particular artist has had a bigger impact upon the band’s sound of late than any other.

“We listen to a lot of different music so we feel inspired by different artists, but our most recent influence for this album are Throwing Muses. Their music is so uplifting and I feel really curious about the things they do in the songs.”

Bueno’s father has also shaped her taste when it comes to gear, often using pieces of his equipment whenever available.

“I usually use a Fender Telecaster. It’s my dad’s guitar but he lets me play with it. I have a Les Paul but I prefer the Telecaster sound, so when he doesn’t need it I use it.

“I also use a Diamond Compressor, a Full-Drive 3 and a booster. I prefer the Full-Drive 3 booster right now, but I have another one and I combine them.”

As with most bands made up predominantly of women, Mourn haven’t been immune to some of the industry’s more retrograde attitudes when it comes to female musicians – particularly when talking gear. However, for the most part, Bueno says the band’s experiences with the industry at large have been relatively free of such challenges, with the exception of one or two dinosaur encounters.

“We don’t usually find any difficulties in this aspect, luckily. But it’s true that sometimes, in specific occasions, we’ve found some people that have made us feel uncomfortable. Once a sound guy took my amp and put it on the wrong side of the stage, so I told him that I was going to play at the other side. When he heard my voice he started talking to me like I was five. He was imitating my voice; putting on a voice. When another guy asked him something he answered normal, but when he was talking to me he was putting on this voice. I hated that guy! I felt really bad because he wasn’t taking me seriously and he was acting like he was superior. And then he wasn’t listening to us at the sound check, like we had no idea what we were doing because we were young girls. I wanted to punch him so bad! Some people also use a condescending tone when talking to us, which is irritating, but they usually shut up when they hear us play.”

Considering the speed with which Mourn have set about their business so far, we probably won't have too long to wait before the arrival of album number three. What’s harder to predict is where their talents will take them next. The development between albums one and two is palpable and undoubtedly points towards truly great things to come.

For now, however, Bueno’s ambitions for the future remain somewhat more humble.

“We want to keep rehearsing and making new songs - we’re working a lot these days and I think we can make something interesting,” she concludes. “We just want to focus on staying together and playing a lot.”

Ha, Ha, He is out on June 3rd via Captured Tracks.

Picture (from left to right): Leia Rodríguez Bueno, Carla Pérez Vas, Jazz Rodríguez Bueno, Antonio Postius Echeverría


Tags: interview , Interviews , artists , women in music , mourn , Jazz Rodriguez Bueno

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