Rising stars the Mowgli’s are a lively seven-piece outfit. Blending a healthy dose of anthemic indie pop with a dash of folksy rock and a positive point of view to boot has entitled them to join the ranks of other modern artists such as Youngblood Hawke, Grouplove and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. They continually project a message of love in their music as well as their involvement in charitable operations. This April, they released their sophomore studio album Kids in Love. Post SXSW we were lucky enough to speak on the phone with the group’s fierce sole female member, Katie Jayne Earl. The free-spirited sweetheart enlightened us on the new album’s fruition, how The Mowgli’s are living the dream and how they hope to make this world a little bit better.
mxdwn: Sorry we just missed you at SXSW. How did this year’s SX go for you?
Katie: It was so much fun. I was just saying to somebody actually that it was kind of my favorite year because it’s our fourth year. The first couple of years just felt very overly exciting. We went too hard and were too excited. Then last year, it was in the middle of a lot of stuff and it was a little stressful for us. This year it was like, “Ok, we get it now. We’re in the flow and we have new stuff to share.” It was just really fun. It felt like a kind of tradition of ours now. We’ve been kicking off every tour for the last four years with a good ol’ SX. So, it’s pretty cool.
mxdwn: Yes, that’s the story for a lot of artists these days. What’s your favorite part of SX?
Katie: I’m a huge fan of the food in Austin. There’s just food everywhere like good food trucks. There are so many great restaurants in the general area. Of course, you always at least come away with one new band that you are going to watch and look out for. We got to see a lot of really great new things this year, so that was really cool.
mxdwn: Let’s talk about your music. You have a recent release with Kids in Love. It’s really exciting and beautiful that your music has such a warm vibe and it kind of leaves the listeners with smiles on their faces. How did your sound develop?
Katie: You know it’s still being developed. I think any producer we work with, during their time with us, is kind of a part of our project – maybe something of a curator for how the song sounds or the record sounds. I think our sound is a pretty unique blend of everybody’s personal influence and everybody’s background. Josh and Colin, for example, are two of our main songwriters. Josh comes from a kind of the emo singer-songwriter world and Colin is a huge fan of country music and pop music. When they get together, they kind of really come up with this cool middle ground between those things. Then everybody else gets involved. Andy throws his kind of Blink-182 drum vibes on it, and I throw some of the old-school harmonies on, and Matt comes in with his bass line, and Dave does his weird stuff. It just ends up being a total Mowgli vibe.
mxdwn: You guys do have a great chemistry which helps you blend all those different sounds into something that does have an anthemic quality. How did that translate into inspiration for the new album?
Katie: We’ve been touring the first album Waiting for the Dawn for a few years now. Touring has become such a huge part of our lives and a huge part of our band. It’s definitely become who we are, in a lot of ways, through living it. I think playing live shows was something that we considered a lot when we were making the album. I think that we just all agreed that we wanted to come out of the studio with an album that was going to make people feel really really good in a live show setting. We wanted to come out with an album that we were excited to play live and was going to excite a really high-energy, really positive atmosphere amongst our fans in our crowds for live shows. That’s a big part of why it has such an optimistic sound to it… A huge intention for us is to make sure that people leave the show or leave their car after listening to the record feeling a lot better than when they put on the record or when they came to the show. We want them to just feel better when they’re done listening or watching.
mxdwn: Yes, the studio versions of your music already have a lively quality. How do you go about translating that from the studio to the live setting?
Katie: You know, it’s relatively easy because we’re all hammy enough that we get really excited and high when we step on that stage. Every single one of us just comes to life as soon as the lights go on and that first song starts. To be honest, because we’re headlining and these sets are longer, I have to start working out so I can keep up my stamina and my energy up by the end of the set. It’s just a concerted effort. We just know when we step on the stage, whatever baggage we have for the day, you leave it backstage; and you go out there and have the best time ever. You just bring it as hard as you can because we feel like we owe it to people who drove out that night, who got a babysitter, who got a designated driver, who bought tickets and had to pay the fucking Goldenvoice charge. Whatever it is, however they have to get to the show tonight, whatever they have to do, we really feel like we owe it to them to put on the best show ever. It really becomes a second nature at that point to just give it all you’ve got.
mxdwn: That’s really sweet that you guys care so much about the fans and the experience/interaction because that’s an important part of spreading your music and your message.
Katie: If people didn’t show up to shows and buy records, we’d have zero reasons to even be doing what we’re doing. So, they’re as much a part of the project as anybody else is.
mxdwn: That being said, what’s your favorite part about making music?
Katie: My favorite part about all of this really is the live show. I think that it would be different for anybody you ask. I know that Josh and Colin, for example, love seeing their songs come to life. They love having an idea on an acoustic guitar and getting to watch it become a full-blown song through the process in the studio. The whole process is really exciting for them, and I really agree. It’s so exciting. For me, personally as an individual, I love getting out on stage and performing the songs live and expressing myself that way. I think it would be different for everybody you asked, but we all do love love playing live shows.
mxdwn: How has the process been easier/harder for you with making the second album?
Katie: I heard Colin say this before, and I think it’s pretty spot-on. They say you have your whole life to make your first album because you just make it and when it’s done, you put it out. That’s when people know who you are and that’s when you get your jumpstart. This time around, we definitely had, “Ok, we want the record by June.” Then it’s like “Oh! Umm, we have til June.” So, it was a little different having a time crunch, but it was pretty exciting, also. This time we were really excited – the first album we did with one producer over the course of a year or two. This time we had a time crunch so it had to get done. We got to work with all these really amazing singers, songwriters, producers, studio musicians. We had such a great experience and I think we learned so much from being around so many really incredible people. Tony Hoffer – a really amazing producer. We got to work with the Captain Cuts guys who do a lot of the Grouplove and Smallpools stuff. This awesome guy Matt Rad who wrote two of my favorite songs on the album with Colin and Josh. It was just a really great experience. I think we learned a lot and it really felt like we were professional musicians. It was exciting.
mxdwn: It seems you would have to because you’ve been touring rigorously the past few years. How do you go about writing music while you’re on the road?
Katie: It’s always been more challenging for me. Songwriting has always been for lack of a better word, a challenge. It’s something that I love to explore, I love to try. Everybody in the band is like that. Everybody in the band writes what they can. It’s something they kind of experiment with and push themselves to do; but then there are people like Josh and Colin who just kind of write all the time. They just can’t help it. Even if everything went to shit today and the band broke up, they’d still would be writing songs, at least a few a month. It’s just very second nature to them. It’s just what they do.
mxdwn: What’s really cool is how your band has grown in size and you are comprised of friends (old and new). How do you feel you have progressed over time, especially now that you’re on your second album and you guys are becoming veterans?
Katie: Well, we’re a much better band than when we started. I’ll tell you that much. When we were playing bars and we were getting super drunk, we were just like, “Oh, anybody come up on stage!” We were just kind of all over the place. It was fun as hell, but we weren’t a great band. We’ve definitely shaped up and become a much better band. We’re all much better musicians, much better performers. It’s really cool seeing all of my friends grow in that way. It’s been really exciting and kind of emotional. Also, we are so much closer than we’ve ever been because we’ve been through so much together. We’ve made choices together and we’ve been on this journey together. Really outside of our little family it’s hard to even express all of the stuff we’ve been through and all of the stuff we know about each other, and all of the moments we’ve shared. So I feel lucky to be a part of this very special kind of unit. For lack of a better word, it’s like a club. Everybody is invited, but nobody outside of the seven of us could ever really know what it’s like to be on this particular journey. I feel very lucky to be one of those people.
mxdwn: Do you guys love each other?
Katie: So much it’s insane. They’re my best friends in the world. They’re my brothers. We love each other very much. It’s very emotional sometimes to look over and see Colin or Josh or Matt or any one of them on stage in front of 500 people or 1000 people because even though I’m up there too, I’m like, “Wow! You guys are living your dream!” It’s very emotional. It’s kind of weird.
mxdwn: Sounds like you’re still in that honeymoon phase with the excitement of “We’ve gone a lot of places but we still have a lot of places that we want to get to?”
Katie: It’s going to be really hard to get us jaded because we really truly are living our dreams and we’re doing it together. Every step of the journey is such a new and exciting element that it’s hard to not always have wide eyes and be in awe of what’s happening here.
mxdwn: What are your goals for the year in music/life?
Katie: I hope that we reach as many people as we can with our new music and that we make people feel as good as they can and remind ourselves and remind the listeners to be the best versions of themselves that they can be and to spread that out into the world. We think that just those little things can make the world a little bit better.