The Mumlers
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The Mumlers


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"Breakthru Artist"

The second album from San Jose sextet, The Mumlers, has arrived and we here at Breakthru Radio think it is a true piece of art. The album, entitled Don't Throw Me Away, is the follow up to Thickets and Stitches, their debut release on Galaxia, a label that has given us albums by the likes of The Black Heart Procession, Her Space Holiday and Peggy Honeywell.

The project is the brainchild of Will Sprott, San Jose native, instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. He is accompanied by six other talented characters including Mercedes El Vencere, Andy Paul, James Fenwicke, Müller, Felix Archuleta, Paolo Gomez. The players are both on the recordings and share the stage with Sprott. The group makes use of vintage instruments, most of them collected from the San Jose Unified School district (grabbed up when the school was trying to give them away). The instrumentation includes a french horn, stand-up bass, guitar, clarinet, organs and more.

Sprott's vocals stylings don't reflect that of a man in his late twenties. His voice is filled with beauty, sounding a bit weathered and smoked. His lyrics tell stories of life experiences and hardships filled with truth and emotion. Technically, Sprott and the band are all over the place. The tracks reference different eras and genres while seamlessly sewing them together, without the listener even noticing. His ability to travel from soul to folk then back to blues, swing, rock and jazz is amazing. There are many experiences to be had by the listener during Don't Throw Me Away's 42 minutes and 11 songs. Several times during the album you are transported to a different place and time. It is with these beautiful variations that sets the band apart.

The outfit is known for their live shows, something that is extremely important in this age of technology and recording advancements. Almost anyone can sound amazing on a recording, but not until they prove themselves live, do they deserve any sort of recognition. The Mumlers will be touring this fall in support of Don't Throw Me Away. They will have their record release party in San Jose on September 11 at The Bank Club. See them live - Breakthru Radio


This week, our podcast features The Mumlers, a San Jose band whose sophomore album, Don’t Throw Me Away, comes out today on Galaxia Records. The group’s members were initially intended to be guest contributors on a solo recording by lead singer Will Sprott. Instead, they’ve united to become a formidable band full of talented musicians, whose first album, 2008’s Thickets & Stitches, channeled their skills into a loose collection of folk, rock, blues and soul. Since that album’s release, The Mumlers have been supporting the record with entertaining live shows that allows the sextet’s players to switch between multiple instruments and have a lot of fun.

Vintage organs and amps lend Don’t Throw Me Away an “old soul” feeling, and Sprott’s voice has a world-weary timelessness that helps the ballads ache and the uptempo tracks swing. Beyond the fact that they sound aged, though, the songs also sound good. Vintage aesthetic aside, the horn, string and vocal arrangements are powerful and unpredictable, and great production means that you’ll want to replay these songs to unpack their numerous layers. So The Mumlers are a little tighter and a little wiser on their second recording, and they’re rightfully one of Northern California’s rising bands.

We sat down with the band at The Bay Bridged Studio in late June to discuss the new album, the San Jose music scene and more. We’ve also included four songs in the episode from both of the group’s releases.

Upcoming Shows:

The Mumlers will be joining Black Heart Procession for a national tour following CD release shows around Northern California. Check their MySpace page for more.

Tuesday, September 8th
Streetlight Records (San Jose)
7pm, Free, All Ages

Friday, September 11th
The Blank Club (Record Release Show)
with Kelley Stoltz and The Botticellis
9pm, $8

Friday, September 18th
The Crepe Place (Santa Cruz)
with Sparrow’s Gate
9pm, $10

Saturday, September 26th
Henry Miller Library (Big Sur)
with The Dodos, Papercuts, The Ruby Suns
5pm, $28.50

Wednesday, October 7th
Hemlock Tavern
with Emily Jane White and Osage Orange
9pm, $7 - The Bay Bridged

"'Away' With the Mumlers"

'Away' With The Mumlers

On the eve of their record release show, Mumlers leader Will Sprott breaks down their new album, track by track
By Steve Palopoli

THE Mumlers' debut record, 2007's Thickets and Stitches, launched the ambitious San Jose band onto a national stage. Besides attention from Rolling Stone and NPR, it was the album that launched a thousand blog posts. The consensus: Ambitious. Fascinating. Soulful. Distinctive. And above all, unpredictable.

They ain't seen nothing yet. The Mumlers' follow-up, Don't Throw Me Away, which drops Sept. 9, is twice the record that Thickets and Stitches was, branching out in every direction at once. Its first single "Coffin Factory" sounds like a cross between ? and the Mysterians' "99 Tears" and Talking Heads' Fear of Music album, while something like "99 Years Ago" is so textured and atmospheric it should be immediately put on the soundtrack to something.

As the band prepared to play a record release party at the Blank Club this Friday, I asked Mumlers frontman Will Sprott to break down Don't Throw Me Away track by track.

'Raise the Blinds' "We put that song on at the beginning of the record because we thought it'd be hard to say what kind of music it was. It's not clearly any genre. It's really frustrating as a musician when people ask me what kind of kind of band we are. I can't answer it. And that song is really fun to play, it's got all those little changes."

'St James St.' It's pretty much a literal description of my street. I lived right on the corner of St. James and Sixth Street in San Jose. There's a 7-Eleven right there, and there were always people coming and going. I was trying to take the neighborhood and imbue it with some sort of mythological force. And it's a play on "St. James Infirmary," the old song.

'Tangled Up With You' "I wrote the music before I wrote the words; it doesn't always go like that. I had a particular idea about it, that line that walks up, "bum, bum, bum, bum," it was very clear that should be in there. When I played it with the band, that one idea started morphing, and it had this mariachi feel to it. You can really hear it in the middle. We were really into it."

'Coffin Factory' "I wasn't thinking of "99 Tears" consciously, but it's very possible that that song is soaked down deep in my consciousness. Because ? and the Mysterians starts with a symbol, so it's the first thing that plays when I turn on my iPod. I've heard that song 3 trillion times. When we went into record the songs, we sort of demoed them for the engineer and the guys that run our record label. They were like, 'This is a cool song, but we're not sure its going to fit on this record.' But I knew it would work. [Afterward] they wanted it as the single."

'99 Years Ago' "It's another one where it's really hard to say what kind of music it is. I wrote that song a really long time ago, and didn't put the words to it until later. Actually, it had a completely different set of lyrics. I'm glad [it seems] atmospheric, that's something we've always been interested in. We've always thought it would be fun to score movies, do something purely atmospheric. We have so many different sounds at our disposal."

'Sunken City' "I worked for a short time at the Tech Museum. I was the 'console operator' at the IMAX theater. It was the most mind-numbing job I've ever had. I'd sneak out on my lunch break and go to Cesar Chavez Park [where the song is set]. It really was pretty much written sitting in Cesar Chavez Park. I kind of like that one, because I don't really specialize in happy songs, but I feel like that one's uplifting."

'Soot Black Suit' "That was the other one where people said 'Really? That has something to do with the other songs on the record?' But I really like that one. It's the only instrumental on the album. We don't use that many guitar effects and pedals, but the studio we were at had a stockpile of them. We had a lot of fun arranging it."

'Golden Arm & Black Hand' "That's the only song that we recorded for the first record. We weren't ever happy with that recording, so we rerecorded it. We all like the song a lot, but it's been hard to pin down. It's been a very hard song to capture. It's got tricky harmonies that we've changed a lot over time. And it doesn't have that party vibe that a lot of the stuff we play can have, because our live show is really geared toward being fun and entertaining. But I'm happy with this recording of it."

'Fugitive and Vagabond' "That's the only song I've ever written for something. I'm not going to say what it was for, 'cause I'm sort of happy it didn't get used. I got to have my song and do whatever I wanted with it. I wrote the words and music in one day, really quickly, and that's the first time I'd done that."

'Battlefield Postcard' That's a song we've played maybe once or twice live. It's quiet and mellow. It was kicking around for a long time, but it was questionable whether it'd be a band recording or not. It sort of hearkened back to when I first started playing guitar—that's the kind of song I used to play a lot. There's a lot of finger-picking songs the band has never heard."

'Don't Throw Me Away' "That song has just gotten such a good reaction, more so than any other song that we've ever written or played. We've been playing it since the release for our last record, and people would always come up and ask if it was on a record. It was a weird song. It's more like it could be a song from 50 years ago. The first time I played it for the band, they didn't even think I wrote it, they thought I was messing around with some cover song. But it's grown on us over time. The guys who run the record label didn't really want us to put it at the end, but we were trying to make it all hang together as a record, and it just seemed like the best thing to end it on."

THE MUMLERS play a CD release party Friday, Sept. 11, at 9pm at the Blank Club, 44 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose. Tickets are $8. (408.292.5265)
- The Metro

"Making Their Own Kind of Music"

The Mumlers: Making their own kind of music

By Paul Freeman
For The Daily News
Posted: 09/03/2009 11:25:07 PM PDT

On Tuesday, when San Jose's The Mumlers release their new album, "Don't Throw Me Away," discerning music fans will find it indispensable.
The wonderfully distinctive and inventive indie band crosses countless genres while utilizing a myriad of instruments, including euphonium, French horn, clarinet, trumpet, Mexican whistles and pedal steel guitar, as well as keyboards, guitars, upright bass and drums.
Listen for yourself: The Mumlers are to be featured on Foothill College's KFJC 89.7 FM on Monday at 4 p.m.
Each song on the album has an identity of its own. The Mumlers' main creative force, singer/songwriter Will Sprott, told The Daily News, "I'm not good at doing the same thing over and over again, I guess. I always want there to be something new."
Growing up in San Jose, Sprott was into 2 Live Crew, but also enjoyed his mother's collection of classic soul records. One day, walking by a creek, he found a discarded Bob Dylan cassette.
"That opened up this whole world of all his influences and I kept digging deeper and deeper."
Sprott delved into obscure folk compilations, as well as better-known performers such as Bobby Bland, Booker T., Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen.
With The Mumlers, versatile musicians give Sprott flexibility. "Every single one of them happens to play a whole slew of instruments. It's great to be able to say, 'Hmm, I don't think electric guitar sounds good on this, let's try a flute.' We have a very wide palette that we can mess with.
"We don't intellectualize it very much. We don't say, 'Let's get a jazz drum beat and a Brazilian guitar sound.' We just mess around until we say, 'Yeah, that's good' or 'Nah, that's not working.' Everyone comes from a different place musically. I don't even know what some ingredients in the stew are. All these different backgrounds just filter into these songs. I bring the songs to the band and they instantly breathe life into them, adding ideas I wouldn't have thought of. It's important to have that interaction."
Sprott has known some of the band members since middle school. Four years ago, he assembled the group to record demos of his songs.
"It was like a dream team, a supergroup, all these people I knew who were my favorite musicians around here."
They completed a five-song CD, then decided to play a show just for fun. That was so well received, the band played other shows.
"It was a very natural thing. It wasn't conceived of with ambitions. It was just sort of noodling around town. And people responded to it."
They called themselves The Mumlers after a scandalized 19th-century photographer who made his living selling photos of ghosts to bereaved families.
Santa Cruz record label Galaxia was introduced to the band and released its debut album, "Thickets & Stitches," as well as the new one.
Of San Jose, Sprott said, "It's a very unique scene that's got its own unique set of opportunities. It's different from being in San Francisco or L.A. or someplace like that, because it's very insular."
Sprott wants to have his music heard. "As we keep doing this, neat opportunities keep coming up and it's definitely kept me moving forward. I mean, I'm going to keep making music no matter what. But it just doesn't seem like the logical thing, like 'Oh, I need to pay my rent, I guess I'll write a song to take care of that,'" he said with a laugh. "For me personally, the dream is to be able to survive off of what I love doing."
The Mumlers plan to embark on their first national tour soon. They'll open for The Black Heart Procession.
"I've been a huge fan of theirs since I was a teenager," Sprott said. "They've been around a long time. On our own, traveling, playing coffee shops and people's houses, we've played to three people one night, 50 the next. You never know what you're going to get. But playing with a band that's been around and has a following, you know people are going to actually show up. That's a huge relief," Sprott said with a laugh.
Teaching guitar and writing for the skateboard magazine "Slap" to help make ends meet, Sprott said, "The ideal situation would be that we get enough tour opportunities where that can keep us alive."
Sprott's goal is simple. "There's an incredible output of music in the world and so much good stuff that's buried. When you can dig that stuff up, it's a great feeling. I just hope someday somebody digs up this music and thinks it's neat." - San Jose Mercury News


Thickets & Stitches---LP, Galaxia, 2008

Don't Throw Me Away---LP, Galaxia, 2009

Coffin Factory---single, Galaxia, 2009

iTunes session---EP, iTunes exclusive, forthcoming

We get played on college radio a lot all over the country & internationally. Internet radio too... We get played on LIVE 105.3 KITS, the Bay Area Alternative rock station. They've been playing our song "Coffin Factory."



The Mumlers seem a band capable of anything - meant in the most complimentary sense. Such is the broad, colorful spectrum of sounds and songcraft they're working with that even just two albums in one gets the sense we're only seeing the tip of this bobbing, beautiful iceberg. Based in San Jose, CA, this young group generates pop-rock with a through line that hits not only the usual suspects (The Beatles, Kinks, etc) but the wry sophistication of Randy Newman, the cosmic blues-folk of Fred Neil and further back to Louis Armstrong's New Orleans and the tunesmiths of golden age Tin Pan Alley. Don't Throw Me Away (released September 8 on Galaxia) buzzes with unmistakable modernity – a conglomeration of cool noises and techniques that could only occur in the 21st century – grounded in much deeper, more cultivated soil redolent of history and the long march of popular song through the 20th century.

Built around a core of swinging percussion, burbling, potent horns and bandleader/singer/songwriter Will Sprott's always fascinating voice – a rich sound that swims through heady blues, nuanced phrasing and indie rock indelicacy – The Mumlers' music is exceedingly likeable out of the gate yet stuffed with riches that unlock as one really tucks in over repeat spins. Each number has a complete, well-carved feel, from the second line sway of "St. James St." to the snarly, punky, electric organ slathered cry for life in "Coffin Factory" to the '60s radio fare swoon of "Tangled Up In You" and the title cut, and many other trajectories besides. Depending on the setlist, they could easily open for the Arctic Monkeys or JJ Cale, and be right at home in those disparate worlds. One is starting to get a feel for what constitutes a Mumlers tune but woe to anyone who thinks that notion has any real parameters. As they grow and extend their own listening and playing there's really no telling what might get pulled into their gravity, which makes for really exciting music.

There's nothing random about their combinations, which sets them apart from bands that are simply eclectic for the sake of it. With The Mumlers a crazy range of music appears to be fair game to be enthusiastically engaged and manipulated to their ends. And one of the best overriding aspects is the dust and rust in their machinery. Nothing's too tidy on Don't Throw Me Away, where soft and low dewy-eyed testaments to love alternate with saucy lines (and the music to match them) like, "Come on down, we've got the loosest slots in town." Playful and heartfelt, The Mumlers sophomore effort confirms the floating promise of the boffo debut, Thickets & Stitches, and builds on it in a way that makes one salivate quietly for record number three, four, etc.

-Dennis Cook, Jambase