Philadelphia’s underground music scene is tight-knit community with a lot of character.
One of it’s most notable local artists is Mumblr, a four-piece “fuzz punk” band consisting of Nick Morrison on vocals and guitar, Ian Amidon on lead guitar, Sean Reilly on bass, and Scott Stitzer on drums. As a fan and frequent show attendee, I decided to sit down with Mumblr on the sidewalk outside Eris Temple Arts to talk about what inspires them, their goals, what obstacles they face, and more.
Q – You guys came out with a new album recently called The Never Ending Get Down. What were some of your inspirations for making this album?
A – Nick: Is it weird to say drugs?
Nick: Yeah, dreams. Dreams were huge. Dreams and drugs. I was going through a weird period where I was doing a lot of drugs and having a lot of dreams, and it was becoming very hard to distinguish between reality and sobriety (laughs), I mean sobriety and dreams. So that’s where a lot of it came from. I always tell people there’s no real narrative. Everything is kind of at face value because it’s just what was put out. I try not to think about it too hard and just let it happen like how a dream does.
Q – What’s your favorite song to play live?
A – Scott: Probably “Domingo”. That’s the heavy metal one. You can do the heavy metal fingers. I like it because it’s badass.
Sean: I think I like playing “Mudmouth” the most because it’s kind of pointy, it’s angular, Modest Mouse-y. The whole thing is dark and blue, and this year has been kind of moody. We started off this year being like, “This year’s gonna be great,” and then so far it’s been a lot of interesting challenges.
Ian: Probably “Last Stop”. I really fucking like that song.
Nick: My favorite song to play is called “Olé” because it’s very bouncy but also very brooding, and I like that about it a lot. Also, it has some really fun guitar parts that I like to play while I sing.
Q – In the song Philadelphia, you say “it’s trash, but it’s ours.” What makes Philadelphia special, and what does it mean to you?
A – Nick: We all came from other places and moved here 7 years ago or so, and this is kind of the place where we came into our own. It’s the place where we experienced what it meant to be adults, what it meant to transition out of childhood, and to do that in a place like Philly, where it has a lot of it’s own historical problems, it’s also a very revealing place to come up in. I think we all learned a lot about ourselves, and this just happens to be the place that we did it in. I think we have a lot of pride for the city, and I think that we’re all really happy that this was the place where we all met each other and decided to start this thing. We all really had an affinity for Philadelphia.
Ian: For me, I think it’s a very dynamic city, as in every block I feel like you could be like “this sucks” and give a lot of good reasons why it sucks, but you could also give a lot of good things about it and be like “this is why I think it’s beautiful, and this is why I think it’s cute.” I’m sure this is true of everywhere, but I’ve just lived in Philly most of the time. I really think it’s what you make it. If you bring positivity, it’s a great, positive place. If you bring negativity, you can shit all day over Philadelphia if you want to. And it’s both at the same time, that’s the culture. Everyone’s always so mad about how everything sucks and so happy about how everything’s so great together.
Q – You guys have a pretty big following in Philadelphia, but what’s your ultimate goal?
A – Nick: That’s a question we’ve been asked a lot lately because the more people that are in the industry that we talk to, they say, “Hey, so you guys have a following in Philly, that’s cool, what do you guys want to do?” And I think a lot of people see that in Philadelphia there is kind of a glass ceiling in terms of progressing and becoming a touring act that actually makes a little bit of money so you can support yourself. All of us are like 25 now, and I think there comes a point when if it was about money, we wouldn’t be doing it. You start to look at other cities as different possibilities to travel to consistently because that is how you can support doing it. You can put out more albums, and you can meet more fans and things like that, so I think at least for me that’s my goal: to travel a lot and just play for whoever will listen. That’s always the most fun. You have like one person in the front, like, loving it and that’s it.
Sean: We’re poor, so playing music grants us an ability to travel and meet a lot of people that would never otherwise meet and a lot of experiences that we maybe wouldn’t be able to have otherwise.
Ian: As far as goals, I think just being able to do what we do and eventually shift away from having a side job. I work full time and then we do this full time, and it’s a lot. As much as we’ve been able to accomplish with the band and as individuals and as artists, we’re totally shackled by the 40 or 50 hours a week we all have to spend doing rent stuff. I think that the big goal is just like, “I need $40,000 a year,” you know what I’m saying? I’m not trying to be rich, I just need like a teachers salary. I just need to be able to do this. My goal for the next couple of years is to try to get to that point.
Nick: I think an important thing to say that a lot of people don’t realize is especially when you have people our age that are playing music like this, if we go out and play a show on a Saturday night or something like that, most of us work at restaurants, so we’re forfeiting like $250 per person to play a show because we really, really love it. I think none of us would rather be doing anything else, but I think at a certain point, real life responsibilities becomes obstacles more than they did when you were younger, so that’s when you need to have goals like that.
Q – Does this kind of struggle affect your music at all?
A – Ian: I think it makes it better.
Nick: Yeah, because having something to write about is great.
Sean: Also there come a point where it’s like, “Yo, should we get off the pot?” If we’re going to really make a go at this, we have to be our best. We have to really push ourselves to be better than we were every single day.
Nick: And there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff, that’s the thing. For every show a band plays a month, they’re probably thinking about that and working on that every day more or less, figuring out how to do their merchandise, figuring out their bandcamp stuff, figuring out how they’re going to release their shit, figuring out if they have money to buy a van or whatever it is. There’s so much to think about, which is nice because the show becomes a release of this and becomes a validation for it.
Q – Do you have a dream gig?
A – Scott: SNL.
Ian: You can say that. I was going to say the Colbert Report in the past. That’s my dream gig is to have played the Colbert Report already.
Nick: TV would be really big.
Sean: It’d be really cool to open up for a bigger band just to learn.
Nick: You can only do so much stuck in the same place.
Ian: We’ve been in this middle ground for like 3 years. Like tonight, for instance, there was a touring band, two local bands, one of them’s new to the area, and we play last. We’re always the biggest small band. We never open for anybody big. We never do that, and that’s a goal. Just to play for anyone who anyone’s ever heard of.
Sean: It’s just hard to learn from someone bigger than you when–I’m not trying to sound like an asshole by saying this–but there’s no one that’s on that next level above us where we can be like, “Oh, that’s how you do that.”
Nick: A guru is a thing we’re trying to find.
Ian: We need our Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Nick: Just like anything, if you think about doing this as an actual traditional profession, that’s what you need. Most successful people have a mentor. Most successful people have, like you asked, a list of goals that they try to achieve, and I think if you are in a group where you don’t have that or you’re doing art without any of that, it’s really hard to succeed. People should think about it like that. It’s like having a real job, and if you don’t work your ass off, you probably don’t deserve to get to a certain place, you know?
Q – What are some of your biggest musical influences, or who is a potential guru that you would love to play with?
A – Scott: Primus. Love Primus.
Nick: Pavement I think is huge. Modest Mouse I think for all of us is pretty huge in some way.
Ian: No, no, that’s a joke.
Scott: I’m not kidding.
Nick: What we’ve been telling people lately, which is true, is that our rhythm section is really influenced by nu metal, kind of heavier stuff, Tool, but me and Ian were really into like Pavement, Modest Mouse kind of stuff, and when I was a kid I used to sing to Janet Jackson songs. Our band is like a mix of that in a weird clusterfuck kind of way.
Q – What’s the weirdest comment a fan’s made about your music?
A – Nick: There’s a couple that come to mind immediately. About a year ago, there was somebody who sent us an email saying, “I just want to let you know that I’ve had sex so many times to Mumblr, and I want to thank you for that.” That was one of my favorites. I was just like, “that’s real.” Someone went out of their way to send that to us, and if you hear this, that made my day. The other one that was much more serious was we had a friend who was going through the transition of becoming a man to a woman, and they had come up to me and said that our music helped them get through that transition, like all the time they spent in the hospital and having to go to rehab and all that kind of stuff. That hit me really hard, and that validated a lot of stuff for me, personally at least. I really, really appreciated that.
Mumblr’s newest album, The Never Ending Get Down, released June 26th, is punchy, diverse, and definitely deserving of a listen from any punk or indie rock lovers.
Photo by Reyna Wang