If you like rock-leaning country and alt-bluegrass with a side of Cajun spice, then you’ll love The Mayhemmingways. They’ve lifted the best elements of many genres to craft the kind of gruff-voiced, stomp-and-holler songs that’ll have you singing along without knowing the words.
They’re the kind of band that doesn’t need much of a convincing introduction, because their music speaks for itself. Their songs are immediately engaging, and the duo sounds seasoned and sincere (perhaps because this is not the first band they’ve played in together). To quote a press release, they “drift between timelessly traditional and tastefully new.”
Here’s their streamble debut, produced by James Mckenty (Blue Rodeo, The Sadies, and Cuff The Duke).
Touring 20 shows in 20 days in several Atlantic Canadian provinces is quite ambitious. What do you anticipate being the pleasure, and, the pain of such a hectic schedule?
There are a lot of pleasures on a tour like this one. Seeing new places, meeting new people each and every day, and doing what we love as much as possible. There’s never a dull moment, there isn’t time for one.
I suppose one pain would be not being able to really get to know a city or town … you see signs on the highway for amazing places out there and there just isn’t time to stop at all of them. The other is missing loved ones while being away.
The pleasures outweigh the pains and there is no feeling like being free and on the road playing music.
You seem to tour extensively, do you have a particularly memorable moment from the road?
There have been many moments to be sure. The first time on The Rock was pretty mind blowing. However we had one particular run in with wildlife in Northern B.C. once, near the Yukon border. Our van came around a corner … bammm. A huge herd of bison were all over the road. As we waited to get through, two massive rutting males started butting heads ten feet from the van. We made it out alive but it could have gone much differently.
A lot of bands don’t come to Newfoundland while on tour, yet you’re doing a comprehensive tour of the whole island. I know you’ve been here before, is there anything about Newfoundland, or playing here, that you particularly like?
I don’t get why bands don’t take the plunge to Newfoundland more often. It’s such an amazing place that’s always worth the trip. We love the people and their spirit, the geography of the land, the subtle differences between each place on the map, not to mention the musical traditions are pretty amazing.
There’s something so magical about it … and it doesn’t hurt that folks tend to like our music too. They can relate, but it’s also a little different I think. We’re very excited to play all over the island and to see new places.
How would you describe your sound to anyone unfamiliar with the band?
Mayhemingways is a duo that sounds much bigger than a duo. A full-sounding mix of alt-country, bluegrass, Cajun, Celtic, and folk .
We like to pay homage to traditional music without trying to recreate it. Bringing something new out of the folk music ether. Benj (Rowland) switches between banjo, accordion, and guitar and that gives us a lot of flexibility.
He also lead sings and plays bass with his feet using synth bass pedals. I play drums and backup sing. We have joked that it’s acoustic EDM, maybe it is … who knows? haha.
Pick a song off your new EP and tell us something about it.
“CDs I Didn’t Sell” is the first track on the EP and the one we would consider our “single.” It’s all about what to do with unsold merchandise. Benj wrote it with the boxes and boxes of his old band’s CDs in mind.
The chorus rings out loud and true for most musicians, “When I’m dead and I’m burning down in hell/You can make my coffin out of CDs I didn’t sell.” It speaks out about parts of the indie musician life but also speaks a little about the stuff we own and choose to keep.
And pick another and tell us something.
“Small Town Crush” is the last track on the EP. It’s all about seeing the same folks everyday, like we do in Peterborough, and the unexpected attractions that come with living in a small town. “I’ve got a dirty crush on you/ A dirty small town crush on you.”
I’m sure being a duo has practical benefits, like the ease and cost of touring. But is there anything else about being a duo you think benefits your band?
All of the practical things you can imagine work really well.
I think there is something sonically cool about two musicians being linked in to each other. (We’ve known each other since we were 12.) A simplicity on the surface that can breathe and all of a sudden be much more complex and cohesive upon further listening. Audiences often tell us how it sounds bigger than two musicians and that’s really cool. When you strip things down in numbers you can build things up bigger than the sum of their parts.
The Evolve Festival in Nova Scotia is part of this tour, is there another act in that festival you’re particularly fond of?
Oh man! We cannot wait to play Evolve. Even just to hang out and watch some amazing acts. It’s hard to pin point one specific act … excited to check out Grandmaster Flash, who’s headlining the night we’re playing. He’s a hip-hop/DJ legend. Also I’m stoked about Delhi 2 Dublin, we opened for them once and they’re awesome!
Here’s They’re NL Dates:
July 16 – St. John’s, NL @ The Ship (early show)
July 16 – St. John’s, NL @ The Levee (late show)
July 17 – St. John’s, NL @ Grate’s Cove Studio
July 18 – St. John’s, NL @ The Ship
July 19 – Lewisporte, NL @ The Citadel
July 20 – Woody Point, NL @ Galliot Studios