Friday. What you got goin’ on? How about heading down to Cafe Nola to check out Joseph And The Beasts? They’re playing with Fellow Creatures and the great Andrew Bromhal from Silent Old Mtns. We recently caught up with the band’s namesake, Joseph Mulhollen, to talk about how the band came together, what inspired them to do what they do, and what we can expect from their set this weekend at Cafe Nola. You won’t want to miss it. This much, we know.
Let’s start with some history of the band. How did you get together? How did the band form and how long have you been at it?
The band started around 2012, when I (Joseph) released a solo record, “Problematical Animals.” I enlisted the help of Patrick and Alex to help flesh out the recordings for the release show, and it just kind of kept on going. The band has since changed its name (from Joseph Mulhollen & the Problematical Animals to Joseph & The Beasts), and gone through a little line up change with the addition of Greg in 2014.
Did you guys have any goals when dreaming up the band – perhaps stylistically or otherwise?
I’ve always had this kind of creepy acoustic chamber pop circus aesthetic, which is really prevalent in my earlier work, but somewhere along the way, as the band became more of a group effort in terms of writing, a little of that aesthetic has been shed and replaced with a rather bombastic, dynamic, shifty sound. There’s more of a moodiness that wasn’t there before. I don’t think any of this was the goal or the intention; it’s just what ended up happening as a result of the four of us making music, and that’s almost more magical to me because the weight of expectation was absent and we were just able to create.
What are some of your favorite memories as a band? Conversely, can you talk a little about some of the hardships you guys have experienced through the years and what advice you’d give to someone looking to start a band for the first time?
In general, I think we all really enjoy performing for people. No matter what’s going on, when we get on stage and perform, those tend to be among my favorite memories. I think we also really enjoy playing in new cities and venues. Touring can be really fun as well (especially if we see a Waffle House). However, touring can also be really difficult. We haven’t gone on a long tour in a while because the last one really wiped us out. As far as advice, I don’t feel like I’m qualified to give any out. Even though we’ve been together for four years, in a lot of ways, we are still a very new band, and it’s been very difficult to balance our personal lives and obligations while also having the time to grow a band. You get out what you put in, and it’s all about balancing all of that so you don’t burn yourself out. Wait, did I just give advice?
What’s your perception of the local music scene in and around the DMV area, as well as Maryland as a whole?
It’s a very exciting time for music in this region. I think that during times of political/socio-cultural turmoil and unrest, musicians and artists create some of their most thought-provoking work. Artists really reach to the corners of their artistic abilities as a reflection of (or in response to) the shifting of the collective consciousness around them. I see that in Baltimore. Many of the musicians and artists here express themselves with an unapologetic honesty that I find to be really refreshing and much needed.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
I can only speak for myself because I think my bandmates and I have very different influences, but I’ve always been a fan of the strange and spooky (PJ Harvey, Diamanda Galas, Brian Eno), of the ramshackle and escapist (Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, Chad VanGaalen), of the sonically thoughtful (Radiohead, Bjork, CAN, Fiery Furnaces), and of the great storytellers and conceptualizers (Tom Waits, David Bowie, Kate Bush).
Can you give us names of some artists we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
Aside from artists listed above, there are tons of local artists that are really adding something special to the musical atmosphere. Blacksage, Fellow Creatures, Super City, Natural Velvet, Frenemies, Amy Reid/Chiffon, Raindeer, Pellars, Sweepstakes, Ami Dang, Abdu Ali. I’m blanking on so many, but these are the ones that come to mind right now.
Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
I like playing DIY spaces the most. There’s an informal hospitality to intentional safe spaces that can be really comforting and welcoming. We also really enjoy any venue that has impeccable sound, because it just makes the whole show so much more enjoyable for us if we can hear ourselves! My personal favorite place to play is Nietzsche’s in Buffalo, which is where I’m from. That city has some colorful characters in it. The last time we played there, a burlesque dancer named Cat McCarthy (who is also a close friend), got up on stage and did an impromptu striptease during one of our songs. It’s just a super unrestrained place.
What does the rest of 2016 look like for Joseph & The Beasts from here on out? New music? Shows?
Oh boy. We have been working on an album for a looooooong time and it is finally getting to the point where we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We also have a lot of shows coming up in September and October. We are working on videos, unique merchandise, and lots of amazing people have come out to help us design album art, t-shirts, poster designs, etc. It’s been really nice to feel supported.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
I don’t think there is one specific song that fits the description of perfect, so I won’t even begin to make such a claim. What I will say is that the song “Mercy Seat” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds does this thing to me (and has done it since the first time I heard it at the age of 15). From the instant the song starts, I’m transported to a very specific scene and I have extreme feelings of pain, sacrifice and redemption in a way that no other song has ever made me feel. It’s a powerful piece of music. It is not, however, the most perfect song ever written, and I don’t know what song that would be.
And finally, what can we expect from your set at Cafe Nola this weekend?
Like I said, we are a fairly bombastic and energetic band, so we will be bringing a lot of that. And lots of facial and chest hair.