Mobina Galore :: Rocking heavy & heartfelt

photo: Jenna Priestner
photo: Jenna Priestner

by Daniel Emberg

This is the first Stylus feature on Mobina Galore, so we will start with the most important question: what should you expect when checking them out?

“We describe ourselves as an alternative punk duo, kind of in the vein of Brody Dalle, The Distillers, Japandroids, that sort of thing,” offers guitarist/vocalist Jenna Priestner over a frosty pint glass. Her bandmate Marcia Hanson (drums/vocals) quickly interjects, “Yeah, all of that but we’re more melodic.”

Nodding in agreement, Priestner adds, “At live shows, we always try to be high energy and as entertaining as possible. It’s kind of a visual show. We want people to be engaged with what we’re doing, to see that it’s really heartfelt.”

The description is both straightforward and accurate. Their songs are heavy on hooks, and often carried by emotive vocal leads that are enunciated clearly but come with a rough enough edge to let you know Mobina Galore could well be the last band standing on any given Saturday night.

Priestner and Hanson met through mutual friends in Fernie, BC, a few years back. As explained by Hanson, “Jenna had a jam room at her house, so we’d go get drunk at the bar then head back and jam… All of a sudden we were playing shows around Fernie.”

They soon moved to Vancouver, the “natural progression” for a band that decides to get out of town in those parts. Having grown up in Winnipeg, Hanson eventually got the itch to return home. Priestner decided to come along, and a funny thing happened when Mobina Galore landed here.

“It’s like other people started taking us more seriously,” muses Hanson. “I think we fit in a lot better with the Winnipeg scene.” Encouraged, the duo pumped out a five-song EP called Skeletons in 2012. The disc quickly got lots of love from community radio and CBC, leading to a headlining tour of Western Canada and showcase slot at NXNE.

Some people take positive feedback as a finish line, and settle for the first plateau. Mobina Galore took the sudden accolades as a challenge to refine their sound. Per Priestner, “We started thinking that, with more people coming to our shows, we should try to write better songs, try to be a band we would really want to hear.” After reflecting on what they “want to hear,” the band made a conscious decision to bring their punky tendencies more to the forefront for a follow-up release.

Late last year, recording commenced at Private Ear with John Paul Peters, whom the band describes as, “just the most amazing guy.” While Skeletons came from overnight sessions with recording students (budget concerns and all that), Priestner says this time, “We wanted to go all-in and work with a proper producer.” The resulting full-length album, Cities Away, will be available to the public on December 9, with a release show booked at the Park Theatre for December 27.

The advance release of “Bad Love Song” came with the band’s first music video, and Mobina Galore has again found support from community and public radio outlets in generating anticipation for Cities Away. Just in time for the full album release, they are starting to push a track called “You’re Not 23 Anymore.” Both tracks are laden with crunch and swagger, reflecting a band riding a wave of confidence in their latest work.

Both members point to working with Peters as a key factor in improving their songwriting, as there had never previously been an outsider playing a part in the creative process. “It could be something as simple as suggesting we arrange a song to bring in the chorus a little sooner,” says Hanson. “We’d been playing some of these songs together so long, it was hard to think about them objectively.”

Neither member of Mobina Galore has ever been in another band, and they earnestly describe their apprehension around the prospect of a career in music. One major priority is figuring out how to make it financially sustainable enough to get away from the ol’ day jobs.

“We will ‘sell out’ so happily,” attests Hanson. “Fuck, I will write jingles for Swiffer commercials if it means I can stop serving and just play music!”

Priestner has a caveat: “I don’t drink milk, so I won’t do a milk commercial. Almond milk only.” At the same time, she agrees that being able to support themselves through music is the “ultimate dream” for Mobina Galore, and—after gentle prodding from her bandmate—concedes that she would do it for milk. The exchange shows the two are not only on the same page in terms of business, but close enough friends to rib one another while discussing that business.

To that end, the band has assertively spread its name around throughout 2014. Several tours, radio tracking, and working with a publicist have been major factors in a strategic approach to increasing their public profile. Dishing out business cards at a conference with pre-loaded USB sticks attached was apparently quite effective.

Of course, they are feeling a bit of the pathetic, predictable pushback that is part of the deal for women playing rock music. Priestner offers a bit of advice for dealing with it on tour: “Make sure you’re the person to speak first, tell the sound guy how it’s going to be and it’s usually fine. If you don’t say anything, they wonder if you know what you’re doing. Go in there with confidence and they’re not usually dicks about it.”

However, the hurdles loom a bit larger when trying to get major radio play. “Being a female-fronted band, you get the shit end of the stick,” confirms Priestner. “We hear back from programmers saying they like our song but we’d be ‘competing’ against The Pack A.D., Die Mannequin, The Balconies… If they play those bands, why are we the competition?”

“Exactly,” adds Hanson. “Is every dude rock band out there competing with each other? So how does anybody get played? It doesn’t make any sense. They might as well say, ‘There’s only room for one band with women on this station, we’ve filled our quota,’ or at least that’s the impression we get.”

That sense of awareness is in step with the increasingly plucky path being walked by Mobina Galore. Given how much effort has gone into priming the pump for Cities Away, its release should see the band working hard throughout 2015 to keep their snowball rolling. If you want to give it a little push, consider the below.

Mobina Galore play the Park Theatre on December 27, and hope you’ll be sick enough of your family to come spend a Saturday night with them. Clipwing and Union Stockyards are also on the bill. Show at 9pm, tickets are $10 at Music Trader, the Park, or through the band. If you have a contact in the world of dairy advertising, make sure to hit ’em up!