By Andre Cornejo
It’s Sunday afternoon, and the weather is certainly less than favourable. The Winnipeg winter we all love to hate has shown up over the weekend, and I’m glad that I only have to walk one block with my tape deck to get to Mulligrub’s jam space.
I make my way up to the front door and I’m let inside by guitarist and vocalist, Kelly Campbell. The first thing one notices when entering the home is the impressive collection of written and printed material. Information ranging from and beyond indigenous struggles, animal liberation, gender, and health, to socialism, foreign policy, and radical fiction.
The band practices in the basement of this Spence Street residence that houses the Junto Library. An anarchist oriented literature sharing centre that has seen multiple incarnations over the last two decades. A fresh pot of coffee is brewing in the kitchen, where I’m introduced to Bassist Mirella Villa, and Drummer Riley Hill. Greetings are exchanged and the four of us head downstairs, mugs in hand, to get down to business.
We sit down in the sectioned off jam room in the basement. A thoroughly used cloth hangs from Riley’s toms. “I need a fresh towel,” he states. Kelly eyeballs the spent fabric, and responds, “maybe that’s what I’ll get you for Christmas. A new drum towel.”
I ask the group about the origins of Mulligrub.
Riley Hill: Kelly and I had mutual friends, but she lived in Halifax. Or, no, did you live in Halifax then?
Kelly Campbell: Yeah, and then I moved here. We were already friends and we started practicing together.
RH: You said you wanted someone to play your songs with you, so I played drums.
KC: We were doing that for about six months before we ever played a show. We had another person that was playing bass with us before. He’s not in the band anymore. Mirella started playing bass with us, and has been in the band longer than he was.
RH: Yeah, we kind of became more of a band when Mirella joined.
Together, this lineup has now been playing for about two years. As far as the songwriting process goes, it’s becoming more of a collaborative effort than it once was, and members draw from different influences.
KC: I feel like before I used to just write a song, and be like, ‘Hey guys, I wrote this song,’ and everybody would learn the song. Now we kind of figure it all out together and it’s way more fun.
RH: Someone will play something, and everybody will add to it, and we’ll sing about whatever we’re thinking about, or something like that.
KC: We have some long conversations about what we might want the content to be about. I’ll usually have a pretty specific idea of what I think a song is going to be about. There’s a recent one that we wrote and I was like, ‘This song is about staying at home and knowing the world is burning around you, and not wanting to go outside.’ And then Riley was like, ‘I’m going to just sing about birds flying in the sky.’ We had such a long conversation about whether or not birds flying through the sky related at all to what I thought the theme of the song was. (To Riley) I don’t know if you changed it, or just sing it more quietly now. The album that we’re releasing is mostly old songs that I wrote a while ago. They’re super personal.
RH: They’re pretty different than our new stuff.
KC: Yeah, our new stuff is more poppy and abstract I guess. Also, I just wanna say that it’s pretty obvious, but we really like Waxahatchee, and anything by the Crutchfield sisters.
Mirella Villa: Yeah I guess as far as our current sound goes, those are a couple of our major influences.
RH: Well, not mine, but it doesn’t matter.
KC: Riley is only inspired by Prince. What is your inspiration when you write a song?
RH: I don’t know. I listen to music that’s pretty all over the place. Mostly reggae, pop, and soul. The music I make usually has nothing to do with the music I listen to.
MV: I feel like you listen to enough music that if I play something you can vibe on it pretty easily. You just get it.
The group touches on some plans for the not too distant future. They also reflect on a few highlights from their collective past, which include a prairie tour with Basic Nature, and a road trip to Milwaukee to play a festival that Kelly’s friends organize.
KC: We played with Dilly Dally not to long ago. That was really awesome. On March 27 we’re playing with Dead Soft. That’s going to be sweet. We’re pretty excited for our album release, which is going to be in April. Hopefully the 22. It’s the full moon. We’re going to be playing with Cannon Bros, and Animal Teeth. Hopefully after that we’ll go on tour.
MV: I’m dying to go on tour again. I’ve got a thirst for it.
KC: It was a nice couple of shows with Basic Nature (during the November Saskatoon and Regina trip), and we didn’t lose money.
MV: When we went to the States we took advantage of all of the fast food that’s really bad for us.
RH: We probably would do better in the States. There’s more of a scene for the kind of music we play.
KC: I guess also there’s like, 10 times more people.
RH: I feel like one of the funny things about touring canada is that everybody kind of knows the same people.
KC: It’s like a small town, along a really long shoestring. That is the Trans-Canada. My favourite part of going on tour is the really big things. I love them!
MV: The giant landmarks!
KC: Wawa Goose, That one’s great, always stop there! Once we found a pair of giant dice. There was a woman dice that was wearing high heels, a skirt, and had big eyelashes. And a man dice that had bowling shoes and a bow tie. It was great!
I’ve finished up my coffee, and before I leave to let the band practice they share a couple of closing sentiments with me.
MV: I’ve always wanted to be in a band. It’s been my dream since I was really young, and now I get to do it and I love it. I love the people I make music with, and I’m really excited that we’re putting out this album. I feel like there’s a lot of potential, and I feel like we’re doing something unique. I just want the chance to expose people to it, and for them to love it as much as I love playing it.
KC: I’m always amazed when people say they like us, or when we get asked to do something cool. I’m always going ‘Holy shit! That’s so nice!’ I feel like I’m having more fun now than I used to. Which is kind of weird to say because our songs are not about fun at all!
Mulligrub release their debut album on April 22 with Canon Bros. and Animal Teeth.