Album art from On A Passing Cloud.
They are Murals – four guy friends from Kentucky who have successfully turned their social chemistry and mutual artistic interests into an off-kilter garage rock band. The group, which consists of Evan Blum, Rob Monsma, Jacob Weaver, Hunter Presnell, makes music that cannot be described in basic terms except to say that it’s postmodern, blissful, sexy, and universal. Murals takes a simplified sonic foundation, and adds to it polka dots, mood lighting and sparkles, giving it zest and gravity. They released their debut LP On a Passing Cloud in June, a record comprised of a series of ups and downs, built on dynamic energy and unconfined spirit.
For Murals, it’s all about the figment of reality, and where the lines fade in an out. As a collective, they respect the past as much as the present, creating music meant for vinyl on a production budget accrued from Kickstarter. Even their sound expresses such timeless sentiment. In an interview with BTR, they describe their year, their music and their genuinely obscure method to madness.
BTR: Can you give me a general idea of who Murals is? How did you guys get together and what’s a typical day like for you?
RM: We are four young friends out of Louisville, KY who write music together and crack jokes together. Most of us met in high school, except Jacob and I met in the 6th grade at church. We started playing music in my mom’s basement around 2004. Now we rent a house in an area of Louisville that is a blend of car shops, storage warehouses, defunct factories, and low-income housing. We’ll get together about five days a week for a few hours and hang out and play music. Lately we’ve been recording so we get there around noon, and go until two in the morning. It can get pretty wild at times; we’ve got a real tight bond.
BTR: Murals suggest imagery – how would you describe your music to someone who could see but not hear?
RM: I’d probably crank up the volume and let them feel the vibrations, Beethoven-style. Then I’d give them a crisp mug of warm apple cider and ask them, how’s that taste? Then I’d put their hands in a bin filled to the brim with fresh baked croissants and snakes while wafting the scent of my mom’s best lavender up their nose. All of this would take place on a hill overlooking Lake Michigan at sunset. The middle ground between beautiful and edgy. If they haven’t figured it out from that then they just don’t get it.
BTR: What’s the best thing that happened to you this year and what’s on your agenda in 2013?
RM: We were able to tour a couple of times this year and that whole experience was terrific. It was a real treat to travel as much as we did. Plus, we met some great people who let us stay with them and cooked us food and made us feel at home. It certainly highlighted the kinder side of humanity. We don’t have too many definite plans for 2013 yet. We’ll be touring the Northeast with a band called Widowspeak in mid-January for a couple of weeks. There will be at least one record released. We’ll still be best bros.
BTR: I read on Stereogum that On a Passing Cloud had an unusual recording process that began with scouring through cassette demos and was made possible through a Kickstarter campaign – what was the most difficult part of the process? What were you looking for on a cassette?
JW: Sometimes our process is one that consists of the four of us playing on nothing in particular for a while. You can’t really call it jamming or even jammin’ because it almost always begins as a sort of free for all; we just happen to be in the same room. Everyone sits down with their own ideas or motives and goes their own way for a little while. Then someone might start listening to what someone is doing, and someone else might start listening to someone listening to someone else doing something nice. It’s a very natural process, and by the end of this we might have a ballad or not. The cassettes are just a quick and easy way to document these ballad sessions and capture the raw and earliest forms of our ideas. Going back and listening to a cassette we might find that an idea needs revision, to be developed, or sometimes, to be stuffed in a trashcan. The most difficult part of the process is just doing your best.
BTR: Will you use Kickstarter again?
JW: Probably. I like it.
BTR: If you really were viewing life from a cloud – where would you most like to pass over? How do you think your perspective on the world might change?
JW: I’d pass over some planets. I’d pass through some important noses. I’d sneak into tiny crannies. Probably pass over a hot Cano. I think it might be hard to go back to being a person after you’ve been a cloud.
BTR: What stories do you like to tell through your music?
HP: Just depends on the song. The music has a big say in what the lyrics are going to be, especially since lyrics are usually the last thing we write.
Hopefully it all comes together in the right way and people listen to our songs, feel the vibes and groove out.
BTR: Who are your heroes in the music world? In life?
HP: Our musical heroes change from one week to the next, just depending on what song is poppin’ outta the speaks. Jim Sullivan, Arthur Russell and Lou Christie are some recent favy flavys. Rolling Stones, Love and Talking Heads are a good couple of groups we hold like angels on high. In life, heroes, well, we are family men so we respect our ma’s and our pa’s and our bro’s and our sis’s and our pals, boys and gals. They keep the real world together while we goof around and play music.
BTR: How can we best enjoy On a Passing Cloud?
HP: To best enjoy our album or any other, I really think you should buy the record. Vinyl sounds better, some people say the only distinction is that you hear crackles, please ignore anyone who says that, they are confused. There is nothing like that spinning pretty wax weaving golden threads in your eardrums. Also, I’ve heard that recreational drug use is supposed to make music sound better, but that is just what my friend’s dad told me, so couldn’t hurt to try.
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