Dubbed "the hardest working band in California," Mower is a true inspiration among San Diego's music scene. They don't tie themselves down to genres or labels. Instead they leave that to the perception of their audience. Maybe that's the real magic behind this post-punk-metal-driving-rock-thrash-or-whatever band's appeal. Or, as co-founder Brian Sheerin tells GR, it's more likely a combination of determination and a true love for their fans!
Mower's Brian Sheerin
Interview by Mary Ellen Gustafson
I first heard of Mower when I received their second album for
review before it was released. They definitely caught my attention with Not
For You and I read about how they got together and all the other good stuff
that anybody can read on their web site; however, I was interested in
talking to the guy that helped put this band together back in the day ... the
one that helped them earn the title "hardest working band in San Diego" and
later "hardest working band in California."
I wanted to talk to somebody who was there when they
played parties and impromptu concerts on the beach (or anywhere they could
to get noticed) until they became regulars in the San Diego club music
scene. Especially the guy who took the time to write me a "Thank You" note for
reviewing their album and explaining to me WHY they put the hidden track I
criticized at the end of the album. As a reviewer, you wonder if the bands
ever read what you write about them. For one of them to take the time to
answer something you said, it somehow makes your time seem well spent.
Anyhow, I had the opportunity to talk to Brian Sheerin, co-founder and
co-lead vocalist of Mower. I asked him if we could dispense with
the usual Q & A session and just talk about the band, the tour they've been
on and, of course, their new album, Not For You. He was down for that
and we had
a true rap session!
If you want to know the story of Mower, the personnel
changes, who they've opened for, what their musical influences are and
things like that, go read their bio at Mowermusic.com" target="_blank">www.MowerMusic.com. If you want to
know how this band thinks, how the current album came about, what the tour
has been like and what their future plans are, read on. I asked for the real
story (not the "publicist's" version) of how things came together for the
album and how they've been going since it went into pre-release and Brian
told me in his own words.
"First we had to hold the band together long enough with people leaving,
instruments stolen and other stuff to get our new lineup together. We'd
wanted to work with Mikey Doling for a long time, because we're all big Snot
fans and a friendship had grown between him and us after our tour with
Soulfly. We asked him to do the new album and just as we were going into the
studio Mikey's schedule cleared so we jumped at the chance to work with him
and it was a really great experience.
"We had a lot of songs worked out and
we went up to Los Angeles and recorded everything, showed him what we had
and he just more finessed things. We learned a lot from him, like there are
parts that don't belong in certain songs and you have to let them even if
you really enjoy rockin' out to them. He would flip things in singing styles
that we were doing naturally, but didn't know how to use right, and would
emphasize it in different ways. Some of the passages we were trying got
switched around, but he pretty much let us go off in a different direction
and we broadened out the sound we already had. I think he captured our live
sound pretty well. I can say nothing is like live, but the record certainly
comes off very powerful. It's funny what you were saying about those first
"The way we stacked the album was a concern of mine, but we wanted
the heavy stuff first as a tribute to our fans from the first record and
were into the hardcore. We wanted that stuff out there because we still love
that kind of music. But from there it kind of goes all over the place.to
'70s style classic rock to early punk then back to industrial, to hard rock,
then a couple left turns with the more harmony driven parts we do on a some
of the songs, then jump right back into craziness. We even do a Mammas &
Pappas cover. We really wanted to make a record that was a whole record.
Something you could sit and listen to front to back and enjoy like you did
growing up, when you had the time to sit through a record. We didn't want to
do a single and stick with one style of music either.
"Once the album went out to different reviewers, it was so weird. They were
all calling us a different kind of band. Some said we're punk, some
hardcore, and it went all the way to industrial. We think it's so funny. It's
like people get what they want to get out of Not For You and it's great.
When we decided on the album title and the whole concept and theme, we
wanted to write good music and the hell with what genre it popped up in. We
just wanted to develop it. Once we had 5 or 6 good songs, we decided let's
just get it out. As far as that cover of "California Dreamin'," at least
with the reviewers, people either loved it or hated it. There was no in-between."
I asked Brian how things had been going since the album was released and how
the new songs were being received on their current tour, to which he
"Since the album was released, we're happy. It's sold well over 100,000 copies
and I think it's gonna be the type of thing where there will be a few
thousand people that get it and every couple weeks they'll like a different
song. Then they'll be listening to track 2 or something and be like "Whoa!
There's a lot of shit going on here" and things will snowball. To be honest,
I listen to it and I'm still finding different things that I like. It's
messed up! I'm bored to death of playing it and hearing it but there's
enough there to really dig in. It's a record that's going to have a lot of
life to it once people get into the different elements of it and we're
really playing it into the ground.
"On the current tour we're playing about 50/50 - songs from the new record
and songs from first record. Actually when the first record came out the
situation was different, we had different people with us when we completed
it and when it went to the record label we didn't have the distribution. We
were set up for this record. The first one was sorta released under the
radar, our label was switching distribution companies and we had a lot of
things working against it. That's one of the reasons we're still playing a
lot of it, because a lot of people don't even know it exists. They only know
about this new one. So, we're kind of selling two albums at once while we're
out there. We're playing songs from the first record, because I think there's
a lot on there and they seem to go over well live. A lot of people that see
us don't know either record, so it doesn't matter what we play."
Mower (l-r): Brian Sheerin, Dominic Moscatello, Chris
McCredie, Matt Wannamaker, Dan Harper
I then asked if "Road Rage" was the first single on the album, since it's
the video playing on their web site and received a most interesting answer
to that question.
"It's the first video we did off of it, but we're sending the record out to
radio by itself. We're not pushing any particular song as a single, and to
tell you the truth, depending what area of the country it's at is who's
picking what. Some are picking up "American Psycho," radio in our home town
is jumping on "Broken Hands" and we probably have 4 or 5 different songs
people are putting their claws into and playing. It's not a concentrated
effort on any one song. That way, when people pick a song to play off the
record they feel like they've got the intelligence and they're the ones that
know what's right and they're the ones that are picking the hits. That's
great! If someone tells you what to play it's harder to embrace the song.
When you decide on something yourself, you're probably going to back that
more than if someone tells you what you're supposed to play.
"If there's some kind of formula to try and push a new record, we don't
really care what it is. We're not oblivious to the thing, but it's certainly
not our focus. Making money should be a by-product if you're really trying
to be an artist. It's not like you shouldn't pay attention to it, 'cause it
is gonna help you if you take the time to count up all the whatevers, but it
shouldn't be the focus. It all comes down to what feels right. It's the band's
responsibility to know when you've got your audience. People may jump to a
catchy song on your record, but that might not be the best song on it. There
may be some part of the record that goes crazy on radio, but it's shit. It's
not the real deep emotional song, or the song that says the most. Some of
those are the songs you put near the end of the record - the ones you kind
of have to keep quiet on. Then the audience really wonders what that song
was about. It kind of takes on a life of its own and sometimes it takes
gentle push before the song you really want people to get, they actually
"Radio is a necessary thing, but we love to play live. We're into bigger
crowds. Every time we get our hands on a few thousand people we go
ballistic. We can do 300 and have a good time, we can do 20 and have a good
time, but when start getting into 1000 - 2000 - 3000 - 5000 we go crazy and
the crowds go insane. We feel like we've got a lot of power and to harness
that we really need a lot of people. Unfortunately, part of getting a lot of
people together is getting the word out about us and radio helps do that.
That's why we do satellite and the internet articles like the one you're
putting together here. If you throw a party you want a bunch of people there
or you'll be sitting there by yourself. You have to get the word out and we
put the time and effort into doing that when we do interviews and send out
kits to radio and internet and satellite. Nobody's focusing on being rock
stars here. You can get your word out without making it from the upper
stratosphere of fame. If it happens then we'll worry about it, but it's not
some kind of main goal. We also want to stay accessible to our fans. WE are
fans first and foremost, so we know what it's like to go up and meet
somebody who makes the music you're into. We want to be in touch with our
fans as much as possible."
I touched on the songwriting process briefly and, as I had read, it's a group
effort. Brian expounded a little further on that for me.
"Yeah, it's pretty much a group effort. The one thing that we've done over
the years is take a song and run with it. If it's a type song where everyone's
amped it out it's really great. Sometimes Ryan will bring a song in, Chris
started a lot of songs on bass for this record and the lyrics Dominic and I
primarily handle that stuff, but there's no limit on it, especially if it
brings out the best stuff and that's the kind of live that happens and gets
onto the record. Some of those songs didn't have lyrics until we were in the
studio and a couple pieces of the material didn't have anything solid and we
were finishing up verses before we went into the vocal booth. I don't think
you should put a limit on it. It comes down to what the song dictates. I was
probably the worst at making things fit and come out they way it should and
that takes away from the song and what the sonic things are. But now we've
been doing this for a number of years and we're starting to get a handle on
"When we're home with some time off, we're not letting it go by without
working on ourselves. We want to get the next record done as soon as
possible. We want to get time in practicing and we haven't played all the
stuff live that we want to play live yet. We spend time rehearsing and stuff
and we've got some other ideas that are kind of off the wall that we're
getting together so we still spend a lot of time together when we're home.
Everyone gets a few days to kick it, but we're in there 4 times a week to
make sure we're progressing. If you pay attention to the current record you've
already got a taste of what's coming, but I'm not giving away any secrets."
And what is always my final question/comment in any interview - is there
anything you want people to know about you and your band from your heart.
For once I was a bit surprised at the answer!
"I think the main thing for us is to get out there and take a look at what we're
doing live. We're not the first to do it, but we're trying to carry on the
tradition of a lot of great live bands. That's really what it comes down to.
We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. We're doing some things that are
different for the times, but it's all been done and it's really about doing
it with the most fun. It's about doing the live music and we're trying to
get that done at all the shows. So if you want to come out and enjoy the
music and let loose we're certainly in top form for that."
I can't wait for Mower to come through my part of the country so I can catch
that live show!
VISIT MOWER ONLINE
Photo Credit: Derek