Saturday, June 6, 2009

Interview with Gabe Mendoza of The Mauxms

Months back when I was helping to put shows together for a venue I'd rather forget about... but will eventually write about in my semi autobiographical memoirs (whenever I get around to writing them), I happened to stumble across this really enthusiastic group through MySpace that were interested in performing at what would have been the first venue show of 2009, on the last Friday of January (since I was in charge of arranging end of the month shows, and whatnot). Unfortunately, things just fell apart (as usual) for me and my growing sense of disenchantment with the powers that be and all; meaning of course, the potential hassles from the city regarding noise complaints, as well as a whole other bevy of reasons, which were referenced in the (now out-of-commission) T-Central profile blog on MySpace (most of which will someday be recounted in that aforementioned semi autobiographical book I have planned). Any who, this particular group The Mauxms (pronounced "The Moms" and not "The Malcolm's" as I initially thought) is one of those rare exceptions that can best classify the potential of what the South Florida music scene really has to offer. Their leanings towards blues, jazz, funk, and just about every other style in between transcends itself rather fluidly on the stage.

This is not just your typical garage band here, folks...these cats are really well versed when it comes to their musical vocabulary. And one can easily take notice of the creative foundations that start to shake once they are performing. It's these subtle textures, these shades of musical preferences, that their music is centered around, that really makes seeing them play live all worth while. I recently had the opportunity to get an exclusive interview with Gabe Mendoza (lead guitarist and founding member of the group) which was conducted via email (which I sent just last night, only to be met with an almost immediate reply of YES!); followed by the question as to whether or not I wanted to conduct the interview via instant messaging (which to date, I've never once seen work on MySpace) or via the regular email messaging system. I opted for the second, because it's terribly easier to do it this way sometimes. And taking into the consideration the one infamous complaint that I received from an artist regarding my purported misquoting and all (which again, I hope to write about in my upcoming novel), I've decided to just follow the principle of the simple copy and paste routine and not edit the responses to the extreme. Although I am still prone to correcting grammatical errors every now and again, as well as sentence structure. So please don't sue me for misquotable (sic) distortion here folks, for this is just a work in progress... and I'm not really a journalist, I only play a Gonzo-lite on the internet! lol. Anyways, with all that out of the way, what follows are the words that he had to share with us regarding his band, the passion behind the music he creates, his view on the local music scene in general, and the immediate future for the band The Mauxms. He told me he'd type up the responses in about fifteen minutes, which he did (more or less...) and that he typed fast, which he demonstrated to me right away, for he just, and I quote "shot down" all those answers within a matter of minutes. So without any further ado, here's my interview with Gabe Mendoza (i.e. "GM:" which is not to be confused with the car manufacturer that just went belly up). Anyways... Enjoy!

PS: Cite your musical influences, as well as the band’s influences in general, for us.

GM: The group comes from many diverse backgrounds, but we all tend to agree with certainty on funk like James Brown, Parliament, and also Bootsy Collins. As for me, I am into many and all things jazz and blues. Not straight ahead stuff, but basically every mainstream genre "played through" jazz; jazz rock, blues, psychedelic, progressive, and best of all...free jazz. Even The Beatles were jazz (at times).

PS: How many bands have you been in prior to this one?

GM: I have been in one band prior to this. It was only last year that I was playing with a group by the name of The 2AM and I actually played my first "show" of my life with them. It was fun and a good summer fling, but I wanted to play different music.

PS: Describe the line up for us...meaning, how many members are there and what instrument does each band member play, etc.?

GM: At the moment there are a total of five members in The Mauxms. We have James Partridge on vocals, Andrew Herrero on bass, Ronald Romero on percussion/fx, and Javier Mendez on drums. I play guitar. We are still on the hunt for the three missing elements of the group, which are Tenor Sax, Keyboards/Synths, and a second guitar.

PS: And as a follow up to those two previous questions...how well would you say that the band works together when it comes to rehearsal, presentation, coming up with new material, etc. as opposed to other bands that you’ve been in before?

GM: This group is like nothing we have ever been in before. I doubt their past groups used to keep in touch on a daily basis and send out weekly newsletters with information of where practice will be held and other “internal matters”. We have strict policies and respect for being on time and our hard work always seems to pay off in the end, when we feel play a good show. As for overall operation, it’s always made clear before anyone joins that ego’s are to be checked at the door and no idea is a bad idea until proven so. This way there is no "fear of rejection" or ridicule when an idea is presented. A lot of the things that make this group interesting have come from experimentation and pure curiosity.

PS: Where does the name The Mauxms come from and what does it mean?

GM: "Mauxms" is just another way to write "Moms". Where it came from I can’t really say... it just came out of my pen one day and went down in a book. It was meant to be used as a pen name, or maybe it was some subconscious thing from listening to Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. Just remember; the X is silent.

PS: How did the band form?

GM: I always had an eye for putting the right team together and so while I was always out playing shows and meeting people, I had a keen eye on who I wanted to create a group with. Everything worked out in that we were all able to come together at the right time and actually get along well enough to see this project through. The band formed from a musical hunger and understanding that this isn’t some kind of a weekend band thing.

PS: Which one’s Pink? Meaning... is there a leader, or are all of you, each in their own way, an essential ingredient to what makes the band function as a whole?

GM: I formed the group, but it was always made clear that myself or anyone in the group wasn't the group. We are all parts that make the whole. Cheesy, yes. But this is where the magic lies within us. Though there is the saying; "You can’t have too many chefs in the kitchen", and to an extent this is true but with all the ideas floating around it wouldn’t work out if I were the one that was "doing all the driving."


PS: What genre or category would you say that the music your band produces falls into?

GM: Ready? Jazz – Rock – Punk – Progressive – Latin – Psychedelic... This is a never ending question that we are faced with. In all honesty; putting this under a genre and calling it a day might keep that one listener away who looks only to the "labels" that critics have put on music. Helpful as they may be, they don’t seem to encompass exactly what we are doing at the moment.

PS: Do you regard your band as just being a quintessential jam band, or do you regard it as something more with a message to it, lyrically and/or otherwise?

GM: Well, the term "jam band" is something thrown around so lightly today that its almost lost its meaning altogether. When musicians first get together and "jam," this can already be considered a "jam band." The Miles Davis, Quintet, and everything he went on to do in the 70’s can also be considered a "jam band" but those guys were really cooking. We do explore certain parts of our music, but not enough to be labeled as a "jam band" at least, I think...

James has only scratched the surface with the lyrical talent he possesses. We are quintessential hard workers and a group of guys who aren’t looking to make a quick buck with what's "In" at the moment.

PS: Which song (that you’ve written with the group) do you consider to be your favorite? And could you tell us why...?

GM: Well, Ponsela still stands as one of the funner (sic) songs to explore, with all the sections. But the bridge in Vesuvium is still one of my favorite sections to enter in the songs we play. And then there's the song Anthem, which is always fun to play to new ears.

PS: To date how many albums, demos, singles, etc. has your band released...and are you working on any new material at the moment?

GM: Since we only started in November of 08' and actually found the core in April, we have our EP and a handful of cover songs which we enjoy performing. With our self titled EP being released mid June 09' (go to www.themauxms.com for more information) we have already begun to answer the question many have, which is: "So what else you got?" And my answer is: Expect the new material in form of an LP as well as an interesting story.

PS: Could you share with us your opinion on the local music scene here in Florida... like, where it fails or where it actually works?

GM: I'm actually one of the worst people to answer this question about "Miami's scene" in that I only got into it last year. Conversations about Poison the Well shows, Twice the Sun, Nonpoint, and all those cool things that were happening here usually don’t come with many words from me. I was playing sports at the time and not doing the slightest thing with music. As for what I see happening now, I must say the music scene here is somewhat of a drab and sometimes just a few "well planned events" from becoming something like it used to be (from what I've heard of it). If money is what a band who plays original music locally here is after, they will not find it.

I personally feel there needs to be more competition among all the acts here in Miami. Some kind of a standard needs to be set. A standard of performance. Bands need to understand that we are dealing with a very "fickle" city and one that’s culturally spread so thin that one must work twice as hard to "capture" new listeners. Attention and care needs to be put by the bands and the promoters to create an atmosphere that creates a reception for the audience to receive and give back to the bands.

Promoters also need to create a more comfortable atmosphere for the bands. Too many are in it for the quick buck, and most haven’t ever played an instrument or lugged a giant AMPEG bass cab through a sea of people. Events should be planned for their quality over their quantity. No one really cares to sift through four shitty bands to finally get through an act they like at 12:30AM.

PS: And as a follow up to that question, what do you like and what do you hate about the music scene down here in Florida?

GM: I think I summed it all up in my rant above. I do love the commitment of the people here who work to keep this thing alive. I love also the fans that you would never see anywhere else but at a show...these are the people who will go and buy a CD and will follow you faithfully. I just hate that there aren’t enough of these people around here.

PS: What in your opinion, do you think attributes to a band’s success?

GM: Hard work; communication; networking; a strong vision; goals; an understanding of what you DON'T want; and finally, good songs, not bad ones.

PS: Do you think that social networking sites help a great deal in promoting bands in general, or do The Mauxms rely more upon live settings to do that?

GM: We are still too small and too new to really feel the effectiveness of the "social networking" thing. Does it get the word out? Yes. Does the attendance at shows reflect how many people "saw" or "clicked attending"? [laughing out loud] In all honesty though, we have a very keen eye and understanding that social networking sites are something to stay and if used effectively, you can tap into a much wider audience than you could ever today with newspapers and/or radio.

PS: Describe what performing on stage is like for you as a musician...

GM: Input and output. We plug in, and put out our sound. On the other side of the stage, people are letting us in and responding back with their attention and actions. It's a cycle, we as musicians give only to receive from the listener and only to give it right back. To connect with an audience like that is probably the reason why BB King still plays at the age of 82 (now deceased at the time of this republication), or Clapton, or McLaughlin, for that matter. You can’t escape the beauty of performance. I also see it as going to work; showing up; being ready for all the unexpected things to happen in the night and building up that excitement and anticipation to play, then finally having the chance to do so. It’s like curing and itch.

PS: Where do you see your music headed towards in say the next couple of years?

GM: Our music would likely be one of constant evolution and the search for new sounds. What was done on a previous record, shouldn't really need to resurface as if it was all over again in the next. This is the approach most bands who have a foot (or two) in the business end up doing. Some call it "selling out," but I think it’s just the never ending search for new musical palettes and the new music that all the experiences life has taken them through with the old sounds.

PS: Thanks for doing this interview.


Photo courtesy of Christina Mendoza

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

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