Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Mar 13th 2010 1:00PM by Kay Balbi
How was the band formed?
We met at a dumpster, taking out the trash at the natural foods store where we worked. The first night we hung out, we went dumpster diving at a thrift store and scored a bunch of stickers and unicorn figurines. Phil's previous band, Ticonderoga, broke up, and out of the ashes came Bowerbirds. I taught myself to play accordion, and the rest is history.
How would you describe your sound?
Anarchist polyrhythmic joy unfolding.
What are your musical influences?
Right now, it's Julie Doiron.
How did you choose the band name?
We didn't really think we would become an actual band. It was sort of this personal project, and we had just found out about the actual birds called bowerbirds, who reside on the other side of the Earth from us in Australia. They do a great job of using their artistic skills to woo mates, so we thought it would be nice to use them as a sort of spirit animal or totem figure for ourselves to increase our creativity and sexual prowess.
What is in your festival survival kit?
Flask. Shoes we can run around in. Lip balm. Swim suit. Sun glasses. Bibimbap. Emergen-C. We try to not take it personally if only ten people come to our show, and we try not to get drunk at our shows unless at least ten people come because then it's a party.
What kind of mischief do you get into out on the road?
Oh, plenty, especially when we are on tour with mischievous friends. You know ... sex, drugs and folk music. That's one thing that touring doesn't leave much time for though, is mischief. Luckily SXSW leaves a lot of time for mischief, especially since we are only playing two shows this time. We planned it that way on purpose this year. We'll be playing Wednesday at 11PM at the Brooklyn Vegan showcase at Club Deville, and Thursday at 1:40PM at the Billions party.
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
Beyonce. Disney soundtracks.
Beatles or Stones?
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
What's the craziest thing you've experienced on tour?
We were playing in tiny wooden building in rural England that was built years ago as a place for the local silver band, which is like a brass band but with silver instruments. We were practicing with the 30 local inhabitants of the dale, including about eight people from the nearby home for the mentally disabled. There were sheep milling around outside. Anyway, we stayed on a farm and went for a run the next morning, over the hills, and it was unbelievably gorgeous. When we got back to the farm, the proprietor of the bed and breakfast was serving breakfast and asked where we had been. We said we had gone for a run, and she said that the only other musical guest to have stayed there and "taken exercise" was Willie Nelson, who went biking. Though it wasn't really as crazy as other things we've done, it was surreal. It also made us feel proud of our efforts to stay fit. That doesn't happen on every tour, by the way, the staying fit part.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
In terms of everyday life, we have almost finished building our own cabin with our own hands. It feels a lot more real and useful than the band, sometimes. It is awesome having a house we made ourselves. Everyone should do it. It's so satisfying. In terms of the band, though, we are glad we stuck through years of being completely broke, and working really hard all the time. It can take a long time to get to where it is starting to pay off, and where we can actually imagine being musicians as part of a sustainable future for ourselves.
What is the hardest lesson to learn?
The hardest lesson has been how much time it takes to be in a band and how you have to give up other fun projects in your life. We just assumed that our friends who were in touring bands were supporting themselves with their music, and that they made, maybe $30,000 a year. It turns out that later we found out they were always broke, and had to go without heating their houses in the winter and things like that. We just didn't realize how hard it is to make money in a band, and how you have to give up years of your life, working overtime, to get to where you can support yourself that way. That means you have to give up other projects and being able to spend time with friends at home, and being able to buy people birthday presents.
These days, especially in the US, it's hard to be an artist of any kind. There isn't as much respect and support of the arts as there is in other places, or in other times. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel it turns out; you can eventually find your audience and make ends meet, and so it's good we didn't give up too soon. But, yeah, it was hard for a while.
If a band is just starting out in this genre, what would you tell them?
Just ask advice from everyone you meet who is doing what you want to be doing. And take their advice. We didn't listen to the good advice that certain friends in bands shared with us early on, and we were kicking ourselves later. And don't let yourself get burned out.
Anything else you would like to share?
Our favorite book is 'A Language Older Than Words' by Derrick Jensen. It will change your life. You can buy it from him at derrickjensen.org.
Kay Balbi is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.