Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Mission Creeps!

I'm very, very excited to be featuring an interview with The Mission Creeps here on Making Owls Cool!  The Mission Creeps are one of our favorite bands. It's not often that I go to see one band and end up leaving a dedicated fan of another, but The Mission Creeps got me. We first heard them a few years ago when they played with Phoenix band The Love Me Nots and we were hooked.  They do spooky music that is energetic and they're great live.

I set up this interview with bassist, Miss Frankie Stein, a little while back. Guitarist/singer James Arr's responses are better than the questions and they even sent a long this awesome image by Tucson artist Mel Dominguez of the band and an owl! They'll be playing in Colorado April 7th-9th, so check them if you get the chance and you can buy their albums, "Dark Cells" and "In Sickness and In Health" here on their website.

How about we begin with a brief history of The Mission Creeps. When did you form? Where did the name come from? Who's in the band?

We started about 5 years ago over some pints of Guiness. We didn't know anyone else at that time who had even heard of bands like The Ghastly Ones or Los Straightjackets. Once we discovered our mutual love of surf and spooky music, the rest is history.

I had the name The Mission Creeps mulling around in my head, waiting
  for the right project. It's a military term that means being on an assured path of self-destruction which no one can do anything about - and that was just like every band I had ever been in, so I wanted to start a band called that.

Many people don't get that 'creeps' is a verb.

The core of the band is myself, James Arrr, and Miss Frankie Stein. We
currently are playing with Rikki Styxx on drums. She is from L.A. via Denver and works as a great fit for us. We have had many people come and go in the Mission Creeps and it always provides some measure of
unpredictability and excitement.

As I read reviews and profiles of The Mission Creeps online, it is immediately apparent that people have a tough time describing your sound. I'm going to be the Cowardly Questioner and ask you to do it. How would you describe your sound? Feel free to include influences, technical aspects (like equipment and recording techniques) or whatever else you think is relevant.

That's a good thing, right?

For the most part, our sound is composed of all the things and bands that we are fans of and that includes a lot of cinematic influences. We aren't 'trying' to get a specific sound, but we do like to focus on 'the songs' and the stories or ideas behind them.

I play guitar through lots of reverb and that can lend itself to a
'surf' guitar kind of sound, and there is no doubt that we are big fans of surf music. But we are not a 'surf band', especially since we
have vocals.

The sound has changed over time from a more mellow sound with a lot of
instrumentation, including congas, percussion, accordion, and keyboards in addition to our current guitar, bass, drums set up. This has been partially a necessity for touring economically and on a lighter carbon footprint but also for keeping people on the same page.

We like the intensity of playing as a power trio and how it is easier
to maintain the integrity of how the songs are written. We do still throw in other instrumentation in the studio such as melodica,
mellotron, weird noise generator, and sampler now and then.

If you put together any show with any line-up, including current or defunct bands, who would you want to play with and at what venue?

Frankie's first "dream" for the band was to play with Deadbolt. She told me this within 5 minutes of our Guinness and band-starting conversation. Six months later, we opened for Deadbolt in Vegas.

Since then, we've been very lucky to play shows like Tiki Oasis 8 kick
off party on the deck at the Bali Hai at night, looking right out over the ocean. Santa Fe Film Festival was another great one. We've gotten to play with and meet and talk with Peter Murphy.

We also got to play a few dream shows on our US tour last Fall.
One was on the lower East-Side in NY over Labor Day weekend with Des Roar and Doppelganger where we met Kerry Davis of Two Tears.

The energy in NY was so raw. There was that tension in the air of
people wondering what the Hell we were about and also us being nervous about how we'd go over in the Big Apple. And it turned out to be a blast.

The other dream show was in Atlanta with Andre Williams and The
Goldstars.  He influenced us not to give up on following our love of music, EVER. At 74, he's still walking the walk and talking the talk.

There are other acts we've played with, dug, and hit it off with. Last
year we brought seven of them together for Friki Tiki Garage Festival and Scooter Rally here in Tucson. It was like putting on our own dream show. Lords of Altamont headlined. We may put another festival together this September.

Of course, we'd also love to play a DREAM, dream show with Joy
Division or Sisters of Mercy or The Cramps or The Stooges in a tiny venue where everyone gets a sound check.

You played a steampunk-themed New Years party in Bisbee and you also played the Wild, Wild West Steampunk convention in Tucson. Can you tell us a little about steampunk or the steampunk scene in the southwest?

The Steampunk scene is pretty fascinating and still unfolding as its own separate subculture. For that reason, it isn't so rigid in peoples' expectations of what it should be, including musically.

Some of our lyrical themes lend themselves to futuristic, dystopic
imagery, and of course we are fans of HG Wells, Jules Verne, and Orwell.

It's a bit of a natural fit for us to experiment with. And it is nice
to be involved right now, but not be trapped by it at the same time. Though we're likely a bit more on the Punk side of Steampunk, anything goes.

Tucson is a cool town. What's it like being a band based in Tucson? I'm wondering if the town has influenced your music and, if so, how?

Tucson for musicians has its pluses and minuses. We're still learning as we go.

We have figured out that the space in the desert lends itself to our
music and bands from other cities have taken notice and remarked about it to us. We try to maintain that and not clutter things up which is easy to lose sight of and also difficult to communicate when we're working with other people.

You're a pretty busy band. Your third release, Dark Cells, came out last year and your website says you're working on new material. What can we expect from The Mission Creeps in 2011?

Experimentation is a continuous process for us. We're trying new ways to record and represent the music. We've written a ton of new material lately and are really excited about releasing and supporting a new album.

The songs are pretty gritty, having toured more and gotten more angry
at things we see happening in the world around us. While not getting too politically or socially-specific, things seem pretty grim
sometimes. We prefer to be sincere and acknowledge it and find acatharsis in it that other people can relate to, rather than gloss over it.

Of course we like to throw in a good danceable song as well to stick
with our motto that "It's always a scary fun time."

We just filmed two new videos with local Directors, one for Monster
and one for a new song called Any Good Zombie. We are really stoked to see the final product.

April 7-9, we're doing a run of shows in Colorado - Pueblo,
Co.Springs, and Denver.

We have an unreleased take of Monster that will be featured on Rue
Morgue Magazine's free downloadable compilation, out May 1, followed by an album in June and summer shows in L.A. and New York.

You mentioned in an e-mail that you "have a few owl stories." Lets hear 'em! Any other scary or creepy stories from shows or on the road?

When we first met things were so exciting and moving a million miles an hour. We had just finished going to a killer and very inspiring show featuring the Flametrick Subs from Austin, TX. We were heading back to our practice space at the end of the night to our respective cars, when a giant white owl swooped down and landed right in front of our car. We had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting it.

We just sat there looking at it and it looked right at us for what
seemed like a very long time. Then it flew away. We've heard several interpretations along the lines of, "Stop, look around you. You are in the midst of spiritual chaos and you need to recenter yourselves." Maybe it just stopped there for a pit stop. It is hard to tell with owls since they don't speak.

But believe it or not we have a few MORE owl stories too. So it is
  definitely a theme or icon that has presented itself at some very odd times in our existence as a band.

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