C'mon -- You know you've heard it. Whether you realized who it was or even that the song was titled "San Francisco," you've heard it. Maybe you weren't really paying attention, or it was in the background, but it got stuck in the back of your head anyway and you had no idea where it came from.
I've been in love with love
And the idea of something binding us together
You know that love is strong enough
I've seen time tell tales about that systematic drug,
Yeah the heart that beats as one
It's collectively, unconsciously composed...
Oh, that one? Yeah, if you listen twice, it will be staple of your summer playlist, even if you despise its happy, hippie tone and mindset. That's okay, though. Go ahead and embrace it, run with it. Maybe even learn from it. It's a sentiment that can soften even the jaded heart if you let your guard down.
The thing is, when it comes to The Mowglis, it's not just a single song, a one hit-wonder. Well, maybe the song is. Only time will tell on that, but I'm expecting more.
What I didn't expect was a record full of that sentiment without getting sappy or cheesy, but that's what I got with the group's debut EP, Love's Not Dead. Now, let me take a moment to clarify: I LOVE a great breakup album -- which this definitely isn't. Sometimes, though, an album full of songs of love, hope, and redemption is exactly what the doctor ordered to pick you up off the floor -- or maybe just make you appreciate the sun after a week of rain.
Enter The Mowglis: Part modern rock, part indie chic, part '60s hippie movement, "San Francisco" (or any song from the EP, for that matter), is a breath of fresh air on the radio -- or your iPod, whatever the case may be.
I'll admit I didn't know anything about the band, wasn't aware of the EP, and hadn't heard that catchy single when I stumbled into Stubb's amphitheater on Friday night of SXSW. I just knew the band had a reasonable buzz and I needed to jumpstart my night of music. I got more than I bargained for, with that song stuck in my head and a picture of this bigass band, eight wide, strewn across the stage not afraid to smile, enjoy the moment, enjoy the music and enjoy each other. And we all know that's not a common occurrence today, when it's largely considered uncool to admit or show that you're reveling in the moment. After all, would Nirvana have been nearly as cool if Kurt was smiling all the time?
That doesn't seem to matter when the music is something akin to Grouplove with a brighter outlook, married to Polyphonic Spree and descended from The Byrds. But how did a band like this land on a major label with its joy still intact?
When discussing the band and its trajectory, vocalist/guitarist/percussionist Colin Dieden detailed humble beginnings.
"We started out doing the DIY thing for a long time and, honestly, we were hesitant about signing with a big label because they like to control what you do," he said. "When we met with Island, though, we weren't worried, because they understood us and the team completely understands our mission.
"The intention of this band is to make people feel good and to make the world a better place," he explained. "Even if it's just be treating people a little better."
That's something that comes through in the songs, whether in the anthemic sentiment of "San Francisco" or the simple hope of "The Great Divide," singing "and when the sun brings in the morning, I know today will be better than the last."
Perhaps not so surprisingly, the band digs even deeper in "Carry Your Will," where even in the face of adversity, it says "Then it was dark and we could see no more, but somehow we found each other, somehow we found that hope," before building to a climax like a gospel choir, extolling one another to "let your faith guide your faith." Even though that faith can be translated to a higher power, in this case, it's a safe bet that The Mowglis are singing of allowing yourself to have a little faith in humanity again, even amongst the madness of the day.
With a full album, Waiting for the Dawn, due to be released on June 16, the band is on a cross-country tour laying the groundwork for something bigger and keeping true to its mission, by spreading a soundtrack of love and hope that's perfect for the summer. That tour stops in Tulsa this Thursday night, May 30 for a show at Vanguard with American Authors and local openers Red Wood Rising and Desi & Cody.
Even after seeing the band on the amphitheater stage at Stubb's, however, the smaller club setting seems perfect for the band, which managed a connection with even the crowd at SXSW.
"We do that intentionally," Dieden said. "We prefer there to be no barrier, so we can really connect with the audience, so even when there is, I'll often come down off of the stage and get into the crowd to bridge that gap and make that connection."
But what about that collective smile and sense of unity that I seemed to sense coming from the stage? And what would possess anyone to try and tour with eight people when we all know what both the economy and the music business are like right now?
"Even if we weren't doing this, we're all still friends," he said. "We just found a way to work together and do what we all enjoy. Plus, we've got a really big sound and we need everyone to recreate that and make it happen."
Once you see and hear the band, it's easy to sense that "San Francisco" is merely the tip of the iceberg and something bigger is on the horizon for the band. The group played Conan O'Brien last week and will be making a return appearance on Jay Leno on June 20. Although Dieden admitted a final decision on the next single still be hasn't been made, she shared that it's currently between "The Great Divide" and "Clean Light," which appears on the new album, and whichever song the band plays on Leno will be the next one serviced to radio.
Looking forward, the band wraps up its spring tour just in time to hit the festival circuit and has a run of dates currently in the works for late summer. Instead of waiting, you can catch them at Vanguard for only $5 this Thursday night.
In the interim, you can join in the band's mission and sing along to that song that's stuck in your head:
Do you feel the love?
I feel the love
C'mon c'mon, let's start it up
Let the love pour out of your soul...
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