Q&A with The Mantras
Greensboro-based band The Mantras will perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St., 8 p.m. Now on an East Coast tour, The Mantras also have been playing with recent visitors to Williamsport as well, The BIG Something.
Music lovers can find more out about The Mantras by searching for them on Facebook as well as at www.themantras.com.
The Sun-Gazette recently caught up with Justin W. Powell, keyboardist and vocalist of the band, to discuss their progression from jam band to a recognized progressive band in the last few years, amidst other topics.
BETHANY WIEGAND: How did the Mantras begin?
JUSTIN POWELL: Bassist Brian Tyndall and Guitarist Keith Allen met at University of North Carolina in the music department. They joined Marcus Horth and The Mantras in 2005. In 2006, they became The Mantras and started to forge their place in the regional music scene. The current line-up of Keith, Brian, myself (Justin W. Powell), Brent Vaughn (percussion) and Justin Loew (drums) has been touring since Sept. 2011, when Marcus left the band to be with family off the road.
BW: Is “Jambands Ruined My Life” sort of an evolution for the band? Is it a change in direction for the music?
JP: This is the most cohesive studio effort the band has put forth to date. It shows the evolution from the regional party band N.C. has grown to love, to the national, progressive rock powerhouse The Mantras have become. Tight arrangements, good songwriting, great sound engineering and a guest appearance from Jake Cinninger from Umphrey’s McGee put this album above the others in almost every respect. It was also recorded at Jake Cinninger’s personal studio with his help during the process.
BW: You say that you write about heartfelt things. Honesty is something that makes music more tangible for audiences as well. What kind of experiences inspired you to put your emotions out for the world to see?
JP: For me, personally – and I think the band would agree – that art and music is a great way to process the myriad emotions we all go through daily. Most people share such similar experiences in our lives that it’s surely better to share in those experiences together, right? Togetherness isn’t always easy, just like being honest, but they are both better than any alternative I can think of. This is why we put it out there – to bring people together.
BW: If you can remember it, discuss the first time when you were like, “Okay, music is gonna be my life from now on.”
JP: Everybody in this band has tried to do other things with their lives. I was even a fine wine distributor for a few years. All during that time I kept feeling like I had more to give this world than sales numbers. When we accepted this truth, each individually, is when we knew.
BW: Can you tell me about Mantrabash?
JP: Mantrabash is a three-day Music and Arts Festival on Aug. 30, 31 and Sept. 1st that we throw in Ferguson, N.C. (near Boone-Asheville-Charlotte-Raleigh). We play multiple sets, there are workshops, yoga, a river to cool off in and above all else, great music by bands from around the country. Past performers include Particle, Robert Walter Trio, The Werks, Brothers Past, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band and more. We are set to make some initial line-up announcements soon. Watch for news at www.mantrabash.com.
BW: What’s the music scene like in your hometown of Greensboro, N.C.?
JP: When we started out, there wasn’t much going on here. Now that we have been at it for while, there is a burgeoning arts and music scene that has sprung up in the last 4 years or so. It seems like every night there is an open jam to attend, a friend’s band is playing, there’s an art opening, a friends electronica project to hear, and-or one of our sets of national touring friends are coming through. Greensboro currently has got something to be proud of in her arts and music scene.
BW: Is the songwriting a collective effort? What’s the mood like when you know a song is being born?
JP: At first, the bulk of the songwriting was done by former member Marcus Horth and current member Keith Allen. With the departure of Horth, other members have been bringing in more and more of their material.
A member will bring in an idea and we will cultivate it into a Mantras’ song together. Right now, the mood is very positive as we are creating a lot of new and great music together.
BW: You listed Captain Morgan as a influence. Admit it, you guys dress up as pirates from time to time.
JP: We will never admit that.
BW: Name one artist that you’ve recently discovered that you are obsessed with-really excited about-can’t stop listening to.
JP: We’ll name two. Our friends Dopapod are writing a lot of great music right now. Kung Fu is another band doing the same. Both bands are out of the North East and are crushing it right now.
BW: What can audiences expect at your performance at The Bullfrog Brewery?
JP: They can expect us to bring a funky dance party, mixed with hard rock and thoughtful lyrics, a couple of fun covers and a stunning visual show from our production team. We are always, always A LOT of FUN!