Helium Talks Music with Will Sprott of The Mumlers


A few weeks ago Helium sat down with The Mumlers’ front man Will Sprott at the Falafel House in San Jose to talk about his upcoming show at Treasure Island.  We were pleasantly surprised when we met the ever-so-mellow and down-to-earth Will over a falafel and shake.

He2:Are you excited for Treasure Island?

WS: Definitely.

He2: Who are you looking forward to seeing perform the most?

WS: That’s tough. I am excited to see Belle and Sebastian. I’ve never seen them play before and I’ve liked them for a long time.  I like a lot of the bands this year. I don’t know, it should be fun. I mean She & Him might be fun.

He2:Do you think you would be able to play together with Belle & Sebastian?

WS:Hopefully, I mean ya that would be cool.  Like you guys said, they hardly ever play out here so who knows.  It is weird when you play music for a long time you start to cross paths with everyone and then you’ll see them again and it’s weird. You know, you start out and you just like music and then you are actually having conversations with these people. It is weird to have that perspective on things, but I dunno. I kind of like not meeting artists to be honest.  I like not having any personality attached to it, so it is just their music and nothing else.

He2:How does it feel to be on the same level?

WS:We are not on the same level, people don’t know who we are.

He2:You’re on the same lineup though.

WS:I know, it’s weird.  This is definitely the biggest show we have ever played.  I think the capacity is like 12,000 people or something crazy.

He2:Are you nervous?

WS:Ya (he laughs)

He2:How was it when they told you they wanted you to perform?

WS:We were surprised.  We are probably the only band on the lineup that isn’t represented.  It was neat and I was surprised. We’re stoked.

He2: So you are playing on Sunday?

WS: Ya, we are the first band.  I think we play at noon. It is always weird to play that early in the day. We are actually playing on Saturday too.  They are doing a Treasure Island night show so we won’t be able to go on Saturday for the festival during the day. Rogue Wave is playing that night as well.

He2:Have you met any of the other bands?

WS:I know the singer of the band Paper Cuts. I have met him a couple of times. He is really nice and he actually used to live in San Jose too. Other than that, no.

He2:Have you ever been to Treasure Island?

WS:Ya, Treasure Island is a man made island. It is completely flat and it is odd. I mean I am sure it will be crazy packed with people on that day, but I have stopped on it on my way over the Bay Bridge and I guess it used to be a military area, but it is all pretty much gone. There are all of these weird barracks and stuff. It is a weird space. I like all of the islands in the Bay Area. I went up to Angel Island. It is a state park with no cars on it. You can take your bike out there on the ferry. It is really cool.

He2:How do you feel having grown up in San Jose influences your band? Did everyone in the band grow up in San Jose?

WS:Ya, we are all from San Jose. It’s hard to say. I feel that it definitely influenced us, but it is hard to say how. I feel that it is awkward I am eating falafel and talkingabout it (he laughs). It is really hard to say how your environment influences your music.

He2:Do you feel like you are representing San Jose?

WS:In a weird way. I mean people always want to know about San Jose. People are intrigued by San Jose. They either are like, “What? You’re from San Jose?”  or like, “Whoa! San Jose, what’s that place like?”. You know, it gets like one or two reactions

He2:Are you going to be playing in San Jose anytime soon?

WS:We played here twice this summer.  At the Blank club and Left Coast Live.  We are trying not to play too many live shows. We have been playing shows nonstop for five years and we are sort of tired.  So we are just trying to work on songs. We are trying to just only play when we travel because we have been playing around in the Bay Area nonstop for forever so we are sort of trying to not do that right now.

WS:People from Psycho Donuts came up on stage and started throwing donuts at the audience during the Left Coast Live show.

He2:How was that?

WS:It was alright until people started throwing them back onto the stage. We totally stopped and just started eating the donuts. We thought that they were part of the festival or something because they were just like, “Mind if we come up here and say something real quick?” and so we were like, “Okay.” We thought it was some type of professional related announcement and then they started talking about their donuts.  We were like what the hell is going on right now? They were giving out their donuts, starting a donut war.  We were rather baffled by the whole event. I guess I like people who are doing crazy things.

He2:What do you do besides The Mumlers?

WS:Well, I give guitar lessons to an eight year old girl. She is my one student, but she’s learning. And right now I am taking a class on print making at and art school in Oakland.  My girlfriend works at the art school so I get to take free classes.  I just started that today so that is why I am so tired.  At nine in the morning I had a six hour print making class.

He2:Do you like it so far?

WS:It was fun. It was really neat I haven’t done anything like that. I have never really taken art classes. It should be really cool I really like the process and the technology and everything. Hopefully I can handle it, I dunno. I am a night person. I go to sleep really late. I literally slept 2 hours last night.

He2:We love your album covers and fliers. Who does the artwork for them?

WS:The newest album Don’t Throw Me Away was done by this girl Mitsy, who is from San Jose. She is my favorite artist from San Jose. She is incredibly talented. I have never met her before. She is a recluse. She like doesn’t leave her house, but I saw her pictures, her drawings at a local art show and found out she knows Felix, one of the guys from the band.  So, we got in touch with her and talked her into doing it.  We talked to her on the phone a lot. The first album was done by this woman name Lori and she was friends with one guys who owns our record label and she is also a little reclusive as well.  She is a very talented artist.  She does very cool hand drawn animations. She is from out in the Central Valley.  I am a big fan of both of their works.

He2:We noticed that you like to use artwork instead of band photos. Why is that?

WS:Ya we have always hated band photos.  You know, there are all of these dudes trying to look cool. I mean you have to have band photos, but it has never been our thing.

He2:Are you guys close friends?

WS:Ya, I’ve known three of the guys since I was about 12 years old and we all grew up skateboarding and they happen to also be really talented at playing music,and one by one I roped them into helping me record songs.  We are down to five people now. Slowly the band keeps shrinking. We started out with seven. We had a tambourine player who, well everybody gets married, that is what happens. The tambourine player got married and she got a real job and then our bass player got married and got a real job. So we are just five unmarried people without real jobs that are still doing it. But ya, we are all real good friends.

He2:What would you say your genre of music is, it seems to vary?

WS:What do you think?

He2:We couldn’t pinpoint one genre.

WS:I guess we try not to sound like everything else, but we definitely like a lot of different types of music and we don’t try to fit into a category. We just pick what we like and then mash it all together.

He2:What top three genres would you say you integrate into your music?

WS:Well, soul music is really big for me. I love it and I think that really seeps into what we do a lot.  I like song writers. I like people that have really interesting lyrics, so I mean there are people like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan influence me a lot. And then what else seeps in there? I guess you could say abstract? We are pretty nerdy. We like a lot of stuff.  I don’t know we could go on and on, but I don’t like to break it down.

He2:Do you write all of the songs?

WS:Ya I write them, but we arrange them together.  I just sort of come in with the words and the melody and they figure out what instruments they want to play.

He2:Are you in charge of the band’s Facebook Page?

WS:I don’t even have the code.  I am not even allowed on that Facebook page.  Felix is the dictator of that relm.  Felix is the crazy guy on stage.  You will know him in a second on stage. He is probably rolling around and wearing a Raiders poncho. But ya, he likes controlling the Facebook.  I get overwhelmed.  I answer all the emails and everything else pretty much, so heck I am happy I don’t have to touch that.

He2:Is there a new album in the works?

WS:Ya.  We don’t have any dates set or anything to record, but we have been piling up the songs.  Have you guys ever heard of the Black Heart Procession? The Black Heart Procession is one of my favorite bands and it was one of those weird situations where when I was a teenager I was really into them and now they are talking about us going on tour with them throughout the country.  We’ve been talking about going down to San Diego with them and doing some recording, but we haven’t really nailed down any dates with them. But, that might be our next project.  Some people don’t like them because they are kinda downer music, but I like them.  They make Bright Eyes look pretty happy.

He2:Is this your favorite place to eat in San Jose?

WS:It is definitely up there. I miss this place, banana shake and falafel.  This is my jam right here.

He2:Can you tell us about growing up in San Jose?

WS:I used to work at Camera, the movie theaters, a long time ago, I was a projectionist. I loved it. I got to see so many movies. I love movies. I mean, the only thing that sucked was it hardly paid, but being a projectionist was nice because I got to hide out in the projection room. I didn’t have to shovel popcorn or take tickets or anything like that.  Actually I got to do a lot of music while I was working because I would start all of the movies and then I wouldn’t have anything to do.  It’s been years since I’ve worked there.

He2:Can you recall a certain song that was written there?

WS:Ya, that Red River Hustle one on the first record was written in the projection room. Parts of a bunch of the first album were written there.

He2:How do you normally go about writing songs?

WS:Usually I will have a lot of ideas for songs.  I’ll write down the ideas and then I’ll come back and try to make them into something longer when I have the time.  I get stuff done when I have a lot of time to myself. I stay up all night to work on things.  It is actually really hard for me to write songs because I am always bothering people because I am loud and I get really self conscience. The last house I lived in in San Jose I lived with 10 other people and everybody could hear me anytime I did any music. A lot of times I get the most done when I go house sit for my mom. My mom lives in Oregon and that is when I will write a lot of stuff at once.

He2:Any other popular music that you are particularly liking right now?

WS:I like that band Beach House. I know they are doing really well right now.  Our good friends The Morning Benders as well. I like their stuff a lot. They were a tiny band, but they are getting bigger. I like that band Dr. Doll, they are good. I really honestly like mostly old music. What do you guys like?

He2:What is a normal band practice like for the Mumlers?

WS:We are pretty unorganized.  We actually need to practice this Sunday because just playing for fun is what we do all the time. We just get together and mess around. Most of the time we will just start playing some crazy techno song and then all of sudden, four hours later, we are still playing the same techno song.  I am just kidding.  Well, actually no not really, it sorta does turn into that.

He2:Do you see The Mumlers making it big time in the future?

WS:I would love to be making a living from it somehow.  It is not like I don’t take it seriously. When we record, we record well. But, I go in waves with that. I get really gung-ho sometimes and then I lose all hope (he laughs) and assume I will be broke forever. So I don’t know. Sometimes I feel really encouraged, sometimes I feel people are really response to it and we are doing well in terms of our realm of things, but other times I just feel like we are too non-pop, too non-everything else. I really don’t know.  I think all of us will always make music. Who knows if we will always make music together and what happens will happen.

As Will finished his falafel, he informed us that he was headed to play solo at a festival in Nevada City.  He had to go drop his sister’s dog off however, and drive up to Oakland before the show that night. For a busy guy, he didn’t seem to find squeezing in an interview to be an inconvenience. We like that. After we parted ways we ran into each other again at Mill Cottons, a sporting goods store minutes late. A strange coincidence, in which Will responded, “Do you know if they sell badminton birdies here?”

By: Jenn Elias and Calli Perez

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