Unlike many other genres and music communities, the indie/alt culture appreciates new and rising artists that create diversity and new insights within the genre.
We constantly feature notable rising indie and alternative artists on the verge of success. Meet this week’s artist, the California alt-rockers who go by MLEO:
We recently talked in-depth with the group to find out more about their influences and creative process, and of course their take on all things alternative culture. Read on to find out more about this amazing artist!
What are your fondest musical memories?
I think recording our album was definitely our fondest memory, because we basically got to hang out for days on end with each other and our mega-cool engineer Pete De Leon. Another highlight was opening for Andy Grammer and Plain White Ts, and later playing a show at House of Blues in Hollywood. We also had a blast when we played at the Eat, See, Hear festival in LA and then went straight from there to a gig in Tahoe. I don’t know if we’ve ever been as collectively exhausted and totally hyped at the same time!
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
We’ve been listening to all kinds of crap lately. Audrey’s been really into Indie-Pop, Gorillaz, and System of a Down. Victor, Elias and I have been flooded with jazz lately because of school, but we always listen to a ton of classic rock. I’ve been trying to find new rock music on blogs (including IndieBeat of course!). Victor’s been really into St. Vincent and Emily King.
How did you all meet and decide to collaborate into forming Mleo? What is the origin of the name Mleo?
Our singer Audrey got a gig to play her original music at a venue in Malibu that happens to not exist anymore. She wanted a band, so she called Victor and me because we knew each other in high school. She liked how we sounded together, and now here we are! The band name comes from an acronym we came up with for the four mythical beasts, Man, Lion, Eagle, and Ox. Mleo!
What is your creative process like? How do you approach the writing process?
Essentially, we just get in the P Room and start playing anything. There’s plenty of yelling, laughing, drinking, and repetition of ideas. Also, it can be really easy to jam and just forget everything that happened so we tend to record our jams and extract anything we find vaguely interesting to use in a new song.
I think you guys define your sound aesthetic very well in your bio: “the group brings influences of jazz, funk, indie rock/pop, R&B, hip hop, and hard rock. With a variety of musical perspectives, the band strives to become the face of the modern rock band. They continue to shape this vision by writing songs with no boundaries, yet retaining elements that have kept listeners interested throughout the history of music both melodically and lyrically.” Can you unpack this a bit for us? What do you think about this innovative alternative scene where new music is almost genreless and more of an experimental mixture? How has your musical training and background helped in crafting your unique, yet cohesive ‘rock’ sound?
Coming from so many backgrounds, and having listened to so much freaking music has allowed us to not be limited to a genre at all, and we think that's important. Many bands are clearly a part of a genre, and while that's perfectly fine, that's just not us. We want to be the first band to play our music, and we don't want anyone getting confused when our tracks get spun. We're us, and every genre has made us who we are. Also, there's so much good music out there that it would be silly to not let it affect us somehow!
Something we find interesting here at IndieBeat is how the base city of artists impacts their creative process and sound formation. You mentioned you played the iconic House of Blues Sunset, and then a growing hit in SoCal, the EatSeeHear Movie in the Park showcase. How has it been playing at these renowned and iconic venues that you're used to frequenting as fans/audience members? Do you think LA is a great city for a band to emerge in due to these amazing venues and entertainment opportunities? In other words, what do you think of the music scene here?
The music scene in LA is...interesting. This city is huge. Like, really, really massive. House of Blues was a great experience, but I don't think it's something we could do all the time. The Eat, See, Hear festival is brilliant, and it was really awesome to play in front of that many people that were doing nothing but watch us. We did it in Brentwood, on a middle school field, and it was just a great experience. Creative gigs like that are much appreciated. The only thing I'd say negatively about LA is that there are a lot of pay-to-play venues (House of Blues included), and that's just not okay. Musicians should be paid for their work, and pay to play should be a novelty for an old couple that wants to live out a childhood dream.
You guys are very much a California band, coming from Sacramento and now being based in Los Angeles. How has growing up in California and playing all around it inspired your sound and creative process? What is it about California that adds a unique sound to the artists here?
We absolutely think that living in California affects our sound, and people tell us all the time that we sound like a California band. It helps to have been from a couple big cities out hear because we aren't pigeon-holed as a "Los Angeles" band. We like to think that coming from a smaller town like Sacramento gave us a good foundation for being comfortable with our music, and Los Angeles is just letting us grow. Bands from California sound different than bands from anywhere else though, and I don't think that we're an exception.
We had the idea to show a progression with the music video, and to get dirty. In order to get the effect of a long journey, we got dirtier and dirtier as we went, mostly by rolling around on the ground and throwing dirt at each other. When we play Sunken City the song, it absolutely affects our live performance and we try to express the visual we displayed in the music video as much as we possibly can. Most of the video is shot at various locations in Malibu, but the last bit is actually at the place called "Sunken City", which is beautiful and was solely the inspiration for the song.
As an indie artist in the digital age, social media and streaming are essential tools for marketing and promotion. What do you think about online music sharing, both as a music fan and as a musician? How do you think social media/music streaming services impacts the rising musician?
This is a huge question. I don’t think our overall stance on it is as negative as many other younger musicians. There is a huge negative impact on musicians lately due to lack of being able to make money on record sales, but at the same time it’s much easier to spread your musical seed through social media and all the big streaming sites like Soundcloud, Youtube, Bandcamp, Spotify, and iTunes. I’d argue that Bandcamp could be the most band-friendly website out there because people can stream your full music for free, or download it for whatever price you set. Also, as long as people want to listen to music, it will be paid for somehow or else it will all die out, which it obviously hasn’t, and probably never will!
What is your dream collaboration and why?
We think Flea and Chad Smith would be the coolest people to collaborate with. They both seem like awesome people and they’re freaking dope together.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects?
The plan is to release a new single this summer! We have one song in particular that we’re super excited about and we’ve never released a single before, so we’re stoked. Also, we are in the beginning stages of a music video for our song Hemlock Smile off our album Sunken City which was released last summer!
What can we expect in your upcoming single release?
Our next single is gonna be catchy as hell. We're going to try some new things with mixing, so hopefully it will sound better and more alive than anything we've recorded before, though it is unmistakably our sound, especially from a songwriting perspective. We're very, very excited.
We’re in the middle on festival season. Are you attending any as fans? What would your ideal festival lineup be?
This festival season's going to be a little quiet for us, as there's a lot we have to take care of both individually and as a band. As far as a lineup goes....that's hard to say. Just to get a good, confusing mix of music in there, let's say this: Rolling Stones, OutKast, Incubus, Hiatus Kaiyote, Jeff Beck, Alabama Shakes, Dwele, Stevie Wonder, Cake, Common, Prince, Emily King, Kendrick Lamar, Holychild and Big Jaw. And probably Mleo, get them on a festival!
Finally, a question we ask all of artists: which songs are you currently obsessed with? What new acts do you recommend to our listeners? What bands do you believe are your best kept secret in the indie community?
There are a couple of bands that you really just have to see live to appreciate. One of them is a Sacramento/Seattle based band called Animals in the Attic, another is an LA band called The Unending Thread, and you did a piece on our friend Brijesh Pandya who is in the bands Air Life (in which he plays drums) and Wild Awake (which he leads). I also really like the rapper Angry Mic, which is a little bit of a curveball but hey! The boys in Mleo have been listening to a lot of jazz lately, and getting more into bands like Primus that we loved when we were younger. There's also a sick experimental band called Kneebody that is phenomenal. Victor has been listening to Alex Cuba a lot, and Julian Le the pianist. Our buddies Erin Raygun also just released their first EP on Bandcamp. I could go on and on really.