Muy Cansado is a three-piece indie-pop band from Boston. They released a really great new record called Let It Go last week and I recently featured them as the Song of the Day on the site. I wanted to learn more about the band and I had an opportunity to ask Chris Mulvey [guitarist and primary vocalist] a few questions over email. Thanks, Chris for taking the time to do this and best of luck to all of you with the new record.
Your music has been described as “indie pop” and "effervescent pop rock". How do you describe your style and approach to making music?
I like the description "effervescent pop rock" - we are trying to create pop-oriented rock music. I love the intersection of pop and rock: something with a rock aesthetic, but is catchy and sticks in your ear. For us, music is all about satisfying your ears. Our approach to music is to create songs we think sound as good as possible. Naturally our taste and influences pepper the music. Lisa and I come from a base of Pixies, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Radiohead and The Beatles. However, when we get excited about contemporary artists, like Animal Collective or The Press, and they can be just as inspiring.
Growing up, did you want to be a musician? Did you come from a musical family?
I always found music fascinating and loved it from a young age, but there were no musicians in my immediate family. My mother and grandfather sang a lot around the house, but neither were trained singers. I loved to sing in elementary school music class; however, singing was not popular with young boys, so I used to pretend I wasn't into it. I started playing guitar right before high school and that's when I knew I wanted to be a musician. I actually avoided picking it up earlier because I feared if I started, I would never stop. Turns out I was right.
One of my favorite songs is "Not For Nothing". Do you have a favorite song on the record? Why?
My two favorites are Not For Nothing and Predisposed. Writing Not For Nothing marked a change in our sound. We finished that song up just after writing the songs for our EP Love and Fear. When Not For Nothing took form, it seemed like an exciting departure from everything we had written before and set the table for the rest of the songs on Let It Go. It was a watershed moment with regard to our songwriting, so it is definitely a favorite. Predisposed is also a favorite, because it was a song that was born out of turmoil. Someone close to me had a traumatic event and this song idea came out of it. But that struggle continued in the songwriting process until one day we let go of our perception of the song we were trying to write and just played. The result was the song you currently hear. It was something we could only do with trust.
The record is called "Let It Go" and you have indicated that a theme of anxiety and release run through the lyrics.. Is anxiety something you have dealt with personally? Was there something going on during the writing that contributed to this?
Anxiety is something that everyone goes through. I think it's part of being human. A large part of people's lives is dealing with anxiety. Do we let it consume us or enrage us, or are we able to let go of things, or even better channel them into something positive? A lot of the songs invoke anxious imagery or wording, but there is release all around (if not just in the music). On a personal basis, I have definitely dealt with anxiety, but I am not sure any more than the average person. During the writing of these songs I definitely focused more on lyrics than I had in the past, so I suppose that means that they are more personal. With regard to the title, "Let It Go," there are so many things that the term can mean. It can be a positive and empowering thing and-or a deflating and defeating thing. I love duality.
Your harmonies with Lisa sound really great. What's your process? Do you write these together?
Lisa and I write all of the songs together. She has been my songwriting partner for years and she is great. In terms of process: the songs typically start with me in a room with an acoustic guitar. Once I develop a chord progression and melodic idea that I am excited about, I bring it to Lisa. She writes her own harmonies and-or counter melodies (as well as her own bass lines). She has an incredible ear for harmonies, so the process is usually fun and exciting for me - I get to hear her open up the songs into a new space.
What is the best advice you ever got?
The best advice I ever got was to do things you love doing. It sounds cheesy, but if you love what you're doing, then it becomes easy.
Top 5 things you have learned from being in this band?
I have learned so many things from being in this band, but here are five of them:
1. To be patient and take my time to do something right.
2. To collaborate with other people holistically.
3. To stay focused.
4. To win arguments.
5. To lose arguments.
What's your favorite guitar to play and why?
Right now I play both a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Telecaster. The Telecaster is new to me, so I am definitely more excited about it. I did not own it during the recording of Let It Go, so that's not what you're hearing on the album. Let It Go was recorded primarily with the Gibson and an Ibanez Artist.
Who has influenced your playing style most?
The one person that most affected my guitar playing was Eric Kniffin, my guitar instructor throughout college. I was already playing guitar for years when I met Eric, but he opened me up to the endless possibilities of music.
Any bands/friends in Boston that we should check out? What makes them so great?
Guillermo Sexo put out an EP last week and are one of my favorite local acts. I want to describe them as post-punk, but their originality is their appeal and they have their own distinct edge. Sarah Rabdau and Self-Employed Assassins are an awesome act that I love catching around town. They are pop, but so much more. Again - a wildly original act. I am looking forward to the album they are currently working on. Kingsley Flood is a phenomenal americana act that is releasing an album in the next few weeks. They have made some waves over the years and put on a stellar live show. There are so many great acts in Boston. The city is overflowing with talent, which is a great source of inspiration.