Members: Jazz Rodríguez (vocals, guitar), Carla Pérez (vocals, guitar), Leia Rodríguez (bass), Antonio Postius (drums)
From: El Maresme, Catalonia, Spain
Sounds like: Spunky, stripped-down indie rock that might’ve been rescued from a C90 recorded in 1996
For fans of: PJ Harvey, Sleater-Kinney, Slant 6, Savages
There are many remarkable things about Mourn. One of them is the fact that the fledgling band from a pair of low-key, middle-class towns some 30 minutes north of Barcelona found itself snapped up by Captured Tracks — the American indie label that’s home to Perfect Pussy, Mac Demarco, DIIV and Wild Nothing — within just 30 days of their debut album’s domestic release, and without anyone from the label seeing them play a lick of music onstage. Then there’s the fact that they laid down the eight songs for their debut in a single day, with only a handful of gigs under their belt. In fact, they only had a few rehearsals after frontwomen Jazz Rodríguez Bueno and Carla Pérez Vas recruited Antonio Postius and Jazz’s sister Leia to flesh out the group on drums and bass.
But perhaps most remarkable of all is the fact that a group of high-school kids — Jazz, Carla and Antonio are all just 18, while Leia is 15 — should hit upon a sound so uncannily reminiscent of a certain strain of terse, nervy rock ‘n’ roll last heard in the mid ’90s. Scrappy but sophisticated, charged with youthful energy but also weirdly wise beyond their years, their sound is informed by punk rock, but hardly contained by it. You can hear elements of PJ Harvey, Sleater-Kinney and Slant 6 in their driving, slash-and-burn approach; sometimes they come across like a garage-rock response to the Breeders and Elastica. Perhaps that’s a kind of stylistic muscle memory: Carla and Jazz started out by playing cover versions of songs by Harvey, Elliott Smith and the Runaways in high school.
I met up with the four musicians and Mireia Madroñero, from Barcelona’s Sones label, a few hours before they took the stage in a low-ceilinged basement venue in Barcelona’s Bohemian neighborhood of Gracia. (The interview was conducted in Spanish. “You can do either, but I’m not going to understand anything in English,” lamented Leia.)
1. The band got its start organically — and developed in an unusual fashion.
Carla Pérez: Jazz and I met in high school. When we first got together to play, it was just playing covers.
Jazz Rodríguez: Elliott Smith.
Pérez: Elliott Smith, yeah. And we did one by the Runaways —
Rodríguez: Yeah! Songs that we liked, we’d say, “OK, let’s play it.”
Pérez: And then one day, maybe a year after we’d met, we were like, “OK, let’s improvise something,” and it came out like a song. And we started to think up more songs, and there was a month where all we did was write. And then we started to think that it would be good to record it all, so we asked Antonio if he would play with us, and then Leia, too. Then the four of us got together, and we went into the studio.
Rodríguez: We rehearsed, all four of us, maybe four times before we recorded, and that was it. We recorded everything live, with all four of us playing. We did eight songs in one day, and the next day we mixed everything, and that was it.
2. The dream of the ’90s is alive in this group.
Rodríguez: There’s always been music playing in our house. My dad would put on records to see if we’d like them. I guess we relate ’90s music with our childhood.
Pérez: In my case, in my house, they would play black music — I don’t know how else to call it — and the Bee Gees. That’s it. My parents were never really into listening to music. Maybe my dad would sing me a Rolling Stones song or something, but they never put on a record, like, “Listen to this.” But I was always into music, from a young age, and I suppose I just searched it out, out of necessity. As for the ’90s, it’s just because after 2000, the music that’s been made doesn’t really interest me so much.
3. Antonio is responsible for the group’s forceful rhythms.
Antonio Postius: I stared to play drums because I was into metal bands. This is back when nu-metal was around — Slipknot, Korn, bands like that. I started to see them, and I thought, “Man, these guys play hard, I want to play like that.” It’s funny, because I did a bunch of auditions for metal bands. But later, I started to discover more indie-type bands. I remember when my brother showed me the first Arctic Monkeys album. And I thought, cool, there are other ways of playing. It’s not all just about screaming.
Pérez: He has the capacity to transform the songs. The other day we wrote one, and we had written it in a certain style, but then we went to rehearse. We put a different bass line — Antonio thinks a lot about things like that, like, “What could we put under this?” He has a lot of arrangements in mind. And with the drums, more than anything, it gave the song a totally different direction.
4. Singing in English comes naturally.
Rodríguez: It just came out that way. One day I went to Carla’s house when we were getting to know each other, and she said, “When I was younger, I wrote a song.” And it was in English. I thought, “Cool! Why don’t I write songs?” And things started coming out, and I thought, well, I’ll write in English, and Carla and I can do things together. I don’t know, it just happened that way.
Pérez: I remember a conversation we had a year before starting the group. We were skipping class, in fact. And it was like, “I want to do something,” and she was like, “Me too, fuck — I don’t know what, but we have to figure something out.” It wasn’t like we thought, “We’re going to start a group together.” It was more like, “Someday, you and I will do something. We’ll have our thing.” And it just happened that we got it together. But yeah, the fact that we sing in English is probably because of our influences. The great majority of music that we listen to is in English, even if sometimes we wish it weren’t.
5. The whole project is sort of a family affair.
Rodríguez: Lluis Cots is the drummer of a group from here in Cabrils, called Madee, that Leia’s and my dad plays in. [Their father, Ramón Rodríguez, also has his own band, the New Raemon.]
Postius: He’s also my drum teacher.
Rodríguez: When we were 12, Antonio was new in school, and he started off in my class. We didn’t know each other at all. And there was one period every day where we would read, and we’d keep the books that we were reading in shoeboxes. And we all had photos of our families on the boxes. Antonio saw a picture of my dad, and he said, “He looks like the singer of a band.” And I said, “Which band?” When he told me that the drummer was his teacher, I freaked out. Since then, I had always wanted to have a group with him, but because he played so well, I didn’t really think I was on his level. But finally, yeah!
6. In small-town Catalonia, boredom is the mother of invention.
Pérez: A few years ago — well, we know this through people that are older than us, because we’re the youngest ones in the scene — they said that the scene was more garage rock. But now, little by little, in the Barcelona scene, especially, there are more bands that are a little more hardcore. Even though there are other scenes in Catalonia, it’s all centered in Barcelona. Which is funny, because no one in the Barcelona scene is actually from Barcelona. You know?
Rodríguez: In Cabrils, where the three of us live, there’s Can Rin, which is a restaurant where bands play every Thursday. It’s the only cool thing that happens in our town.
Postius: In our case, we’re kind of the same as those bands in Barcelona, because we’re trying to escape where we come from.
7. Jazz and Carla’s unplugged performances offer a peek at the band’s singer-songwriter roots.
Rodríguez: Oh man, what a day. We had to bring my mini amplifier, a tiny Marshall —
Pérez: It runs on batteries.
Rodríguez: It was for the electric guitar. And it didn’t work. And whatever, we said, “Fine, we’ll just play unplugged.” We had planned to play a different song, using a certain type of plucking that’s really cool on the electric.
Pérez: The video is really nice. But what happens is when they say you have to do an acoustic set? OK, fine, we’ll do it, but that’s not really what we sound like. I know that you need to do acoustic sets and all, but —
Rodríguez: Playing acoustic is cool, but it’s just not what we like! What happens, when we play acoustic sets, is the songs go back to sounding like when Carla and I came up with them in the beginning.
Pérez: It’s like going back to the start.
Rodríguez: So it’s like a version of the song, the newborn version. The song “Marshall” that we played in Madrid — I don’t know if you saw the video, with two acoustic guitars? Anyway, we wrote it that way. Then, when Antonio and Leia joined, we turned it into something…cool. But that’s it, it’s playing the songs like they started out. Which is also fine, it’s nice, but we want to play the songs with them.
Pérez: Of course, that’s the reason we started the band!