Band: New Mongrels
Location: Los Angeles (me and 6 others); Atlanta; Decatur, Alabama: Boston; Seattle; Vancouver, B.C.
Styles: Folk/Roots, Americana, Indie, Folk Rock, Acoustic
Similar to: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Lumineers, Decemberists, Blind Pilot, Dawes
CD: Raised Incorruptible
Release date: Jan 14, 2014
* NM are an artist collective spanning 7 cities.
* One of the members is Indigo Girls member Amy Ray
* Michelle Malone is a grammy-nominated touring artist
* Laura Hall was the house musician for the TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” * * Kubilay Uner is a film composer
* Haynes Brooke is an actor and playwright.
Haynes Brooke: guitar, vocals, mandolin, piano, ukelele, percussion
Katie Green: vocals, violin
Kubilay Uner: bass, keyboards
Jeff Mosier: drums, vocals
Michael Lorant: vocals
Michelle Malone: vocals, guitar
Amy Ray: vocals
Laura Hall: vocals, accordion
Rick Hall: vocals
Lucy Brooke: vocals
Mike Moynihan: trumpet, vocals
Ken Palmer: drums, vocals, harmonica
Nicolas Green: guitar
Those familiar with group will know the bizarre history of band member Haynes Brooke and his great-great grandfather Henry.
Deaf in one ear, shell-shocked, a 17-year-old veteran of the civil war, Henry founded the “Smythe County Mongrels Society” in 1861. He stated their purpose as “the joyful promotion, through song and rhythmic utterances, of a unified moral code for all creatures.” Apparently the group met to drink hard cider and sing the entire book of Psalms to their own improvised melodies. Dogs and instruments welcome. Great-great grandpa rocked.
Brooke found the charter of the “Mongrels,” as they were called, legally intact in the Smythe County courthouse and brought the group back to life as the New Mongrels.
Today this underground society of musicians, artists and writers still operates under an amended version of the original by-laws, which calls for, among other things, “membership by invitation without regard to species affiliation.” This makes for strange committee meetings but great music.
Raised Incorruptible began in a rented house on the Rogue River in Oregon, when some impromptu mongrel recording sessions yielded promising results. Back in LA, Brooke created a calamitous batch of low-fi demos working with drummer Ken Palmer, house percussionist for Tim Robbin’s Actors Gang Theater. These demos went out to mongrel members across North America for input and review in keeping with the group’s odd collectivist procedures. Field trips to New Hampshire and Canada brought back musical contributions, then Brooke’s garage became the main recording facility and as mongrels passed through LA they were added to the final project. The record was mixed by film composer and mongrel member Kubilay Uner.
Despite the sometimes cumbersome procedural demands of their organization, a dispersed and evolving group of Mongrels built a powerful and unified sound. An ear-catching, mixed-breed blend of styles emerged, anchored always by the unique and lyrically rich songwriting of Brooke. Each cut has its own strong personality; together they have the combined intensity of a pack of wild dogs.
The New Mongrels: 131 years old and still rocking.
“Writing songs is a constant in my life,” says New Mongrel band leader and producer Haynes Brooke.
Why then the big gap between albums from his celebrated roots-folk outfit?
“The Mongrels are an unwieldy bunch to coordinate – and everyone has their own artistic pursuits,” says Brooke. “The time has to feel right for a record to emerge.”
“I’ve been busy myself with other projects. In recent years, a lot of my songs have actually ended up on the stage. I’ve written three full-length musicals for the underground theater scene here in LA, and I think the exercise of writing from the point of view of a range of characters has probably broadened my creative skills.”
Last year Brooke sat down to go through some of his songwriting archives.
“I realized a group of songs was emerging that felt like they needed a home. Then new songs started coming that felt like they belonged to the same family. Time to make a record, I thought.”
“I played some demos for another LA mongrel member, film composer Kubily Uner, and he not only liked them, he agreed to help produce and mix the record. We made a plan, double-checked that it was in accord with our weird mongrel by-laws, then hit ‘record’ and started playing. When other mongrels started joining in, coming down to LA from Seattle or on tour from Alabama, the thing started to take off,” says Brooke.
My main thought was, ‘Why did I wait so long?’”