For The Mowgli's, things are cheaper by the dozen... except for cab fare. The seven-person group travels in a 15-seat van, accompanied by friends, crew, and two dogs, in a scenario more reminiscent of a childhood road trip than a group of musical professionals working to advance their careers. Their own little dysfunctional Patridge family, The Mowgli's music harkens back to the '60s and '70s, bringing vibes of peace and love to today's constantly texting, tweeting, and gramming world.
Today the California-based band is in Boston. It's a special day, for a variety of reasons. It's tax day, as drummer Andy Warren scrambles to get all his paperwork together on time while bassist Matthew Di Panni touts the fact that his were done weeks prior. It's a rainy day, which means that the streets are packed and it takes a lifetime for the three cabs carrying the band members from one venue to another to travel the less than three miles between the two locations. And it's the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, so the purpose of this little journey is an acoustic set to raise money for the victims of the tragedy.
Heading to the mini-show, it takes a while to get the group going. Tomas Wolfe, a sound man turned tour manager who has been with the band for about eight months now, attempts to wrangle the troops for sound check. In the green room, guitarist Spencer Trent is trying on new skate shoes (which won't be worn today because he "wouldn't want rusty bearings") as frontman Colin Dieden plays a game on his phone while his girlfriend Emily and leading lady Katie Earl sit on the couch with road dogs Abby and Suki, laughing at Chandler on an episode of Friends.
Eventually, ever-patient Tomas (a skill guitarist Josh Hogan praises highly) gets the band gathered on stage, and each does a check of mics and various instruments. Everyone seems completely disconnected until suddenly they all burst into song, and the motley crew becomes a single, powerful wall of sound. Just like a family, the band members may not always look like a cohesive unit, but when it's time for them to come together, everyone knows what to do.
It makes sense that this is the case; they're certainly not strangers. With some of the band members meeting back in grade school, the group first came together to create an album several years ago. Back then, there were no time constraints, no outside pressures -- just a bunch of people, writing an album is a house together.
But now it's 2014, and after having hit a series of career highs -- from having their song "Say It, Just Say It" featured on NBC's The Voice ("It was the weirdest rendition of 'Say It' ever" says Katie about the experience) to having Colin's old teacher ask him for tickets to a hometown show filled with thousands of fans -- The Mowgli's will be coming back together early this summer to create their next musical release.
"We don't really know what our second record is going to be yet," says Katie.
"It's going to be different. We've seen so much more, we've experienced so much more," Colin continues. "I think we kinda broad-stroked love on the last record, and now maybe we'll get into that a little more."
Fast-forward to an hour later, and the Mowgli's finally arrive at the venue for the acoustic show, 30 minutes after the intended show time. The last-minute pop-up show attracted around 20 fans, who all chat with Katie while the band sets themselves up in front of the stage where another group's gear awaits a show later than night. The crowd huddles in as the band begins, Andy leaving his signature "with his sticks" as he bangs on a few spare trashcans, most of the group sitting on stools just inches away from devoted followers singing along to every word just as loudly as the band itself.
During the unplugged set, Katie mentions that Boston in the wake of last year's marathon bombings is "a testament to how... love can overcome," but in many ways, the band's music is that for their fans. While Colin admits "I always assume that no one is coming to the show...I don't even think it's humility, I just think it's straight-up insecurity," during the meet-and-greet after the performance, more than one familiar face in the crowd shares meaningful embraces with The Mowgli's. One young man becomes emotional while speaking with Colin, saying "I started listening to you guys about a year ago, and you've really changed my life for the better."
"They come out for us, and we come out for them, and we all show up for this moment together and we share it," says Katie about The Mowgli's fans. "It's just really special."
Outside of their own personal charitable actions such as this show, the group created the Be A Mowgli platform for followers to share their own positive experiences. A social network "to share things other than your lunch and cats" ("Unless your lunch is really good and you ate your cat or something" notes Colin), BAM encourages fans to be proud of their good deeds.
"A lot of people want to do good," notes Katie. "It's cool to kinda be proud of yourself for doing something selfless."
By now it's close to show time back at the first venue, and the band is dispersing in a million different directions, sure to combine again perfectly once they hit the stage. But before they do, they leave with a few words of wisdom (outside of never, ever pantsing keyboardist Dave Appelbaum):
Katie: "Be nice. The world is a hard place to be sometimes, and you don't need people being an asshole, making it worse. Just be nice to each other 'cause we're all in it together."
Colin: "Love yourselves a lot. Not in a bad way, not in an arrogant way, not in a self-involved way, but love yourself as much as possible in order to be able to love people with integrity and honestly. That's the only way you can do it."
Josh: "And get a tax guy."
Colin: "And at the end of the day, just get a m***** f****** tax guy."