It’s hard not to be impressed by Mourn. In the last two years the Catalonian four-piece garnered significant international attention on the back of their self-titled EP, played some of the world’s biggest festivals, toured the US and became embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with their Spanish label. It’s a lot of attention for any band, and clearly not all of it is positive, but it’s particularly impressive when you consider that the eldest of the young rockers is just 20.
In the lead up to the release of their brilliant sophomore effort, Ha, Ha, He., I was lucky enough to chat via Skype with charismatic co-frontwoman Jazz Rodríguez Bueno. We talked about the formation of Mourn, discovering riot grrrl bands and why a band who, for the most part didn’t experience the 90s, have such affectation for that decade.
Yourself and Carla were friends in school, was it natural to start making music together?
Yeah we just started meeting to draw and to talk and to eat. One day we decided to start playing because she had a guitar at home and I always went to her home after school. So we started playing covers and then we started making our own music.
Your earlier music has been described as very angry, do you think your newer music is still as angry.
Sometimes but it’s not the same. It’s angry but not that direct, you know?
Some of the titles on the first album are very direct.
I listened to the new album ‘Ha, Ha, He’ today and it seems to have a more focused sound than your debut, what factors affected the songwriting between the two albums?
Well we play much better now [laughs] than when we started. The fact that we’ve been touring and spending a lot of time together I think made us connect better and also we feel more comfortable playing our instruments. I don’t know, I think it’s a process of learning and growing up.
Of course! Because you are still quite young, do you ever get sick of people asking about your age, or making a big deal about how young you all are?
YEAH! It’s like “How old are you? Well, why do you care about this?” It bothers us sometimes but not always.
I’ve read a few interviews where people seem to be surprised at how talented you are for ‘your age’ and I’m sure that gets frustrating.
Yeah, but we don’t care anymore.
You had some issues with your Spanish label late last year, has that all been resolved?
Not yet. We’re in a legal process right now.
But you’re able to release the album?
Yeah, Captured Tracks can release it anyway so it’s OK.
How badly did the legal issues delay the release of this record?
Well, it delayed it but we’re doing well right now. We recorded this in September so it’s been a long time, but we finally can show it to people so that makes me happy.
…is that what drove you to release so many singles ahead of the album?
Yeah, I like to release new singles because it’s like “Hey! We’re still here!” [laughs]
When you started making music did you ever think your songs would be seeing success on such an international level?
No, we weren’t expecting this at all. When we started we were planning to play a lot somewhere here in Catalonia and Spain but we didn’t expect that people outside this country would listen to us. It was a great surprise.
Do you think if you hadn’t written most of your songs in English it would be different?
Yeah I think if you sing in Spanish or Catalan your audience is here [in Spain], you know. Outside [Spain], people can like your music but will not understand your lyrics so will not feel connected. I think if we sang in Spanish we’d be more playing here than outside and now it’s the opposite.
You’ve mentioned that ‘Second Sage’ is about spending a month lonely and playing Ocarina of Time, which is almost 20 years old now. Is there something about Zelda in particular or are you a fan of retro games in general?
I’m a fan of Zelda [laughs]. I have a Gamecube so I have a special edition of the Nintendo 64 version and I love them because you see your character and it’s yellow, and your nose is like a triangle and it’s really cool. And we play Mario and Smash Bros too. It’s cool. Nintendo.
It reminds me that none of you lived through it but Mourn as a whole seem to have a strong affinity for the 90s, what is it about that decade that you appreciate?
The music, I think. Most of the bands that we listen to are from the 90s, which might be a coincidence but this happens. I don’t know, we’re influenced by what we listen to and maybe that sound affected our sound.
Are you influenced at all by the riot grrrl movement of the 90s? Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, etc?
We [discovered] Sleater-Kinney after releasing the first album and people were comparing us to them so we decided to look them up and they’re cool. But we didn’t listen much to Bikini Kill either and we’ve discovered it later and we like it. Here in Spain, this kind of music is not really popular and you can’t listen to this on the radio, so it’s difficult to find these bands and I think that’s why we didn’t know these [riot grrrl] bands.
What is the music scene like in Barcelona?
There are lots of bands – garage, punk and hardcore bands – there are lots of bands. I don’t think they are known outside of here, which is a shame because there’s a lot of good bands here and they are all friends, and they all meet each other and go to the others’ concerts. It’s cool.
Are there many female fronted bands in the scene over there, or are you part of a minority?
There are some. The Crab Apples, they are cool. They’re from near Barcelona, but I’m not sure where.
There’s a lot of discussion at the moment about gender equality in music, particularly on festival lineups. Do you think that’s an issue that deserves the attention it’s getting?
I’m sorry, I don’t have that much vocabulary in English about important issues you know, but I’ve felt sometimes people aren’t taking me seriously for being a young girl. For example there was some guy in a concert and I was trying to put my amp on the stage and he decided he wanted to help me so he took my amp and put it on the wrong side of the stage and I told him “I’m playing on this other side of the stage.” When he heard my voice he started [mocking] me like “OK, we’re putting it here hahaha” and treating me like I was stupid or five years old and he was talking to the other people normal but when he was talking to me he was putting this nasty voice on, and it was terrible. Sometimes there’s people that don’t take you seriously, and there are some bands here that say that we’re successful because we’re girls and that’s special, and if you’re a girl you have more chance at success. I don’t know why they say this… I’m sorry it’s hard to express, I’ve been a long time without speaking in English and [sigh] I’m sorry.
That’s OK, I’m getting the point. Is there a feminist message within Mourn’s music or Mourn as a group?
I don’t know. We really don’t think about it, but maybe because we just make what we like and we don’t give any explanation about why it’s happening? I don’t know how to say it but we just do what we like and that’s it. Anyone can do it. I don’t think we were focused on giving a feminist message but I don’t know, maybe not directly. You can do what you like and that’s it.
I think not giving a fuck, in general, I think that’s a really positive message to be delivering to young girls anyway.
Is there a female artist that you’re really inspired by?
Right now I’m really into Throwing Muses because I was reading Kristin Hersh’s book Rat Girl and I started reading it without knowing the band and when I was reading it I felt like well I should listen to them first to know why this woman is talking about what she’s talking about. And I really like their records and I’m freaking out right now. But it was I spent my entire life waiting for a band like this and this existed and I didn’t know it.
Ha, Ha, He. is available now via Captured Tracks / Remote Control Records.