Monday, July 27, 2009

Jeff Ilgenfritz of Mumpsy

(photo courtesy of Chris Garcia)

Today's interview is with Jeff Ilgenfritz, creator and singer/songwriter guy for Orlando based Indie-act, Mumpsy. Jeff is a majorly talented musician, as he was also the drummer for The Heathens, and currently the drummer for Basements of Florida. He is also endlessly energetic, fun to chat with, and likes beer and Greek Gods and Goddesses, though not necessarily in that order. Mumpsy is hosting a Cd Release show for their new 7", "Posturing," at Backbooth Friday July 31.

So Jeff, I know you have been doing the Mumpsy thing for a few years now. How long has Mumpsy existed? How is it different now from what it was when you started it?

Mumpsy was formed back in 2004 when I taught myself music theory. I had never written songs before, and I wanted to challenge myself. I recorded every instrument on it and distributed the album around to friends. Chris Rae helped me produce it, because I had just recently started to play with him in the Heathens. It's different now because I have more fun playing music live, I don't have to worry about what everything sounds like except singing and playing guitar, and we release music all the time. The songwriting has always been all over the place, though.

You guys have your 7" release on Friday at Backbooth. What do you think is one thing people who are familiar with Mumpsy songs will notice as being different on "Posturing" versus "Cat and Canary" or "Three People," for example?

For one, there is more swear words. I think that naturally came as a result of touring over time, and having fun with your bandmates. I didn't even want to record these songs. I thought they were too offenseive. But Rae told me otherwise and the other guys liked them, too. But yeah. More of the cursing, and a lot better recording quality. That's about it. I still like writing pop songs.

You're releasing this on vinyl. What are the plans/ details of the release, and your motivation behind the vinyl release?

We just finally wanted to appease the fans on the road who want to know if we have vinyl. And we all wanted a record like that, too. If we do decide to put in the web, it'll be mp3 only. We wanted this release to be secretive, on the best quality format we can get, and then move on. We want to record more songs, goddamnit.

Did you approach writing this album differently from how you have in the past? If so, why do you think that is?

We recorded this one in Gainesville, FL with Rob McGregor because I couldn't track more than two tracks in my home studio. And we wanted to focus on our sounds, amps, and drinking. And if I had recorded it, it wouldn't have been like that at all.

What is your personal favorite Mumpsy song? Why?

I love "Don't Let Your Big Boots Drag You Down" because it rules and only has three chords. And it's country, and it can make the crowd move. (editor's note: I happen to agree. That, and "You Glued My Broken Heart.")

What sort of things does Mumpsy have planned for the near future? Anything in particular, or are you just taking it as it comes?

Touring a bunch and releasing more music. Nothing special as far as record labels or anything. Although we just recently got someone who wants to help with our touring strategies. But nothing big.

You played drums in The Heathens, before doing the singer/songwriter thing in Mumpsy. What do you prefer?

I prefer only playing drums and not writing. But what can you do?

How long have you been playing music? What other bands have you been in in the past?

I've been playing drums since I was 9 years old. I have been in the Heathens, Dodger, Basements of Florida, and various other projects.

At what point did you decide you wanted to play guitar and sing? How bad did you suck when you first tried it out?

When I learned music theory from a website, and decided I wanted to try it. I was terrible. But then again, I've always been bad at things the first times I try them. That's part of the process of human error.

Where did you learn to write songs? Was there a certain band you were in that really taught you a lot about writing songs, or various bands you have been a fan of over the years that have strongly influenced your song writing?

I learned to write songs mainly from hearing chord progressions from artists I admired and figuring out the music theory behind them. I then tried to remember everything I heard so that I could emulate some of my favorite artists. I learned the most from the Mama's and the Papa's and the Kinks, I'd say.

What is the most important thing you learned about song writing?

That nothing is going to be absolutely original. Nothing.

In addition to writing your own music, you also produce albums for other bands. Who are some of the bands you've worked with recently?

I oversaw the recording and mixing of the XOXO release, I mastered the Oh Fortuna album coming out on Post*Records in a couple months, and I like to work freelance out of Brighton Conservatory, my home studio.

What's that like, working on someone else's songs? Do you approach it much differently from recording and producing your own music?

Yeah, well, I try not to produce the songs too much when I didn't write them. Often times, I just record them and offer input. One time, a local band wanted me to produce every aspect (arrangement, what instruments, et cetera), and I had to politely tell them I wasn't interested in doing their project. When I get too much freedom on a project, I tend to not want to do it. If I have a specific job, I love doing it.

Any new bands (local or otherwise) that you have discovered recently you think people should give a try?

So Help Me Rifle, Flowers Forever, Oh Fortuna (Gainesville), Slippery Slopes, Mike Dunn, Thomas Wynn & the Believers, Vanda, Brimstone Howl, the Dealers, and Gringo Star.

If you had to start a new band tomorrow, and automatically have whatever members you needed to start it, what kind of music would you make?

A heavily layered dance project. With auto-tuned vocals. And synthesizers.

You've got a Zeus tattoo, right? Tell me about your thing with Greek Mythology. I think you should make an entire album dedicated to it.
Loves songs for Athena, and shit. What do you think?

I write songs about my Greek gods and goddesses all the time. Athena is a remarkable deity. I love it. Nereus is a great one, too. He was the "Old Man of the Sea," and was trustworthy, and never spoke a lie. Triton was the master of the waves, and of course, Poseidon was 1/3 of the Holders of the Universe.

If you had a chance to party with Zeus for a night, where would you take him? What kind of beer do you think Zeus would drink?

Zeus eats ambrosia and drinks nectar. Anywhere that serves that type of food and drink would be great. Dionysus would have to be there, too. He'd tear the shit out of some wine and the whores as well.

Actually, to take the question from earlier about starting a band and twist it, if you had to start a band of Greek Gods and Goddesses tomorrow, and you could only pick five, which five would you pick and what would you have them play?

Hermes (my favorite God) is the god of thieves, liars, travellers, and persuasion. So he would be the singer. Hephaestus, the carpenter of the gods, is handicapped, so he would be sitting in his wheelchair playing synthesizers. Zeus, supplying the lightning bolts, is on drums. Artemus is the goddess of the hunt, banging the tasty riffs out on bass (cause women bassists are super hot); naturally, her twin brother Apollo would be a ba-ba-ba-badass on the guitar. I would manage them and take their money.

Download their new single here.

Thanks Jeff!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Interview with Jerrod Landon Porter of IHeartJLP.Com

Today I did an interview with Jerrod Landon Porter, aka JLP of IHeartJLP.Com. He has done all of the artwork for my band, XOXO, as well as a million of my friends' bands, yet everything he churns out is unique to the individual he is working with, and always professional quality. He's also a pretty funny dude to boot. Plus, he did the OFFICIAL Cheaters Myspace. That show rules.

Jerrod, how would you describe what it is that you

do creatively?"

I'm a graphic designer, or so I've been told. I place myself into a caffeine induced high and create visuals for music and products.

How long have you been doing graphic design? I have seen some things you have done that were done quite a while ago. It seems as if this is something you picked up at what could be considered a relatively early age.

I've been doing graphic design a long time. I'll admit to anything I've made in the past 9 or 10 years. Beyond that? I never touched it.

I was taught a lot of classical art techniques when I was younger. The graphic design didn't come until much later.

It also seems like the majority (though not the entirety) of what you have done is band related. What was the first band you did graphic design work for? Do you prefer working with bands, or is that more of just a natural extension of you starting off doing work for your friends' bands?

Yeah, I do a lot of designing for bands. It's something I am just comfortable with.

I always enjoyed album art work. My mom had a shelf of LPs and I'd put them out and look at them all the time. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and 38 Special's "Strength In Numbers" were some that really stick out in my head. That 38 Special LP really blew my mind and made me think about cover designs. The cover just looks like a bunch of C's, but then you look at it harder (keep in mind I was 6 years old) they form 38. It was so simple and yet I got so excited about it!

I was really into drawing and painting, thanks to comic books and art classes, and I was way into music as a kid. I was exposed to a lot of college age sub culture due to family members working at movie theaters. By middle school I was itching to start my own band. This was way before digital music, and even the CD-R, so we were dubbing cassette tapes and passing them around school. I pretty much became a graphic designer due to needs rather than wanting to learn the trade.

Later, I networked while sharing bills with other bands and they saw I could competently make packaging for music. I got so into the design side of bands that I now care very little for playing in the bands. Plus, there were people doing a better job at the music side of it anyways. I enjoy listening to music way more than playing it.

You are basically self-taught, aren't you? What advice do you have for someone who is say, into painting and drawing- more traditional fine art- who is interested in learning to translate that talent into working as a graphic designer? It seems like these days to do graphic design, it is pretty much a requirement you have a certain level of computer savvy, using programs such as illustrator and photoshop.

My skills as a designer are mostly learned by trial and error and studying other designs I liked. It's something you just have to have an eye and a hand for.

Also, having a background in fine arts is an essential to graphic design. It's very rare that I meet a designer that doesn't draw or paint or sculpt. Photography is another gateway skill into graphic design. Classical art and photography are two starting points for design and typography is the glue. Once you nail typography you can slap professional looking words all over your art.

There's a reason they call computer programs by names like Photoshop, Illustrator, Painter... and so on. Think about it. Some programs have bogus names, too, like Dreamweaver and Flash, but whatever. Fuck those guys.

I have noticed some changes in your work over the years, with a lot of the work you do now having more of a hand-drawn effect, and sometimes vintage effect to it. Is that just a natural extension of you growing as an artist over time, or is it a reflection of design trends overall that I am completely unaware of?

I do like to reinvent my look and extend my range. You get way more longevity out of your career if you have versatility to your style. I can hit a lot of different notes in my design, but to me it still all looks like I did it.

Following trends is not my focus, but I do know when something is over played, or when I am burnt out on something. You know, like, dripping paint? (laughs) There's personal satisfaction in staying fresh.

Does that exist in design, as it does in music? Music can head overall in certain directions for a while. Does graphic design do this, too?

Entertainment and art are hand in hand. Everything goes in trends and waves. There's no mistaking it.

We could talk forever on if people set trends or if trends set people, but it exists. It's there.

Where do you see your own work heading over the next year, two years, three years? Are there things you would like to do as an artist that you have not been afforded the opportunity to try yet?

I'm really poor at looking into future. It's never what I want it to be, so what's the point, eh? There's never going to be flying cars or hoverboards.

Maybe I should get into air brushing? Spray some sweet shirts with people's names on them? Or, maybe, paint face's on boobs. That's a pretty different direction for me. (editor's note: Please get into air brushing! haha)

The myspace you created for Kevin Allen/ One Small Step For Landmines is one of the most creative ones I have ever seen. Would you say it was as difficult to make as it is creative? How did you come up with that concept?

That was the easiest most stress free project ever. Kevin and I have a very simple collaborative partnership. We both like the same things and enjoy each other's creative outputs.

I just had this idea, because I know Kevin loves his bike, to make an animation of him riding his bike with all his most frequented cities' skylines in the background. I picked up the phone and said, "Can you get me some photos of you on a bike during your next photoshoot?"

He said yes and he liked the idea, and it was done. It is a great opportunity to have that kind of symbiotic relationship with a musician. Guys like Kevin understand the point of having a graphic designer.

It's like walking into a tattoo shop. You don't bring them a picture of a butterfly, tell them to slap it over your ass, and expect them to put their all into it. You tell them you like their work and you like badass dragons and to go nuts on it, but hold off on the tribal. (laughs)

Actually, of all the work you've done, be it shirts designs, myspace profiles, websites, albums covers, etc. . . what one are you personally the most proud of?

Most proud of? Of all time? That's an impossible thing to answer. Once I get hung up on something I'll run it into the ground. I gotta keep moving on... moving on! I'm a loner, Dottie... A REBEL!

Any pieces you have done that you wish you could recall, hide, and not let anybody see again?

Nope. I post everything I do on my website. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Actually, I did this CD layout for A New Kind of American Saint... it involves some crude photos. I think there's some minors involved. I don't want my parents or the authorities to see it. That I won't be posting.

At what point did you start to consider yourself a professional graphic designer?

When people started calling me and saying, "I wanna give you some moneys."

There's a lot of levels to me considering myself professional. I thought it was awesome that all my friends wanted me to work with their bands. Then, I was like wow, bands from around the country are calling me. Next, awesome record labels were talking to me. When I started working with Doghouse Records I was thrilled! I loved that label when I was in highschool. Yup... I just made them feel old.

Once, I got an email from a 14 year old that got my web address off a Mayday Parade CD. He wanted to be a graphic designer and he wanted relationship advice. I wanna lie and say I gave him "good" advice, but I don't recall. He asked the wrong guy about girls. (laughs)

Any valuable lessons you have learned doing work for others that you wish you learned sooner?

I learned so many things from trial and error. My biggest lesson I learned early on was not to send material to get printed as an RGB file. The only thing that comes back in color is the red on your face.

No two customers are the same. Everybody has different taste.

Some people are pickier than others. How frustrating is it when you come up with something you really like, and your customer just isn't into it?

Have you been talking to Noah Kussack? (laughs)

There are different ways I take it, depending on the answer I get back. Sometimes I tell the client I might not be the guy for them- but that isn't professional, and it's hard for me to turn a job down. Recently I have been so busy I have had to learn to say, "no".

Most of the time I suck it up and take it as a challenge. Also, it's not to say that maybe what I gave them does stink. I'll pace around and mumble a little, but I like getting my boundaries pushed.

Is there a certain design element that people ask you for more than anything else? Something like the tribal arm band of graphic design work?

Why are we on a roll of making fun of tribal tattoo designs? (laughs)

Yeah, I get a lot of pop-punk bands that say, "Make it colorful and fun."

I wouldn't say my art is really far into the moody and dark, but have these folks ever looked at my portfolio? There's an image of someone's face melting in one. I'm all for drawing cartoon images, but I usually put some kind of ironic twist into it. I think it is genetic. I'm related to O. Henry, famous for his twist endings. Little fun fact for you there.

Enough of the rant. I have gotten a million emails with "make it colorful and fun," and it really got under my skin for a while.

I know you are really into comics, especially Batman. Have you ever thought about doing that yourself one day, whether for fun or even professionally?

Yes, I am secretly studying and plotting stories out now. That is why I subscribe to 30 titles a month.

I love DC comic books so much. I am a pool of knowledge for comics, and I am still learning. I'd love to be a cover artist or writer. Maybe even an editor. Those guys are the keymasters of modern mythology. Think about it. Comic book characters are the Greek and Roman Gods of America and our age in history.

BTW, read Wednesday Comics, Batman and Robin, Detective Comics and the upcoming Blackest Night mini-series this summer and fall. Those titles are amazing right now.

Would you consider comic art something that has influenced you and the development of your own style?

Of course comic books have influenced me. It is a magazine full of art, typography, logos and packaging layout. Those things have evolved into the perfect product of addiction. There must be some kind of math equation for how it is put together to make someone keep coming back to buy them every month. (editor's note: Hey, don't get too concerned with that formula thing. We saw what it did to Rivers Cuomo.)

I must know this secret of the industry!!!

What about other artists. Are there other artists whose work you particularly admire? What is it about their work that you find intriguing?

I like what I see. It's hard to make a list of artists I am influenced by. You know, I don't want them to know I am ripping them off. (laughs) I don't want to me sued.

I will admit to loving v23's Vaughan Oliver. He did a bunch of designs for 4AD Records and all the Pixies albums. That guy is AMAZING!!! People need to go buy his books and read up on him.

Is there anything you have learned from other artists that made you a better artist yourself?

Yes: That we fall, so we can learn to pick ourselves up. No, wait, that was Batman Begins.

Ok, how about this one: With great art comes great responsibilities.

Actually, Pablo Picasso said, "Bad artists copy... Great artists steal." I like that one a lot. (laughs)

How do you get your mindset to do the work that you do? I'm sure you're not always in the mood to make something for someone else. How do you get yourself motivated in these situations?

I have a terrible time staying focused, I am all over the place. I am busy and sociable and my brain is always turning out new ideas.

Sometimes I just have to lock myself down and emotionally kick my own ass to just focus on getting a project done. Other times I just get into a groove. Coffee helps, but if I don't eat enough I get the shakes and that is a couple hours down the toilet until I get leveled out.

Could Batman take Wolverine?

Batman has a contingency plan for EVERYTHING! You're talking about the guy that beat Aliens and Predator at the same time. I'm putting my money on the Bat. (editors note: How would THAT be as a summer blockbuster flick? They'd probably end up on the same page and team up anyways.)