By Blake Mitchem
Maudlin Strangers is the solo project of Jake Hays from Augora Hills, California. The debut Overdose EP was recorded in Hays' bedroom and was his “opportunity to play each instrument,” says Hays. Hays and his band of touring musicians will return to Phoenix at the Rebel Lounge on Friday, June 19th. Blake had the opportunity to converse with Hays, as well as Jeff Lehrer and Kenny Benson.
Blake: What is the structure of Maudlin Strangers? I see Jake Hays on the Facebook page but you have a full band vibe. How does that work on tour?
Jake: It's sort of like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails where there's one writer but a full band that plays together and influences each other. The full touring band is me on guitar and lead vocals, Jeff on guitar/keys/backing vocals, Kenny on bass and Richie on drums. Richie couldn't make it today because he died.
Jeff: Nope, Richie, who is very much alive, had to work.
Jake: Richie got the chicken pox and then exploded. (Laughs) Actually he just had to work today.
Blake: So Richie got the chicken pox and exploded. Got it. (Laughs)
Jake: Yeah you should still tell people that.
Blake: I read that you recorded your debut EP Overdose in your bedroom. The EP sounds great. What were some things you used to get that sound you got and what rigs do you guys play with?
Jake: Well, I've been working with ProTools for about nine years so it's really about experimenting. I find myself coming back to default settings on compressors a lot. As far as my guitar rig I have a 1977 Twin Reverb. My favorite pedal is probably my Full-Tone II Mosfet. It gets that sweet crunch tone I like. My guitar is an Epiphone Riviera.
Jeff: I have a Vox AC-30 through an AC-Booster through a Fender Jazzmaster.
Kenny: I have a Fender jazz bass and I run it through a MXR-Distortion pedal, an Analog Carbon Copy Delay, a WT-800 and into a cab with two 12's I'm borrowing for the tour.
Jake: I can tell you about Richie's setup. He actually just got an endorsement from Q-drums and he got this sweet copper kit that looks like something from Waterworld.
Blake: That sounds rad! What other bands influenced your sound? I hear some Black Keys and some Arctic Monkeys in your sound. What other artists influenced you during the writing process?
Jake: Well the Arctic Monkeys are one of my favorite bands, so getting compared to them is an honor for me. Also Mutemath, definitely Black Keys, Danger Mouse, Portugal. the Man and Jungle. There was some drum and bass stuff, too. The Odd Soul album by Mutemath for sure. I think I sort of don't really listen to much other music when I'm in the creative process though. I'll come up with something and give it a mix and play it over and over in my car listening for things I like or might want to change.
Blake: So what did the decision to pursue music full time look like?
Jake: Well I think the decision had always been made. In high school we were all doing music in separate bands and it just hadn't matured yet. Now I'm twenty-four years old and the sound's matured and we've got a great team and we all came out of these other projects at the right time and made it happen. We're adults now! Well, we're more like baby adults. (Laughs)
Jeff: Yeah, I think we've got an incredible team behind us and we're so confident in the sound it's just the right time to do it. We're ready.
Blake: You just released your debut EP in January which has four songs. Now your headlining a run of west coast shows. That's quite impressive! What does a headline set look like when you have only a four-song EP released? Do you have new material you plan to add to the set?
Jake: We are working on an A-side/B-side sort of thing now so we have plenty more material. The EP is all that can be downloaded or streamed at the moment. We've never played just a four song set before and we've done upwards of an hour so we've got enough material to fill it out. Some new songs and some old songs. It's like a gumbo pot.
Jeff: We have enough to fill out the set and were preparing an LP for 2016 so we will play some of that. We don't typically do a lot of covers either.
Jake: Yeah, we don't do a lot of covers but we have an idea for one kick ass cover we're going to have ready for Phoenix when we're there.
Blake: I'm excited to hear it! You guys play here June 19th at the new Rebel Lounge with Lany and IAMWE. Is this going to be your first run of shows or have you toured much in the past?
Jake: In January we got to go on tour with Bad Suns which was a really amazing opportunity for us. The East coast was freezing though since it was in January. Like -5 degrees.
Jeff: It was a great tour! We really wanted to make it to Phoenix like we were supposed to but Jake got chicken pox for the last few shows.
Blake: So when you said Richie had the chicken pox you were really just projecting?
Jake: (laughs) Yeah, dude. Then we were coming back for VIVA PHX and just before we were heading down Kenny started to get them! So we don't really count that show. This will be the first time "officially" playing Phoenix. We're really excited about it.
Blake: Since you guys have been on tour quite a bit now have you developed any pre-show rituals or inside jokes?
Jake: Not really. Not yet anyway.
Jeff: Well sometimes we will pick a random word and shout it out in unison.
Jake: Oh yeah! We totally do that. Also Richie messes with our tour manager Fish. He'll just randomly slap him or speak in Spanish at him. It's pretty funny.
Blake: That sounds hilarious.
Jake: Also we have a Snapchat and we always snap the crowd and post it. So everyone needs to look us up after the show and tag yourself!
Blake: So, tell me about the song "Overdose".
Jake: A lot of my writing for this album was really dark so this song is no exception. It's about two lovers doing drugs together and one of them overdoses. It also could be a masturbation song if you listen to the chorus "It's Friday night // In my bed // And I'm not alone // You're in my head" (laughs).
Blake: What music would you tell Phoenix people to listen to?
Jake: Definitely the band we're touring with Lany but also our friend's project Olivver the Kid. He's the drummer from The Neighbourhood.
Jeff: Check out Hunny they're doing really cool stuff. Also Tame Impala.
Jake: Yeah and Jungle.