A Record Label Feud Fuels Mourn's New Album

click to enlarge A Record Label Feud Fuels Mourn's New Album
Noemí Elías
A band releasing its third studio album while members are still in their late teens and early twenties rightfully sounds like a huge accomplishment, but considering the adversity that the members of this Spanish rock quartet had to face, they’re probably just glad they aren’t in deep legal trouble.

A Catalonian four-piece, Mourn has made a name for itself here in the States with its rhythmic, melodic brand of post-punk and garage rock inspired by the likes of PJ Harvey, Sleater-Kinney, the Clash and others.

Though the band is having the time of its life playing music all over the world and it’s excited about their current U.S. tour, it’s had to overcome a series of music industry horror stories due to a rocky relations with its former Spanish label. That ordeal just happens to be the subject of the band’s fiery new album.

Mourn released its third album, Sorpresa Familia (which translates to “surprise family” in Spanish) last month via Brooklyn label Captured Tracks and the band headlines the Beachland Tavern on Wednesday, Aug. 8, with support from Chastity and Soundproof.

The group's new LP is marked by jagged guitars that occasionally thrash, animated punk vocals and an intricate rhythm section that really packs a punch. The controlled chaos of their sound perfectly mirrors the chaotic nature of the relationship with their former record label. In 2015, the band put out a statement accusing its former label of withholding hard-earned income, preventing the release of their second album and knowingly manipulating the band. As a result, the band had to self-fund the album and has since parted ways with the label.

In spite of the band’s short career, it's already embarked on several U.S. tours including a recent tour in support of its 2017 covers EP, Over the Wall, which includes tracks from alternative rock greats like Echo and the Bunnymen, the Replacements and Husker Du. The band’s co-vocalist and guitarist Carla Pérez is eager to get in front of American crowds again as she mentions in our recent Skype interview.

“We really like the people in America because they come to our shows, sometimes travelling from a town two hours from the place we’re playing,” says Pérez. “They are really committed and they know the songs. They make noise in America.”

Pérez started the band in 2014 with co-vocalist and guitarist Jazz Rodriguez after the two met in school and became friends over a shared love of music. To complete the band, they soon recruited Jazz’s sister, Leia Rodriguez to play bass and Antonio Postius to play drums. The four members grew up in towns outside of Barcelona in an area that lacked a lively rock music scene, so Pérez was amazed that they were able to form a band of like-minded people. However, she says there was still plenty of other music in the air.

“We were lucky to find each other because there wasn’t much going on,” says Pérez. “You see people singing or playing Spanish guitar everywhere, even if it’s Catalan music, flamenco, Spanish music or shitty pop radio music.”

They all came from musical families and started playing from a relatively young age.

“Jazz and Leia’s dad is a really well-known musician,” says Perez. “Antonio’s dad is a pianist and my mom’s family is really into flamenco and singing loads.”

Another thing that the four have in common is that they were smart enough to get by in school, but they never really took an interest in it. Pérez laughs when asked about school and says, “None of us have finished any university degree, so I don’t really think we enjoyed it that much. We used to pass exams, which is more or less fine. When I met Jazz, we used to not go to class or write songs in the middle of a class or shit like that. We were those kids.”

Perhaps their former Spanish label saw this group of four talented, starry-eyed musicians as the perfect opportunity to manipulate a new band in any way they saw fit. The alleged, borderline abuse that the band suffered at the hands of the label is pretty jarring, but Pérez says it wasn’t necessarily their age that made them a target for manipulation.

“I think they took advantage of our hope, energy and positivity about the whole thing,” says Pérez.

One of their new album tracks, “Fun at the Geysers,” was inspired by the time when their management ditched the band in Iceland to visit the geysers, without leaving them any food or money. In addition, their management had the balls to pay for the impromptu trip with the earnings that the band just made from playing an Icelandic festival. The song’s new music video shows band members returning to the geysers in Reykjavík for the first time since the incident, this time enjoying themselves and giving a metaphorical middle finger to their former label.

Another memorable cut from their album, “Doing It Right,” is a ferocious punk anthem, but instead of using their own angry words of rebellion against their label, they decided to use actual words from emails the label sent to the band, making it that much more of a moving, piercing blow to the gut. Amidst dark and scintillating guitar riffs, the band sings chilling lines like “don’t be scared/these numbers are normal” and “we’re gonna freeze your career." Perhaps the most visceral line is the repeated and shouted final chorus, “we’re doing it right!”

Band members feel an immense amount of liberation now that they've been released from the chokehold of the label, but they admit they’re still cynical about the music industry.

“We know it’s still a really fucked up industry, but I think we said what we wanted to say and we did what we thought was the right thing to do,” says Pérez. “Because at the end of the day, we work as hard as other people work, and we deserve to be treated fairly.”

Whether it’s the often predatory music industry, the tumultuous state of Spanish politics or the extreme highs and lows of growing up, the band doesn’t view music as an escape but rather as a venting session.

“I think when we are onstage, it’s not to escape, but more a way to let all of this anger go," says Pérez. “It’s a relief.”

The band’s last show in Cleveland was back in 2015 at Now That’s Class during its first American tour, and despite relentless touring, Pérez surprisingly remembers a lot from the show.

“It was really punk,” says Pérez. “There were like 10 people there or less, but it sounded really good.” She was also given a comical reassurance from fans that night about the low attendance. Pérez laughs and explains that “people were telling us the show wasn’t crowded because Taylor Swift was playing. We thought, ‘That doesn’t make any sense because why would people that like Taylor Swift come to our show?’”

Pérez sums up Mourn’s live show quite simply. “I think we’re four freaks shouting and laughing and playing. I guess we make everyone have a good time. We play really fast, and we’re just fun.”

Mourn, Chastity, Soundproof, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $12 ADV, $14 DOS, beachlandballroom.com
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