Interview with Mouth’s Cradle

In early April, newcomers Mouth’s Cradle released their debut album “The Next Big Thing.” Fusing together various genres from hip hop to pop to electronica to indie rock, the duo that compose the band, Brandon Linn and Kevin Hegedus, have created an incredibly unique sound that is hard to describe in words other than “awesome” and “holy shit!” Already receiving massive amounts of online buzz and critical acclaim, Mouth’s Cradle’s debut is proving itself to in fact live up to its title and indeed become “the next big thing.” I sat down with the band to discuss their origins, influences, creative process, the apocalypse, and more.

AN: Where does the name Mouth’s Cradle come from?

KH: Mouth’s Cradle comes from a Bjork song called “Mouth’s Cradle” from her album Medulla. When I first started Mouth’s Cradle, which was actually about a year before Brandon joined the band, it was just a solo act. My initial plan for it was to make music only using body sounds, which is a lot of what Bjork does on Medulla and that really inspired me. So I went to that album trying to find a name for that project and I thought “Mouth’s Cradle” was really evocative, so that’s why I picked it.

AN: You have a very unique style. What type of genre would you classify yourself as?

BL: My manager says to use “hip pop” because people who don’t understand it will listen to it, but I like to say electro-pop/hip-hop, so I guess that’s electro hip-pop? Do you like what I did there?

KH: When people ask me I just call it pop usually because our goal was to write catchy pop songs so that’s what I like to call it.

AN: Other than Bjork, who are your biggest influences?

KH: Oh man, we each have so many of our own influences.

BL: Yeah, the coolest part about us is that when we met we had total polar opposite influences, but Kevin gave me a bunch of music to listen to that I had never heard before and was just like “wow!”

KH: Likewise.

BL: So we both combined this ying and yang to make this unique sound.

KH: When I started Mouth’s Cradle I was thinking Bjork for that very specific reason we talked about before, but when I’m writing music I’m very inspired by the folk singer Joanna Newsom. She’s my favorite person and her album “Ys” is my favorite album of all time.

BH: For this project, I’d have to say I was most inspired musically by Flying Lotus as well as Hudson Mohawk, who’s sort of a new guy but he really rips beats apart and puts them back together in crazy ways.

AN: What were the biggest challenges you faced transitioning your music from an EP to a full length album?

KH: Well the album is obviously just a lot more material. An EP is interesting because it’s so short you can just make a very small, focused, concentrated body of work, but with an album you have to make sure you’re really spreading everything out to flow coherently – and that’s harder to do when you have more songs to work with. I guess the biggest challenge was make all of our ideas for the album flow together into a coherent piece.

BL: A lot more patience has to be put into an album. We could put out an EP every other week, but for this album with every song we were like “wait for it, wait for it, it’s not done yet.” Sometimes we’d even just push a song away for like two weeks before we would come back to it to work on it some more, so the album took about a year to make.

KH: We spent a lot of time trying to get everything to sound exactly the way we wanted it to.

AN: Tell me a little bit about how your band was formed. I know you both were working on independent projects, so how and why did you two come together to form Mouth’s Cradle?

BL: The basic story is that we attended the same high school, but since it was such a big school we never actually knew each other. We didn’t even know we lived down the street from each other. I mean, we were both the indie music kids that hid in our basements listening to music all the time, so I would have never seen him since neither of us ever went outside (laughs). Then one day Kevin had a party at his house where he had a bunch of local bands come and play. I was in a band with some friends and we went to play at his house and some mutual friends of ours introduced us. They were like “Kevin is making original music, you’re making original music, you guys should make original music together.”

KH: Kind of going back to what I was saying before, I started Mouth’s Cradle in the summer of 2008. It was just me in my basement multi-tracking myself. It wasn’t until the next summer that I heard some of Brandon’s electronic work. He made a beat for me to use and I liked it so much that I asked him to make more.

BL: And for fun I had remixed one of his original solo songs and he really liked the sound of it.

KH: Which kind of became the sound that we progressed into making this album.

AN: Kevin, you had to take a semester off due to an untimely and unfortunate flare-up of your Crohn’s disease. How did this affect the band and your songwriting process?

KH: It definitely was a big challenge for me and for both of us, actually. It unfortunately had to happen at a very crucial time in our initial development. The previous semester we had just done the EP together, played some shows, and at that point we hadn’t been working or playing together for very long – just a few months – and so unfortunately it was right as things started to get off the ground. I had to just stop doing everything for a while. I was very sick and I wasn’t able to do a lot of recording or writing. At the same time, it worked out. I got to take a semester after I had heart surgery to correct what was troubling me at the time.

BL: I performed that.

KH: Yes, Brandon is actually a heart surgeon that performed my procedure.

BL: We forgot to include that in the “how we met” story.

KH: After that happened, I had time to really do a lot of writing, so it did have a silver lining. Yeah, it sucked and took time away from the process but at the same time it also kind of contributed to it because we could really perfect everything and get it to the point of exactly how we wanted it to be.

BL: Yeah, it was of course a really sad place to be in, but it was also Kevin’s most vulnerable place which helped him produce his best lyrics. He was just in such an emotional state that he wrote the most pure and honest lyrics which were just so inspiring.

AN: So how did it work: would you trade beats and lyrics over the Internet? Or did you only work on material when you would see each other?

BL: We did it the same we had done it from the beginning. I would make a ton of beats, send him a big batch, and then he’d pick up one he liked and add a layer to it, send it back to me. I’d add some sprinkles and we’d just keep going back and forth like that.

KH: When we first started working together, Brandon was actually interning somewhere in California so from the very beginning, we rarely worked in the same room. Really until we started to mix the album, we did it in different places. I mean obviously we hang out and stuff, but when we’re actually making music, it’s mostly something we do on our own.

BL: It’s a pretty interesting way to do it.

AN: You self released your debut album. Do you find that releasing music independently allows for more artistic freedom than being restricted by the limitations of a record label?

KH: Definitely. We can call our own shots. We had a very specific way we wanted to do things. First of all, we could take as much time as we wanted, which was honestly pretty quick in the scheme of things. We spent maybe six months on this album, which I know is shorter than some bands would take. We also have a really unique way of producing our albums. We do it only our laptops, the only outside stuff we use being synthesizers.

BL: I have one synth, he has a kid’s keyboard.

KH: Haha, yeah, I have a keyboard that’s essentially made for twelve-year-olds, but it makes a lot of really wacky, fun, toy sounds that we used. And if we tried to take our stuff into some sort of professional setting, we would have lost something. I personally don’t know what I would do in that kind of big, recording studio, whatever. It’s really calming to just do things my way on my laptop.

BL: Some of the beats I made happened when I was just laying in bed, comfortable, and could focus. We always say that he’s more of a minimalist and I’m more of a maximalist and we pull each other together to make this perfect sound. I would run around the studio being like “we need this, and this, and this,” and “ring this gong!” and “use these bells!” and he’d always just say “I don’t want to do any of this.”

KH: But coming back to what you asked, just doing things ourselves let us just not worry about anyone put anything on us, and let us really do just what we wanted.

AN: You recently opened up for Sleigh Bells and played a solo show at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. Do you have any touring plans for the near future?

BL: We’re working on figuring that out right now. I’m graduating so we don’t really know what the future holds, but I’m all for Mouth’s Cradle. We’re both very excited about touring though, even though we don’t really have concrete plans just yet. We were just talking about how the show at Muhlenberg was one of the most fun shows we’ve ever played and it definitely prompted us to want to really do more shows like that.

KH: Yeah, for the past few days since that show, I’ve just been thinking “I want to do that more often!”

AN: So overall, with Brandon graduating in May and Kevin returning to school in the fall, what exactly are your plans for Mouth’s Cradle’s immediate future?

BL: It’s literally all still in the works. There’s a lot of stuff we need to still think about.

KH: Yeah, I mean, we also haven’t been working together for very long, we’re a very young band. And also, this whole process we’ve been dealing with a lot of transitional things like me being sick and Brandon being at the end of his college experience, so it’s pretty challenging for us to do everything we need to do and still be on the same page. But we’re making it work and so far we’ve had pretty good results so I think we’re just going to let it roll and make decisions when they happen.

BL: Good things are definitely coming.

AN: You also have plans for a mixtape or B-sides collection, right?

BL: Yeah, we’re planning on releasing that as a free download.

KH: We definitely want to make a free download of many more songs sometime this summer. There’s nothing official yet, it’s just what we’re currently foreseeing and working towards. We have a lot of tracks lined up. A lot of them use sampling we couldn’t get away with on the album (for legal reasons), and as a DJ, Brandon really likes to do that and I love hearing that.

BL: We made wacky samples too. Like we sample the “Pokemon” theme song and other crazy stuff that rappers usually don’t do, because they want to make club bangers while we just want people to have fun.

KH: We’re really looking forward to showing people that.

BL: We just want to get on as many people’s iPods as possible, you know? So I think this free download will be cool because if people hear us and like us, then our album will still be up on iTunes and people can go over and get that.

AN: Kevin, you go by the nickname Mouf, and Brandon, you go by B Linn. Are these simply nicknames amongst friends or are these personas/alter egos ala Beyonce’s Sasha Fierce when performing?

BL: B Linn is more of a friend thing, but I actually go by Master Rogers now. I like to think of them as performance alter egos. Master Rogers is based off of Mister Rogers, and I’m the master of the suburbs – that’s how I look at it.

KH: I’m really big into the idea that when you’re going on stage, you’re performing, you’re not being yourself. I’ve always thought it was really important to kind of be someone else when I’m on stage. So when I’m performing as Mouf, or writing as Mouf, I’m just making an extension of my personality that allows me to write and perform from that perspective so I definitely think it’s very helpful.

AN: When your album was digitally released a few weeks ago, it was featured on the front page of iTunes as well as in the pop section. Were you aware that you were about to gain such heavy exposure or did this come as a surprise to you?

BL: It was a surprise.

KH: We were aware of it a little bit beforehand, but honestly we found out pretty close to when it did happen .

BL: I was at work and my manager called and said “you’re going to be on the front page of iTunes tomorrow,” and the next day was my birthday so I was just like “wow, this is crazy!” I was totally surprised.

AN: It must be incredibly difficult picking out the tracklisting for a debut record because you obviously want to introduce yourself in the best possible way. How did you decide what songs you wanted to include on this album and why did you arrange them in the order that you did?

KH: I’d have to say that when we were initially making the songs we didn’t have plans for how they’d fit in as a whole. I think the reason they work as a cohesive unit is because we made them using the same aesthetics. The songs themselves are pretty stand alone. As we were making them, we set a goal to have ten really strong songs of different varieties.

BL: We said every song should be a potential single. We didn’t want any filler tracks whatsoever.

KH: As we were making it, we picked our ten best. The album is the ten best songs of that period.

AN: So it’s not like you were trying to construct a singular narrative or anything by arranging them the way you did into a concept album or anything, right?

BL: I mean, I think naturally a narrative evolved. We never tried for it, but thematically it goes through some cool things. Like it starts and ends with princesses and demons.

KH: That’s true. When I’m writing lyrics, I never really write in a straight up narrative style, but I do like to use motifs and recurrent themes, and I think that’s evident, which helps with some of the flow of it. But there’s no straight up single story or concept we’re trying to convey.

AN: How do you feel about the apparent looming apocalypse in 2012 and will it be reflected in your music in any way?

KH: I feel like I’m not really sure it’s going to happen. I actually, coincidentally enough, thought about this for the first time in a very long time today. If it happens, that’s cool. In the meantime, hopefully we’ll make some songs that people like. But if it happens then I’ll be dead, so I won’t really care.

BL: I think that I’m going to have a party at my house whenever the time the apocalypse is supposed to actually happen. Hopefully by then we’ll have made enough money so that I’ll have a spaceship ready and on standby. We’ll be partying and if it goes the bad way, we’ll have the option of getting the hell out of here, and if it goes the good way, we’ll just keep partying and can laugh about it.

AN: Anything else you’d like to add before I turn this tape recorder off?

BL: I think we both established that we like water Pokemon.

KH: Haha, yeah definitely. And I think I’d like to add that Mouth’s Cradle is inspired by things like video games and cartoons – things that not everyone is inspired by and we’re trying to use that to our advantage.

BL: Everyone’s got the guy or girl love scenario down, so we’re making music that talks about random stuff that everyone can still relate to and have fun with.

KH: It’s very different and very unique, so give us a chance!