Mohawk Bends and Lee Penn Sky couldn’t be more different—and yet, their passion for music brings them together. In this brand new Bands Interviewing Bands the two chat about their dream lineups, inspiration, and collaboration. Check it out!
Mohawk Bends: When writing and creating songs where do you typically draw inspiration from?
Lee Penn Sky: If you look at all the music I have produced, you will find some themes. My songs are filled with landscapes… water, mountains, desert vistas etc. I also use lots of biblical references which I find odd as I am in no way religious. I would say that increasingly I am inspired to write songs that essentially protest songs. I am often inspired to write about people that I meet that tug at my imagination.
Lee Penn Sky: What’s the story behind your killer band name?
Mohawk Bends: The Mohawk Bend is actually a bar/restaurant Chris used to hang out at in Echo Park when he was living in LA. He suggested it when we were trying to agree upon a name and it was one that stuck the most!
Mohawk Bends: Is there a musical event in your past that you credit with inspiring you to create and perform your own music?
Lee Penn Sky: I would say there are three performances when I was fairly young which have always stuck with me. The first was seeing Yo-Yo Ma perform, just him and his cello. The way he played was so moving and powerful but also gentle and delicate. Another was seeing the great Maceo Parker perform with his band. Man, that was the funkiest, ass shaking-iest concert I have ever had the privilege to attend. It was in a 2000+ capacity theater and not one person sat the whole night. They must have played for 4 hours. Finally, I was lucky enough to be at the first Lollapalooza Festival. When Jane’s Addiction hit the stage the place figuratively and literally caught on fire. Again, I was amazed at the power of music. Whereas my music is not similar to these artists they have inspired me to create and perform art that is evocative.
Lee Penn Sky: Being a solo act myself, I don’t often write collaboratively with others. Can you talk about your writing process?
Mohawk Bends: Our writing process is largely fueled by jamming with each other. We typically get in a room and just see what happens. Colin also writes a lot of riffs on his own and will send them to us in our little group chat. He has some great production skills, so he’s typically able to record a pretty solid demo to get his vibe and idea across for the whole song. It’s usually on Chris to do the words for most of the songs, but Colin also wrote some lyrics for our first record! Fortunately, we all tend to know the direction we want to take a new idea, so it’s rare that we disagree with the direction a song should go in!
Mohawk Bends: Have you performed with a band in the past? If not, do you ever think that having people to share songwriting responsibilities with would be enjoyable, or do you prefer having full creative control?
Lee Penn Sky: I started as a bass player and one of the primary songwriters in the band Mr. Picassohead out of Ann Arbor. After moving to Idaho, I played for a number of years as a solo act. About 8 years ago I formed the band The Oliphants, a jam band which I write the material for. We tour regionally and have a great time. That band is often whom I turn to when I need a band for my solo material. Playing solo and being responsible for the entire show is both intense and very intimate. Whether you are performing at a house concert or a large festival you are solely responsible for the audience feeling connected to you and to what you’re doing lyrically and musically. I feel less freedom in that as the music is very directed as opposed to when I play with The Oliphants. That band is all about the joy of the musical moment, we enjoy playing with each other so much that on stage we tend to turn in and face each other more than we turn out and face the audience. The audience seems to connect with that energy and the band’s delight in each other. I couldn’t say which I enjoy more, my solo act or my band as they fulfill different artistic needs and couldn’t imagine one without the other.
Lee Penn Sky: Has your writing process changed since your first single Plaster Cast to your latest See What You Do to Me?
Mohawk Bends: See What You Do to Me was definitely a more collaborative writing process. I think at this point, we’ve just become more comfortable with each other and know each other’s capabilities better, so we can take that into consideration when writing new songs.
Mohawk Bends: If you could create your dream line up for a touring band, who would you pick to back you up?
Lee Penn Sky: My current band is pretty choice! I play with some heavy lifters right now (David Gluck-drums, Troy” Rosie” Ferguson -bass, and Dan Costello-electric guitar/electric mandolin). But if you are asking me to choose a fantasy band, I would have to go with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section or the famed LA Wrecking Crew with the addition of the Tower of Power horn section for good measure!
Lee Penn Sky: What bands have influenced your sound the most?
Mohawk Bends: Queens of the Stone Age, Cage the Elephant, Foals and Last Shadow Puppets.
Mohawk Bends: If you could choose one record to take to a desert island what would you take with you?
Lee Penn Sky: I think it would be a toss-up between Steve Earle’s Just an American Boy and The Band’s The Last Waltz. Both of these are live albums from artists that I never tire of listening to and always inspire me to be creative.
Mohawk Bends: What’s next for you now that the record has released? Any plans to tour?
Lee Penn Sky: I’m going to start working towards my next release. I’ve been writing metaphorical songs relating to our current domestic political conflicts.
I have a few festivals lined up for the summer and will be doing some regional touring. Likely I’ll find myself in California for a loop and also back home to Michigan.
Lee Penn Sky:
Bands Interviewing Bands:Lee Penn Sky (top) Photo Credit: Silly the Kid. Mohawk Bends (bottom) photo credit: Rachel Hunter