Main Image: Zach Stone
Recently, Vinyl hosted Chicago four-piece jam band Mungion for their first live show in Atlanta. Mungion has succeeded in breaking into the jam scene despite only having a few years of exposure. With catchy songs that have a wide variety of sounds and influences, Mungion was able to show Atlanta just how fun and crazy they can get. We witnessed some truly skilled musicians who radiate positive energy and uplifting music. Before the show, I spoke with Justin Reckamp, Mungion’s lead vocalist and guitarist, to discuss his thoughts on their upcoming album and evolving sound.
2016 was the debut of your first LP Scary Blankets. There’s been some anticipation from your fans surrounding your upcoming album Ferris Wheels Day Off. What can you tell me about the album and what we can expect from it this year?
It will be out one hundred percent by fall. It’s a full-length record and we really tried to make it very eclectic, so we kind of used inspirations from all over the board. Everybody in the band has a very eclectic taste. We have everything from bluegrass to seventies funk to calypso island. We have a jazz song on there and a couple of epics that are long. You know proggie (progressive rock). You know, kind of journey songs. Not Journey the band, but they [the songs] take you somewhere. Definitely no Journey songs. But yeah man some rock stuff. A little bit of everything. That was our mission statement for this record.
Will we see some of your songs like “Justice,” “Chatterbox” and “Disco Rice” - songs that you have done live, but haven’t really put out yet on an album?
Well, we want to harness a lot of the right energy from the shows and the studio. We are a live band, so its really important for us be in the right headspace and really try and reciprocate some of that energy out onto the record. There are certain songs that we think are more appropriate in the live setting rather than put them on the record.
Do you have any modifications to your guitar?
This is the only modification I’ve done to my PRS. I just as of recently, duct taped a monkey wrench to the body because I thought the guitar was too light and didn’t like how it was sitting. If you ever get a glimpse of the back of my guitar you will see a huge wad of duct tape taped to the back of it. I don’t know if Mr. Paul Reed would like to see that himself, but sorry Paul.
Do you ever get butterflies anymore; when playing certain shows? Of has everything settled in comfortably?
I think I will always get those butterflies, cause if you don’t get those butterflies that means you’re content. And if you’re content or complacent, that’s not a good thing. We are always changing our live shows every night; so there always certain goals that we are trying to set out and accomplish. Whether it’s a new Segway, a new pumper we try and work or a new improvised section on a tune. That’s the stuff that keeps us sane. If we had to play the same set night after night, I don’t know if any of us could do it.
Do you ever feel pressure from fans or critics?
I think we hold ourselves to a certain standard. One that we expect everybody to play at. To live up to. That’s just kind of where the bar is at. I think the audience really respects that. It kind of sets us aside from some other bands. We just try and make our shows as good as they can possibly be.
What Is your favorite cover that you guys play?
Sean [Carolan, bass/vocals] likes, well it’s called “Chemical Plant Zone 2.” It’s off of the Sega Genesis’ Sonic [the Hedgehog 2] video game.
Did he suggest that to play?
I think me and Joe [Re, keys/vocals] talked about it one day because we actually did another song from that video game. But that [one] didn’t make it into the repertoire. We just got to talking one day how cool it would be to play that song. We haven’t heard anybody else do it. Dude, some of that video game music knocks us out. It’s crazy, like some of the arrangements and some of the grooves.
What are the chances of us ever seeing an acoustic set?
You know it’s funny you mention that. It’s something we’d like to do. We just talked about doing an acoustic set, or something fun and stripped down. I think after this tour we are going to try and make something like that happen. I think we would all be interested to see how our music would sound in a more vulnerable, strippeddown setting. I would love to hear a more acoustic sound on some of these songs.
Who writes Mungion’s lyrics?
As far as the lyrics go, Sean writes a lot of lyrics and so do I. Sometimes we will be talking about something totally stupid and we all kind of spitball. We have a song called “Basketball”; which is a pretty goofy song. We were in the rehearsal one day and we just started making up a story [about] this older gentleman watching this adolescent boy sleep; as he is telling him about his old basketball career and everything he’s has accomplished. I don’t know man. I feel kind of weird talking about it out loud.
Anything can inspire a song. What’s the goofiest thing that’s inspired one of Mungion’s?
Sean wrote a song called scrambled legs that I think is absolutely hilarious. It’s just a song describing this dude’s legs and how mangled and fucking messed up they are. A lot of the lyrics we keep light-hearted and we have some that will touch you in the feels. Most of them we like to keep pretty light.
With jam bands like yourself, you do a lot of improvisation. There are lots of variations of certain songs. Is there a specific song of yours that you like making a ton of variations for?
One song that I really, really enjoy playing live is a song called “Herbert.” It’s kind of this genre that bounces around. It has a pretty long section for getting loose. Getting weird. It just kind of goes through all these different moods and genres. It’s a pretty quirky song that’s about a schizophrenic. I love playing that song. At least for now.
Matt [Kellen] is the newest member of the band. He replaced your old drummer David [Collum]. How’s has the music changed or evolved since adding Matt?
He jumped on board and it was a perfect fit. He brought some new ideas to the table and he comes from a different background. A lot of the songs, it was easy for him to jump in and put his stamp on them. It’s been a perfect fit and that’s no easy job.
How do motivate the band when everyone is feeling low or complacent? Do you guys ever have down moments?
It doesn’t happen too often, everybody in the group is pretty motivated. We really like to work hard and just get stuff done. When or if that does happen you know we just take a minute. Breathe. Talk it out. Just get through it. There are so many up and downs in this business. You just got to build up some thick skin and just get over it. If you dwell on that stuff it will ruin it. You know?
Absolutely. Justin, how do you blow off steam?
Exercising helps. Honestly, the best way for me to blow off steam is to just play some music. I never get sick of it. Ever. I hear some guys say, “I’m sick of playing.” We haven’t been doing this too long, but that thought has never entered my head. I love playing every single night. I think everybody does. Because that’s when you really get good as a band. Playing on stage, just ripping a solo every night does it for me. I’m sure the other guys would agree. Just check all your worries at the door and forget about it for a couple of hours. Hopefully, the audience feels that way when they come to one of our shows.
You’re no slouch when it comes to the guitar, man. You can get pretty intricate and technical when it comes to your solos. Who’s inspires you to improve and get better?
Aww man. There’s so many. Jimmy Herring is definitely the guy who I’ve looked up to the most. A lot of that stuff from Aquarium Rescue Unit in the 90’s was huge for me. When I first got into Trey [Anastasio] and Phish that was huge because that just exposed me to all the other kinds of music. You know jazz, and bluegrass, and funk and rock. And then I got exposed to a lot of great horn players, and bass players and piano players. Now its just all of it. Now it’s just one big melting pot of music. If it’s good, it’s good.
Did you do anything to celebrate Valentine's?
I took Emily, my girlfriend, to a place called Beatrix. It’s in the city. We just went out and had fun. It wasn’t actually on Valentine's day. She actually sent me a heart shaped pizza from Domino's. Which was nice. We showed up at the venue and there was that heart shaped pizza waiting there.
If Mungion had a love song what would it be called?
We actually have a love song. It’s called “Return to Sender.” It’s kind of just about being away from someone you really care about and realizing that the hard way. It’s about going back to them and living happily ever after, I suppose. It’s really deep tune, so It hasn’t gotten a life yet. I haven’t analyzed any of the lyrics yet, that’s just kind of the surface. We haven’t even played it out yet.