In a bigger pond
Chico-bred folk-rockers The Mondegreens test waters of the Pacific Northwest
Fans of local music may well be familiar with The Mondegreens, a harmonious, not-so-twangy folk-rock band based in Seattle. Members of the band certainly know Chico.
The three singer-songwriters who share vocal duties—bassist David Friedlander, Russell Rabut (acoustic guitar) and Jack Knight (electric guitar)—played in bands together while they attended Chico High School, and managed to write music and tour through college despite going to schools in different cities. After they graduated in spring 2013, they became free to pursue serious musical careers together.
And that’s why they ultimately decided to leave Chico. Last summer they, along with drummer Scotty Jenkins, permanently moved to the Pacific Northwest.
During a phone conversation ahead of The Mondegreens’ upcoming holiday show in Chico at Lost on Main Friday, Dec. 18—the final stop on a brief tour through Oregon and California—Rabut said the band believed they had to leave town to progress as individual musicians and as a group. He described the move as “a big milestone.”
“It was important for us to get out of Chico because we didn’t want to get complacent,” he said. “We kind of had an established audience there, to some degree, and we wanted to challenge ourselves and build audiences elsewhere.”
Another consideration, he said, was overexposure. After releasing their debut full-length album, the locally recorded and produced Kid Tell Time, last March, they made heavy rounds at venues in Chico. “We didn’t want to water down our performances by playing too often, you know? We don’t want to play out our welcome in our own town,” Rabut said. “We wanted to carry on being a Chico band, but also access markets that wouldn’t otherwise be there for us.”
As much as The Mondegreens appreciate playing to receptive hometown crowds full of familiar faces, it was exciting to see a growing number of people they didn’t know before moving last summer.
“It stopped being just people we had a personal connection with,” Rabut said. “Other people started coming out to hear our music, and that was definitely meaningful in its own right.”
The next step in that progression was testing themselves in Seattle and a much broader market. Actually tapping into the Northwest scene—mostly by seeking out, hosting and sharing bills with like-minded bands in neighborhoods throughout the greater Seattle area—has been a gradual process, Rabut said, but lately it’s been easier to book shows at venues “that match our vibes and style.” For that, it’s important to establish connections not only with bands, but with bookers.
“There is a hierarchy of venues,” he said. “A certain organization will book for four or five venues, and some of them will be a little lower on the totem pole, but the more you pull out people and prove to them that you can put on a worthwhile show, the bigger venues you get to play at.
“So, we’re trying to attack it from that angle and demonstrate that we have a good sound and we can bring out an audience.”
As for immediate plans, in the coming months The Mondegreens will release a few bonus tracks from the Kid Tell Time sessions, a music video for the heartfelt single, “The Sunset, Loudly,” and continue debuting new music in live settings. They hope it all translates to an ever-greater audience.
“We have pretty serious long-term goals we want to accomplish,” Rabut said, “and I’d say we’re on track.”