Student Sounds: Lo & the Mix

LO & THE MIX / COURTESY

Local Davis band talks funky outfits, importance of change

Some of the specifics of Davis band Lo & the Mix’s history could not be recalled by those in the band themselves, even the original band members. What followed was a comical span of stuttered and confused recounts of the band’s past.

“He was definitely there. Maybe?”

“No, remember he had left by then.”

“This particular project has been through so many changes in personnel, style, genre and where we play,” said Bennett Hannon, UC Davis alumnus from the Class of 2016 and guitarist and singer. “The one we were in before this was called the Sunday Slippers, which had [Stuart Sugar, 2016 UC Davis alumnus and guitarist] and me in it. We had two other singers and a sax player, a totally different lineup. Before that [Lo & the Mix band member Jacob Dorn] and I were in a band called Sleazy Beats. All of these led up to Lo & the Mix, which started a year ago.”

Lo & the Mix currently has seven members: Bennett Hannan, Jacob Dorn, Stuart Suger, Caleb Sanders, Evan Daly, Micah Marmorstein, and a new drummer who joined a month ago.

“I think that fluidity is what makes the title,” Hannan said. “‘Lo’ is the formation and roots of the songs and ‘the Mix’ is everything that has changed with personnel and style and place. This band is like a blooming bud in the spring, where it is far enough into spring in that it is a fully formed bud but not to where it has exploded. We are actually getting a recording done within the month of our new four-song EP, which will come out the beginning of summer. When it goes out online, that’s the moment. It makes this band legitimate; it makes the bud explode.”

The band’s sound mirrors the eclectic group of members — their sound is a well-composed jumble of influences from classic rock to jazz to even hints of reggae and funk. On paper, it seems unorthodox. Yet the professionalism of the band crosses the fine line between chaotic and purely creative.

“You grow up and if you’re someone who is passionate about music, you learn how to be keen to sounds that your ears like,” Suger said. “Over the years, you copy that in your own music. There is a phrase that ‘it’s not about copying music it’s about copying it and covering your tracks,’ or something to that effect. Everything that you’re going to play is a reflection of your creativity which is only a reflection of what you’ve heard before.”

For Bennett, the “components of music are so old that they encompass what is original” and how you tweak the fundamentals is how their creative sound comes into being.

“It will be like I want a beat from this type of drum, and I want a sound from this period of music,” Sugar said. “It’s about playing, fooling around and tweaking different sounds with each other.”

The band is able to create such a distinct and cohesive sound due to the musical experiences of each band member.

“Your music is a reflection of your creativity and what you heard, right, and we all had pretty different musical backgrounds,” said Micah Marmorstein, the band’s trumpet player and a third-year biochemical engineer major.  “My dad writes a lot of folk music and gospel. He put the whole Book of Psalms to music — it is hours and hours of just music. It has definitely influenced my playing style; jazz music has been my base. I think that now we have developed as musicians and have listened to a lot of different genres, it’s not hard to work with different genres.”

Such variety of experience has made the creative process of Lo & the Mix resemble that of one big jam sesh. Indeed, according to Suger, by the time he joined and until recently, most of what the band played was Hannan’s past music, yet “has morphed from the previous bands he worked with.”

Indeed, altering the nature of the band has added diversity into the mix, allowing the songs to not stay stagnant.

“It’s the whole concept of Lo & the Mix again,” Hannan said, “While we have a solid frame of new stuff we have done together, we have been playing a lot of the songs I wrote when I was 19 — the ‘Lo.’ But who you play with and how you play it is how it has changed over the years — the ‘Mix.’”

Many of Lo & the Mix’s songs have been about development and change. With enthusiasm in their voice, the band recounted a gig they did at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen in October. Marmorstein knew the song lineup by heart.

“Everything went perfectly,” Hannan said. “It was this clean sound, and a bunch of people showed up. They had a back room and when the other members would play, I would sneak off undetected and change my outfit into these different, vibrant, flaring outfits.”

Hannan noted there was no reason for the costume change: “It was just fun, I’m sure you could make some meaning out of it if you wanted to.”

That show’s song lineup was intentionally done in chronological order based on the the emotions of when each song was written. As Hannan put it, “this tells a story because that’s how life goes.”

“The older lyrics were a lot about me going from high school to junior college and then transferring to Davis,” Hannan said. “A lot of the lyrics were the emotions a young person goes through as big as university.”

Heavier topics inevitably started the show with darker vibes.

“We played ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd at that show, and [Suger] killed the guitar solo; it’s a pretty dark song but it was beautiful. Then we played ‘Back Brace’ which is pretty heavy too.”

The song “Back Brace” is a hallmark song for the band and has a personal connection to Lo & the Mix, specifically for Hannan.

“The song is about my graduation night,” Hannan said. “One of my friends did a bunch of coke, got really drunk and actually wrapped himself around a tree. And it was a really harsh time for a year and every graduation time after that is pretty hard. But with the horns, the jiving bass and happy drums, it ironically seems like a good, happy song. It went through a similar process of development from its original meaning.”

Inspiration for changing “Back Brace” came from jam sessions, borrowing a horn line from “Sky’s the Limit” by Rebelution and turning it into a fun, hip-hop beat, according to Marmorstein. While the other band members may not have felt the same immediate emotions for “Back Brace,” a well-composed and emotional song can transcend such physical boundary.

“The first time I heard [Hannan] play that song with his full emotion I wanted to cry,” Marmorstein said. “He has this lyric ‘hurts most when I hear his mother cry and his father sigh.’”

Hannan clarified that many of the new songs have a “party vibe” to them — the old emotions have passed in their immediacy. Lo & the Mix seems to be an ever-changing entity; it is raw, it is real, welcoming with open arms the concept of change and development.

 

Written by: Caroline Rutten — arts@theaggie.org