Ohio seems to be a state that constantly puts out heartfelt, passionate, and truly original music. The same state that birthed the drunken revelry of Guided by Voices also birthed the tortured, soul-searching songs of Jason Molina and the harsh pop of Kim Deal and The Breeders. Yet, the cornfields also offer the perfect landscape for lush, dreamy music.
Emma Swysgood and Sean Gleeson, the duo behind Mungbean, have been cutting their teeth in the Columbus music scene for the past several years. While they’ve been recording in bedrooms, bathrooms, and other makeshift spaces, the “House / Changes” single was mastered at Relay Recording in downtown Columbus.
At first, the two songs seem like an odd couple. “House” builds slowly, with layers swirling around a catchy melody and syncopated rhythm. It’s a haunting burner. “Changes” is its perfect counterpart; an instantly catchy, ballad-esque song with a drippy guitar lead. After listening, the two songs make perfect sense together. They showcase the songwriting prowess of these two young artists.
Recently, Swysgood and Gleeson put together a full lineup, and are now looking to take over the world. Read our interview below to find out more about the single and their upcoming plans.
Since you started, you’ve added a number of live members. How has that changed the performances for you?
Swysgood: Having more hands and more instruments on stage has really helped us figure out our sound. When it was just the two of us, we were hesitant to perform live because we wanted to sound just like the recordings we had made.
Now, with added members, we’re really getting into the performance aspect of this project. There’s a lot more freedom to improvise, to jam, and to connect with an audience. We never were/never wanted to be a polished up pop performance – we enjoy being our genuine selves on stage.
So I think now that we’re more comfortable performing, our music has developed a more consistent and recognizable sound that’s true to who we are as artists.
Has adding more members also changed the songwriting? The fact that you know now that you can do more live.
Swysgood: It definitely has made the recording process much more collaborative. When you write/record you hear the same song 10,000 times while trying to make improvements to it. It can be kind of numbing, even with a song you initially loved (that’s why you’re recording it, right?!). We’ve always had friends with fresh ears come through the studio to give feedback we may have never considered.
So now with the boys on bass, drums, and keys it’s a much more live and interactive thing. Their perspectives are built into the songs and so the songs come together more quickly. We all get to assume our roles in writing process, which makes for a more confident and consistent sound.
I saw in the liner notes on Bandcamp for House / Changes that you record your own music. Did you use any interesting gear to make these songs?
Gleeson: Yeah! We recently bought the Moog Mother-32 Modular Synthesizer, and I spent a lot of time learning how to experiment with the patch bay. It’s responsible for more than half of the synth sounds on both songs. Another piece of gear that we loved to use was the Earthquaker Devices Rainbow Machine. It’s this crazy pitch-shifting delay guitar pedal that sounds like a time warp. We put it on everything- guitars, synths, vocals!
Are the two songs connected for you? What made you pick these two to release together?
Swysgood: They are kind of an odd pair. “House” was a song that came together in a day, “Changes” over months and months. But we’ve had this mentality of just wanting to get everything we have out there before we refocus in and get to work on some more extensive projects. I think they go together in the way that they don’t go together at all — they’re so different, so they showcase pretty clearly the transitional phase we’re going through right now as a band.
I think the next music we put out will probably be radically different from these pieces, but we’ll always have these to look back on and think “Hey, that’s where we started, that’s what we went through, and now we’re here” which has kind of been the case with all our EPs.
Do you have plans for a full length anytime soon?
Swysgood: We just started getting back into the studio, and we’re feeling super confident about what we’ve started creating. We’re coming out of that transitional phase into a sound that’s much more recognizable. I think it’s safe to say you can expect our first full length early next year.
What’s next for Mungbean?
Swysgood: We’re already looking forward to next spring & summer! We’ve got a few shows in and out of town to finish off the performing season for us. But as this summer is winding down we’re going back into the studio to work on new songs, new art, new collaborations, etc. etc.