Interview: Young Mammals

Julian checks in with Houston locals Young Mammals before their show in Galveston at VFW Post 880. They talk Galveston, lawsuits, and the Young Mammals discography—from the debut to the very latest. Photo: Isabel Arbeláez Botero.

I was totally digging the album Jaguar from the first few beats. The track “Mango Beach” is my favorite—there’s such a Pavement / Built to Spill kind of vibe to it. What was it like making the latest album?

Carlos: Making Jaguar happened right after we finished up our previous record Alto Seco. We just jumped right into the writing process and started recording it probably within a year. So we were kind of in the recording mindset and it made the process pretty mellow and fun.

How would you describe your creative process as a band? How do you work together to write new songs?

I would describe it as a hot potato kind of process. For example, Jose would show Cley a song that he’s been working on and then maybe Cley would make a few adjustments. Then from there the song would be introduced to me and there might be more adjustments. Once we all feel good playing the song amongst the guitar and bass, we introduce the drums into the music and see if that works. If the song works, then we play it live, and if not then we make more adjustments. We just kind of pass it along to each other until we are happy with the finished product.

From what I understand, you guys started out way at the beginning with your first project, The Dimes. What has it been like evolving over the years to the sound you have now? What elements do you try to retain?

As the years have gone by we have tried to simplify our music as much as possible. When we were younger, we wrote very busy songs, but over time our goal has become to cut as much fat from our music as possible. I’m not really sure what elements we try to retain, but just keep the core of the band that wants to keep writing and growing creatively.

I understand you guys had to change names to Young Mammals after some clashes with a similarly-named band out of Portland. How did you come up with the original band name and concept, and how did you come up with the current project?

We technically still are The Dimes. We had to change our name due to some other band having the same name and there was a possibility of a lawsuit. If it wasn’t for that situation we would still be The Dimes. A friend of ours came up with the name Young Mammals and it really resonated with us so we decided to take it.

It’s pretty awesome that you guys got a nod from the Houston Press Music Awards back in 2007. What was it like to win Best New Act?

We were around 18-19 years old when we won that award and it felt really good. It made our moms happy that we were being appreciated for something.

I’ve read in interviews that you said it’s difficult listening to your first album, Carrots, because it was such a mess to record. Can you tell us more about that?

Recording Carrots was a difficult process. We’d never recorded a full length before and we just threw every idea sonically that we had into that record. We didn’t have completed songs either, we were just writing parts and figuring out what the song would become. It took us two years too long to record Carrots. Since then we just try to write simple songs and have them completed before we record an album. It was definitely a learning experience. 

We were pretty lucky to have you guys play on the island some time ago. What were your impressions of the Galveston music scene?

We love Galveston, people are always friendly, and the sound of the ocean puts everything into place. The music scene on the island always felt mysterious to me, kind of like the town. I wasn’t even sure what was happening musically but I knew something was there. I love to see EL LAGO come out of that mysterious place and really push the Galveston music community.

Have any ideas of what we need to do down here to keep it growing?

I think at the moment bands like EL LAGO and publications like Wake the Zine are the best way to help a community grow. Hopefully this will inspire younger kids to stay in Galveston and create new music, to have a growing and flourishing music community.

Tough question, I know, but name the top three bands or musicians you think have had the biggest influence on you.

The Pixies, the Walkmen, and the Beatles.

You’ve played SXSW and have toured a ton of places by now. Is there anything in particular that you feel the Houston-Galveston area has that the other places don’t?

That’s a great question. I feel like Houston-Galveston makes it easy for working-class people to live cheaply and create, but things are changing in Houston and it’s getting pricey to live here. I’m excited to see how this music community will grow.

What’s the next step for the band now?

The next step for us is to keep writing songs and record a new album sometime this year.

Listen: Bandcamp

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Galveston: 4/7 at VFW Post 880 with A. Sinclair (Austin) and Cool Moon (Houston)

Houston: 6/28 "Party on the Plaza" at Avenida Houston with Fat Tony