Medulla: Progressive Rock & Progressive Talk
|Photo: Mario Oliva|
“Put your art in an environment where it doesn’t belong and see what grows from that,” was the closing statement given by Brian Mullin from the progressive rock band Medulla. He set his coffee cup down, and the clattering of the mug on the saucer was the perfect applause in that moment.
Medulla hails from Austin, Texas, a place penned as “The Live Music Capital of the World,” where simply sending an email to a dive bar or club could get a band a gig. Being a progressive rock band, the music is very ambitious in its content, which could serve as a metaphor for the musicians themselves. “I knew that coming to another culture was a very transformative experience, and I wanted to give that to the other guys,” Mullin stated.
Medulla made their way to Berlin over a year ago under the principles that it was far away, cheap, and big. As valid as these bullet points may be, Berlin and progressive rock don’t roll off the collective tongue like bread and butter. Facing a city of four million people under a name synonymous with techno music, the same old tricks might not work with a new old dog. Admittedly, it was a shock to the band, “There’s only 20-30 venues here which seem like they can play a rock band like us,” Mullin explained, and those venues aren’t entirely responsive to a lone message in their inbox.
The band’s first gigs came through making contacts unexpectedly; one part “guy at a pizza shop in some other band,” another part, “guy a bandmate met while rock climbing.” The venues were not tailored to their sound; no risen stage to accommodate separation or friendly acoustics and equipment, and the audience seemed content in being passersby. After muscling through these gigs, Medulla found that these shows did not lead to other opportunities, but more importantly, they felt that these gigs were not necessarily earned. It wasn’t until the idea came from one of the band member’s roommates to develop an electronic press kit (EPK), a media file containing promotion of the band via photos, links, quotes, and biographies. “In hindsight it’s really cool…to wake up in the morning and dedicate a bunch of effort to making this EPK look good if we’re ever going to play a gig,” Mullin explained, “and I think that was the start of realizing what being a professional musician really amounts to.”
After completing the EPK, which took the neophyte effort of their bass player to construct, venues starting becoming more responsive. Medulla collected four gigs in a three-month span, spurring more time in the practice studio and causing a chain reaction of new music. One of these new gigs contained two sets yielding a total of ninety minutes, a sightly progression of their musical development in Berlin. It wasn’t until their show at Duncker Club in Prenzlauer Berg that Medulla got a taste of a curated event with rock music fans. The venue housed a full and intent crowd as well as a learning experience for the band. They needed more than what they were doing on stage to be able to build on the energy felt at that venue.
Recording an album is an artistic statement, and back in Austin, life constantly traversed the band’s plans for the tangibility of that statement. If it wasn’t work, it was another friend’s birthday weekend. It was errands and car repairs, or any other maintenance affiliated with deep roots in a familiar city. Berlin has differed over this past year and shown teeth, beckoning the band for its credibility. As an answer, a studio has been booked and Medulla will mix their first album this month. “We kicked this around a few times that this is literally the most important thing any of us have done with ourselves,” proclaimed Mullin as he talked about the increased focus and effort of the band, “We want to treat it with quality and have a lot of irons in the fire.”
What the environment will be like after the tracks are clocked in will be Medulla’s to propel. With the album added to the EPK, more gigs could come and more promoters could take notice; a nuance of their sound could be heard by a friend of a patron whom attended a show and bought a record, producing another fan. It’s all the kind of abstract speculation that artists endure near and far from the Fernsehturm. A rough outline spoken about over coffee is just that, a rough outline, but the incubation here in Berlin has posed challenges that have made the band’s drive and growth unavoidable. This becomes their craft’s own success for Berlin to see what happens with it.
Medulla is: Matt Kennon - Vocals, Synth, Guitar; Kevin Mullin - Lead Guitar; Matt Bartholomew - Bass; Brian Mullin - drums
Find Medulla on Facebook.
By Lindsay McKean