Features Interviews The Mimes

Interviews: The Mimes

The Mimes is a Cincinnati three-piece consisting of Maura Weaver, Megan Schroer, and John Hoffman, formed in isolation and making the most of a unique situation where the three long-time friends and musicians formed a Covid bubble to make something new while stepping outside of the boundaries of their other bands (which include Vacation, Ogikubo Station, and Homeless Gospel Choir). The results aren't shocking, but they're definitely something different compared to their collective discographies.

Over email, Scene Point Blank caught up with all three members to get the story behind the band, the creation of Plastic Pompeii, and their friendship.

For extra fun, none of the band members have read each other's responses. So while we've edited a bit for to reduce redundancy, we're also about to blow some minds within the band itself.

Scene Point Blank: First off, thanks for doing this and for finding a way to make some music during a challenging global situation. We all need outlets and I've consumed a lot of music this past year to help deal with things. I’d like to open by simply asking how you're doing through these times of a pandemic, civil rights issues and political upheaval.

John: I've been okay, all things considered. I went through some pretty heavy personal life changes, but luckily this group was there to help me rebalance way quicker than I could have ever hope. This year has certainly been moving politically, too. Each member of this band took part in marches in Cincinnati during the civil rights protest and even wrote a song in response directed towards the chair of our City Council, David Mann.

Maura: My mental health has honestly been better than I anticipated it could be. But I think that's because I've been lucky enough to be getting unemployment, and I honestly kind of hated my job that I lost, haha. In a weird way I think I needed some time home, in a stable place, and not constantly touring. I hadn't lived alone in ten years until recently and it's been super positive. Being in a comfortable space where I've been able to be creative and see friends (even if it's been mostly Megan and John) has done wonders. Also the state of our country is wild and super disheartening, but there are also a ton of people who inspire me so much--people protesting, coming together for mutual aid, making hygiene kits.

Scene Point Blank: I've talked with John some about the formation, but let's get it out there publicly. The band formed, more or less, because the three of you have wanted to work together but haven't had the time until lockdown. Is that accurate?

Megan: Pretty much, yes. John, Maura, and I were all in a band together briefly around 8 or 9 years ago called Boys. I've gone on to do other projects with each of them individually but never together (Maura and I play in Ogikubo Station and The Homeless Gospel Choir together, and I briefly played in John's old band Swim Team.) John has definitely badgered me for years to play with him and I would occasionally oblige but life would get in the way -- mostly just touring or working with our other bands, and Maura used to live further away so we'd barely get to play together unless we were on tour together.

When the pandemic hit, John and I were sharing a practice space anyway, and Maura had a space in the same building so, once lockdown happened, we fairly naturally dove head first into getting our pent-up energy out by jamming together.

John: Yeah! We did bands in the past together, but this was the first time where we just cut loose and did whatever we wanted to do with our band. I've been begging Megan for years now to start a band with me.

Maura: I've known John since we were freshmen in college and Megan for longer. I've done a decent amount of stuff with Megan, but neither of us has done anything with John for about ten years. Megan is one of the most talented people I know, John is secretly an audio engineering genius and I've always wanted to do something with both of them.

Scene Point Blank: Did Boys ever tour/play live? What was the timeline of that band?

John: They did! We never toured while I was in the band. I got kicked out because I couldn't palm mute well before that, hahaha. They eventually toured without me!

Scene Point Blank: So The Mimes is more about collaboration and working with artists you respect than having a particular vision for the band?

Megan: Collaborating amongst the three of us is the main goal. We've found we get the most unique outcomes when we create together. Rarely do we bring a nearly finished song to the table to work on. Oftentimes, we go in with no idea at all and just organically come up with one. Sometimes it happens right away, sometimes it takes hours.

John: I guess? I think any particular project I involve myself in, whether it be a band or producing someone's record, is all about collaboration and respect. And I wouldn't say that the Mimes is about having a "particular" vision, but just vision in general. If one of us thinks up an idea, we do it. Plain and simple. We don't think about it, we just try and make it happen.

Maura: I think it happened accidentally through jamming and hanging out, but if we had any vision, it was to try new things, let go of trying to make our band sound a specific way, have fun and make as much stuff as possible. So I would say it's more about collaboration for sure.

Scene Point Blank: Knowing your other bands, The Mimes isn't a surprise but it's also pretty different. Is that something the three of you sought intentionally, or is it just the mood you were feeling as you wrote/recorded?

Megan: We never went into it with any idea of what kind of sound we wanted. We would honestly just get together, usually in the evening, and play together as late as possible until our minds started going loopy. It's a lot of experimentation as well. Sometimes one of us accidentally makes a noise with an instrument (or non-instrument) and we decide to throw it into the mix. Most of our songs end up having a completely different finished product than we anticipated. John is also a recording master with a lot of amazing gear and knowledge at hand, so I think being able to kind of record songs as we write them has influenced our sound.

John: I don't really wish to distance myself from anything, because as a music fan, I alway appreciate getting to observe the trajectory of an artist's growth. So no, I don't think it was an intentional abandonment of our pasts but just a continuation on how we react to our current influences and relationships with one another.

Maura: Honestly only a few of the songs were written without all three of us in the room together (Megan wrote “Day 23” on her own, John wrote and recorded “Cold Decay” and “Heirloom Sins, Pt II” alone before we added stuff). Most of the songs were written entirely on the spot while we were jamming together, which I've never done in any band before. Sometimes we would end up writing the song about something specific that happened in the room while we were jamming.

Scene Point Blank: How do you describe the concept/sound/theme?

Megan: If you're referring to the band name, we just thought it'd be fun. We have no intention of making mime-themed music. The way we collaborate can often feel vaudeville-esque and is not limited to just musical endeavors. One of my first interactions with Maura was through miming, which I think is what we were talking about when we chose the name for the band. We were teenagers at a show, saw each other from afar and started miming with each other. When we were finished, we just laughed, said we should hang out some time, and parted ways.

I guess in short, the concept is not really having a concept. We just want to have fun, be silly, and get creative as a team.

John: I've always wanted to call it “chalky pop rock,” but that's dumb ass hell and kind of means nothing. It’s kind of like Pacific Northwestern garage rock, but I think that's only true of the songs that I sing.

Maura: To me, it's a weirdo art project where we get to explore whatever sounds/ideas we like and do as much of it ourselves as possible. I think we are inspired by local artists, and artists like Devo, Guided by Voices, the Breeders.

Scene Point Blank: There's some costuming involved in press photos and the video. Is this an integral part of the group, or more "what fits the mood"?

John: A mime doesn't speak.

Megan: I don't know that we're sure about that yet. We like the idea of dressing up just because the theatrics of it make it fun. We've discussed what we would do once shows are able to safely happen again. I don't think we're set on anything other than what feels best at the time. I'm sure there will come a time where we're like "fuck... do we really need to plaster our faces in paint again?"

Maura: Originally we were going to wear mime makeup at all times. Then we realized how time consuming that was and decided we can just do it whenever we want. "The Mimes" originated from the fact that we all love mimes (for some reason). When Megan and I first met we started dancing with each other and miming strange scenarios out together. John also has a giant clown collection that's really scary.

Scene Point Blank: It sounds like you recorded together (in person). Did you write together in person too?
Megan: We record and write almost everything together.

John: Yep! We're all best friends, so we already had a Covid bubble going on. I'd say collaboration is the only element I wish to have remain constant in this band. Songs turn out better when it’s a collaboration between people.

Maura: Whoops, already answered this [earlier] but most of it was written in person while we were jamming!

Scene Point Blank: How did the songwriting process work? Does a member write a full song and bring it to the group, or is it collaborative (versus "this/that person's songs")?

Megan: There have been times when one of us brings the bare bones of a song that we build upon, and other times we get high and jam like a dad band together for two hours until someone does something cool and then build it right from there. We even collaborate lyrically much of the time. Often one of us just spouts out a random silly concept or line that catches our attention and we work off of that.

John: The songs usually just unfold out of the ether when we're all playing together. We don't fuss on them too much. If we don't get them done, then and there on the spot, we usually abandon them. I've always thought: if I'm not inspired enough by what we're playing in the moment to finish writing it, then who is ever going to inspired by it on record?

One of the songs on the record, "Hello Tokyo" began simply as a drum loop I played and recorded. It’s always different.

Maura: A few songs were written by individuals fully beforehand. Most were collaborative and we made them on the spot. Usually one person would start messing around with a riff on any instrument that was in our practice space/John's studio (there were a ton of wild instruments in there), somebody else would have an idea on guitar, synth, etc, and we would just build from there. Sometimes we would make a couple songs in a night and wouldn't like any of them, other nights we would come up with something immediately.

Scene Point Blank: John mentioned that nobody is tied to a particular instrument or, it sounds like, any specific role in the band. Can you elaborate a bit on that?

Megan: From all of us being in other bands, I think we've all gotten particularly uninspired by playing the same instrument all the time. We all have strengths in different areas and can trade off, so I guess we figured why not? The way one of us plays bass is completely different from the other. It helps keep things from feeling monotonous, I think. So yeah, we all take turns on instruments every time we play.

John: When we jam we all just play whatever feels right in that moment. Sometimes that’s an acoustic, sometimes piano, sometimes electric, sometimes drums, sometimes synth, sometimes drum machine, etc...

Maura: All of us play multiple instruments, but for a long time have all mostly played guitar, bass, or sang in whatever bands we were in. I think we all wanted to not be tied to something and explore new things and mess around on instruments we hadn't before. I personally had been wanting to learn drums for a really long time, but didn't have access to a kit. Throughout our jams I learned a lot of drum stuff and ended up playing drums on a lot of the songs, which was super fun.

Scene Point Blank: Does that mean it's more of a "studio" band or is it just that you haven't had to think about live performance yet? Were the songs on the record written with live performance in mind?

Megan: We definitely want to play live but I think it was fun to not be boxed in by the idea of "Oh, we can't do this live so we shouldn't bother putting it on the record." We've discussed making alternative versions of some songs to fit a live format.

John: I guess it’s a studio band by default. I wanna rock a Mimes set ASAP, though.

Maura: Probably more studio. I'm a little stressed about relearning our songs whenever we are able to play shows. We definitely had live performance in mind at times (didn't want to add things we couldn't necessarily play live) but didn't want it to hold us back creatively -- we might end up needing a fourth member live for things we just can't play between the three of us. A lot of stuff was improvised so it will be kind of strange to relearn. However, I'm really excited about how it will turn out in a live setting.

Scene Point Blank: How much of the record is improv versus planned? Is “spontaneous,” or even “impulsive,” a good way to describe Mimes' songwriting?

John: Almost all of it is improv. We write songs on the spot with each other, demo them immediately and then come back a day later to do the proper studio versions.

Scene Point Blank: Did you record all your jam sessions, waiting to strike gold or how does that work? Did you spend hours and hours in the production phase, or more like you hit an idea, then hit "record"?

John: The latter! We would still demo our jams, so we don't forget the ideas, but everything you hear on the record is fairly immediate. We didn't really want to overwork anything, which sadly seems to be the norm these days, as a lot of bands have the autonomy to record themselves on a computer.

Scene Point Blank: Did you write any songs and think, hey, I'd like to hold this one for my other band?

John: Not me, but I know both Megan and Maura are sitting on a vault of gems! Dunno if that's intentional or not.

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Words by Loren on May 15, 2021, 8:40 a.m.

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The Mimes

Posted by Loren on May 15, 2021, 8:40 a.m.

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