Five Questions: The Mumbles

Avant-soul outfit The Mumbles got their start in New York, but they moved to new Orleans a couple of years ago. The quirky, high-energy band return to Asheville on Tuesday, March 5. They’ll play One Stop in support of their new live album, “Last Night Wore the Crown.” 8 p.m., $2.

Mountain Xpress: Last time we talked, the Mumbles were a duo. Looks like you’re a bigger band now — tell us about the new members, and any other changes to the band.
Keith Burnstein: Uncle Bernie (aka Erijc Bernhart) is the newest Mumble. Erijc plays tenor sax, sings some of the sweetest high harmonies you ever heard, and enjoys Taco Bell drive-thru.

Your new album, Last Night Wore the Crown, is your first live album. Tell us about why you made that choice, and the experience of recording it at Tipitinas.
Well, we wanted to document our first time playing at Tip’s, as the venue has so much prestige and history around it. It was actually built in the ‘70s so that Professor Longhair could have a place to play during the final years his life. Not only have many of our heroes played there, but the room sounds and feels fantastic. I remember sound checking that night and feeling that warmth, and recognizing that, in a certain respect, we had arrived. 

You’ve now been based in New Orleans for more than two years. How has the city changed the band, and in what ways does it influence your sound and approach to music? Any surprises?
Since we moved down here in 2010, our evolution has been profound. We play just about every night of the week here — sometimes two shows a day. And I have to say the band is just a whole lot tighter — tight, but loose in that New Orleans way: More in the pocket, grooving a whole lot harder, but always serving the song. We are learning how to be true performers, to deliver every time, no matter what. It’s like the difference between NYC and NOLA — NYC has a sharper edge, is more on time, whereas New Orleans is laid back in just about every way. You might be late to the gig and slurring your words, but you’re smiling, ya know? Our music is definitely smiling these days. 

Anything at all that you miss about New York?
My girlfriend (who still lives there part of the year). But really, I’m back and forth a lot, and I get to experience the city [where] I came up in a whole new way, as a person who can look up, look around and take his time. I guess I’m experiencing New York like a New Orleanian!

You’ve come to Asheville with each new release. What keeps bringing you back here, and if you made an Asheville-inspired album one day, what would it sound like?
Asheville is a music city, plain and simple. We haven’t figured out a way to break through (yet) like we have in Knoxville and Boone, but I suppose that’s why we keep coming back. We wanna crack the code! Also, we have some very close friends who we love like brothers: Doc Aquatic and our friend, Zac Suarez from Hermit King. So we’ll always visit when we’re touring. Plus, I’m vegan, and y’all have some great food. I would imagine an Asheville-inspired album would probably sound funky, rustic and urbane, just like the city.



About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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