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Friday, 27 May 2011 08:51

Wired in #14: Mighty Oaks

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Inspired by nature and quite an international group, the guys from Mighty Oaks write beautiful folk music that is perfect to escape the stressful life of the city. Thanks to my friend and E&M fan Parker Higgins I found this great band. They've only been playing together for just over a year and but have already discovered a developed sound and a clear identity as a band. Make sure to check out one of their upcoming shows and if you live in Berlin you might even get lucky and catch them playing in Mauerpark. E&M talked to their singer and co-founder Ian Hooper about the advantages of Berlin, making music and living mighty!

Mighty Oaks - All My Days from Claudio Donzelli on Vimeo.

IH: My Ma is actually from Ireland, so I was over in Europe quite a lot as a kid. Making the trek back here at this age was very humane, and I never really feel out of place over here. Also, Seattle and Portland, with their rich cafe and cycling cultures, are often described as somewhat European in culture. I guess the people are just different, but I break that down to a more micro level than continent or country.

E&M: In what way does having band members from four different countries shape the sound of your music?

IH: Oddly enough, I've never really considered the effect that our nationalities have on the music. We have a common interest in folk music, so it is like we all speak the same language and come from the same place when we get together to play. Our diverse backgrounds make life outside of the rehearsal room, or on stage, really fun though. When you throw Germany, Italy, England and the U.S. together, you get a rich mix of traditions that keeps things infinitely interesting. I think this is one of the more unique aspects of the band actually. It certainly must influence our approach to music, but its not something that I can really define.

E&M: You're all very inspired by nature, why did you decide to settle in a big city like Berlin?

IH: Berlin is the place to be. Really. There is never a shortage of cultural activities going on, and there is a great mix of people here. It is hip and cheap, and the standard of living is high. It has a few million residents, sure, but it is spatially quite massive, so you never get the feeling that it is chock-full of people. Plus, there are loads of lakes in the area, and there are plenty of parks to get a quick green fix. 

E&M: And which place in Europe would you most like to travel to next?

IH: I have been talking a lot about going to Porto and Istanbul. I also want to head back to Italy. Claudio talks about it so much, and I have only been there once, so I am leaning heavily toward Sicily.

E&M: What do you do apart from making music? 

IH: Haha, Claudio and I have this motto, "live mighty!" I have a great job doing Social Media and e-Commerce for the awesome bag company, Crumpler, and Claudio is a PhD student at the TU in Berlin. We are also super sports oriented. I climb a few times a week, and Claudio and I run and swim together in the mornings as well. We are also very interested in the possibilities that web 2.0 affords musicians. We are always searching out new technologies and services that can help us get ahead a little. SoundCloud is really pushing the boundaries in that field. We should have actually done this interview via takesquestions.com!

E&M: Thanks, I'll definitely check that out for future interviews! Now, regarding your songwriting, do you ever struggle to come up with a new song? 

IH: Fortunately, no. It is a running gag now whenever I play live shows, that I nearly always play a new track. I have a tendency to write a lot of music. Some mighty, some meagre. But that is how you move forward. 

E&M: I saw you're going to play the Fusion Festival in July. When writing songs, do you already think about how they're going to translate on stage and in front of festival crowds?

IH: Yeah!! I'm super pumped about that. When writing songs, I just want to be sincere. I want people to listen to the music and experience no pretensions. I think it is bullshit when I get the feeling that artists are someone completely different off-stage and away from their work. So back to your question, I don't really think too much about crowds when writing music. When the songs are taken to the rehearsal rooms, then we discuss things as a group and hammer down better dynamics and transitions though. 

E&M: Why did you decide to pick up instruments like the banjo or mandolin? 

IH: I can't remember why I wanted a mandolin. My Dad plays Celtic music, so I figure that I must have been exposed to the sound from a young age. I just really like the way that my voice mixes with the instrument, and it is fun as hell to play. In terms of the banjo, I bought it a few years back in the States, because I always wanted to learn how to play it, and master the killer sound. Sadly, I suck, really bad. So I gave it to Claudio one day and he was immediately much more prolific than I ever could dream to be on it.

E&M: What was the best concert you've ever been to?

IH: Oh man. I hate this question. I was really inspired by Andrew Bird when I saw him. Maps & Atlases are great live as well. When I was young, I started dreaming of playing music when I was at Sasquatch Festival one year when Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, and Dave Matthews all played. I know that people hate on those guys quite a lot, but they were big influences on why I ever started to play.  

E&M: And what does Europe mean to you? 

IH: Many things. It has always been the second half of my life, in a way. As my mother is from this part of the world. I love being from the States, but I am slowly coming to terms with Europe being my home. Europe means travel and rich cultures and social safety nets.

E&M: Thanks for the interview Ian! 

Check out Mighty Oaks's tracks on soundcloud here!

Last modified on Friday, 27 May 2011 14:53

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