I caught up with The Muslims after their show at The Echo, a popular Los Angeles venue. The Muslims have burst onto the Southern California music scene with a Malcolm X inspired band name and their own clever take on punk rock.
SoundsXP: You guys are on Sweet Tooth Records. Do you own the label?
Bryan: No. Kelly Alvarez owns it and runs it out of her house in San Diego. She’s a friend of ours.
SoundsXP: When you put your friends on the guest list is there a certain amount of money that you lose from that?
David: No, no. Every time you play a show they give you a certain amount of people that you can put on the guest list. Some of them don’t show up sometimes.
SoundsXP: Does it matter if people don’t show up?
Bryan: It matters because people make a big deal about getting on the list and they get mad at you if you don’t put them on, but they won’t show up sometimes. That means somebody else has to pay when they could’ve been on the list.
David: I used to try to be nice and say: “I’ll put you on the list if you come.” But now I don’t really try to get people on the list, unless we’re on tour and we’re staying at their house or something, or a person like you, who wants to interview us.
SoundsXP: I guess some people will try to get on several guest lists at one time just in case one of them falls through.
Bryan: Are we talking about friends?
SoundsXP: You still call them friends after that? That’s too bad.
David: I’m a forgiving person.
Bryan: I only hang out with people who like my band.
SoundsXP: You’re into friend rock?
Bryan: Yeah, friend rock. It’s a new genre.
SoundsXP: Your EP sold out.
Matty: We had it re-pressed, so we’ll have more to sell at shows and on the internet and in Southern California record stores. We just put it out right before we went to Texas for SXSW and our friend sold a lot on the internet and on tour we sold a bunch. We don’t have T-shirts or anything, so we were really excited about the extra money and the fact that people were hearing our music.
SoundsXP: Do you all have day jobs?
Matty: I make sandwiches, and burritos, and smoothies at a health-food store in West Los Angeles.
Matt: I’m a telemarketer in West LA.
SoundsXP: Do you feel bad about selling your soul to make money?
Matt: It’s not too bad, because I’m calling for organizations like Greenpeace and Obama’s campaign. But it is soulless hell, and it sucks, yeah.
Bryan: I work in a hospital right now, in a medical records department. So it’s a pretty dull office job.
David: I’m in between jobs right now.
SoundsXP: Who is the main songwriter?
Matt: We all do it now. It was just me and Matty before. Now it’s all a four way.
SoundsXP: How does that work, you sit down and you decide on a song topic?
David: Matty and Matt are kind of the directors.
Matt: Assistant production over here with Dave.
Bryan: I’m key grip. I work at crafts services.
SoundsXP: What’s the best thing about living in LA?
David: Well, coming from San Diego, I like San Diego a lot, but I grew up there my whole life and its cool to move on to a bigger city. There’s a lot more going on in LA.
SoundsXP: What kind of things can you get here that you can’t get in San Diego?
David: Well, for instance we go to the Upright Citizens Brigade a lot, this cool little comedy club. We’ve been fortunate, we know people that have lived here for a while, so we’ve gotten pretty well involved. A lot of people don’t like LA because they have to drive a lot and deal with traffic. I haven’t had to drive too much personally.
SoundsXP: Do you guys live close to each other?
David: Yeah, Matty and I live together, right down the street in Echo Park. That’s where we practice.
Matty: We live in a house with our friend Casey, and our landlords live in the front part. They’re really nice. They let us be as loud as we want. After we get off work, we start jamming out and having a good time. It’s perfect, because practice spaces are expensive, our jobs don’t pay us a lot of money, just enough to cover rent, and we’re really fortunate to have good landlords.
David: They’re the best. It’s two houses on the same lot and it’s this really sweet Mexican family, really inviting, kind of open arms type people. They make me breakfast.
SoundsXP: What’s your schedule like? Do you try to meet everyday?
Matty: Yeah, right after work at night time. We convene at 8 o’clock, talk about everyone’s day till about 8:30, and pick up our instruments.
David: We ease into it, you know. You can’t push these things.
Matty: Then we just hang out and jam. Then we high five, hug each other, Matt gets back on the bus and David makes food sometimes late at night. He’s a really good cook. So we make food, go to bed, and go back to work, so it’s a good little schedule.
SoundsXP: Do you find that after work you’re creatively drained?
Matty: No, actually after work, after taking shit from people all day, you’re really excited to play guitar, or play drums. After work today I was exhausted, but it’s something to look forward to. I get to hang out with three of my best friends and go play at a place like this.
David: Matty’s really good at channeling that negative work energy into a good thing.
Matty: Yeah, it’s a release and then I’m all happy and positive, doing an interview.
SoundsXP: What question do you get asked in interviews that bothers you, or you think is a dumb question?
Matty: We get the name question a lot, but that’s a valid question. It doesn’t make sense to us why it’s a big deal, but we understand that it’s going to happen. We’ve actually done pretty good interviews. Early on there was a couple of guys who interviewed us about our sound and tried to convince us to talk shit about other bands. When someone’s like: “So what sucks about this?” It’s like, you know what sucks about it. Everyone knows what sucks about it.
SoundsXP: You don’t want to be the one on record saying it.
Matty: Well it’s dumb to even say it. Who cares? I don’t think about why something sucks.
SoundsXP: What do you think about people asking you to describe/categorize your music?
Matty: Well, it’s tough to categorize anything. When we first started writing songs, we weren’t the most technical of guitar players, so we didn’t have any preconception of what we were going to sound like. It was like: “Can we even be a band?” It wasn’t like well, we were thinking of doing like a Steely Dan mixed with this or that.
SoundsXP: How does it happen that this is the sound that you come up with? Do you all like the same kind of music?
Matty: No, we all listen to different music. We have a couple staples that we like, but everyone has their own stuff. Matt likes The Fall, I really like The Replacements, Dave’s really into Sly Stone, Bryan’s really into David Bowie. When Matt and I started writing songs we wanted it to be simple, no overdoing it. A lot of bands would be excited about a part, and then they would change it. There are a lot of parts, parts, parts, As opposed to getting a thing going. We want it to be simple. Not over thinking it, just going with more feeling. We allow something to build, and then Matt sings over it. It’s like creating a platform, you know. It’s simplified.
SoundsXP: How did you guys decide who would be the vocalist?
Matty: When we started, Matt and I would record on tapes and stuff. He sang this Beck song and I liked his voice a lot. He’s got balls and he’s not afraid of anything, so I knew right away that I wanted Matt to sing.
SoundsXP: I watched you in the “Extinction” music video. How does it feel to be on camera? Was it kind of strange?
Matt: Oh, no. I went to film school, so we just shot that in a day.
SoundsXP: What was the concept behind it?
Matt: It’s based on these projects that I used to do, nerdy nonsensical monologues in film school for my film projects and they’re always poor quality, but it was kind of always my thing. And then I just decided to make a music video.
SoundsXP: So you finished film school?
Matt: Yeah, I finished a year and a half ago.
SoundsXP: What’s your plan with that?
Matt: Hopefully, I won’t have to do any film work, so I can just do this band thing. Sometimes I’ll do a PA job, or an assistant camera thing. Just for money though. If I were to do film stuff, I would do weird little short videos and stuff. But I’m not very serious about the film industry at all.
SoundsXP: Why did you decide to go to film school then?
Matt: I got into film when I was watching more feature films and that probably got ruined by going to film school. I stopped watching movies and watched shorts and experimental videos and stuff like that.
SoundsXP: Why did going to film school ruin movies for you?
Matt: I guess having to watch movies took the fun out of it, and writing papers about it. Plus watching it and seeing all the redundancy in most movies. Like 99% of movies are shit.
SoundsXP: What are some of your favorite movies?
Matt: I really like Los Olvidados by Luis Bunuel. He was one of the earliest filmmakers, he was a surrealist guy. He did that movie with Salvador Dali where they cut the eye of the person. It was in the thirties. I think it’s called Un Chien Andalou. That guy’s really good and that movie makes me miss my parents. You know when you see something and you get all sentimental and you want to call your mom and be like: “I love you mom.” It’s one of those movies.
SoundsXP: Where’s your mom?
Matt: My mom’s in Maui. My parents live in Maui.
SoundsXP: Is that where you grew up?
Matt: No, I grew up in San Diego, but my dad works for a bank and there was an opening over there and he works there. I guess if you’re going to be a banker, Maui’s a good place. It’s too slow for me, but it’s nice. I like to be able to go to concerts and stuff.
SoundsXP: What are some of the best shows you’ve seen recently?
Matt: Kill Me Tomorrow was really good. We saw them at 94.9 Independence Jam. We played with them. Kill Me Tomorrow was probably the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. The Sess always knocks my socks off, they’re another San Diego band. They’re pretty awesome.
SoundsXP: What are your plans for touring?
Matt: Right now we’re just flying to specific places, so we don’t have to drive across the country with these gas prices.