When I saw that the Mowgli's were coming through Cain's Ballroom in June, I immediately reached out to Josh for an interview. Not only was I certain people would love to hear more about his current experience with the Mowgli's, but also his musical history--tracing steps through his high school punk bands and rookie performance memories. And Josh graciously offered an authentic reflection on what it was like growing up in the Edmond/Oklahoma City music scene and his experiences as a young artist.
The Mowgli's have made their mark in the music world with their talent and chart-climbing songs, and Josh has reached a new milestone of success in his music career; it's refreshing to see a high-spirited guy from an OKC suburb inspiring thousands of other musicians and fans. I believe the world could use more Josh Hogans, and I was happy to catch up with him a few weeks before the Mowgli's headling performance at Cain's Ballroom on June 17th.
Josh: We've been touring pretty non-stop since the end of 2012, and we've learned so much about the politics of music. We've grown as a group and as individuals, and that shines through our new record. The new songs still share the underlying positive message that Waiting for the Dawn carried, but this time we had a major label and a whole team of people behind us adding deadlines and overall pressure to the equation. So with Waiting for the Dawn we had all the time in the world to write songs on the beach, and with Kids In Love we wrote two songs a day trying to put together the best record we could.
Jenn: There are currently seven of you in the band, can you tell us about the collaborative writing process and the individual creative flavor you bring?
Josh: Our writing process has been all over the map. We've tried writing in a room with all of us, writing in smaller groups, co-writing with other artists and producers and even writing solo. All of these methods work but in my opinion, we produce the best music when we work as a team. Everyone brings their own flavor to the songs like David with his massive key parts, or Spencer and I on electric guitar, adding more effects and licks wherever we can. I actually met Robert Keeley, a pedal maker, in Edmond right near where I grew up. He gave me a few pedals to try out and I was able to add all of them into the record.
Jenn: You grew up making music from your hometown of Edmond, OK and then moved to L.A. in 2006. Were you actively pursuing music at the time of your move? How did being a part of the Mowgli’s evolve for you?
Josh: I originally moved to L.A. to join a band called Oh No Not Stereo. I learned more in the first year living in L.A. than I did in all my time in Oklahoma. From there, I started working with a producer who introduced me to some of The Mowgli's, and we formed a band with friends from several different bands. Everyone involved had the same drive to create something positive for the world. I was coming off some huge life transitions, and I was willing to dive into some great art. I feel like everyone else had a similar story, so eventually it worked out.
Josh: I was raised in church in Edmond, singing in choir and being involved in plays. When I heard The Blue Album by Weezer and Dookie from Green Day, I decided I should get an electric guitar. It seemed like most of my friends at the time did the same thing, which was a little intimidating knowing there was so much competition. In hindsight, there was no competition at all. I just didn't have the idea of collecting all these friends and creating a community. I played my first show with my band, The Grizzwalds, at the 4th Street Basement Cafe in Edmond. They threw punk shows every weekend, and it quickly became the only place to be in Edmond for a young aspiring punk kid. I remember we did the old stop in the middle of the first song because we messed up... it was interesting and scary.
We were influenced by local bands like Mr. Crispy, Traindodge and Charlie Car Tragedy. I loved all kids of punk music and I always looked up to indie bands like The Get Up Kids and The Anniversary. My dad had some Beatles records so I grew up loving those George Harrison riffs.
I played with Chris Gaylor, from The All American Rejects, in a band called Leasing Nations. We got a pretty good following in OKC and we did a real tour when I was 19. I learned a lot from Chris and our singer Andy Stensrud. Soon after Leasing Nations, I reunited with Ty Coon and Sean Moore to create Bristol Park. We had so much fun with this band playing shows around the city and teaming up with other bands. The height of Bristol park's career was when we did a split EP with Minutes Too Far.
When I was 22, I moved to Oklahoma City and discovered a whole world of a scene I didn't know about. Lots of new friends and bands and venues that come and go every few months or so. It was like a healthy rotation of culture for me. When I got to L.A. it was very over-saturated with too many bands playing in every other establishment in town.
Josh: I think, like everything, the music scene in Oklahoma has grown and evolved into something great as far as I've seen. I'm very out of the loop though, so maybe don't quote me on that one, hahaha. Overall, I feel like my friends there have just grown up and figured out some things that help them.
Jenn: With your current tour, what does a typical day look like inside the life of a Mowgli?
Josh: A day in the life of a Mowgli (on tour) usually consists of waking up at a venue in the afternoon and sound checking. Then on to exploring. We travel with folding bicycles, skateboards, soccer balls, paint and anything else that helps us get outside to see what's going on. Our sleep schedule is a little off as we start working in the evening and stay up way later than usual. We travel in a bandwagon, which is like a bus, with no back lounge. We have a refrigerator for quality food and a TV for the really boring drive days. We also try to get involved in local charities like food drives whenever and wherever we can.
Jenn: What are five things you keep with you on tour at all times?
Josh: Five things I keep with me on tour at all times...
- my dog Abby
- mini Martin acoustic
- soccer ball
- midi controller for making demos
- Mac book pro for watching episodes of The Wire
"Being out in the world, and hearing fan's stories about our music lifting them out of darkness, has been an incredible inspiration to keep doing what we're doing."
Josh: Sometimes I can't believe my life is real. I get to tour with my friends, my dogs and the love of my life!! Aaaand I get to play music every day! Katie and I get to squeeze in dates sometimes on days off. We had a nice date in Chicago at Michael Jordan's steakhouse. We also walk our dogs all over different cities and take bike rides. It's been an incredible experience.
Jenn: What have been some relational learning points being on the road together and working together professionally?
Josh: Being with Katie is like nothing I've ever experienced before. We give each other space and also can spend lots of time together. We don't argue much and when we do, it's settled pretty quickly. It just works, I don't really know how else to explain it...some learning points are keeping that balance even and always being patient.
Josh: My advice to my young self would be to drink less (a lot less) and don't take things so personally.
Jenn: Name your top three dream locations where you would like to play a show.
Josh: My first dream location to play has always been Red Rocks, and we're actually playing there tonight (I'm writing up this interview in the catering room... ). We're opening for Portugal, then Man and Cage the Elephant, I couldn't be more happy. Another big one for me is Cain's Ballroom!!! We got to open for Walk the Moon there in 2013, and now we're headlining!! Again, very happy. Last, I really want to go to Spain...so I'll just say Spain! Also space. Seriously, space. Just wait.
Jenn: The Mowgli’s have shared the intention of writing uplifting, positive songs. What are some impacts you’ve seen from writing positive musical content? Why do you think it’s important?
Josh: I grew up in the 90's listening to heroin-infused music about pain and heartbreak. At some point in my 20's, I decided to make music to uplift people. Even before the Mowgli's, I was writing positive songs to help my producer who just went through a breakup. Being out in the world, and hearing fans stories about our music lifting them out of darkness, has been an incredible inspiration to keep doing what we're doing. We're no saviors and we're certainly not perfect, we need this positive music just as much as anyone else. When I'm writing, at least 75% of the time I'm writing to myself. That's when the best material comes out. I've noticed a lot of new bands on that same page, so I truly believe that with strength in numbers we can change the world in a positive way.
"We're constantly meeting new bands and friends, so you never know who you might see us on tour with. We don't drink before shows anymore, so we're actually getting better and better! The sky is the limit."
Josh: The first person who comes to mind right now is my friend Wes Hudson. he was a comedian in high school, he just didn't know it. Now he knows, so he's pursuing it! My friend Chase Kerby is still at it and I highly recommend his music. Also Ty Coon, from my old band Bristol Park,googol is playing with The Mills Band. Also I have some really talented friends who just started a new band called Context Collapse. I can't wait to hear what they get going. Like I said before, I'm very out of the loop, so I'm sorry to all my friends who I didn't mention. My advice is to just get out there, meet some people, see what's happening and get involved.
Jenn: Any scoop on what’s next for the Mowgli’s? What are some of your personal goals for 2015?
Josh: Right now we're on tour supporting our new record, Kids In Love. We'll continue touring, writing and working to get our message out there. We're releasing a new song on Spotify called "Summertime," just in time for the summer! We're always trying to up our game with the live show, so you never know what might happen. We're constantly meeting new bands and friends, so you never know who you might see us on tour with. We don't drink before shows anymore, so we're actually getting better and better! The sky is the limit. Some of my personal goals for this year include writing with other artist (I would love to write with Wayne Coyne), playing more soccer, going overseas, visiting home! And hopefully getting a songwriting camp going for the Mowgli's next record.