An Interview With The Cleveland-Based Indie Rock Band, MR. CARNIVORE!
Posted On 09 Mar 2018
Meet the Cleveland indie-rock band Mr. Carnivore! Their new single, which premiered Tuesday (Feb. 6) on Cleveland.com. “Knees” is an earthy, smoldering down-tempo about “about being in a tough relationship,” band-mate Mike Pappas writes. “You love each other, but you hurt each other. You try to make it work but you come up short. It ends with ‘when the rain washes off the pain of your love.’ The love is there, or was there, but it was always with pain. It is kind of a tortured love song disguised in pretty wrapping paper.”
“Knees” officially drops everywhere Feb. 12 and follows last year’s “Hot Air Balloon” music video, which features the original version of the song, recorded by member Pat LaGuardia before the band had actually formed. Touching upon such influences as Beck and The Avett Brothers, the band is comprised of Pappas (vocals/guitar), LaGuardia (vocals/guitar), Kevin Hannah (drums) and Joe LaGuardia (vocals/bass). Their first album together is expected later this year.
Mr. Carnivore is a two-head alternative rock monster fronted by Cleveland natives and close friends, Mike Pappas and Pat LaGuardia. These two have literally grown up writing and playing each other’s songs. Pappas is a bit of a prodigal son to Cleveland. Not so much in the sense that he blew his inheritance frivolously. More like he took his talents down to Los Angeles to try to win a championship. While in LA, Mike was able to accomplish quite a bit. He worked on music featured on multiple broadcast companies including Warner Brothers, Island/Def Jam, ESPN, MTV, NBC, ABC, Fox Searchlight and Comedy Central. Mike was also able to work with top selling artists such as Christina Aguilera, Adam Lambert and Courtney Love. Of those works, Mike engineered and mixed a song in the Lego Batman Movie featuring Joe Jonas of DNCE.
While Mike was taking on Los Angeles, the rest of the crew was busy as well. Pat wrote, recorded and released several solo albums. Kevin and Joe met each other in the Cleveland based project, The Shadow Division, where they developed a close playing relationship as the rhythm section. It was during this time that they were able to build relationships with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the Cleveland area. This all was building the framework for Mr. Carnivore to come together and have a fighting chance for success. The common thread that draws this group together is the belief that a great song has the power to change the world around them. While the songs that the group creates come from within, Mr. Carnivore’s intention is to use the music to reach out and engage the listener. The group hopes to reach audiences far and wide with this mindset.
Mr. Carnivore’s first release is their self-titled full length album. It is a collection of songs written by both Pat and Mike and adapted by the whole group. The songs sound like a merging of popular acts such as The Grateful Dead, The Avett Brothers, Oasis & Beck. Mr. Carnivore hopes to play well placed shows in their local market to establish themselves quickly and start to move to bigger markets.
From an early age, the members of Mr. Carnivore knew that playing music was something that inspired them and was what they wanted to do long term. Everyone feels very lucky to be able to create in an atmosphere that does not rely on ego or self interest, but relies on an unfiltered focus to do what they feel is the best for the portrayal of the music. This is not a just a group of musicians, but a group of friends. The members feel that this greatly benefits the music because you can feel the love for the music and for each other in the compositions. The goal with this band is to create a community surrounding their music. This can be seen by strong attendances and participation at their shows. Family and friends are the base of Mr. Carnivore’s following, but the inclusive nature of the group is something that is felt beyond this inner circle. Bassist Joe LaGuardia says, “the music may come from within this small group, but is meant for everyone.”
Learn more about Mr. Carnivore in the following All Access interview:
What is one song that you are loving right now?
[Joe] I’ve been listening to the Black Panther soundtrack since it’s been released. Pretty sure my favorite song from that release is “X”. I’m a fan of Kendrick, I love the production on everything that he puts out and this one is no exception.
[Mike] “Demons” by The National. I just started listening to them. I’m a little late to the party but I see why everyone’s been raving about them. Pretty mesmerizing.
[Pat] Margaret Glaspy’s song Memory Street had me in tears while driving the other day, which is impressive because I thought I had lost the ability to cry as well as the fact that I have heard the song 100s of times. Her entire album (Emotions and Math) is a rollercoaster and staple for me lately.
What is a song that you all disagree about loving right now?
[Joe] I’m guessing I’m probably the only one in Mr. Carnivore that loves DJ Khaled/Justin Bieber’s I’m the one. I’m not proud of it, but I just think it’s one of the best pop songs ever produced.
[Pat] We generally agree on most music. That being said we all like a lot of different music from different genres, I am sure we could find songs we disagree on…. I wrote this answer then saw Joe’s answer.. And yes I don’t agree on Bieber..
How has 2018 been treating you all so far?
[Joe] 2018 has been a super busy but exciting year so far. Being that Mr. Carnivore has only been together since late 2017, there has been a lot of leg work to do with getting the group started and then releasing our first single. We have been graced with a lot of press on this release and it is keeping us busy and motivated to release the full collection of songs that we are working on right now.
[Pat] Well I just got back from Costa Rica where I was on a holiday, so it has been better than the first couple months of most of my years.
What is one musical goal that you have for this year?
[Joe] We really want to release the full collection of songs that we’ve been working on. Once we have done that, we want to start playing live. We have strengths in the studio, but I believe that we are strongest on stage. We can’t wait to display that side of us and see how it is received.
[Pat] I want to reach more people with my music. That is a pretty generalized goal and hard to measure, but I have felt very closeted as an artist and my goal this year is to have people hear what I/we do.
Can you recall the moment when you all thought you could be in a band together?
[Joe] We all were involved in hosting Speakeasy Open Mic in Ohio City for the last year. There was a moment in time where we were all hanging out at one of those events where I had a lightbulb moment. Seeing Mike and Pat get on stage separately and play their songs, and Kevin and I were in a different band at the time, made me think that we could be a pretty good band if we put it all together. It took a couple months of convincing everyone that this was the move, but at the end of
the day everyone acknowledged that this would be a lot of fun and we have the potential to be pretty darn good.
[Pat] This bit is usually told by my brother Joe. I can say this group of people could have been in a band for a long time now, it just so happens to have be this year.
Was it hard to come up with a name that you all thought fit your sound and who you are?
[Joe] Honestly, I don’t think our name really fits our sound very well. Maybe that’s part of why it was appealing to me.
[Pat] I think the music needs to shape the name instead of the other way around. I bet Death Cab for Cutie wasn’t always so fitting for their sound.
How did you pick this one?
[Joe] We were hanging out at the Speakeasy Open Mic when a veggie burger was delivered to someone in the group. That bartender asked Kevin if it was his, to which he replied, “you can’t call it a burger if it doesn’t have any meat on it!” Kevin went on to state, “I love meat too much to eat a veggie burger… you might as well call me Mr. Carnivore.” We all laughed saying that would a good band name. We formed the band a couple weeks later and we still thought that it was a
good band name, so we went with it.
What has the growth been like for this band since first forming?
[Joe] With starting any new group, there is always a process of feeling everyone out and getting used to a new working environment. We are always working on evolving and trying to come to the best version of ourselves. It isn’t always easy but communication is key and we do our best. We try to be light on our feet and try to make the best decisions for the group based on the information that we have at hand.
[Pat] Extremely fun, but a little disjointed for me. We are a talented group of artistic friends which makes the music and just about everything else we do together a good time.
How do you think being from Cleveland has influenced this band and the kind of music that you create?
[Joe] I think that the environment that anyone lives in influences the creative and operating processes. Cleveland is full of a lot of hard working musicians, so for me personally, being in that atmosphere influences how hard I work on this project.
[Pat] Cleveland is so rich in musical talent and influence that I would say it more or less flows through songs that we write and how we portray things. At a caveman level, the chances we have a song referencing snow is much higher than singing about the ocean.
What was the inspiration for your newest single “Knees”?
[Mike] Knees is inspired by a real relationship that took place over a couple of years. Knees is about being in a tough relationship. You love each other, but you hurt each other. You try to make it work but you come up short. It ends with “when the rain washes off the pain of your love” – The love is there, or was there, but it was always with pain. Kind of a tortured love song disguised in pretty wrapping paper.
How do you think it compares to other music that you have released?
[Joe] Knees is our first official release. However, we did release an unofficial version of a song that will be on our upcoming release called Hot Air Balloon. We released with this song with a music video (https://youtu.be/1c3R20SGHaM) that was all created by Pat before Mr. Carnivore inception. One of the main reasons that we thought putting this band together would work is because the songs that Mike writes and the song that Pat writes have elements that cross over with each other. We do think that these two songs work well with each other.
[Pat] It is the first thing we have released so it’s hard to say how it compares to other released songs, but it definitely prepares listeners for what else is to come. The raw feeling of heart outside of chest that is present on Knees is a pretty consistent theme for us.
How does it prepare listeners for more music from this band?
[Joe] Knees is a good representation of the vibe that we are trying to put out as a group. We are trying to create within the constraints of a band that uses organic sounds. That’s not to say that we won’t add keys or other elements to our recordings, but we don’t want to rely on studio tricks to “make the song”. Generally, how do you guys go about putting a song together? Do you work separately or together?
[Joe] This is a process that is going to evolve as the band matures. For this first round of songs, both Mike and Pat had a large bank of songs that we’re either finished or nearly finished. We put a group of about 50 or 60 songs together that we thought we could do well and let everyone listen and pick songs. After a couple rounds of narrowing down, we arrived at the songs that we are going to push as far as they can go and see how they turn out. We are all really excited for the next round of songs because we are going to try to create from within the group. We love to jam and the few times that we’ve done it, some really interesting stuff has come out of us.
[Pat] Our first large release of music was written by Mike and myself separately and the band has adopted them making slightly different versions for the most part. I think writing together will be this bands strong suit when we get there. We struggle to practice songs without writing/jamming new
Mike, I am curious to know how all of your various experiences working with top-selling artists inLA has helped shape the kind of musician that you are today?
[Mike] I’m not sure if any of the work has shaped me musically, but I will say that the biggest artists I’ve met and worked with are usually the nicest, most humble and genuinely passionate musicians to be around. Humble being a big word there. I’ve met bigger egos at downtown Cleveland recording studios than being in a room with multiple Grammy winners. For my first year in LA, I kept a detailed log of everyone I met. It was no surprise that the nicest, most humble people turned out to be the most successful.
Can you pick a memorable working relationship that you had?
[Mike] When I first moved to LA, I was an intern for a pop producer. I actually enjoyed being a gopher for the producer and artists that would come through. It was always satisfying to work overtime and be on top of every detail – and eventually earn their trust. Once you were in, you had
to keep working hard to maintain your status. There was a bit of turbulence about the whole experience that was enjoyable (in retrospect of course).
What did you learn from it?
[Mike] I learned that the music industry is the wild west and no one actually knows what they’re doing. Which is scary and comforting at the same time.
I am a big fan of the Lego Batman Movie so I have to ask what it was like engineering and mixing a song from that film?
[Mike]I landed in LA to engineer what was to be a 5 song EP for an artist named Shea Diamond. I landed on a Wednesday night and as soon as I got to the house I was staying at, the producer of the EP told me that they had a couple songs up for the Lego Batman Movie and that I had 24 hours to do some tracking and mix two songs. So we got some coffee and got to work.
A nerdy detail about this is that the computer with the song didn’t have Pro Tools (the music program I mainly use) but it had Ableton Live. I had barely ever used Ableton and I had to mix the Lego Batman song using it. What a rush! Learning a program from scratch while mixing a song for a potential Batman movie. It was crazy. As soon as we finished the mix, we were in the studio for the Shea EP. Non stop!
At the time of mixing, we didn’t know for sure it was going to be in the Lego Batman Movie. As with all things in LA, you can’t believe anything until the check clears. So we were optimistic, but had it fallen through it would have been no surprise. In fact, we had three songs in the movie until about two weeks before the deadline. Last minute they had a recut and a couple scenes changed. Just the nature of the beast. The original mix I made had Justin Tranter as the vocalist (which is also on the soundtrack). The Joe Jonas/DNCE vocals came much later towards the actual release date.
How important do you think social media has been to this band?
[Joe] Social media is always something that we are talking about. I don’t think that any of us love how dependent the modern musician is on these tools. However, we do acknowledge that they are an intrinsic part of trying to operate as a band in 2018. We try to use it as creatively as we can while still clearly displaying our message. It is an amazing tool to connect us with people that will either be interested in hearing our music or contacting people that might be interested in helping us move our career. Social media is a double-edged sword.
Do all you help to maintain all your sites or is one of you more into it all? Or do you rely on your PR/management team to handle it all?
[Joe] We all try to contribute to keep up with everything. There are so many different things that we need to be on it would be a massive task for you person to take on. Everyone is really good at helping to spread that burden. We have been very lucky to team up with Jason from B-Sides and Badlands to help us get the word out. He is amazing at what he does.
Who would you love to work with in the future?
[Joe] Working with anyone that is passionate about what they do would be the best situation for me. I am inspired to work with people that are motivated by the love of what they do.
Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
[Joe] I have been listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar, Rage Against the Machine, Tune-Yards, Savages among quite a few more.
[Mike] Lately been listening to The National, J Dilla, Chris Stapleton, Kendrick Lamar.
What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this group?
[Mike] A great producer haha. We’ve all recorded a lot of music and I work professionally as an engineer/producer, but it would be so great to have a producer come in and shape us up and take that side of the work load out. Flood would be cool I think. Steve Lillywhite, Danger Mouse.
[Pat] Mikes answer here great.
We are living in a trying time right now so I am curious how you think being in this band gives you the most joy in life today?
[Joe] For me, being in this band give me something to be excited about. I believe in this project more than anything I’ve ever been involved in before. Music can be such a powerful and positive part of someone’s life. That’s why I find myself turning off the news and turning on music so often.
[Pat] Music has always been an escape for me personally, being able to do it with some of my best friends is elating.
Do you think that music being created today is going to reflect this challenging time?
[Joe] With so many options out there, I think you could find examples of music that portray the times, music that ignores it and everything in-between. I believe that it is the consumers choice of what they decide to listen to.
[Mike] Maybe. It’s tricky with music because a lot of musicians are falling into the trap of thinking that if they write songs about the challenging things of our times – i.e guns, Trump, social justice, equality etc. – that the songs should automatically should be deemed as good or popular. Writing a song about those things doesn’t really mean anything if it’s a shit song- no matter how passionately you sing it. Great songs always win, no matter the topic.
[Pat] Music has always told the story of the people in that time. I would imagine the same thing happens here, whether we know it or not. It probably won’t be noticed until times change.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
[Joe] We want our music to have a message of inclusion. The songs tend to be able love and loss but we are trying to portray them in a candid way that hopefully will give people the sense that the song is for them and not about a far out, abstract thought that they cannot relate to.
[Mike] I hope they want to further explore what the songs are. We have the recorded versions and then live versions – both different. Hopefully they want to engage with them more and figure out what we’re trying to get on about. As we still are.
[Pat] I hope we help people slow down, laugh and enjoy the present moment instead of being tied down by the past or the future.
What do you hope they take away from one of your shows?
[Joe] We want our shows to be parties. We want everyone to feel like they are going to a reunion or a gathering of their favorite people to have an awesome night of fun and music. We’ve said that we’ll bring the beach balls.
[Mike] A t-shirt for $12 USD
[Pat] I hope they walk away feeling like they have made a connection to us as a group and to other people there. Music brings people together in a way that is slowly going away with the rise of blue light.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves or your music?
We are very excited to be as active as we can with Mr. Carnivore. We want to play shows and release music at a rapid pace. Follow us on our social media to find how you can interact with us! Thank you for all of the support.