Touring is a way of life for the Mantras, a jam band native to the Southeast, and since their fourth studio album wrapped, they've been bringing their strongest energy yet.
After losing a founding member last year, the Mantras have been busy polishing their new sound, minus that lead guitar. New Times got together with Brent Vaughn, the band's percussionist to talk shop in anticipation for their upcoming shows at Funky Buddha Lounge on March 2 and the Hurricane Bar and Lounge in Delray Beach on March 3.
New Times: You all recently played a show at Nectar's in Vermont, a pretty iconic place in the world of honest old fashioned jam music. Have you played there before? If so, what's the energy like? Is there a certain aspect about it you are looking forward to?
Brent Vaughn: Iconic is the right word for sure. I actually made a pilgrimage there in college just to see the place and eat some gravy fries. This will be our second time playing there, and we are very excited! I was a Phish phan long before I became a touring musician. To play where they cut their teeth is a honor. Oh! And the energy was bananas! We were opening for Dopapod. What a great night.
What were some of the issues the band faced last year that helped shape the sound of this album and the energy you brought and continue to bring to the tour?
Probably the biggest thing we encountered was losing one of our founding members, guitarist Marcus Horth as we were really gaining momentum. Having to restructure our sound to a one guitar/keyboard lead as opposed to two guitars was no easy feat. We feel like we are just now honing the evolution of our sound and playing up to our abilities.
You guys have opened for Umphrey's McGee a few times now. How did the Mantras get connected with them? Those guys are out of control. It seems you guys share a certain sound profile. Do you turn for them for inspiration?
We were all Umphrey's fans before we played together, so it is definitely a shared inspiration. Our keyboardist Justin Powell is in Ali Baba's Tahini, the band Jake Cinninger played in before Umphrey's hit it huge, and who he continues to play when they can find the time. Those guys have all been very nice to us, and the whole thing is a bit surreal, honestly.
With all the Jam-tronica on the rise, how do you see yourselves staying current and still remaining honest in your musicianship?
Incorporating it in our own way, and not just relying on a track playing. Being as interactive as we can with the electronic sound. I think it's great to use what technology has to offer, but there is no reason you can't also learn and perform most any style on your instrument. Who knows with all this crazy future music? We may all yet be replaced by robots!
Your fourth and most recent release is called Jam Bands Ruined My Life. Here at New Times, we've probably spent some time reveling in this statement. How did it become the title to this album?
The album came out on Jan 22, and is available for free at themantras.com. It's also on Spotify. As far as the title goes, we've all had, and continue to have, those JBRML moments. We all live in a van together when we are on tour instead of sitting in an office all day -- and the best way to face your life choices sometimes is to have a good laugh about it. We thought that sort of humor was something we wanted to convey to our fans.
You're on tour to promote your latest release and will be playing Funky Buddha Lounge on March 2. For someone who's never seen the Mantras, what can we expect? Any surprises lined up?
You can expect us to play a high energy set with a couple of surprises every night. You can also expect to see some very pale dudes, because we have been in the Northeast and it is very cold and snowy, but beautiful!
Mantra Bash is a festival curated by the Mantras every year, but will the Mantras be showing up on any other festival circuit this year?
Absolutely. We love to play at festivals, and it's the best chance to see other music when you are in a touring band. We will be announcing our summer schedule as well as information about Mantra Bash soon on our website.
Anything I'm not asking that you'd like South Florida to know?
We have a shark for a mascot, if that does anything for you.
And finally, Rocky or Rambo?
Finally, a real question! Tough call. Rambo saved lives, but Rocky had James Brown and a talking robot. Better soundtrack, too. I have to say Rocky.
The Mantras on March 2 at Funky Buddha Lounge, 2621 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton, and March 3 at Hurricane Bar and Lounge, 640 E Atlantic Ave.,Delray Beach.