Hear It Here: Exclusive with The Mission District
I think the best thing, pretty much ever, would be to have my favorite band perform a private concert for me and my friends. And when the band The Mission District visited the Scholastic office, that's kind of what happened.
Well, okay. I wasn’t that familiar with The Mission District before they came here. And their performance wasn't private; there were about a dozen other Scholastic employees there too. But it's probably as close to that dream as I'm going to get.
And if you and your friends hang out on THE STACKS, well then you can get pretty darn close to this dream concert too — just check out this EXCLUSIVE performance video of their song “Heartbreaker,” including a special shout-out to THE STACKS:
(The Mission District performed acoustic here, but you should definitely check out the album versions of the songs — they're totally danceable!)
After the filming, the guys sat down with Marie (the lucky person who does all the celebrity interviews for Scholastic’s magazines), and they chatted about the band, song-writing, and flying rubber-duckies. See what they had to say, plus catch two more STACKS-only performance videos at the bottom of the interview!
David first — when the band formed, how did it form and what was the genesis?
David: The genesis was actually after an old band that I had with Travis and Rob called Full Count, and then that project kind of wound down. We decided to do something new — the three of us — and Antoine started practicing with us pretty much from the get-go. I've known him my whole life. We grew up together as neighbors, actually, so I've known him forever. And that's how the four of us started going. And we went through a couple of drummers and then we found Mike and it stuck. And then we've pretty much been this line-up for at least a year and a half now. And that's kind of how it started.
What part of Canada are you guys from?
David: We're from Montreal.
Where'd you get your name? The Mission District is in the United States, in San Francisco!
David: Yeah, San Francisco. That comes a little bit from me because my mom's side of the family's from San Francisco and I spent a lot of time there, lived there when I was a kid. And it was just kind of a nostalgic connotation for me and we just liked the ring of the name and how it sounded.
So, what countries have you been to?
David: We played some shows in Canada and some in the U.S. Not the whole U.S., more the kind of eastern part. We're starting out in the U.K. because we signed a record deal in the U.K. So we're kind of starting there and then gradually over the next few months going to be pushing the U.S. and Canada as well.
Are the audiences any different when you’re in different countries? How about Canada compared to the U.S.?
David: I would say they're all pretty good . . . Kids are just kids, and when they come out to shows, they're all pretty excited, I would say . . . U.K. culture is very music centric, perhaps even more so than North America, but generally I think kids are enthusiastic.
Rob: I think one of the main differences is just the fact that Canada's such a big place and everyone's so spread out. The U.K. — there's so many people compacted into such a tiny little island, so it's really nice for us to be able to go over there and tour and be exposed to all these different markets and all these different people and cultures. Yet we're not traveling for hours and hours at a time. Everything is so close together there. So it's a pleasure for us to go over.
Antoine, is there any one place you look forward to visiting?
Antoine: In the entire world? Well, I can't wait to play in Spain and in Scandinavia. Spain because of the weather; it's so beautiful. And in Scandinavia because I've always felt close to the Swedish and the Danish. I just like the countries in general, Scandinavia — the weather, the culture, the people, the language. And the art there.
Travis, in one of your publicity shots you have the Rubik's Cube. Are any of you masters?
Travis: I've actually tried. I get about halfway through, and then I just — it beats me.
Rob: I just have no idea how it works. I can have three on one side, line up the three colors — but beyond that I'm lost.
Mike: I can do one side of a face, but there's this guy I used to work with who can speed cube. You mess it up as much as you possibly can without him seeing, and he'll just instantly solve it in five minutes. It's terrifying.
Antoine: There's just a certain order that you need to remember and once you know them, you can redo it.
David, do all of you write or do you do most of the writing?
David: Well, basically it depends on the song. Sometimes we all sit together in a room and we jam and we write a song. Or sometimes I'll just bring in a basic lyrics and melody and work on it with Antoine, and then we'll bring it to the rest of the band or I just work on it myself. It kind of depends on the song, so we kind of have a multi-layered approach to doing a song.
What comes first, the melody or the hook?
David: Melody, I would say. And usually I find that often in the best songs, the melody and the hook and the basic chord structure are written together. The ones that come the quickest sometimes come together. And then other times, they take longer; they're more separate.
How is writing lyrics different from other kinds of writing — or is it?
Antoine: I don't write a lot of lyrics, so I wouldn't know that much. I guess in a way it's not as structured. You don't have the same structure as writing a poem, when you're following certain rules or when you're writing an essay or something. So I find it harder personally, because I have a really scattered brain and I'm all over the place when I'm creative. And lyrics are just hard because you can pretty much write about everything, and I have a hard time focusing on one subject and getting something that's not too abstract.
David: I also think the hardest part about lyrics — separate from music — is that you want to convey an emotion, obviously. But for a band like us, we're a pop band, so you also have to kind of clean up your ideas in a way. Just like if you're writing an essay, in a certain sense, or you're trying to write a book. It's similar in the sense that you may have something you want to convey, but it's finding exactly the right words, with the right accent on certain words also following the melody. So I think that's the trickiest part.
Rob: I find with lyrics too, from watching you, David — I'm not much of a lyricist myself — but it's sort of like you have to take the emotions or theme of a song and try to see if you can condense it down to one line or one hook or something that can stick in people's minds, whereas if you're writing a book or an essay you're more focused on the whole. With songwriting, there's very specific lines that you want to stick out in people's minds.
Travis: It's multi-dimensional. You start also to think about rhythm too. What's the rhythm? Because you can't just write lyrics abstract and not think about, "Okay, what's the drum beat in this song?" or it doesn't really work. That's how I see it. It's very multi-dimensional.
Mike, what do you think is the ultimate pop song?
Mike: "A Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles.
What about the ultimate pop song of this decade?
Travis: Of this decade — oh boy. That's really tough.
Mike: You could probably name two or three depending on the genre. For R&B, I would say "Crazy in Love" by Beyonce. What else?
Travis: Soon, the Mission District.
Rob: I'm not a big Nickelback fan, but maybe Nickelback’s "How You Remind Me."
Travis: Or that Daughtry song, "Over You."
Rob: I'm not a particularly big fan of "Over You."
Mike: I would say Kelly Clarkson’s "Since U Been Gone."
David is there a song right now that you can't get out of your mind?
David: Yeah, it's this one song called "Three Little Words." It's by this guy, Frank Music who's from the U.K. It's this great little dance-y pop song that I listen to constantly.
Are you always on the Internet and hearing of songs that way? Or do friends recommend new music to you?
David: Probably three ways, I would say. I would say word of mouth from friends, online, and I listen to the radio a lot when I get up in the morning just to see what's going on.
Okay, Mike — funniest fan story.
Mike: Three girls throwing rubber ducks at us. We had to duck ducks onstage, because they were — they had come to the show and it was their habit of getting the bands to remember them by pelting them with rubber ducks saying like, "Love Katie and Sarah. You've been ducked." Or something like that.
Travis: I got hit by one and I was like, "I remember you."
If I remember correctly, the audience used to throw jelly beans at the band Duran Duran and it hurt.
Mike: There's a band in Canada called the Barenaked Ladies, and in one of their songs they joked about “Kraft Dinner,” which is like our brand of mac and cheese. And every show for their entire career, whenever they play that song they've been pelted with boxes of Kraft Dinner.
What's your favorite book?
Antoine: I've always been a big fan of all the Hans Christian Andersen tales. “The Red Shoes,” that kind of stuff.
David: I really like Down and Out in Paris and London and also 1984 [both adult classics by George Orwell]. Those are two of my top — definitely up there. I don't know if they're my exact favorite, but definitely two of my top.
Rob: One of my favorite writers is Ernest Hemingway. My favorite book's For Whom the Bell Tolls [another classic for adults].
Travis: I actually really like Dracula and Frankenstein [more adult classics!] — anything in that vein I've always been a big fan of. So I'd say one of those two.
Mike: I'd have to go with the Tolkien fantasy [Lord of the Rings] or Chronicles of Narnia.
David, what's the silliest question a reporter has ever asked you?
David: Let me think . . . It's "your favorite youth games." Remember that? Because our album was called Youth Games and he was like, "What's your favorite youth game?"
Rob: The thing is, we thought he was just trying to play around, but he just kept asking us, "No, specifically what is your favorite youth game?" I was just like, "I don't know what you're saying."
David: It's not that literal of a thing.
You be the judge! Without further ado, here are two more songs from The Mission District's album, Youth Games:
So Over You
The Best of You and Me
— Carly H., STACKS Staffer
Interview conducted by Marie Morreale
Photo by Paul Persky