We chatted with Katie Jayne Earl of the fun-time rag-tag band of optimists, The Mowglis who we were lucky enough to grace our Austin Day Party last month. They're not only making the world a more fun place by making light and joyful music, but they're also passionate about using their public platform to promote charitable organizations. A sucker for random acts of kindness, Katie talked to us about her philosophy of life & favorite charities, what it was like hanging out at Occupy L.A., and the grungy dog that inspired their band name.
I've never come across a band with a mission statement before.
Katie Jayne Earl: We definitely want people to feel good...the message isn't too complicated or anything. It's just...not to quote some of our lyrics but, "Love's not easy/And you're not alone." That seems to be our mission statement: feel good; life is short; we're all in it together...all the kind of basic stuff that I think deep down we all really know.
I think that's something that takes a lot of people a little while to get to.
KJE: Yeah...I think maybe instead of thinking of it as a mission statement, it's nice to think of it maybe as a reminder.
You guys are also involved in charity, right?
KJE: We try to be when we can, and you know it's not too difficult to link up. There are so many good organizations out there who really just need an extra outlet. There are people who need help, and there are organizations who are willing to help people. And, sometimes, you just need that vehicle to just say "Hey, you know there's this organization that gives diapers to people who need diapers," or, "There's the Suicide Prevention Hotline," or, "There's this food bank in your neighborhood." Sometimes people just need to know that it's there, and so we found this to be a pretty great vehicle for getting that word out there.
Is there any particular charity that's close to you?
KJE: There are so many; it's hard to pick just one! We always try to link up with some organization on every tour, every cycle that we go on. I love Happy Bottoms
, they collect diapers for needy new families because diapers are so expensive, and it turns out a baby goes through 10 a day. So, that's a great organization. This particular tour we're linking up with a suicide prevention hotline organization, and they are a grassroots nonprofit. They're called Yellow Ribbon
and they make themselves available for people to reach out to, for people who need help. Sometimes the moment someone needs to reach out for help is a fleeting moment, and if they don't have somebody then and there to contact, then they may not ask again. So this organization makes themselves available for people that are brave enough to ask for help. It's such a selfless and important thing that we definitely all need that sometimes.
Yeah, it's amazing how far just being available will go. So how do you guys get in touch with these charities? Do you guys select them? Do they come to you?
KJE: Yeah no this one was very simple; we all talked about [it]. We'd done food drives in the past and other things. So we kind of all sat around when we were prepping for tour... "Well, what do we want to do this time?" And the subject matter touched Colin because of an experience he'd been through. And I've known people who've suffered through depression and suicidal things, so he brought it up. "You know Id love to work with a suicide prevention organization." And we all thought "Absolutely, we're all on board... that's great." And some people threw in some names, and we looked into all of them. We went with Yellow Ribbon because they're very grassroots. A lot of the other things we found were very like government-run, or government-funded. And Yellow Ribbon is grassroots; they're all volunteers, so it was kind of a no-brainer for us. We wanted to help these people who are putting their time and energy into it, and not being paid to be there. They're just volunteers, and they started this from the ground up. So that's why we went with them.
That makes a lot of sense as a choice.
KJE: There are other really great ones out there too. During our research, we found this organization -- the Yellow Ribbon Foundation -- which we're going with. There's the Jason Foundation
, which is great. There's the Trevor Project
. I mean there are a lot of really great ones; it was a hard choice to be honest.
How does that work? Does it just raise awareness? Does a portion of your tour profit go to companies?
KJE: We actually made button and sticker packs with things like "You're not alone," with kind of positive affirmations, if you will, and on the back of the sticker is all of the information for Yellow Ribbon. And I think the sticker packs are like $5 and all the sticker pack and button proceeds will go to Yellow Ribbon. We kind of created like a little "merch packet" to simultaneously raise money and to raise awareness.
Those will be sold and handed out at all your shows?
KJE: Yeah. They're going to be these like trendy little like party favor packets, they'll be 5 bucks, and they'll have like 3 buttons that are a limited run, little pins, and a sticker. And, you know, it's 5 bucks and you get a little something, and you get to help somebody. And I'm gonna be honest... we didn't know how to do it, and our manager came up with the idea. We all just thought that it was really great, and we were super excited about it.
It's great to see that this is so important to you guys. As young as you guys are, and as early as you are in your career, to see that you're so passionate about sharing and helping.
KJE: It's so easy; it's honestly so easy to just link up with an organization or to just be nice to somebody. It kind of seems insane to not do it. To be honest, when I have interviews like this and people are like "Wow, you guys are really doing a lot," and I just feel like honestly we're not. I wish we were doing more; it feels like it's just so easy to do something that simple. And to be completely honest, we could do a lot more. And, hopefully, one day we will. Yeah, hopefully, one day we'll have more time, and our focus will allow us to do more stuff like that.
You guys were also involved in the Occupy Movement?
KJE: Occupy L.A. started sprouting up over here, and it started getting kind of big. We all just went down to check it out one day, and it was just definitely one of those things where we, like everyone in the Occupy movement, we were like "Why are we here? What are we doing? How are we helping?"
Maybe it [Occupy] wasn't a solution, but it was a community of people that wanted change and wanted to figure out how to activate change. And we were just so inspired that there was a reason for people to come together and talk about things. I think if things like that happened all the time, if communities came together and said "We're not happy with this," or "We are happy with this," or "This is great; how do we do this?" I think that we would have a much more progressive society.
And just the fact that it was artists and young people and old people, before the homeless problem kind of took down Occupy Wall Street... 'cause that ultimately is what happened. We have a really bad homeless problem, and that's what essentially shut down our movement over here. But before that happened, it was just a great place to go and meet people who felt the same way as us... like I don't know what the problem is, but there is a problem. How do we fix it? How do we change it? What do you guys think? What about the elected officials? What about the way that this is working? I think a lot of people were sitting at home thinking those things for a really long time and it was nice to have a place to go to meet like-minded people and to just figure some things out, or to talk about it. I have a friend that actually works at Occupy Wall Street here in New York and he always says, "Occupy Wall Street may not have changed anything but the people who will change it were there."
That's profound and probably spot on.
KJE: I agree. It may not have enacted anything, but it got people talking; it got people thinking, and like I said the people who will move forward and be the change that we're waiting for, I think they were there and they were meeting people and they were on the same page as us. So it was definitely historically a really cool thing to be a part of, and to witness, and to experience and we played a few sets there. And I think when we started, we had a lot more lyrical content that was a little more "protesty" if you will, or could be interpreted as so. So we played a lot of those songs and just kind of showed our support as a community, for our community.
And that seems to be like a real part of what you guys do, trying to facilitate community, and connection, and awareness in a lot of ways for a lot of things. Does that really inspire your music?
KJE: Well we're broad as hell, don't get me wrong. We all have a lot of issues and self issues and problems with ourselves, but we definitely do try to practice that... I think it's the Dalai Lama, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." And we definitely try to live like that, and it's a challenge of course; we're not always exactly the people we want to be, but we definitely try to hold each other accountable and responsible. We try to be a positive, beneficial part of the world around us. If we can make the world immediately around us a little bit better, and that's kind of the thing with our shows. We feel like if people come to our shows feeling stressed or feeling bad we want them to leave it there. We want them to leave feeling good and happy and hopeful and optimistic because I think those things trickle out into the world and if they leave the show feeling good, then maybe that will spread to the world immediately around them and then that will spread to the people around them, and so on and so forth.
I think that ends up having a much larger effect than you could even know.
KJE: I agree,; it's kind of that random act of kindness thing, and it's a domino effect, or a ripple effect. You know somebody does something nice for you and then you feel more inclined to do something nice for them. Like if somebody smiles at you, you smile back.
You're one of the original members of the band, right?
KJE: Yeah I am, actually. Colin and I are. It was Colin and I and this other guy, but he quit, and then it was just us two, and then Matt came like a week later. We've all pretty much been in it since the get go.
Tell me about your name choice; it's such a great name; everybody can totally relate to that character.
KJE: And that's the big thing; we always joked that if we knew the band would become as successful as it has been, then maybe we would have thought twice about the name. But at the same time its like definitely identifiable; for some reason it just makes sense when I think of us as a group, it's like, "Oh we're The Mowgli's."
It's kind of this rag-tag gang if you will... dirty kids without shoes on. It just really speaks to us; it just makes a lot of sense that were The Mowgli's, even though it's a very weird name. And also we knew a dog named Mowgli who lived in the house that our original studio was in, and he was around a lot. He was this crazy half wolf, half dog. In the original demos of our music, he's barking in the background. It was just kind of like we were his people instead of him being somebody's dog. It was just very "our life at the time." It was very fitting, and now it's 6 years later.
Do you have a favorite song? You guys have put out a lot o fmusic in the last couple years but do you have a favorite?
KJE: Off of this new album, it's hard to pick, so off of the old album, "Love is Easy" is one of my favorites. It definitely almost didn't make it on the album because it wasn't written until like a couple weeks before the album was getting ready to be cut. Josh wrote it and then he came through last minute, and then we recorded it and everybody was like this is definitely going on the album. It's just such a special song. We play it every night. I just feel like it really resonates with the audience and feels good to play live.
And off of the new album, it's so hard to say because we haven't played a lot of the songs live yet; we've just been playing them in rehearsal, and it's just been so fun to play new songs that its hard to pick a favorite. "Love Me Anyway" is one of my favorites and "Home To You" is one of my favorites, and "You're Not Alone," and "Bad Dream". It's very hard, we're just so excited to be playing these new songs, it's pretty hard to pick.
I'm sure part of it too is getting in front of a crowd and playing them and feeling what everyone else feels?
KJE: Feeling them out. Yeah, there's definitely moments in songs when the whole audience just starts like putting their hands up, and we don't know what those moments are yet; we haven't toured the album. So, it's just exciting; we're just excited to see.