Mulholland Jive is an instrumental funk-rock project led by Irish musician Ben Mulholland, a multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Cambridge (UK). Inspired by Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, Muse and The White Stripes, Mulholland Jive makes energetic, catchy, piano-heavy bops.
Mulholland Jive has released two EPs, ‘Intergalactic’ in April 2021 and ‘Supernova’ in February 2022. Mulholland Jive has been nominated for several NMG Awards, including Track Of The Year and reached the semi-finals of the UK Songwriting Contest. In 2022 Mulholland Jive also turned into Mulholland Live. Keep on reading to hear Ben Mulholland’s plans for the band in 2023!
What can you tell us about your project Mulholland Jive?
“The Mulholland Jive tunes were initially used to challenge some of my talented students, but, after they proved really popular with the students, I decided to record the tunes properly and release them under the name ‘Mulholland Jive’ – a play on the similarly-named film ‘Mulholland Drive’, which has nothing to do with funk music but has a convenient use of my surname!”
“Mulholland Jove has been played on radio stations around the world, been featured in numerous playlists and blogs and is delighted to currently be in the Cool Top 20 chart with the new single ‘Electric Graffiti’.”
What got you interested in music? When did you first start connecting deeply to music in your life?
“A mixture of things, as a child, car journeys with my Dad got me hooked on the music of Bob Dylan (my hero), Randy Newman and Ralph McTell from an early age. My Gran had an upright piano that I was obsessed with – she eventually gifted it to my parents when I started to show some skill at playing it, meaning I could play for hours at a time. My family are really musical – my Dad plays guitar, my Mum and brother sing, my sister plays harp and piano. It’s not surprising at all that I became a musician!”
Your sound is rather piano heavy. Was the piano always present in your life? What other instruments do you play?
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play piano! From a very young age, I would always be tinkering on my Gran’s piano, making up tunes and working out how to play songs I heard on the radio. I’ve always been able to ‘play by ear’ – I can hear something once and then play it. Once I realised I could do this, my obsession with music, and the piano in particular, was irreversible. I also play saxophone (badly) and guitar (even more badly!).”
What is your favourite part about making music?
“I’ve always been interested in composing – as a child, throughout school and as an adult. I love working out how a melody will fit with a chord pattern and riff and trying to bring it all together. Aside from the actual composing, I really like arranging all the parts – working out which instruments will play which part and when. I also really like the recording process too. Hearing a final mix of a tune that you’ve written from scratch is so satisfying!”
How do you come up with ideas for new songs?
“Often when I’m not trying to come up with ideas for new songs. I wrote ‘Levitate’ while sat in a traffic jam. The melody just kind of stumbled into my head. I hummed the tune into my phone and wrote down the chords I thought would work. When I got home I worked out how to play it on piano and recorded a very rough piano demo, before eventually recording it properly many months later. I’ve also been known to write tunes while grocery shopping or when sat in not particularly interesting meetings.”
Who are some bands and artists that have impacted how you create music for Mulholland Jive?
“Snarky Puppy is probably the biggest inspiration for Mulholland Jive – a large, instrumental band who play original jazz-funk-rock music. The funky tunes of Vulfpeck have also been a big inspiration. I love rock music too – the riff-heavy music of Muse and The White Stripes are equally to blame for influencing Mulholland Jive.”
What is one element of a song that has to be absolutely perfect before you’re satisfied with it?
“The piano part!”
What opportunities does being an instrumental band present that being one with a vocalist doesn’t?
“Without a vocalist, there is no focus on one person in the band. While a lot of the Mulholland Jive tunes are very piano-heavy, there are lots of times when the guitar is the main focus, or the horns, or the drums etc. It means every member of the band is essential. It also means we’ll never have to cancel a gig because someone has a sore throat!”
How do you manage to keep your music interesting?
“Each tune has it’s own vibe – ‘Bad Moon Rising’ is thrash funk, ‘Power Up’ is relentlessly groovy, ‘Kryptonite’ is OTT melodrama! The genre of funk-rock is a fairly wide-ranging term and I’m keen to explore it all.”
Is instrumental a difficult genre to serve at the end of the day?
“It depends what your goals are. If you want mainstream success quickly then releasing a catchy pop song that people can sing-a-long to is probably a more straightforward road to take. Some people instinctively switch off when they hear the words ‘instrumental music’, but I’ve found that the ones who give it a chance are pleasantly surprised and come back for more.”
Would you ever consider having someone on guest vocals later on?
“It’s definitely been considered! Watch this space!”
Did you ever consider inviting musicians to collaborate with? Who would it be?
“There’s too many to name! There is a lot of local talent who I’d love to work with. Mulholland Jive recently supported Fred’s House at a gig and it would be great to write and record something with them. I also met lots of amazing musician’s at this year’s NMG Awards like Amethysts who I’d be really keen to work with in the future.”
Now that the year is almost over, how would you say 2022 has treated Mulholland Jive? What were some of the goals you had for this year? What are your goals for 2023?
“2022 has been great! My main goal was to turn Mulholland Jive into Mulholland Live! Mulholland Jive has now performed multiple times throughout the year, including headlining our own gig, headlining a local arts festival and performing at the NMG Awards ceremony. I’m really keen to do more live performances next year and also release a live EP too.”
What advice would you give to beginners who want to make music outside of trendy mainstream music?
“Don’t let anyone tell you what sort of music you ‘should’ be making. If you like what you’re doing, chances are you’ll find other people who do too. Also, be realistic about who to promote your music to – national radio probably isn’t going to play much non-mainstream music, but there are lots of indie radio stations/blogs/playlists with an equally enthusiastic fanbase who would love to hear from you!”
What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?
“There’s lots of highlights but I’m going to choose ‘Long, Long Silences’ by Postindustrial Poets. I like the rawness of the track, it stands out amongst more heavily-produced tracks. The melody is great. I’ve actually just done a little piano cover of this tune…”
What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?
“This is so difficult, I could choose so many! I’m going to go with ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’ by Dan Bond. Dan was one of the support acts at the very first Mulholland Jive gig back in February. His music is very different from Mulholland Jive’s – he makes guitar-heavy country/pop music and this tune has been stuck in my head for months. Highly recommended.”
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(Photos by Glenn Adams: @glennadamsphoto)