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Mob Rich: 'Why No Why', evolving as a duo, & open-mindedness while creating music

Ezzah Rafique | June 2, 2021

Maxwell Joseph and Connor Pledger masterfully blend bold, pop melodies with synth and optimistic hooks as Mob Rich. The alt-pop duo's new album 'Why No Why' includes a sonic spectrum of beats that calls out to free-spirited souls, the perfect album to listen to with the windows down in summer. Maxwell and Connor sit down with Ezzah Rafique from HAZZE MEDIA to talk about the creation of 'Why No Why', evolving as a duo, and open-mindedness in creating music.

MOB RICH: Maxwell Joseph (left) and Connor Pledger (right) | Photo by: Jack Dytrych

E: How has the release [of ‘Why No Why’] been for you guys?

M: It's been good, I think I think any artist that released an album in the past year has felt the effects obviously of the pandemic and not being able to, like, immediately tour your album and kind of just, you know, obviously the effects of what's going on in the world. And so for us, it's exciting that we're releasing our album as it seems to be loosening up as this pandemic seems to be really kind of getting out of control. And we have like dates on the horizon. And we know, like, we’ll be able to play these songs live. But I think for us, we just really wanted to take time and celebrate the fact that we released an album like I texted Connor because we're terrible about planning stuff, and I texted him like I want to say, like three days before the album come out, I was like, dude, we have to, like, do something for the album, like celebrate with our friends. Like, just get some people together because otherwise, like, we're going to regret it, you know, like next year when everything's regular, we're going to be like, ‘man, I wish we took some time and just celebrated the fact that we released an album and it's out in the world. So but all in all, at least for me, it's been really nice. And I'm so glad that people have the songs in their lives now and be able to listen to them.

C: Agreed

M: I second that

C: We went out and celebrated at a bar, and so if there's one thing I've noticed during that pandemic that using Uber and Lyft is awful right now, I don't know why. But like I was telling Maxwell I didn't go home until like 2 AM because, like, a) I stayed there until the bar closed. But that's beside the point. But I got go to get a Uber and they took like almost an hour two to show up, which is crazy. I'm like, what's going on? I was like, I guess it's just like either I guess people aren't going to drive or I don't blame them like I'm vaccinated so like I'm not like super stressed about it or as much as I was getting in an Uber. But like if I was a driver and especially if I wasn't vaccinated, I definitely would not want to be like driving around strangers during all this.

M: I think that context, too, is that like in L.A. before the pandemic, because we're just such a dense city like it never took more than two minutes to get an Uber. Like there is always someone right around the corner to pick you up. And now it's like it's switched.

E: Has Covid affected your process in the album or like in any way, shape or form the album itself? And Uber fits that.

C: [laughs] Getting to and from the studio.

M: Yeah, for sure. I mean just from the simple fact that, you know, like not being able to tour a record is not necessarily the most normal thing. Like usually when you release a record, you have dates lined up right away and you're like going to promote the record and you're hitting radio stations and all sorts of stuff. So not being able to do that is definitely been different. So much of like creating the actual record. I think the only thing that was maybe impacted was like our awareness that like, you know, you have to be careful and like, you know, not see too many people because we're going to see each other in the studio and like and just kind of keep our, I guess, our covid bubble small. But I mean that I mean, Connor you can talk about too but the creation of the record, I guess, in a lot of ways was the same as it's been for us creating all of our songs. We get demos together and then we take them to our boy, Nicky Adamson, who produced the record, and he helps us finish them and clean everything up. So but it definitely saved our mental [health] a little bit, I would say, because we finished the record during if you want to say like June and July during some pretty hectic, stressful times, so like being able to like go to the studio and like spend our days and like create music or finish music was definitely helpful because otherwise, we'd just been sitting in our apartments going stir crazy. Yeah. But I don't know if other than that, I can't tell if there are other major impacts. I mean, maybe in the sense of like maybe we would have done more things around the release, like in person, I don't know. Maybe we also have never released a record as a band. So we have nothing to contextualize it against.

C: And in all honesty, I don't think we're planning on like maybe we would have put a record out at this time, maybe. But like we weren't really planning for it to be now. We were planning to kind of continue the trajectory we had, which was like releasing singles, like doing opening, touring and stuff, and then eventually released record when like we felt we had hit critical mass as far as like what songs we had released. And there was like a moment where, like, alright we gotta put a record together and in the back of my head 'I'm like, we don't have enough songs'. And then we start looking at our songs were like, alright, 'we have too many songs' and we're just like we've so many songs. Like when you're an artist and you're inside your mind essentially, you know, like when you're staying in there, you forget kind of like all the art you created. And it was kind of a wonderful experience, like going back and listening to all these records that you've written since the beginning of the band. And like Maxwell & I talk about this all the time, we'll go back like, dude, I just listened to like I just listened to 'Two sides' the other day. Like, this is pretty much what happened. 'I just listened to two sides of it, such a good song'. I was like, 'is it let me go listen. Oh, wow. That's way good. OK, cool, put it on the record'. Like, that's pretty much what happened. And it was nice and kind of a reassuring moment in our careers, at least for me, I just felt like, yeah, this is what we're supposed to do. This feels right, feels good. And kind of seeing all the art next to each other in one package really helped me see us as a band, as like a body of work all sitting together. I'm like, 'oh, that's their sound'. When you listen to it altogether, it's like, oh, I get it. I see the image now and like whereas before it's like you're putting out singles, you're testing the water, you're trying to figure out what works and you're never quite playing the songs exactly back to back, especially not in the order that is curated in a way that's supposed to, like, feel good the whole time we're listening to it. So. That all being said, it's just really cool getting to put everything together, like make a record.

E: Do you guys have a favorite song off of it, for me, I loved 'Funeral', but for you guys, I think your whole album was like this cool, like a groovy tune, like it has a sound to it. Do you guys have a favorite song off the album?

M: It changes, yeah. But as of recently, I would probably say that at least mine has been kind of, going back and forth between 'Buggin' and 'Dandy Liars' and 'Two Sides' like those three, I think it kind of sways back and forth between those. And they're all different, like 'Dandy Liars'is this just like a slow build that never gets the release, which is why it's a great first record song. It just like getting you primed for what's next. And then 'Buggin' is just like full force anthem all the way. And then 'Two sides' is like a soft slap. But I really like emotional songs and I think like 'Two Sides' is probably at least from like a songwriter's perspective, like one of the best like concepts, and just well put together and all the lyrics for me...all have different meanings to myself personally.

C: I really like... after listening to the record over and over and out, like I think my favorite is probably 'Lips & Mouth', and I think I figured out why. I was listening to it the other day, I was like on the run listening, and I realized that the song reminds me of something there's a nostalgia to it, like there's a synth in it that reminds me of Mannheim Steamroller, very obscure reference. But they have like this Christmas album and it's like [mimics song]...they have this, like, synth sound on this Christmas album. And when you edit this, throw in a Mannheim Steamroller but there's something about it. There's a synth then I was like, 'Oh My God, that is Mannheim'. Like that is like the synth sound that reminds me of Christmas time. So there's like nostalgia in it for me now. And I, I think music, in general, is like I'm very like that's the shit that like drives me is the stuff that brings me into a place like or a point in time, like, like time traveling in a way.

M: I don’t know who Mannheim Steamroller is but yea… Is it like an indie sound? I’ll listen to it.

E: Do you [guys] use music from like other artists [or] that like maybe artists, you even grew up listening to that like you can reflect it in your music, do you see that?

C: One hundred percent. One hundred percent. Yeah, definitely. Depending on the song, I think there's a point of reference in every song whether like whether we knew that we were doing it or not. There's something in there.

M: There's a lot of like I think unintentional like more subconscious references that you end up [with]. I like to think that because me and Connor write most of the songs together it kind of has like this quirky lyrical feel to it a lot of times. And it's very introspective. But like, we really like to try to say things that have been said before, but in our own way. And so I like to think I don't necessarily hear are the lyricism and think of other people. But from a sonic standpoint, from a production standpoint, I definitely hear a lot of references. I mean, we love a lot of 90s bands like Third Eye Blind and Nirvana and a lot of like the chord progressions that we choose, I think. But yeah, I think one thing that I'm proud of us about is that I think that there's a lot of diversity in our songs, at least from the standpoint of like I think we like to try things and a lot of the songs are different than others. Like 'Buggin' for example, like the pre for 'Buggin' is like straight Third Eye Blind. It's especially from a newer version of it. But then like 'Lips & Mouth', for example, like the chord progression, is very unknown mortal orchestra, like it's very interesting and not like a regular chord progression that you would necessarily find in like an alt band.

E: Do you guys have, like, a specific memory from the production of the album or release or something that, like you vividly remember from making the album?

M: I personally remember a lot of the moments of writing the songs. So much of making a record- not to make it sound boring because it isn't and it's very rewarding- but like when you kind of work the way that we do, which is like you write a song, you make a demo yourself, and then you kind of like give those stems to the producer and go like, alright, let's clean this up. Right? So much of the time in the actual studio finishing is me and Connor sitting in the back of the studio on our phones while Nicky, our producer, is doing a bunch of minutia work. And so like so there are hours of the studio where we're just like chilling until he's like ready to, like, actually make some key decisions. And then we're like, 'OK, let's jump into it'. But writing the songs like I remember the date of the 'Two Sides', I remember the day we wrote 'Buggin' very vividly. And it's usually because on the good day, personally, I'll have a moment while writing a song when I kind of think to myself is a good song and it's kind of sticks in my mind either, like coming up with something or just something clicks and you're like, OK, we got that. We got the concept. So I have an easier time remembering those moments.

C: Yeah, I have memories that are scattered all around. I mean, as far as production goes, like being a studio, I mean, I remember like being in Canada, finishing like 'Yoko Ono'... Like just random moments and even for songs that we never put out. But I remember the session. It's like some of that shit is more memorable. Like there's one time we had a session and we brought the tracks in and the guys is like, 'your drum sound cheap' and we're just like, 'fuck you, we're out'. Yeah. This isn't going to work.

M: That's just stung. That's why that stuck with me.

C: we were like ‘alright bro’.

M: Very awkward session, very awkward session.

C: But it’s memorable that’s what I’m saying

M: We had a session one time where the guy was like trying to get us to write a concert about the Grinch. And he was like, 'what if we, like, made it like the Grinch, but like you're the Grinch, but like it's grunge' and I was just like, 'oh, this is not the guy' like, oohhh.

C: But, we were like open-minded and we're like, 'yeah, let's see what happens'. But definitely, the initial reaction was like, 'oh! The Grinch, ok'. I mean, not to say that like like we like out of all the bands but like out of, you know, the few bands that I know in our circle like we would be the one that would say some shit like that.

M: We like to go for it. But like I think that it's like going on a blind date sometimes because you get set up in sessions you never met the person before and you walk in and you just don't know if you guys are going to vibe. I think, like when it comes to the actual record, I think the fondest memories were like just the memories of, like, me and Connor writing the songs. I think that's where it all starts to begin. And for me, that's the whole reason that this project has worked for us personally and hopefully for other people, is that we have just always really enjoyed, even though we bicker constantly writing songs, you know, it's a constant like old couple like mentality where it's like, I hate that. No, I hate that. nd we're very open with each other, which is why I think it works. So you have lots of memories. It's just you kind of have to think about it for a moment or someone has to remind you of them and it comes rushing back.

C: There is one thing that I do miss about, earlier in music was like, there wasn't an infinite amount of people to listen to you. Right? It's like you go to the record store, you have what's there or whatever is locally sourced, you know, like whatever local bands you have in the region. And part of that, you had to buy a record, and if you bought the record, you listen to the whole thing, but you probably bought it because you heard one song. And now that band is now like a part of your life, whether or not it's like a record, you're going to listen to it forever. It now has an impact on you. Like what's the word like for that time in your life? Like there's a memory of it now.

M: It's almost like if you were to relate to something, it's like having a very short moment of, like, interaction with someone or like going over to someone's house and seeing where they live and like seeing their friends. You either like I think and nowadays, like unless you take the time and dive into someone's whole catalog, you're just like picking and choosing songs out of everybody's portfolios to listen to. And to your point Connor, it's like when people used to buy records, whether you ended up loving the record or not, you still sat with their full body of work. You still sat with their decisions of like how to order the songs, and their productions, and their choices that they made as a band or an artist. So I think that whether you ended up liking it, you at least got the full view of what that artist was about.

C: Yeah, and not to sound like an old piece of shit, but like I miss that. Like, I feel like there's a lot of positive to it, because like you're going to hear so many more artists and find new songs you never would have heard of. But I do just feel like there's like a missing element to the connection of these smaller bands and stuff and unless you're massive, which who knows how that happens, but unless you're just insanely famous, it's like people aren't... I don't know.

M: And even when you're huge, I feel like the majority of people are still only going to listen to singles. And our attention span is so quick so if we don't like something we're just going to skip it. Whereas like if you put on a record on like a record player…

C: That’s why I love vinyl because it forced it.

M: It's great. I think like anything it is what it is we can talk all day about, like the positive and the negatives. We just are where we are and that's kind of the reality of it. But I am appreciative of the people that choose to listen to our full record. When someone says, like 'I listen front to back', you're like, 'thank you'.

C: Like ‘damn’. Like you went out of your way. Respect.

E: There's a different level of connection with music [in that].

Both: Yes

C: Like the Third Eye Blind record that I had in my Prius, that was just stuck in there, like we would just listen to that all the time because it was the only record in there. But I also loved it, like every song had a memory when I listened to it.

M: Also, just a fantastic record.

C: And, by the way, if you don't know today, if you're listening or watching, they're pretty much the 1975. But from the 90s. Like, listen to the's like they're the same band, like just different productions. Like I wanna see Matty Healy cover a Third Eye Blind song or vice versa. Like I think that would be so sick.

M: Yeah. I'd rather see Matty Healy cover Third Eye Blind.

C: Absolutely. Absolutely. But they're both great.

M: For sure

E: So you guys are performing at Lollapalooza this year, which I saw earlier today, did you guys have like a song from the album that you're like most excited to perform or like any song in general?

Both: ‘Buggin’

M: 'Funeral' too 'Dandy Liars', like I'm excited [about] things, like I'm super excited for like the sound at the beginning of 'Dandy Liars' to, like, open up our set and just be running on a loop until we come out. I'm excited to structure the setlist differently now that we have a lot more songs to choose from. But 'Buggin' is just going to be that that anthemic... Like when that second chorus hits and then the post-chorus, like I'm just going to step away from the mic and listen.

C: That's where you take your mic and go 'you guys sing'. That's one of my favorite things about playing live. I was like you forget the words, do this. It looks cool and they'll remember the lyrics.

E: Do you guys have a ritual or like a routine you do before you perform?

C: We do like vocal warm-ups, like Maxwell has a recording that he listens to, and I just kind of piggyback off of him because I always forget about it. I'm like, 'oh yeah, vocal warm-ups'. We'll do like pretty much that. I try to jack myself up on caffeine or whatever. I just try to like get to a maximum. You can ask Maxwell, like every show, like your mental state is different every single time, but like it all depends [on] what did you eat that day, did you have too much caffeine, did you not have enough caffeine? Like did you interact with anybody? Were you sleeping on the van? Like, like what was the situation of that? How did you sleep last night? So on and so forth. Yeah, so this is like every day is different and we try to get to the same place because there's nothing better than feeling excited, getting on stage, performing well, feeling pumped about the performance. And just like that is what we live for. That feeling of like this is why we do it. This is like the whole reason and the purpose of music is bringing people together. And here it is a celebration of sound and it's fucking awesome, so much fun.

M: I find myself trying to, like, center myself before shows because I feel like the nerves coming on, I feel like the nausea coming on.

C: We're both very different.

M: I just get a little like 'I don't know... I don't know if I want to go out'. I mean, of course I never am like 'I can't go out there' but I just get nervous. So I find myself sitting quietly and just trying to like.. just keep myself cool and collected till I get out there. And then I feel the energy and then I can get more into it. Because I feel sometimes if I get like too pumped up before the show, I'm going to like, fuck up. I'm like not going to like, remember the things I need to do.

C: And I'm the opposite. Like, I want to get myself so pumped up that I forget that... I'm the first person to tell you, like I've like I have a hard time memorizing things or I think I do at least. And I think the big reason is because I'm thinking about it. So if I'm able to pump myself up so much that I'm like, 'I about to have a great time, this is going to be awesome no matter what'. And I get on stage and I forget about that. And it's like one of the greatest things, like being in a duo. It's like if I forget something for a split second, he fills in the blanks. I'm like, 'Oh yeah, that's right'. And then we're back on. So like we're never off for more than like half a second.

M: But we also always have a moment before, where right before we go on stage, or us and our drummer, we like give a little pep talk and do a little like we used to say, 'Moby Rich on three' but it will now be 'Mob Rich on three'. And then our drummer usually goes out before us. And then Connor and I have a little moment to ourselves where we spank each other on the bottom a few times and say, hey, good luck out there, you know.

E: Do you guys have like an artist you want to perform with? Like anyone like it, like dead or alive, could be anyone.

C: Does that make sense? Oh Led Zeppelin, or the Beatles. Or Rolling Stones. Any of those like the massive ones, you know, like any just legend, legendary band.

M: I think Cage the Elephant would be one of mine because they're so good live. And I forget his name, the lead singer, I can't believe I'm forgetting his name right now, but he is such a he's such a presence on stage. And I think sharing the stage with him would be amazing. And apart from him, maybe someone like way outside, maybe like Tyler the Creator, like something like we left field like I would imagine ourselves performing with that would be dope.

C: Or Beyonce. I just feel like the crowd would be insane. People would be going crazy.

M: Or Bruno Mars or the Weeknd.

C: Or Lizzo, Lizzo is just fun.

M: Or Post Malone. I think Post Malone would be a good one. I feel like his, I feel like his crowds... You know whose crowds are insane actually? And I actually really wish our crowds were as hype as them? But he just has way hyper music is Travis Scott like his crowds are insane. They go insane like crazy. He's had some situations where it was like too out of control and they like cops showed up and all sorts of stuff anyways.

E: Ok, and lastly, you guys have a specific creative process when it comes to making your music, or do you guys kind of go on the flow?

M: I think it's changed by a couple of things, by the pandemic happening and just not being around each other as much and kind of like being forced to do a little bit more like on our own writing and production and then kind of sending ideas back and forth. And then I think it's also changed, too, because like I think when you write with any one person a lot, you know, wells dry up. And you need to experience things on your own and then come back together and you need to like flush ideas out. And there are things that, like Connor would write that we would never write together and the things that I would write that we would never write together. So I think that you kind of have to just evolve and go through all those things. But, the majority of the songs that we have released and are planning on releasing usually start with me and Connor or maybe one other person just writing a song and then starting the production and tinkering with ideas and stuff like that.

C: Yea but every method is a different paintbrush or just a different part of creating the art. You never know walking into the room, what the day’s gonna have because we are two people. The energy and the emotions felt by both of us are completely separate. So we have to come in and figure out where do these two emotions meet in the middle. Where is the story you and I are both feeling? It pretty much always starts with a conversation. Like talking is a must. You can kind of go in and immediately start but you need some sort of catalyst or topic [to start from].

M: it’s different too because like there are times where one of us will be feeing- for whatever reason- super down, and you have to make the decision to either like ‘alright I’m going to get you out of this so we can write a different type of song or I’m just gonna meet you where you are’...

C: And try to get what it is

M: And try to get whatever is going on in your life. Just try to talk about that and extract that. And then there are times where some of our best songs have been written where one of us will already have half a chorus or a melody or something that we’ve been messing around with. [And we’ll ask] ‘What do you think of this’ and if the other person is down with it. And I think a the beginning- which is a funny progression and just kind of like evolving as people too- at first when we started this project, we’ve been solo artists for so long I think both of us are very keen on like doing everything together. If it wasn’t a song that we both didn’t write together and both didn’t relate to every song, then we’d be like ‘I don’t wanna use it’. And I think now, we’re at a place just because we’ve evolved as people where there’s less ego about it all. It’s easier for someone to be like ‘hey, I did this thing’ and the other person just find their own way to relate to the song and extract meaning. Of course, there’s a threshold and there are songs that we send to each other and [one person says] ‘I’m not feeling it’. I think it’s cool we’re now at a place where we are able to do that and not feel like… I can only speak from my own experience but I remember being younger when we first started this band being like ‘I don’t wanna sing a song that I didn’t write’ or ‘I don’t wanna sing a song that I didn’t like contribute 50% to’.

C: Yea now its more just like ‘I don’t wanna sing a song unless it slaps’.

M: Yeah yeah. That’s the barometer

C: If anything we’re expanding our paint selections because like what Maxwell said, in the beginning, we had very specific songs that only he and I could write together and now we are expanding outside of that. And it was important to do that too, because in the beginning of our bands we were trying to figure out our sounds. And I think no [that] no matter what we do, it will never sound more Mob Rich than when he and I come together to write the song together alone. Like that will be the most… like ‘Yoko One’ like all [of] those started us. [And in that], you’re gonna have the most potent version of us but now we’re getting on the fringes of what is us and it’s filling in all of the gaps. Hopefully one day, there can be a Mob Rich sphere of colors and you can go around and be like ‘what am I feeling today? We got happy, sad, introspective, uh just out-of-mind’, you know you can just find that song that kinda falls somewhere on the Mob Rich spectrum.

M: When you think about all of these artists, a great example is like the Beatles, because there was so many... different people putting in different parts and portions [of the] stories like you know Paul and John didn’t let… what’s his name? C: Ringo

M: Ringo contribute in. Like you just listen to bands and you realize that as you go through life and as you’re not just like a first-year band or a second-year band, and you’ve been doing this for six years, you kind of just to continue to feel inspired and continue to feel like you’re moving in a direction whether thats left or right or up or down, you kind of just have to take chances and just remove your own ego from the situation and be like ‘you know what, lets do that. Lets bring this other person in and see what they can contribute’. The worst thing that could happen is you don’t like the song and you don’t use it. But yea, I think some of the most exciting things to me is like when Connor and I work with other artists because other artists are so easy to work with a lot of the times, almost easier than writing with other songwriters or producers because they have their own identity and its almost just about merging those two identities together and figuring out how that works and what that looks like. Versus working with a songwriter who’s only trying to…

C: They’re trying to figure out who you are…

M: Or they’ve heard your music and they’re just like ‘alright let's try to get something like that you know? Or they’re like ‘oh, I’ve heard their music and what they sound like so I’m going to suggest things like this or this’. And for an artist, there's nothing more, not annoying, but like it can be frustrating to [go into something and] be like ‘yea, we did that already’.

C: It’s just uninspiring… Like it doesn’t lead you anywhere. It’s like ‘yeah, we’ve been there [so] let’s go elsewhere'.

M: Let’s go down the road. That’s a long-winded answer but yes.

E: No that’s a great answer! And thank you so much for taking the time out and talking too.

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