InterviewMusic

Matthew Di Panni of The Mowgli's Chats About Lollapalooza, The Jungle Book, And No Doubt

Max Cherry ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

The Mowgli’s have taken the long, brutal road to becoming a huge success. After spending nearly three years performing multiple shows on Venice Beach, the band broke through in 2013 when their hit song “San Francisco” reached #11 on Alternative Rock Billboard charts and #3 on the AAA charts. Ever since, there’s been no stopping them as they continue to make waves with the release of their new album Waiting For The Dawn (it got up to spot 4 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart), and performing at major music festivals such as South by Southwest, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and various others.

Mowglis
The Mowgli’s.

The band has toured around the country sharing their love of the world and humanity to all of their devoted fans and will be sharing the love in Boston on November 15th at the Paradise Rock Club. Emertainment Monthly had the opportunity to talk to the band’s bassist Matthew Di Panni as he discussed the upcoming tour, the long road to success, and being a Mowgli among various other things.

You guys have been together since around 2010 when you were still calling yourselves The Collective and performing multiple shows a day. You all persevered and have really started making waves this past year with the billboard charts and all the music festivals. How would you say the transition has been for you guys?

The transition has been really great. When we were starting out in Santa Monica and Venice beach, we would sometimes be performing 4 or 5 shows a day. Sometimes it was really hard since we all had working jobs on top of being in the Mowgli’s together. I had a day job from 7am to 4 pm and then we would rock out until maybe three in the morning. We do miss the intimate shows though where it would be 8 of us cornered in a crowded bar surrounded by 200 of our loyal fan base that was mainly grown through word of mouth.

Your music is so upbeat and happy and whenever I need a pick me up I always jump to you guys to put a smile on my face and motivate me. That seems like a major theme and almost purpose to your music. What is the message you’re trying to spread?

We want people to recognize that everyone is equal, should feel loved and love each other. That’s why we started working with the organization random acts of kindness to share our love with the world and show that then need to be loved. We put our philosophy into all our songs because we want our fans to know that we’re not your regular rock band that pumps out songs. We generally mean it and we want to make everyone’s lives brighter and happier. We love Love, life and humanity. We want everyone to be the best persons they can be and we try and help them do that with our music.

You named your band after the boy from the Jungle Book. Was there any meaning behind it?

We all grew up reading the Jungle Book and some of our parents coincidentally called us Mowgli for being such a free spirit. But the name really comes from the name of a dog of one of our band members. He would be at all the recordings when we were recording out of our garage and in some of the track s of those recordings you can actually hear him barking in the background. And after all of our time with him it wasn’t so much that he belonged to us as much as it was that we belonged to him. He was this wild and free spirit that we wanted the band to signify.

What does it mean for all of you to be a Mowgli and what is your favorite part of being a member of the band?

Everything about being in the band is so surreal. We worked so hard to get to where we are. Everything from the billboard charts, and the music festivals to being interviewed by you is all equally as meaningful and amazing. We’ve been so appreciative that we’re living the dream. To answer your question though, I love everything about of being a Mowgli.

Are there any major influences to your work?

All of us went through that emo pop-punk phase in high school. After that though, we all listened to different kinds of music so we all try and mix our influences into our songs. So together we are like a melting pot of different styles.

Is there one band or artist that you would love to work and or tour with?

Definitely No Doubt. They would be a dream to work with because I was such a fan of them growing up. Tragic Kingdom really started it all for me and without that I probably wouldn’t have gotten into playing music without it. But definitely I have to thank my brother for leaving the cd out for me to find. No Doubt and Gwen Stefani for sure.

I saw you guys at Lollapalooza this past year and you killed it. I remember at points you would stop a song to try and get the crowd to create the biggest group hug. How much do you feed off your fans and will we see any fun ways the audience will be involved on your tour?

Well on this tour its going to be a lot smaller venues so we definitely will be going into the crowd, handing the mic to some of the fans, and singing along together.

How do you guys have all the energy to do shows so often where you give it your all and leave everything on stage? The next morning are you grumpy and tired or do you always have each other to make you guys happy?

We get most of our energy from sitting together cramped in the back of a van. We get together and just psych ourselves out before every show to pump us up. While we always try to happy, we’re still human and we’ll all have our bad days. But we’ve known each other for so long and some of us have been friends since elementary school so we’re good at gauging each other and making each other feel better.

While your songs talk about love and being together, you also recognize that there will be hard times. What would you tell someone going through something to make them feel better?

We’d tell them to appreciate everything they have in life. They should appreciate that they exist and they get to be a human being with other human beings who love them.

Are you guys always this positive?

Always. We were just really thankful to have parents who raised us to appreciate everything we can out of life.

Have you performed in Boston before? How was the experience, are you excited, and what are you expecting?

We performed at the Paradise Theater on our first tour and it was an amazing experience. It felt so cool to perform at such a small venue with so many people who know so much about music and are so supportive of what we do.

You’ve been performing “San Francisco” since you all started back three years ago. Are there any other songs you love to perform?

“Say It Just Say It”, and the title song “Waiting For The Dawn” are great because they start with the bass and the rest of the song starts around it.  We also love playing the song See I’m Alive because it’s an older song that we keep revamping and making better and better.

Do you have any pre show rituals?

We try and sing as many songs as we can and then we huddle together, hold hands and tell each other how much we love each other because that’s all the real motivation we need to pump each other up. We’ll howl and scream and shout a lot too.

What would you tell someone to expect from attending one of your shows?

I would tell them to expect to smile for an hour and let everything else going on in their lives go away for a bit. They should enjoy the moment we’re sharing with them because we love sharing this moment with them too.

You said Lollapalooza was one of your favorite performances. Why did that show stick out so much for you?

We love Chicago and we enjoy playing for the fans there. At Lollapalooza, there were other bands who were extremely happy to see us. Bands that we idolized and loved listening to like Fitz and the Tantrums and Capital Cities came up to us and told us how excited they were to see us and that was an amazing experience. Also, the company that runs Lollapalooza is full of friends of mine from back home so it was amazing to look out on a crowd of thousands and look back to see all our friends behind us. We had so many people backstage that they had to bring extra security and it was impossible to get off the stage at that point.

Is there any one moment that really resonates with you where you look back and think this was a huge moment for you guys?

It was definitely when we met with the record label Photo Finish/ Island Records. To me it was really important because since the 80s, record labels have had a pretty bad rep but these guys restored my faith in record labels and the music industry. They really care about us and are really supportive in finding us charities to work with. We told them we want to have a close relationship with the fans and we are going to keep doing what we always do. They understood that and have always supported our decisions.

When you guys were releasing your EP, you had a Kickstarter campaign where you and your EP were kidnapped by a record-producing kangaroo named Kevin. Where did you get the idea for that?

Our record producer had this kangaroo costume from Halloween and one night when we were writing what to say in out Kickstarter video, he said, “What if I dressed up in the kangaroo costume and it was like I kidnapped you guys?” We thought the idea was brilliant and we rolled with it. Kevin actually made an appearance at a music festival in California called lightning in a bottle where he went through the crowd handing out daises as we performed. For a while Kevin kind of became a mascot for us but the whole idea of him was always so funny to us. We love it.

As you’ve been writing new music, have you noticed any changes from your earlier songs?

Well we always want to share our philosophy of love and happiness but yeah there have been some changes. Originally, there weren’t eight of us so we have many more people to include and it gives us more opportunities to try new stuff.  We’ve toured and had the opportunity to write and work with other bands of all different styles so you can expect some pop, country, blues and many other different kinds of influences as we keep experimenting with new styles.

The Mowgli’s are bringing their fun-filled show to Boston on November 15 and it’s not too late to get your tickets. If you’re looking for a great way to start your next weekend, definitely make a point to check out the band at Paradise Rock Club. And let us know what you think of the show in the comments below!

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