MojoThunder‘s gig in Bratislava at the Museum of Trade back in March was a very pleasant surprise for everybody. My enthusiastic review of the concert made it evident. And as you can read below in an interview with the band’s lead guitarist Bryson Willoughby, that gig was memorable for the MojoThunder guys as well.
Let’s start with an introduction of the band itself, shall we? Has Andrew been taking dance classes?
“MojoThunder is Bryson Willoughby (Lead Guitar), Sean Sullivan (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar), Andrew Brockman (Bass Guitar) & Zac Shoopman (Drums). Andrew is a well practiced amateur dancer. 😀”
I guess you all were born in the 90s. I was a kid in that decade and I remember that rock music wasn’t exactly in vogue back then and it has only gotten worse ever since. So, how come your music of choice is [at least to my ears] heavily influenced by the late 60s and 70s period? And what are some of your biggest influences, personally?
“We like a lot of rock and roll bands from the late 60’s & 70’s but we are every bit as influenced by modern bands like Kings of Leon & My Morning Jacket as we are the Stones & Zeppelin. I think people get fixated on this nostalgia thing of “when rock was big” but that’s just a marketing scheme. There have been super successful rock bands from the 50’s on up to today. For anyone paying attention there is no need for a revival.”
Would you agree, that the last bastion of a guitar oriented music in the States now is Nashville scene? Certainly not those in LA and NYC. Nashville has always been big on country, but there are still big studios there like RCA Studio A and people like Dave Cobb. There is still Ardent in Memphis. Is South keeping the guitar music alive?
“No, Nashville is where the business is, but the music is from all over. We know great bands from all over the US so I couldn’t say the south is keeping the music alive. For example, Robert John & the Wreck is from California, which is about as far away from the South as you can possibly get and they are making big waves right now.”
To date, MojoThunder has released 2 singles and an EP called Loose Lips in 2019, followed by a debut album Hymns from the Electric Church in 2021 and a live album called Alive, with Friends which came out this year. You’ve been quite productive. What does the band’s typical songwriting process look like? Are there any main songwriters in the band or do you all bring your ideas to the table and then jam around those as a group?
“Thanks, we are trying to stay busy. On Hymns, I wrote most of the music and Sean wrote most of the lyrics. We would get a base structure down and then jam around on those ideas as a group to see what works best. For our upcoming album it was a mix of people writing songs by themselves and putting them together as a group.”
I’ve got to say that I like your sound on the records. It has that vintage quality to it, but obviously utilising current technologies. Do you usually record your music in a proper studio space? Do you record the basic tracks as a band, live off the floor, like the bands back in the day used to? Did you record the debut to tape or straight to DAW?
“We record everything together in the same room with the intention of getting it right the first time. After we get a solid take of all the songs then we go back and listen through to see if we need to re-do anything. I generally record rhythms live with the band and then go back later to play all the solos. Sean’s vocal takes are a mixture of isolated vocals and using what we did in the room together. No tape for us. We love recording in the same room together but also enjoy the luxuries of modern recording software.”
You obviously understand that a great guitar sound is basically a cleanish, on the edge of breakup and that crunch comes more from overdriving the power tubes rather than diming the preamp gain. Some call it “dirty clean tone” or “clean distortion.” Les Paul’s and SG’s are your weapons of choice it seems, but what amps do you usually use, when not renting the backline? Do you use the same setup both live and in the studio? Any favourite [desert island] pedals you can’t imagine playing without?
“Sean and I both play Fender amps. I’m using the same amp here in the States as I did on our tour of Europe. Sean plays a Vox sometimes. He has a smaller version of what he used on tour here back home. So, all in all we were pretty much using the same exact gear. If I was trapped on a desert island I think I’d take a tuner with me. 😀”
You have recently finished your first European Tour. Also, first time playing outside the States. Any memorable gigs and moments from the tour? How would you compare the American and European audiences?
“The entire experience was wonderful. Each place was unique and beautiful in its own way, and we loved every minute of it. It was exciting to see and meet so many people. European audiences are the most welcoming we have ever played for. The amount of support we received was unexpected and amazing. You all show up, sing-along, and are incredibly friendly. It’s clear Europe really loves music.”
What was your first reaction when you arrived at the Museum of Trade venue in Bratislava and saw the tent and a pub next to it? Did you play in front of any other seated audience on this tour? Which country had the best beer in Europe?
“It was interesting to be in the pub at the museum of trade. It was like stepping into a time machine and we all enjoyed getting that experience. Most of the shows we played were standing room only, and best I remember not too many people were sitting in Bratislava either. 😀 Hard to say, we’ll have to get back to you on who had the best beer. Perhaps we’ll have an answer next time.”
And last but not least, what does MojoThunder have on this year and when we will see you guys in Europe (and hopefully in the Museum of Trade in Bratislava) again?
“Our tentative plan is to return to Europe in 2024 during the fall. We would love to come back to the Museum of Trade! We’re working on our new album right now and can’t wait for you all to hear it.”
Anything else you would like to add?
“Be on the lookout for our second album. We are very proud of the work we’ve done on it so far and I think it’s going to be our best release to date. You can follow us on YouTube or any social media platform (@mojothunderofficial). We love when people get involved in our community so leave us a comment, like, dislike, thumbs up or whatever.”
Band’s official links
♦ You can purchase the debut and live albums via the band’s website, both cheap as chips for 9 €.
♦ Over at Bandcamp you can buy the debut, as well as EP and first two singles.