It's hard enough for bandmates to find time for each other within same city, so it's all the more impressive that Travel Mug have developed during stretches of geographic divide. Long-time friends Ian Hamerlinck and Maya Powell began their collaboration over email, and are currently doing things long distance since Powell moved to Baltimore recently. The pair, who you might've heard previously as the Narw!als, teamed up with local producer Andy Thompson (Jeremy Messersmith, Dan Wilson) on their newest EP, Castle Danger. These five songs make up a collection of power-pop nuggets catchy enough to make the New Pornographers' A.C. Newman smile.
Before their album release at the Entry on Friday, Maya and Ian took some time out of their busy schedules to talk about their latest album, what it was like working with Thompson, and why folks should not bring babies to the show.
Gimme Noise: How did your collaboration via email start out? Did you meet in person prior to exchanging music over the internet?
Ian Hamerlinck: Maya and I have known each other since middle school. We had to make a rocket together in science class and basically bonded over that -- been friends ever since then. We started doing music stuff together in high school.
Maya Powell: I can confirm this; the rocket didn't launch, though.
Gimme Noise: You two term yourself as indie-rock, but I hear a throwback to the '50s in your sound. What do you think influenced this?
Ian Hamerlinck: Maybe it's all the harmonies we used in this record? We both felt like we didn't emphasize harmonies enough in the Narw!als stuff, so we made it a point to make them front and center in Castle Danger. Also Beck has always been a big musical influence for me, and his sound can be all over the place sometimes. That probably had something to do with it, too.
Gimme Noise: What happened to the Narw!als? How does Travel Mug music differ from the Narw!als' sound, and when do you feel the shift in sound came about?
Ian Hamerlinck: I think Maya and I both agreed that it just felt right to distance ourselves from the Narw!als a little bit. We were in high school when we recorded YeahYeahCoolYeah, and I feel like we both matured a little bit once we graduated in terms of our songwriting abilities. Compared to the Narw!als, Travel Mug's sound is a little more serious, but you can tell that it's still us.
Gimme Noise: How did you meet Andy Thompson, and how did you come to working with him? How do you think Andy changed the music when he took on the role of producer?
Ian Hamerlinck: We had worked with Andy on YeahYeahCoolYeah and had had a really positive experience. Andy's extremely good at what he does -- takes a song and refines it while maintaining the integrity of the original idea. That's something I really appreciate. He helped to fill in a lot of the spots in our songs that were a little too stripped down to give it a fuller sound overall.
Maya Powell: I've known Andy since I was a wee babe, and he's great. He's got cute kids and always offers me water when I go to his house, it's cool. Pretty okay at the drums too.
Gimme Noise: How do you create such a full sound with only two people? Did you write with a live show in mind?
Maya Powell: Narw!als' material was always intended to be played live to a rowdy group of teens. With Travel Mug we've given ourselves more room to experiment with the actual recordings. We live in different states now, so live shows are less frequent. We recorded all the songs live as a band, and then just kept adding to them liberally until we felt like they packed a punch.
Gimme Noise: Can you tell me more about the song "Eighteen"?
Ian Hamerlinck: I wrote that song after I'd gotten my wisdom teeth out. It took me a little over a week until I could eat solid food again, so I just spent most of the time sleeping and listening to Radiolab. I don't wanna get too into the specific meaning of the song because it's pretty personal, but I will say that it was partially inspired by the Radiolab episode "Lost & Found."
Gimme Noise: Any favorite tracks off of the new album?
Ian Hamerlinck: I feel like I'm really attached to all the songs on this album. I think "Trees" turned out nicely and "Revolver"'s a lot fun to listen to.
Maya Powell: "Trees." It's super goth and also about trees.
Gimme Noise: What can we expect to see at the album release show?
Ian Hamerlinck: No babies! No babies allowed!
Maya Powell: I plan on doing a backflip.
Travel Mug will release Castle Danger at the 7th St. Entry on Friday, January 10, with Prissy Clerks and Wolf Mountain.
18+. $5, 8 pm
Purchase tickets here.