By: Dennis M. Kelly
DK: How did 89 Mojo come into existence?
89 Mojo: Our bass player Dom and I had been in a popular local group called “Sahara Jack” which sort of fell apart during a trip out west. Once we got back, we spent a few months just hanging out in his basement, drinking and writing songs with a drum machine. What started out as a depressing time ended up becoming just the opposite, because it brought us back to why we started playing in the first place: a love of music and having fun. Soon after that, we hooked up with Brian Otwaska drums) and Brett Schuermann (vocals/guitar), who were previously in a band called “Moon Stevens.” We started with the name “Epstein’s Mother”, but when we heard there was a band from Vegas that had rights to that name (who would’ve thought?!), we changed it 89 Mojo.
DK: Your first album “Fancy Free and So Naïve” came out in 1998, when did you form?
89 Mojo: Fall of ’97 – our first gig was on New Year’s Eve that year.
DK: Are you all the same members from day one? Or have there been personnel changes over the years?
89 Mojo: It’s been Dom, Brian, and I since day one, with Al Schroeder (lead vocals) with us since 2001. We’ve had other friends/musicians record and gig with us aong the way (Paul Geasland on “Watchin’ my world go by” and Ernie Grice on “89 Mojo”) – it’s been sort of an “open door” thing – but it’s been the four of us for quite awhile now. And we’ve actually just begun working in another guitarist, Chad Plageman. He’s been a long-time friend of ours, and it felt right.
DK: What would you say the greatest challenges have been for you as a band these past seven years?
89 Mojo: It’s easy to get into a rut of playing a circle of clubs over and over. It’s great to see the same people each time, but you need to get in front of new faces every now and then. Also, being a band that plays roughly half covers and half originals (when we’re the only band for the whole night) can be pretty frustrating. Some of the clubs that generally run cover bands are afraid to book you, and you don’t get the “indie-cred” from the all-original scene. We’ve released 5 discs, and play at least 20 of our own tunes on most nights – compared to the 12-15 an all-original band will play when sharing the bill with others. We just happen to be playing other great music as well.
DK: Rolling Stone magazine chose the song “Shitty Job” as an editors pick, how did that make you all feel?
89 Mojo: It was really exciting, for a number of reasons. First, it was just great to know that someone out there was listening. The fact that we were getting exposure to thousands of people who had never heard of us was also wonderful – it really showed us the power and reach of the internet.
DK: Now that your latest album “Five” is nearing a year old, how would you evaluate its success?
89 Mojo: Most of our fans say it’s their favorite, so that’s about all we could hope for.
DK: You’ve released an album/EP almost on for every year, do you have plans for another one before this year is over?
89 Mojo: Not this year – although we are planning on going in the studio to do a Christmas song and maybe one or two other songs. I doubt it be an actual release, though – just something to put on our site as a download. Maybe we’ll have something sometime next year…we’ll see how it goes.
DK: Have you released anything on video/DVD yet?
89 Mojo: We had a big show back in July, opening up for Grand Funk Railroad down in Vernon Hills, that we videotaped and dumped onto a DVD. It was just a one-camera thing from the sound booth, but it actually turned out pretty good. It got us thinking to film a little more often, and maybe eventually we could have something worth releasing.
DK: Have you played outside of Wisconsin yet?
89 Mojo: A few shows in Illinois and Indiana…but us cheeseheads get nervous when crossing borders!!
DK: Is it safe to say you enjoy playing out more than recording new albums?
89 Mojo: Definitely. Live, we’re usually playing 45 songs over a period of a few hours. In the studio, you’re nitpicking at the same 12 songs over a few months. But in the end, you’re always happy you did it.
DK: How do you want your audience to feel when they see your shows?
89 Mojo: Well, the obvious answer here would be “intoxicated”! Seriously, just the simple fact that they enjoy themselves more at our show than by doing any of the million other entertainment choices they have on a saturday night.
DK: How often do you do 3 hour performances?
89 Mojo: Most of our shows are “all-nighters”, where we play 3 hours of music between 10pm and 2am. Taking breaks suck, though, because that’s usually when people leave, so we try to either get back up soon or do some acoustic stuff in between. A few clubs, though, will allow us to play from 10:30 straight on through to 1:30, with a small acoustic set in the middle to give the ears (and our drummer’s blatter) a break. It’s grueling, but has worked out pretty well when we’ve done it.
DK: What is in 89 Mojo’s future?
89 Mojo: Basically, more of the same – boring answer, I know. Over the past years, we’ve found a solid comfort zone with gigging and recording that has allowed us to keep our basic goal of having fun. Other than that, we’re looking to get down to the Chicago area a little more often, as well as Madison. Dom once joked that we were “rock stars for 50 miles”…maybe we can work that up to 100.
DK: Well, thank you very much for taking the time with us today!
Thank you, and goodnight!
For more information about 89 Mojo please check out their official site: http://www.89mojo.com
Al Schroeder- Lead Vocals
Dominic Pedicone- Bass, vocals
Grant June- Guitar, vocals
Brian Otwaska- Drums
Dominic Perone (aka Dommer)- Soundman, Merchandise
89 Mojo’s new disc, “Five”, builds upon the hooks, harmonies and guitar that the area favorites are known for. The entire process – from the writing to the recording to the mixing – was done with one sole purpose: to make the best record possible. They chose only 5 songs to concentrate on, recorded in a top notch studio (onto the slowly disappearing 2″ tape) and took it up to Minneapolis’ Echo Bay (previously the famed Oarfin Studios, who’ve hosted countless projects for major label artists) for mixing. The result is a 17 minute blast of radio-ready, melody-driven rock. Think “Cheap Trick hooks up with Jimmy Eat World” – it’s refreshingly old-school while remaining current. While some songs are blasts of energetic rock bliss, others blend introspective lyrics with memorable melodies. It’s an intoxicating mix of passion and fun, brought together by the timeless qualities of strong songwriting, arrangements and musicianship.
Besides the countless clubs they’ve played, the band has also performed at music showcases and festivals, including Milwaukee’s Summerfest in ’04 and ’05. Mojo music has been featured and reviewed on many area radio stations, publications, TV broadcasts, and internet sites. At Garageband.com, “Get” & “Let it go” were featured “tracks of the day”, and both shot up the Power Pop charts. At RollingStone.com, their song “Shitty Job” was chosen as the “editor’s pick of the day.”
Even after all their recordings, 89 Mojo is still best when witnessed live. Whether it’s an all-original showcase set or one of the band’s infamous nights of non-stop rocking for 3 hours, it’s an energetic, sweaty, sing-along, Saturday night roller coaster ride. The ride may leave you hoarse and a little buzzed but you can’t wait to go again. With thousands of discs sold, hundreds of gigs under their belts and a loyal fan base, 89 Mojo is paving their own way in their love of writing and performing music…and having a damn good time doing it.