The vibrant Colorado music scene has long been known for churning out some of the freshest and most exciting acts over the years, and over the last few, that seems to have proven true again with MLIMA. The six-piece band, whom take their name from the Swahili word for “mountain,” have been burning up stages around the Rocky Mountain area with their colorful and radiant blending of jazz, afro funk, pop, and jam rock.
The band has already made some impressive leaps considering their brief time as a band. They’ve opened for both Shpongle and The Disco Biscuits at Red Rocks, and shared the stage with members of The String Cheese Incident and Ivan Neville of Lettuce. Those out in Colorado that are somehow not familiar with MLIMA already will have a brief opportunity this fall to experience this band’s prowess, when they play a couple of dates throughout September, which will end with their album release party at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox on Sept. 21.
A few weeks after that, September 29, will see the official release of this first studio effort of the band: a slick, seven-track collection of the definite ear-candy songs that this six piece has bled out so far. Just listening to the record makes us personally believe that this is one of those bands you’ll be hearing loud and out front on the musical scene soon enough. In the meantime, check out our chat with MLIMA’s vocalist and saxophonist Zach Simms.
To get our readers introduced and familiar with MLIMA, it’d be great if you could give a bit about the origins of the band?
MLIMA started about five years ago. Jack Breitenbach started the band with a vision for a project that could put a smile or stank on everyone’s face. The current lineup has been together for the last two years.
Can you talk about the band’s name? This word that is Swahili for “mountain.” Is there an influence of Swahili culture behind your band?
At the time that Jack was starting the band, he was hanging with some kids from Africa who spoke Swahili. He asked them what mountain meant, and that was that. He assembled some musicians and started to hike!
You guys are coming up in the vibrant Rocky Mountain/Denver music scene. Has that been an especially fruitful/inspiring experience for your band? An intimidating experience ever?
Denver has always had a great local music scene. It’s been a hot spot for national acts as well. This does mean that any night you play, you are competing with at least five shows, but competition leads to better quality shows, seeing success. It is inspiring to be a part of the growing scene.
Your 7-track EP that is coming out: Can you talk about the process of making that this year? According to your website it was recorded and produced by the band–Are the members of MLIMA whizzes in the studio?
We recorded in Lance’s basement (our drummer). Eliminating the studio cost allowed us to take our time. We were able to isolate all the instruments and overdub at our own pace…with plenty of smoke breaks. The whole process was a learning experience for everyone. After tracking, we took it to a couple different people to mix and master. Then we set up release on Spotify, iTunes, Google etc. We printed CDs even though that’s almost outdated. I mean, where do you even listen to CDs now, your car? My plan, that just came to me while answering this question, is to sell the CD with a portable disc player. We’ll have a limited number of these available at our release party on September 21st at Ophelia’s, so don’t worry. (We) looked into putting the music on flash drives but that’s too futuristic and expensive, and pressing vinyl is too old school and expensive. What is the future format for music?! Sorry what was the question? Whizzes? No, we’re learning as we go.
These tracks are great grooves, but they’re also at times pretty intricate compositions. Who handles the songwriting? Or are all members writers? Or it’s different with each song?
Well, thank you. For some of the material, the intricacies have developed over the last year or so of playing the tunes. The songs start with someone’s idea that we all expand on, and we tend to get ideas the more we play. Some other songs are composed by one person. “Chunk” started with a Ryan Thrush bass line that blossomed with a Lance Croucher idea, and all of our input via jamming. Jessica Jones wrote the lyrics. “Sunshine” is written by Jeph Kennedy and I wrote the horn lines. “Stank” was an idea started by our friend Matt Anton and myself, Zach Simms. Then everyone added musical ideas and made it groove. I wrote “Booty” years ago, but we made some improvements together more recently. Ryan wrote “Beverly,” Jeph wrote “Fist.” And most importantly, “Outro” is the intro to “Chunk” in reverse. Mind=Blown!
The songs on this EP also have a resounding positive/uplifting quality. Is that an important factor driving the music of MLIMA?
That’s nice to hear. I don’t think anyone set out to make positive or uplifting music, but it’s cool that it happened. We didn’t really have a goal. I think, in a way, if we set out to do it, maybe that would’ve been cheesy. I’m glad it just came out, but I think we all are pretty positive people. We gravitate towards the funky/groovy stuff in any way. It makes sense.
The touches of digital/electronic sound that seem to grace a few of the tracks are also cool. Is this a component that you envisioned incorporating/blending from the start of your band? Or something you picked up from your time playing in the Denver scene?
Our friend Ben Rafferty played synthesizer on most of the songs, and Jeph occasionally breaks out the theremin. Recently, I play the synth live sometimes, if not on sax, and Ryan even has a song on bass synth. We’re not opposed to technology and electronics on the set.
You’ve got a handful of tour dates coming up, including the album release party later in September. How are you gearing up for this tour, and anything extra special planned for the album release?
Nothing special has been discussed. For this release, we’re getting back to the basics, (to just) have some fun playing music. Now that these songs are recorded, we get to think about them differently. Now it’s time to get loose and really break out.
Given your great steam/success already, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be long at all before MLIMA is touring around the country or further. Where would you like to play, if you could play anywhere? (location or venue). Do any members have experience playing around other parts of the country?
My goal is to play the world. Locally, headlining and selling out Red Rocks is the dream. Elsewhere, Jackie B did a tour with Zach Heckendorf. Ryan did a tour with his old bluegrass band Whiskey Tango. I did one tour with my sax metal band Zobomazé. Lance went to school and gigged around New York. Jessica has toured all around Colorado, including numerous weekly residencies and some out of state appearances. Jeph has vigorously toured Colorado and established himself in the scene after moving here less than six years ago.
Check out the band’s website here for more info.
Article by Miles Hurley