Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Will Sprott, the lead singer and songwriter for San Jose, Calif., band The Mumlers, takes us into the sordid lives of characters trying to live beneath the din, under the cover of shadows and behind versions of parapets that will absorb all of the justified or unjustified bullets. We're introduced to these people, who seem to be down on their luck or living with their heads spinning and spilling, cracked open at the hinges and exposed to all of the soggy elements. They're halfway gone, dragging their legs behind them, stricken with misfortune and paralyzing sadness brought to them through their welcomed vices. There's the gamblers, whittling their savings away via the black jack table and there are the street walkers owning their territories, all in this form of a hellacious setting, which could be anywhere else, but for them and for Sprott, it was home. Most of the characters, in their signature throes of seediness or degenerate station (though in the hands of the Mumlers, these terms are so romantic it hurts), are working it the best that they can.
Sprott sounds like a southern soul singer and the Mumlers as a collective, sound like a loveable firmament, a single flickering light bulb swinging in a dirty basement, where the mildew's set in, but it's pleasant and cool, warm and inviting in a non-exclusive arrangement. They rumble through passionate takes on the desirous flares and flings of people who, for the most part, just want love and little drama. Sometimes things just go awry and that's when there are accidents, scabs and scars and messy, messy pieces to pick up or desert. That's when people get confused and the night sets in on them, throwing an arm over a shoulder and saying all of the sweet-talkin' right things, like a vulture smelling blood. Sprott is a writer's writer, turning glorious phrases and crafting storylines that employ classic sentiments and themes but tackle them with a unique touch that feels ancient and natural, as if he's got a playbook full of secret audibles that can just be claimed for his own.
He sings, "My woman puckers her lips/They are the horses and she's the apocalypse/My woman moves her hips/She is the shoreline and I'm a ship" on "Red River Hustle" and it's a haunting waltz through a hell that's not just lurking on the horizon, but has bubbled over and is now moving into the neighborhood, getting its mail there and raising a family. We're there in a situation where it's all "blood under the bridge" and there's not all that much repentance going on or forgiveness being sought. It's just bygones and they'll be bygones if they're allowed to be, even one's that are so dastardly. Folks are left to act as they will in Mumlers songs and Sprott, along with his six-person band of players with countless instruments to their names, chronicles their mishaps and small triumphs with such gorgeous ease. These are tiring lives and questionable decisions that are framed with such elegance and bath water that feel as if they were and have been acceptable all along, that perhaps we're all a little bit off and this is nothing different. We are the same people stuck in the mud, in those ruts and we're all just spinning those wheels forgetting about all of the mud that's being shot out behind us. Sometimes sad things happen and love doesn't and that's just what has to be dealt with no matter what.