With their self-titled debut album, Muun Bato bring the psychedelic shoegaze sound of the U.K. to Minneapolis, their music as loose and expansive as you’d expect from a group born out of a jam session.
Guitarist/vocalist Joe Werner (Driftwood Pyre/First Communion Afterparty/Bridge Club) and drummer Andy Iwanin met when they played together at a mutual friend’s house. Their musical styles proved to be as close together as their home addresses were—they live four blocks from each other—so they started jamming regularly.
“I already had almost all the songs that would end up on our debut fully formed, so we started working on those immediately,” Werner says. “Then we recruited Vince Caro, who plays with Andy in Basement Apartment, to track the songs, and he loved them so much, he volunteered to play guitar too. Then we needed a bass player, so we asked Tim Ritter, also of Basement Apartment, and the next thing we knew we had an album recorded and a new band. The band’s sound was really solidified, though, when Marie Debris joined in late 2019. Her keyboard tone filled in everything that was missing.”
But just as the group was gaining momentum, with a West Coast tour set to begin, the pandemic hit. “It obviously was a massive disappointment, but we were all in such shock about the gravity of the pandemic, that we weren’t sure exactly how to feel about it,” Werner says. “You can’t really be mad about it because the whole world was basically canceled.”
The quarantine kept the group apart for a few months, but in that time Werner wrote a batch of songs for Muun Bato’s second album, which is mostly finished. Now they’re back to making music together again, which has helped ease the emotional and mental strain caused by the pandemic.
“We spent the first couple months of quarantine apart. No rehearsals, or recording sessions. But then we finally decided we were willing to take the risk to be in the same room as each other to play,” Werner says. “We were all pretty bummed by that point, and our first practice back was cathartic to say the least. Then we started recording at the end of the summer, and it feels really good getting lost in that. Having that as a positive distraction from all the apocalyptic chaos has been essential to our mental well-being.”