The core members of the Oakland based psych-stoner metal band, Mondo Drag, John Gamino and Jake Sheley have been playing together since childhood. Their journey to build their sound and find adequate band members led them to travel from their home state of Iowa to the Bay Area.
Making Oakland their new home base in 2013 has proved to be fortuitous. The band will be embarking on a European tour this year following the release of its self-titled album on January 16th.
Mondo Drag performs locally next at Brick and Mortar Music Hall on January 25th with LA Witch. John Gamino spoke about his excursion to Oakland, his early start playing classical music and how pot attributes to the psychedelic elements of Mondo Drag’s music.
You moved from Iowa to the Bay Area a couple of years ago. How has that worked for you?
It has worked out very well. We moved to the Bay Area in April of 2013. In Iowa, we didn’t have a bassist or a drummer because there wasn’t really anybody there to play with, so we left out of necessity.
Why did you choose the Bay Area compared to New York or Los Angeles to continue your music career?
We toured the country a lot, so we had a feel for most of the major cities. Being from the Midwest, I think our lifestyles fit better with the Bay Area than Los Angeles. Oakland is more sprawling than it is built upwards like Chicago or New York.
So, you like that Oakland is geographically more horizontal than cities that have tall buildings where everything feels stacked on top of everything else?
Yeah, we have a big house and a backyard and it’s really cool.
How does your family feel about you chasing your music career?
They are all very supportive. They all understood where we are coming from.
What are your favorite spots in Oakland?
My house and our studio (laughs).
You don’t go out much, huh?
Where we’re from, all there was to do was go out to the bars so it’s pretty refreshing to have other pursuits and interests here besides drinking.
Do you have a social circle that surrounds you between your house and studio?
Yeah, just from playing shows we’ve met a lot of cool people, but right now we’re very focused on our music. If there is a choice between going out or going into the studio, the studio is always going to win.
Who were some of your musical influences?
I took piano when I was growing up so I was really into classical music, but when I hit middle school I got into Metallica and the Misfits. My friends at school and their older siblings turned me on to that music so middle school and high school were very “metal.”
Who are your favorite classical musicians?
I’ve been listening to Mahler a lot this week.
How did the psychedelic aspect of your music seep into what is otherwise heavy rock?
I would attribute a lot of that to pot (laughs). The sound qualities and arrangements of the better psychedelic and prog bands are really interesting. We were focused on playing really fast and aggressive metal, but then realized you can convey much more emotion and ideas by creating thought-out and well-placed musical arrangements and sound textures with psychedelic music.
Since your album came out so early in 2015, what do you plan to do for the rest of the year?
The new album was recorded in 2011 and 2012. We’ve certainly been writing a lot since then, so we actually have the next album basically done. We will start shopping that around and we’re going to tour Europe this year.
Are you going to add American dates to your tour?
We’re definitely going to have some West Coast dates but I’m not sure we’re going to tour the U.S. this year. It’s really hard to tour the U.S.
With everything you’ve learned from the past. Is there anything you would change?
I don’t think there is anything I would change. I just want to keep doing more and expanding.