Blues/Grunge Band Mudflower Discusses The Artistic Process and The Making of Their New EP
Chicago-based blues/rock band Mudflower is gearing up to release their new EP “Flore” early this year. Hailing from a city heavily undulated with rock, grunge, and punk music since the punk rock revolution in the 70s and 80s the three band members wanted to create music that borrows from multiple influences and continues the legacy of rock that as of today, seems to be disappearing. Lead singer Tim Bernard, drummer Tom Scofield, and bassist Dan Lopez emphasize the importance of not only their dedication to rock and producing the best music they can but also their family. The three men are all fathers with Tim expecting a baby boy later this May. Their songs reflect the strong emotions that come with being parents and career men, especially during the challenges our world has faced over the past two years. By striving to always excel expectations and pushing the boundaries of what music can be, Mudflower is certainly a band to keep your eyes and ears on.
Q. What’s the story behind your band? How did you guys meet? When did you know you were going to make music together?
A. Dan: Tom and I were in a local cover band. We were together for about a year and a half, we were doing well but we were getting kind of bored. Tom approached me and said hey let’s do our own original stuff and I kind of kept dismissing that I was like eh no one wants to hear original rock anymore. Then one night we saw a show at the House Pub and something just clicked. I was just like let’s do this so we got together and threw an ad out on Craigslist. We knew we wanted to be a three-piece [band] and we put an ad out looking for a singer/guitarist to front a three-piece band and we found Tim. It’s been the three of us ever since.
Tim: Yeah from my side of things, it was kind of perfect timing cause I was closing out a chapter with a Chicago area band for 8 years and we were doing original music and plenty of covers and then I did some acoustic solo/backyard stuff by myself to get that itch scratched. I recorded some songs and uploaded them. Then I saw the ad and I thought these are some like-minded individuals who want to be doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. I will say this, any singer or guitarist the moment you find a rhythm section that’s already tight, or friends you get along with that’s like half the battle. You can burn through a lot of bassists, a lot of drummers. If you already have that package then as a singer you’ve hit the jackpot. I was hoping it would work out and then I came over there, dropped my equipment in Tom’s living room. They just looked at me and they were like what do you got? So I just plugged in and started throwing some riffs that I thought could become a song. I forgot all the songs I did with my previous band they’re in the past whether I wrote them or not. We started fresh from the top, we didn’t look back. I thought they were gonna audition some other people but they messaged me and we’re like we don’t wanna waste time you’re out guy. That definitely told me more cause I didn’t wanna waste time either. I used to mess around and have fun with bands but these guys will tell you, it was all business. We got in the studio in like three months. I remember writing lyrics as fast as I could. I would kind of figure out the lyrics right there on the spot. We gelled very well and we knew that as soon as we started playing.
Tom: The chemistry was immediate. I was actually remodeling our rehearsal space so we were literally in my living room. We really put Tim through the wringer. We just told him to drop his stuff, plug in, and start playing. We immediately jammed.
Q. Rock bands are rare these days. How are you striving to stay relevant and stand out from other musicians?
A. Tim: It’s pretty easy to tell when you listen to Mudflower that, like grunge, 90s, a mix of blues is heavily influenced in our music. I was dipping in and out of blues clubs all the time in Chicago but I also grew up with grunge and punk. I think that we do a good job of touching on other influences to create our own sound. We listen to everything. We were on tour, Dan and I were sharing the car, and we listened to heavy metal, jazz, funk, blues, and country. I actually have a side project that’s like Americana country. So we embrace that instead of saying oh we have to be this we’re not very tunnel vision. If we said oh we’re a blues-rock band we have to be this that would just be a step back and we’d be recycling what everybody else is doing. Everything that we’ve touched on and seen in our lives we let it happen naturally.
Tom: That’s our number one thing: let the song write itself.
Tim: Yeah and if we get our hands on it too much the song kind of melts and looks too manufactured and touched up whereas “Next Door Blues” the single we released I kid you not we literally came back from covid lockdown, plugged our instruments in, and had like a frustrated bluesy riff and that got recorded because someone’s phone was going. We never wrote the song, it was that I kept trying to write it, and then we finally went back and went let’s just listen to the original jam and we copied it. We copied an organic jam that happened on the spot. We’re not looking to be Pearl Jam or The Black Keys.
Dan: One of our strengths is always being open-minded. We come in with ideas and we’re really good about nurturing the ideas and saying hey I wanna play this chord and that chord and try it in different ways and it’s like yeah try it. The three of us have an open mind and I think that’s reflected in our music as well.
Q. Listening to “Another Way” kind of reminded me of Metallica. What are some bands and or singers that have influenced you and your music?
A.Tim: For me, Allman Brothers, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Buddy Guy, The Black Keys. Newer stuff I like is Highly Suspect, Cleopatrick, Soulfly, I could go on and on. Dr. John of New Orleans, I know Dan disagrees with me on that one but I love to try and mimic his piano style on my guitar and just get into that groove. But if you try to play Dr. John and then throw distortion over that with these guys it sounds like sludge rock blues.
Tom: On drums, I say, Danny Carey, Tool, Nearl Peart, Rush. These are bands that I grew up studying- everything from beginning to end. I think it comes out a little more in stuff that I do, maybe more in a progressive kind of drum sound to a blues band. It’s a little bit of a weird mix but it works.
Tim: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink Floyd. I remember studying Chili Peppers guitarist because once you start to really dig into that and I know they had multiple guitarists but I’m talking about Frusciante and I remember actually understanding that everyone’s playing his stuff wrong. Like all my friends I would watch them play Chili Peppers and then I would watch what [Frusciante’s] doing and I would think that’s wrong so it was fun to think like how is he actually doing that? I remember taking years off my life studying Frusciante.
Dan: He’s the next best [guitarist] closest to Jimi Hendrix.
Tim: Oh Gary Clark Jr.! We had tickets to see him at the casino right before Covid hit and then we couldn’t go! We had front-row seats!
Q. What was the goal when writing your new EP? What kind of messages did you want to convey?
A. Tim: I don’t know that we had a goal in writing it right at the beginning. I feel like our goal was to get back in the studio. Our initial push into the studio was kind of a ridiculous rush. I think our goal was to sonically reach the higher level, to kind of reach a peak where we were with the last songs but I think what we ended up with is definitely reflective of the times. When we did meet it was an explosion of energy and frustration and loneliness, rock and roll is the best way to have an outlet during a time when there’s so much social insecurity and health insecurity. One of the songs definitely represents, doesn’t matter who you are as a person if you’re locked up inside by yourself you kinda go insane. Some of it was more controlled songs like “Don’t You Forget” the ones more controlled there might be a little bit of anger but it was much more dialed in. [Some songs] came out of left field and it probably wouldn’t have been written if I didn’t have time to sit and read a book and look at that and go, this story needs to be told. Singing a song about a Comanche Indian that the U.S Government never could quote catch and then he turns into a political leader like you need time to craft that. I think Covid lock-up was key for that.
Dan: I actually think there was a slight goal. With this EP the goal was to get back to the original Mudflower. Our first EP “Sleep Tight” we had a backup singer and she was heavily integrated with the band. We were kinda starting to change the way our sound was. She left and went on to other things and we went back to being a true three-piece and getting back to our roots. This latest EP really is reflective of that, getting back to rock and experimenting with a slightly heavier sound. It’s a little more sludgy at times. That wasn’t possible previously.
Tom: All of the songs in this grew organically. Every single song grew out of a jam, a riff, a simple two-three chords. I would catch it in my ear or something and next thing you know there’s the song.
Dan: I think this is a precursor to what the next material is going to sound like. It’s heavy, it’s created from the art energies it’s organically happening right in front of each other.
Q. How has the pandemic affected your ability to make music and connect with each other?
A. Dan: We were taken back and like well this really throws a wrench into our plans but what I love about this band and why I think we’re having some success now is our attitude. We assessed the situation and we were like this is what it is we didn’t dwell on the limitations Covid caused. We were like ok what can we do while this is happening how do we make a positive out of a negative. We got into working out our own parts and writing. We didn’t just sit back and let it dictate where this band was gonna go, we kept working through it. When we all felt comfortable enough we were like we gotta get back together we can’t do this anymore. When we got back we were ahead of a lot of other bands who might’ve just taken this Covid period to rest, we didn’t do that.
Tim: Covid either squashed some bands or some bands excelled. We’re a very new band and I think that being a new band during Covid you can take two approaches. You can either say this is too hard or you can say, there are probably some bands ahead of us that’s gonna sit on the sidelines. It’s time for us to play some catchup. Starting a new band is hard, it’s like starting a new business. You need traction, you need to get organized, you need content and you need to be heard. If you can’t get that going it’s a steep climb up but I think we used Covid to capitalize on the time that we could have together.
Tom: Yeah I agree, you could almost make the argument that it even brought us closer together, it forced us to have deeper level conversations about what’s going on, what we’re comfortable with, and what we’re not.
Tim: I also have so much more respect for what to do when you can’t play live. I used to always rely on live to get a point across, to get fans, to get your songs going. Covid really squashed that. Asking people to come out to shows during Covid is one of the most awkward questions to exist. You just sort of don’t do it. You just go and show up, plug your stuff in and anyone who wants to come out comes out. You treat the show and live portion of being in a band very differently, I still do. I used to be obsessed with live[shows] now, not so much.
Q. Once things settle down with Covid-19 will you be playing more shows? Is there a dream venue you’d like to play at?
A. Tim: We have already done a little tour over the summer. Once the vaccine came out and things started to open up again we had a busy summer. We thought we’d do a couple of shows to test the material outlive and that turned into going to Indianapolis, Tennessee, North Carolina, we played all around the Chicago area. We played my own block party right out on my street. We had one thing after another and it felt great it was definitely needed. I think now when you say is there a dream venue, I think Mudflower at The Metro would be a hell of a show. I can think of some bands we could open up for National or local particularly national though. I’d love to open up for All Them Witches, Highly Suspect but yeah I definitely picture The Metro as being the spot for us.
Dan: Yeah The Metro is always a good place to start. One of my dream bands I absolutely love is The Black Pumas, that’s a great band I’d love to open up for them.
Q. Any other hidden talents besides making music?
A. Tim: I have a hidden talent that no longer exists cause I can’t run like I used to but I played soccer. I played division one at the University of Chicago in Illinois. I played soccer my whole life, I always played guitar too but as soon as I was able to wrap up my season I put the sport down to focus on music but yeah [soccer] was probably my life before music.
Dan: I was always a big high school athlete. I was into wrestling and football. I did some coaching for football. Actually, I can draw a little bit. I’ve always been pretty artistic. I’m starting to pick that up again. I put that way for a while but I’m starting to dabble a little bit in art again.
Tom: I’ve always been kind of a blue-collar guy. I’m a home builder so I build custom homes for people all across the Chicago area and I’d say one of my biggest recreational passions is I’m really big in the equestrian community. My daughter rides horses so we’ve always been competing and stuff like that.
Tim: This band is very work and family-oriented, I’ve got a kid on the way, we’re very non-rock stars as I see it [laughs].
Q. What are some goals you have for 2022?
A. Tim: Well I have a baby boy on the way so my goal is to have a successful baby boy [laughs]. I probably want to embrace home life and be with my family as much as I can. There’s a lot going on with my family. Band and music-wise, we’re always striving for the best. We’re excited about the songs we have but there’s probably three or four tunes we gotta get out of our system here in 2022. We’re always looking for what’s next and that’s probably where our mindset is. We’re proud of what we’ve done but we’ve already got lined up with what we want next.
Tom: My biggest goal is in this band. I absolutely love playing music with these two guys and my goal is to keep pushing this as far as we possibly can. As we said we all have families and day jobs so we’re trying to allocate as much time as we can to get together and keep pushing this giant boulder over the hill [laughs].
Dan: Yeah pretty much what they said, just continuing to put out our really good music, Pushing Mudflower as far as we can possibly push it and seeing what happens.
“Flore” premieres on 3/4/22. Listen to it here: