Average Mammals: Life Under The Influence

Paul Whyte

It’s hard to stay on top of all the music that comes out of this region. Even those who take chances on shows where they aren’t sure of who is playing or surf Youtube videos for hours can miss a band here and there. “We’ve only played a few times....It seems to be a hard scene to break into,” stated guitarist, Darnea Olson, about the Twin Ports music scene. I thought about this and it is true that there have been numerous occasions where I’ve gone to shows featuring Twin Cities bands and it was amazing but hardly anyone showed because it is a lot to ask someone to spend an evening out for a band people have never heard of. The fans of Average Mammals may be wondering, “how can you not have heard of this band?” Overall, people need to know about something before they can care about it and achieving enough exposure takes time, shows and general effort. I was happy that the band let me know about their latest release of their debut LP, “Life Under The Influence.”
Average Mammals out of Hibbing were an unexpected surprise for me. Their music falls under categories such as indie, alternative, punk and pop but the sound travels around from song to song where it becomes difficult in just landing the sound of the overall album to something definite. I consider it a good thing when this happens. Some bands have their niche and there are certainly a number of bands that do a certain style very well. However, revealing different moods and genres throughout an album often creates a more interesting listening experience because every album should be a journey of what a band or artist is trying to achieve.
The album starts out with the track, “The Senses,” and it brings in a mix of acoustic guitar arrangements, experimental percussion and some well put together vocal parts. The lead singer, Ryan Mulner, sings on this album well in the way that there’s enough convincing emotion in the vocals but it doesn’t make it seem too whiny or contrived. Haunting sustained and effect laden swirls of background vocals mixed out with the dryer primary layers of vocals indicate that careful attention was given in production. The song has a driving tempo but it refrains from getting too heavy, it highlights the vocals to convey the energy and depth of the song.
The next track, “Disappear,” gets into the heavier side of the band and the stop/start riff makes it seem like the song might end up kind of bland but it pulls together quite well into the chorus and the break downs that lead to a grand finale of some fairly powerful material. “I’m going to reinvent myself/I’m going to become someone else…Throw caution off a cliff/and just go falling with it/no need to test the waters/just go diving right in…I’m not going to disappear.”
The album has a wide range of influences. It will carry the feel of a pop-punk song and then go into another song that’s more like blues and heavy metal with melodic segues intermittent in between. There are fairly major transitions between some tracks. The track “Too Fast Too Soon” is a mellow song driven by chilling “piano,” percussion and intense vocal parts and really contrasts with the upbeat swing-dance feel of the next track, “Spring Fling.”
Overall, Average Mammals comes out above average on this full length album. They went for something more than just a rock album that just blasts from start to end. There are heavier songs with a punk feel contrasted with more experimental and laid back arrangements that turned out quite pretty. It’s not truly punk and it’s a little too experimental and has enough grit to not come off as pop so in the end it’s fair to consider it somewhere in the wide definition of “alternative.”
The band consists of Ryan Mulner (vocals/guitar), Darnea Olson (guitar/backing vocals), Grant Hagen (bass) and Josh Lubovich (drums/backing vocals). The album was recorded in June 2013 at Pie Studios in Pasadena, CA with Nels Jensen and mastered at Signaturetone Recording in Minneapolis by Adam Tucker. I’m not sure of the circumstances of why the band went all the way out to California to record, but the end product definitely turned out well. The album took a year to officially be released; it came out at the end of July 2014.
Apparently there is a fan base for Average Mammals somewhere because their first run of CDs sold out in less than a week and they’re waiting on another shipment due sometime next week. The band will also be doing a digital release soon. The next opportunity to see them live in the Twin Ports is on August 22 and 23 at Grumpy’s in Superior.