An interview with Lion's Mouth's singer-guitarist Chelsea Z.
by John Noyd
Like a modern Horatio Alger times two, the musical duo LION’S MOUTH embodied the American Dream, heading West from their Wisconsin home to seek not gold but a golden dream of making music full-time. Equipped with ferocious talent and unflappable attitude, guitarist Chelsea Z. and percussionist Sara Wexler took on the challenge of making their mark in the L.A. music scene and in doing so found themselves releasing a strong self-titled debut they are happily bringing with them on their first national tour that takes them back home. Aptly titled, “The Coming Home Tour,” they play Madison’s The Frequency September 6th with area favorites HEAVY LOOKS, THE MILLENIUM and KAREN WHEELOCK. Before heading on tour, Chelsea was kind enough to talk with MAXIMUM INK about their experience in L.A. and how the move affected their music.
MAXIMUM INK: What were your notions about L.A. before you headed out there and how did they change once you got there?
CHELSEA Z.: We had heard that Los Angeles is full of beautiful, shallow people and that we’d love the weather. Though we found some people to be vapid and self-centered, we also found people who are caring and passionate about what they do. (We also thought we’d be the frumpiest and worst dressed, and that has proven to be correct). The weather is beautiful all year, but as Midwesterners we found ourselves missing a cloudy day. We were also cautioned to not get our hopes up because everyone in L.A. is trying to “make it”. At times we felt overwhelmed by the competitive, individualistic nature of the city, but despite all the negative things we had heard, we found a lot of opportunities. We landed a commercial agent who got us several auditions, we’ve met a lot of talented musicians and played great shows in a lot of famous venues.
MI: Did you write the album while you were out there?
CZ: The songs on our self-titled album were actually written about two years prior to us moving out to Los Angeles. We have another album’s worth of material that we wrote before and during our time here.
MI. Did being in a new stimulating environment change the way you wrote songs?
CZ: The songwriting since our debut has become much more collaborative. We definitely honed our sound and how we work together. We think about the structure and impact of the arrangement more than we ever have and we have both become better musicians. Our performances are tighter and our songs are riskier.
MI Changes can inspire but also challenge.
CZ: We’ve been so busy that starting and finishing songs has taken longer. We had a bumpy start and ended up moving several times before we landed in the place we are now. Because of that our practices had to become more deliberate, “what are we playing at the show?” kind of practices whereas before we would jam a lot more. For a while survival was our number one priority.
MI: Taking a step back, how did you two get together?
CZ: Sara has been playing drums since grade school and has played in more groups than I can count. She won a scholarship to Lawrence University in Appleton to study percussion but ended up switching her major to Art because she felt like she was turning into a drumming robot. I started playing guitar when I was sixteen, but I didn’t start performing until I was eighteen. I started in Appleton and moved on to open mics and shows around the state and country, playing mostly solo. We both ended up in Madison and met because Sara used to work with my ex downtown. We decided to try jamming a couple of times and played together for a few months before going our separate ways.
MI: So it wasn’t immediately apparent you’d form a band.
CZ: We are both very opinionated and intense people especially when it comes to music. Some practices felt effortless and other days one of us would storm out of the room. I think that willful passion comes through in our music. It wasn’t for another couple of years that we tried playing a few songs together again. Then we met our producer, Mathew Prock, at our second show back and it became clear that what we were doing was special. Shortly after that we became Lion’s Mouth.
Forceful personalities that bring strong dynamics to their music, Lion’s Mouth pull no punches with their songs, laying hearts on sleeves with honest thoughts and upfront emotions delivered in brisk, driving rhythms and clear, sincere lyrics. It’s no surprise to find Chelsea trained as a volunteer firefighter and Sara studied Tae Kwon Do, for the music they make is both vibrant and caring.(4854) Page Views Lion’s Mouth Online:
CD: Lion's Mouth Record Label: self-release