After two years’ worth of tinkering, shuffling between saxophone players and simply letting the new music breathe a little between rewrites, the Denver indie-soul sextet will be releasing tracks "Ain't Your Mama" and "Half His Heart" off of the forthcoming EP Mama Magnolia Pt. I on October 19. The second half of the EP will drop October 26, with another EP and eight-track vinyl LP slated for 2019.
“The way we’re going to release it is release two small EPs. We’re releasing four songs in October, four songs around February and March, and then we’ll release all eight songs on vinyl next summer,” says keyboardist, lead vocalist and band manager Megan Letts. “This is step one in that process, and it feels like a really strong musical representation of who we are. It took a long time getting a product we’re all happy with.”
The October 20 release party will open with local multi-instrumentalist Felix Fast4ward, followed by Mama Magnolia in the middle slot, and synth-pop quartet Retrofette closing out what is expected to be a night filled with dancing, fun and funky tunes.
Almost as if it were a rite of passage, Mama Magnolia’s first EP Something About Fire from 2016 was what the bandmates believed at the time would be a solid collection of songs that would get their name out into the public, but they ultimately decided it was too rushed during the recording process.
With the upcoming EPs and vinyl LP, the feeling is different. “We didn’t feel like we were rushing," Letts says. "At the end, there’s always a bit of rushing while you’re adding some tweaks, but all in all, it’s a very methodical, thought-out album. Each track has its own flavor, its own journey. It doesn’t feel like, 'Okay, let’s get music out because we need to get music out.'
“It has taken a lot of patience and time, which included taking a song and then sitting with it for weeks and not being like, 'Okay, let’s turn this around now,'" she adds. "Sitting with it, listening to it ten times, then not listening to it for a week, then listening again — you’re going to have different ideas and concepts.”
Over the span of nearly ten years, most of the bandmates have spent time playing alongside one another in various configurations, with and without Mama Magnolia on the radar.
“The reason why we have that musical cohesiveness is because we’ve played in so many other types of bands," Letts says. "It’s not like we’ve just been in this one rock or soul band together. It’s like I’ve played with [guitarist] Thomas Jennings in jazz groups and [bassist] Zach Jackson in reggae groups and [drummer] Jackson Hillmer in garage-rock groups.
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Inspired by various genres, Mama Magnolia's music can be difficult to categorize. One thing is certain: The group is rooted in Denver's DIY scene and prefers to play independent venues. That's why the release party will be at Syntax Physic Opera – an aboveground hub for Denver's underground music community.
Between majestic horn and saxophones tones, slapping bass lines, funky guitar riffs and harmonious vocals, Mama Magnolia’s sound is not necessarily easier to classify today than it was when they burst onto the Denver music scene in 2014.
“All of us have played together in so many different styles and genres," Letts says. "When we come together with this one sound, we know each other musically really well.”