Although you may not have heard of them, Mo Lowda & The Humble has one of the most unusual fusion sounds I’ve ever heard. I got to speak with the band’s lead singer and guitar player, Jordan Caiola, about how the band got started, their writing process, what fans can expect from them at a live show and much more. Keep reading to see his answers.
Let’s start with the name of the band. Mo Lowda & The Humble is one hell of a name. I was curious who came up with it and how it came about?
We kind of started playing together in high school. I think that’s what you get when a bunch of 18-year-old boys try to make a band [laughs]. We’ve kind of tried to move away [from the name] before. Didn’t go well, so we’ve kind of embraced it now, because it’s part of us. People seem to dig it. It kind of gets tiresome trying to explain it or to try to pronounce it to people so that they remember it, but it’s really a part of the [band] now. I guess we’ve kind of grown into it. We have these big, loud sound portions of our songs and then the more humble, quiet times, so I guess it could be like a dynamic thing which we really like to embellish.
Yeah, I really never played in a band in high school. I was doing my solo thing. I met my drummer [Shane Woods]. You know, we were friends but never really played together. I know he played in a couple other bands. We started jamming together junior year, senior year, just kind of had the two-piece for fun. We were really just playing some covers and some of my own original stuff and we added a bassist and started playing grad parties, things of that nature. That’s kind of how it took off. From there, we weren’t like, “Well, this is going to be our careers now.” We all went to separate colleges, at first, and then we all ended up actually transferring to the same one, at some point, for all different reasons and we figured, well, we’re here now, might as well keep playing. At Temple University is really where the band started to grow a following with the basement party scene. I think we filled out our first Philly show before we graduated college. Yeah, that’s kind of where we started.
How did you personally get into music?
I grew up with tons and tons of music in my ears, from my dad mainly. I grew up listening to Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen. And then once I started playing guitar, I got into Zeppelin and Hendrix. That’s pretty much what every epic middle school guitar player starts [with], is with the standards [laughs], but it’s still such a huge part of rock music today. But I think where I decided to do music… I remember being at a backyard family party and my uncle playing some Bruce Springsteen song, acoustic, as my dad’s singing along with it and I was like, “That looks like the most fun ever.” I definitely had a gravitational pull towards music but never found really my pathway within it until I got a guitar. I got one for Christmas and that was it.
You said when you guys started, that it wasn’t really your idea to do this as a career. Was there a moment where you were like, this is what we’re going to do for a career?
We all got our degrees and at some point that changed over from my primary thought process to a backup plan once I started thinking that I really wanted to do the music. I chose Temple because I wanted to be in the Philly music scene and before the guys even transferred in. I was going to be doing the music thing regardless, whether it was solo or finding a band there. I wasn’t quite sure. I knew I wanted to go somewhere that had a scene and a house show scene and larger venues where I could keep doing it. But I don’t know really the moment it changed over. I guess close to graduation when our first record started doing pretty well and we all kind of decided we were going to get jobs that would be flexible in case we wanted to tour. We’ve started playing, closer to markets like Boston, New York just get to these other towns and start spreading the music a little bit more.
If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your degree in?
Shane and I both did music production, kind of the other side of it; Shane manages a studio back in Philly, so he’s using it. I wait tables when we’re home, so I haven’t used that degree, haven’t dusted that thing off yet. But our bassist, Jeff [Lucci], who joined the band about two and a half years ago, not the original bassist, he went to school at Penn State for industrial engineering. He started doing that and pretty much said, “I don’t want to do this. I’d rather try music” and he was available when we needed a bassist. It’s worked out really well.
You were talking about the Philadelphia music scene and how that’s really where you wanted to be. How much does Philadelphia play a role in the music you create, whether it be references in the lyrics or just the overall sound of your music?
I’ve referenced it a couple times. We live in a neighborhood called Fishtown, which is sort of the Brooklyn-type neighborhood in Philly, tons and tons of artist types, great bands and musicians left and right. I think that’s been pretty inspiring, to go see shows and be a part of that or even just be hanging out at a good bar, people coming out. Our whole crew now is a bunch of different bands and musicians back in Philly. I think there’s no doubt that plays a part. I just don’t know if I can tangibly grasp exactly what it adds to our music. I think it’s more of just inspiring us to keep pushing and keep doing what we’re doing.
Talk a little bit about your writing process. Do you guys write your own material together or do you bring in people to help you?
Yeah, absolutely. Lyrically I write them all, as far that goes. And then songs kind of can come from whatever. Let’s say 50-70 percent of the time it’s me writing a song, like the backbone of the song, on an acoustic guitar, just vocals and guitar. I’ll have an idea of the feel of the bass and drums. Sometimes I’ll write bass and drum parts and let the guys kind of put their own spin on those. Sometimes I straight up say, “Here’s what I have. Now, show me what you guys want to do with this.” Cause they’re both great writers in their own regard. I just provide the backbone and the ground for it. Or it’ll come out of nowhere. Like I was still setting up my gear at practice and Shane started playing a drum groove and I said, “Keep playing that,” and I recorded it on my phone and went home and wrote a whole song based around one drum groove. It depends on what inspires you in that moment.
As far as writing with other people, no, we’ve never written with anybody else except us three really. I kind of like that. I don’t know. I’ve noticed from our trips to Nashville and LA that there’s plenty of scenes and plenty of artists that use a lot of other writers. I’ve always felt, especially lyrically, I can write music with other people, but lyrics I think is such a vulnerable and personal thing. I have a very difficult time sitting down with people and writing lyrics. That’s kind of always been my most definite, cut out a piece of the writing process for us. I think we all work really well together. We know that [with a song], if it isn’t hitting for you and if it isn’t creating that moment, you can’t expect it to do it to a listener or to anybody really. Until it does that, sometimes we’ll put them on the back burner or try it different ways or [say], “Hey, this chorus isn’t quite happening. Let’s change it up here.” Sometimes it takes forever and then sometimes it’s one time through and we’re like, “Yeah, that’s a song.”
Let’s talk a little bit about the album you guys just released. Is there a story behind the album’s name, Creatures?
We actually had it all completely recorded and finished before we decided on the name. We knew we wanted to do a one word kind of name and Creatures happens to be in the lyrics of the song “Piece of the Pie.” I thought it sounded cool. There was no real reason behind it. Now, as I listen back to the album and I play the songs live, I feel like what I’ve taken from it at least is [we’re] literally three creatures creating something together. That’s all we are. We’re the only species on earth that constantly is looking for something else besides the bare minimum of surviving and looking for art and creating it. I think that’s interesting to me, because that’s really all we are is creatures and animals and the fact that we have the capability of going beyond just food and shelter and creating things that really… what else is there to life? Entertainment, music, experiences that you’re sharing with other people is why we’re here in my opinion. Creatures, at the bare minimum, is what we are. But the fact that music is even created in the first place is kind of what I love about it.
This is your sophomore album. Did you find it different working and recording and going through the process of creating this album versus your first one?
Huge difference. The first one we actually did at Temple University. It was pretty much a university run record label. We were all in college and it was learning as we go. As far as the maturity of the songs, it was kind of throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks and trying a billion ideas at once. I think this one was so much more mature and patient and thought out. We must’ve put well over 100 hours into this thing and we did it in between touring. Whenever we could find the time to get in there, we would chip away at it rather than saying, “Okay, we have a week and a half in the studio and we need to get this, this and this done.” We re-recorded full drum songs and things like that, because once it’s out there that’s it. It’s permanent. I think we really wanted to have something that we’re proud of. We completely self-produced it, did everything except mix and master the thing. I loved how it turned out.
The first single off the album is “Why’d It Take So Long.” What was the inspiration behind that song and why? What made you guys want to release that one as the first single?
Actually, that was the last single. We did release two prior, which was “Standing in Place” and then “Card Shark.” The first single, “Standing in Place,” was actually the first one that we really had finished for this album. I think that song was written two and a half years ago, sort of right after we released our EP, which followed our first record. That one, kind of, had plenty of time to marinate and we were playing it live and it was one of those days where people would be familiar with all our stuff and that was the one new song that we played. It was a lot of, “What was that last song?” People were really digging it. I thought that was a no brainer and I think it is a good idea of what the rest of the record was going to sound like. You know, sort of hooky, pretty heavy at some parts but also has these top hooks to it.
“Why’d It Take So Long” was ironically the one that took the longest. Any band struggles with wanting to get their stuff out there and having to be patient enough to wait and let it marinate and let it get out at the right time, and then PR and all this stuff you’ve got to get behind it. You can’t just chuck out music, because sometimes it’ll go to waste and won’t hit the right ears, the right mediums. [laughs] “Why’d It Take So Long” kind of works out. Why’d the album take so long? It was sort of here you go and it’s out now.
Is there a track of yours, whether it’s off of Creatures or even an old EP or your first album, that you feel best represents who you guys are as a band?
I think it’s “Why’d It Take So Long.” I think it translates live. That’s our whole thing. The biggest compliment we could get is, “You guys sound even better live than the record.” Especially being a trio. There’s tons and tons of overdose on that stuff and to be able to recreate that live is a challenge and also something we take pride in, having a big sound, sounding more like it’s five guys rather than three. I think “Why’d It Take So Long” sounds great on a record and also translates really well live, good energy, fun to play. That seems to be the one.
Speaking of playing live, you guys played 100 shows last year, which is a pretty incredible number. What’s your favorite thing about being on the road and what are some of your favorite cities to visit?
Oh man. It’s definitely ups and downs, but I love it. I go home after like a month and a half tour and I sit at home for three days and I’m like, “All right, when’s the next one?” Having no schedule or no real structure is now the structure to our lives and it’s so much fun. We’re staying with friends in Charleston right now. We have a day off. We’ve made friends all over the country and fans have been amazing about letting us stay at their places. Half the time, the fun is not knowing where you’re going to stay that night ’til you get off stage. We do that all the time.
Yeah. We rarely end up having to sleep in the van, which is amazing because people are incredibly generous. I think part of the dynamic of this band and why people have been drawn to us is we are there to play music and then we’re there to hang out. We’re not slipping backstage after the show and going out the back door. We’re at the bar, drinking with everybody. I love that dynamic and it’s not fake. We like to hang out with people; we’re very social, all three of us. Really the whole thing is it’s a vacation with my two friends. We get to get paid and play music. But some of my favorite cities–Charleston, South Carolina is amazing. Anytime you play in New York, now that we have a good draw there, is pretty wild. Savannah, Georgia, we’ve really taken a liking to. It’s beautiful. We were there the other night. It’s an awesome flavor. Seems like there’s no rules. Yeah, you can pretty much do whatever you want [laughs].
Speaking of playing live shows, I’m coming to see your show when you guys come to D.C. in May. What can I, and fans in general, expect from a Mo Lowda and The Humble live show?
Energy. I had a friend come through one of our shows recently and afterwards he was like, “Yeah, I kept thinking you guys were going to chill out and you never did that.” I’m drenched every night in sweat after I get off stage. We’re at this point now where we’re there to, number one, it’s a blast to play, but I think we’ve gotten a little more professional about it where these people are paying to come see your band so put on a show. And it’s not fake. All the bands I love to see play aren’t the dudes that are sitting there, power stance at the mic, not moving. They’re the guys that are getting into it and looking like they still enjoy it, which is absolutely what we do. We enjoy it and hope that lasts forever.
My last question is more of a fun question. Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, because we all have an inner nerd. What is something you nerd out about?
Oh man. Well, my drummer and bass player are total gear nerds, audio nerds. My bassist’s pedal board is like three times the size of mine. He’s an absolute wizard with that. It seems like you can’t listen to any record in the van without one of them talking about what mics they use and it’s like, “Just listen to the song.” [laughs]. But what do I nerd out on?
Like Always Sunny [In Philadelphia] quotes. That’s all I got. [laughs]
Is that your favorite show?
Yeah. I love that show so much. That’s not just because we’re from Philly.
Fun fact: I’ve never actually seen it.
Oh, it’s so good.
I know, I’ve heard. It’s on my list. I’ll get to it eventually.[laughs] Yeah, I’m a big movie quote and [TV] show quote guy. Maybe that’s what I nerd out on.