Ma Jolie’s Jetpack Mailman EP hits stores this week (and can be streamed right now), and it’s the band’s finest work to date. Past full-length releases have solidified the band’s ability to interpret their influences, but the four songs on Mailman are a whirlwind of dynamics that sound more fully realized than ever before. Tracks like “Tired Life” and “Canyons” are dense songs that grab your attention with Mike Stoloski’s throaty shout. MEB sat down with Stoloski to discuss the upcoming release, the band’s recent trimming down to a three-piece and their future plans.
MEB: What are your thoughts looking forward to the release next week? Any feedback that you’ve gotten so far?
Mike Stoloski: The feedback so far has actually been super positive and surprising. I think this is the first time we’ve ever just thrown caution to the wind. Before these four songs we just kind of spent a lot of time trying to fit to a mold. This is the first time we’ve ever decided we were just gonna do whatever we wanted to do and see what happened. It’s cool that people are interested. We were real nervous about whether or not anybody would like it.
Do you think that the writing process changed a bit when you kind of just let go and saw what happened?
Yeah definitely, we spent a lot more time just ourselves, trying to do…anything — and that’s sort of why it’s an EP. We spent a lot of time just together writing songs in a practice space and didn’t really have a motive. These four songs came together and then we had the opportunity to record them. It was very unmotivated the way we wrote these songs, we kind of just sat down and decided that we didn’t want to try anymore I guess.
I think it feels like a really dynamic album, and I wanted to get your take on whether that was intentional or whether it just came naturally for there to be a lot of different feels packed within just a few songs.
We wrote all of these songs probably a year before we recorded them, over the span of a month, then kept playing them over and over again. We all get sort of bored writing music and with our first two records we were really trying to write songs. On these we were just trying to play, and a lot of it came out of a real organic sort of back and forth between everybody in the space. I think that’s why it has that real back and forth dynamic motion to it, because it wasn’t so much of us trying to write songs. They weren’t really songs until, maybe, seven months after we had written the music. There were no words, we had just sat down and wrote a whole bunch of parts and tried to make something that we felt good about from the musical standpoint. Afterwards, like seven months later, probably I wrote the words to it.
I think that kind of thing would translate really well live. Have you guys tried these songs out live yet, or are you trying them out soon?
Yeah, it’s kind of funny. We played a couple of shows – one of them we opened up for Motion City Soundtrack – after Mark left the band. We were sort of excited about going the direction that we went and we had these songs written last January, but just musically, they didn’t have any words. We were so excited about the music that we would just play them without any sort of vocals, and then the vocal we would just make up on the spot. It’s funny because at shows like that we were playing in front of like a bunch of people — which we’re not used to — but we saw videos of the show itself and I was just making up words on the spot just to try to get the new sound and to show people what we were trying to do. So people haven’t heard the songs as they really are — maybe we played one show that we actually played the songs as they are on the recording, but people have definitely heard the music just not the songs themselves.
So are you looking forward to playing them? Do you think that these are going to be staples of the live show now?
Oh yeah, I think that we’re going in that direction. We actually have a couple of new songs sort of in the same vein where we wrote the music, but don’t have words. This coming tour we’re going to be playing mostly the new stuff and then maybe even a couple of songs that we’re just gonna be feeling out and seeing where they go. It’s actually kind of interesting when you play a song live and don’t have any lyrics to it. It helps in how you write the songs because you get a lot of different feels for the dynamic of what you want to do and what you can do live and what it feels like playing it. It’s kind of interesting.
You’re saying that you’re coming from an organic place now, not trying to be one thing or another, but I know that already some of the responses to this EP are comparing you guys to whatever other bands and whatever other styles. How do you as a band and individually react to that kind of thing? Does that affect you at all?
I mean it was kind of funny after the first two records of pop-punk and things, people were always stretching for comparisons. You get compared to bands that you’re super excited to be compared to and then you get compared to bands you wish no one ever mentioned you in the same breath of. People like to make sense of things, you know. I like to make sense of things. At this point it’s more about whether or not the sound that we’re trying to put out is coming across or not. I don’t think the comparison game is something that we think about anymore.
I wanted to ask about the title of the EP, what is “Jetpack Mailman”?
I forget the name of the artist, but this artist from the 50’s did a whole bunch of these sketches, I think there’s actually a book of these. My brother is a history teacher and is just a huge nostalgia fan. He introduced me to this book and one of the pages was this picture of what was expected in the future — I think it was supposed to be based in, maybe, 2030 — it has all of these, like, bubble cars and it has predictions for what are supposed to be colonies on mars and one of them was Jetpack Mailman. It’s just sort of this idea of trying to predict the future and this ridiculous idea of pretending you know what’s going to be ahead of you. That would be the metaphor, but then again Jetpack Mailman just kind of sounds cool too.
Does that idea of predicting of what’s going to come, does that come through in the lyrical elements or the themes of the songs?
Yeah, just from my standpoint as a person that is something that I thoroughly believe. You just don’t know what’s coming. I guess I never really set out to write lyrics in a particular way, I just sort of put down what comes out. I have a way of thinking and then I write down what comes out. I would imagine that maybe that’s apparent, I don’t know.
So let’s talk about your touring plans. You guys are going out on tour with Choke Up?
Yeah, Choke Up. Those dudes are probably some of the most incredible people in the DIY scene right now, especially Harley. He’s always reaching out and trying to make sure everybody is taken care of. Whenever we go through Boston he’s always the first one at the show and always willing to have everybody stay at his place. Really sweet guy. So with this tour we’re just super excited to be going out with some friends and playing some music because we haven’t done it in a while.
Do you guys have plans for the rest of the year? Are you going to record more?
Probably taking a little break and then we’re gonna recollect in August and figure out what we want to do. Officially we have no plans of anything, but I think the idea is, hopefully, we’re gonna write a record and make something off of the EP. I think we’re psyched about the direction we’re going and we’re gonna see if we can do an LP off it.
Ma Jolie, right now we’re just something that the three of us are all trying to use as sort of a zero sum outcome. We just like to get together and write whatever we want to write without worrying about what’s happening on the other end of it, which has a lot of benefit. Without officially having any shows booked or any plans for a record — we have a practice space and we play once a week. The idea is just writing whatever we can, whenever we can, and not worrying about what it sounds like. And keeping the stuff that sounds awesome. This EP that we’re putting out is exactly that, just a whole lot of stuff we put together that we thought sounded super cool and deserved to get people to listen to it.