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Interview: Dillon DeVoe of Mime Game on 'Do Your Work,' writing music with depth

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Alt-rock band Mime Game has been gaining ground over the last few years. What started out as a side project for singer/guitarist Dillon DeVoe while fronting Josephine Collective in 2007, is quickly gaining traction in the scene.

On October 1, 2013, Mime Game released their latest EP, ‘Do Your Work,’ to critical acclaim, being named Under the Gun Review’s #1 EP of 2013. A video for the EP’s first single, the very catchy “Do You,” was released in February.

Mime Game is vocalist/guitarist DeVoe, lead guitarist Dalton Gomez, bassist Chris Bradley, and drummer Duncan Burnett.

I had the chance to correspond with DeVoe via email to discuss Mime Game, ‘Do Your Work,’ the “Do You” video, and writing music with a purpose.

Mime Game started out as a solo project. How did the band come together?

Over the course of seven years, my band (Josephine Collective) dissolved; I was uprooted from my home in Kansas City and spent months at a time living on the road, in San Francisco and Denver, and right before I moved to Atlanta I met Dalton Gomez (now lead guitarist for Mime Game). It was a whirlwind being signed to a major label and then dropped again when my band broke up/was perpetually on the rocks during the ensuing end. Meeting Dalton really marked the turnaround for this becoming a band instead of a project that I just held dear but kept locked up tight inside my brain. When we met, I was sleeping on the couch of this giant collective in Kansas City and Dalton was living there. I knew Dalton to be a photographer but I didn't really know him as a musician. When we started playing music together I finally found a person whom I could just beast with on music, who was down to grind it out on the day to day, but wasn't a dick or a tight wad. Dalton is literally the coolest dude I have ever met. Chill as a cucumber. We moved to Atlanta to work with the current drummer of The Dangerous Summer and our producer friend, Kory Gable (Major League) and it was a pretty sick formula. We did work at Marigolds + Monsters with Matt Malpass' brother Jeff and we took it as far as we could in that setting. When Ben joined TDS and Kory decided to put his head back into producing full-time we were a little discouraged. Moving home to Kansas City, we weren't really sure what would happen next. When we got there, we found some willing fill-ins and continued our journey, but it wasn't until we found our drummer, Duncan Burnett, that it really felt like we found our rhythm. That was only eight months ago and now coming off of SXSW I can safely say that this is the best band I have ever been in and I am more excited for the future of this project than I even know how to contain.

Mime Game has a very different sound than Josephine Collective. How do you feel you and/or your music has changed in the time between the two bands?

Well, I was always sort of the hippy meets pop/punk kid who was playing his acoustic, striving to expand the horizons of the band in Josephine Collective. A lot of my ideas and my demeanor wasn't really accepted or appreciated in that band but they sure as hell liked my lyrics and my vocal melodies as I wrote every single line. The only thing that happened was we grew up and we grew apart. I still love pop/punk and pop-rock music, The Story So Far is one of my favorite bands, but John Feldmann (Goldfinger, The Used, Mest) showed me the Beatles when we went in to record with him (I know, I know, I didn't hear the Beatles until I was 18, blasphemy) and that really showed me how to use the words inside my head to build a new kind of instrumental bed and structure to let those words live in so I would actually attribute my musical growth to the man who originally discovered my first band.

You released your debut EP in October. Could you tell me a little about the EP?

It was the most meaningful grouping of songs that I could bear to release at that moment in time. “Do Your Work” were the last words that a dear friend spoke to me before he passed away and it's about feeling disillusioned after holding his hand and watching him die when I was only twelve years old and still having to find the strength to continue on with my life after losing one of the most important people in it. “Murderer” is about when my mom and dad split and watching him leave when I was just a five year old kid and thinking that I never wanted to see him again if he would give up on our family like that. I was young and naive then and I understand why they split now, but the residual feeling was still there and I had to write about it. “Son” is about the relationship between my son (whom I named Max after my friend that I lost that “Do Your Work” stemmed from) and I and my relationship with my dad. The verses are just all the thoughts I have when looking at him and then the chorus is kinda aimed at my dad where I'm telling him that though I love him, I won't adopt his fears about life as my own. And finally, “Do You” is about all the pressure life puts on you to adhere to the beaten path and what that does to you eventually causes resentment and hate and then ultimately a feeling of "f*** this." That was my moment. I was sitting in my s*****, broken tour van outside of my friend’s house that I was staying at when I moved back from Atlanta and I was feeling all this pressure from friends and family to just give up and take a "normal job" and "let the dream go." You wanna find one way to piss me off, tell me to abandon a craft that I've been working on since I was seven years old. I don't mess around when it comes to my music.

What was the writing process for the EP like?

It's always me digging out the stories in my heart and soul with an acoustic guitar. I then bring the songs to Dalton who writes his leads and then we bring them to practice and get the full band vibe going. As much as I might love an idea, I'm always uncertain as to whether it's a good one until I show it to someone and get their approval. I know that might sound stupid but having my friends say that they like a song idea gives me the confidence I need to really bring it to fruition. I actually wrote “Murderer” when I was 15 and had a guitarist in my old band say that he didn't like it so I put it on the back burner for ten years until we finally released it on this EP. I guess you could say that I'm a little sensitive...

How did you get to work at Scott Weiland’s studio? What was it like?

Rick Parker (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Von Bondies, Good Old War) is our producer and he has a lot of amazing friends. He's actually been working with the guitarist from the Foo Fighters on his side project so we're in talks with them about getting into 606 to record our full-length album. Nothing is set in stone yet but that's Dave Grohl's studio with the amazing Neve console in it from Sound City. We're really lucky to be working with Rick because he's such a genius and he's done such amazing stuff and he's still so humble and chill and amazing.

You released a video for “Do You” recently. Could you tell me a little about the making of the video?

We shot it with our friend Chris Durr at Outpost Worldwide in Lenexa, KS. We took one day and set up an entire soundstage with a bunch of different lighting scenarios and tracks to roll around on and a RED camera and just went at it. It was a blast to shoot and even more fun to anticipate its arrival and then to finally see the finished project. I think the fun really came through in the finished project and that's what we were going for. The whole idea was to encourage people to let their light shine with that song and so we wanted to let ours do just that during the shooting and hopefully portray that in a way that would have the same desired effect.

I like how the video is just the band. It really reflects the song. What was the spark behind writing “Do You”?

Like I said in an earlier question, I was feeling a lot of pressure to change my life after all these years of working my ass off to develop a skill and follow my dreams and the very people I felt like should be showing me their love and support were encouraging me to give up and move on. I think all the years of silence since we got our deal from Warner Bros. with Josephine and all their perceived heartache really made them feel like this dream was tearing me apart and so I don't blame them, but anyway... I was watching a lot of “Breaking Bad” and hanging around people who were taking the easy way out, and that's where the opening line came from: "I'm not cutting corners or cutting chemicals to be where you want; to be where I'm closer behind in just another boring old life." I know it sounds weird because the protagonist from “Breaking Bad” had nothing like a boring life once he started cooking meth but he did have to compromise himself into oblivion just to survive and that's what I felt like all the people around me were doing which led to the chorus of: "I'll do me and you do you."

A press release says that you were inspired by “90s and 00s alt-rock bands and the desire to create music with depth on multiple levels.” How have you combined the two?

I think that the sonic elements (chord voicing and structures and chord progressions and rhythms) came from a lot of 90's music and early two thousands pop/punk and pop-rock like Taking Back Sunday and Third Eye Blind because of the subconscious aspect. That was inevitably there by osmosis, but we grew into human beings who really wanted to spread positivity and light and love through music because it was our only soapbox and we had a lot of different things, like anyone else, that led us to decide to help usher people into the light instead of darkness. We don't really think it's cool to spread violence and destruction and death when it's an inevitable part of the process. Like, we get it, but are you really so scared of the end that you're obsessed to the point that you can't even participate in the creative process and live in the light while you're here? Haha, you're just scared and you feel like spreading a hateful message will keep you safe? You're wrong. You don't know that our end spells decay and destruction any more than we know that our conscious energy abides by all the other laws of energy in the universe in that it is transmuted and neither destroyed nor created.

What do you want people to get out of your music?

Life, light, love and happiness. We want to awaken people's hearts and to blow the restraints off their minds. Our universe and our planet are at an important crux in the physical manifestation of consciousness. Our thoughts have weight and our decisions allow us to turn consciousness into matter. I think that the poison of the universe is negativity, hate and decay and it's such an easy choice to make to stray away from that reality. If we can do what we can to help people make that decision to grow and to shine, then that's exactly what we want to do.

Do Your Work,’ is available now. Check out the video for “Do You” here. For more information about Mime Game, visit the band’s website.

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