After spending nearly four years apart while enrolled in UC Santa Cruz and Marting at Emerson College, respectively, the duo of Piper Torrison and Keely Martin have finally found themselves together in the same city. Now residing in Boston, the musical collective known as Mediocre is now poised to push forward without having to rest on sending each other memos via email.
A lot has been made over the name of Torrison and Martin’s project, but using self-deprecation has always been a defense mechanism to help them deflect from the anxiety of the spotlight. Since emerging onto the scene being featured on Dangerbird Records singles series, Microdose, Mediocre have been steadily seeing their profile grow.
To Know You’re Screwed, the Dangerbird debut EP from Mediocre elevates the duo’s penchant for 90s garage rock, angular post-punk, and brooding indie pop. With Jake Pavlica of the band Street Play on drums, Mediocre recorded the EP in May 2022 over five days in Silverlake, Los Angeles. Joe Reinhart of Hop Along and Algernon Cadwallader, produced, engineered, and mixed at the Dangerbird Studio using what the duo said using “the oldest things that were in the studio.”
Punchy and utterly catchy, the songs incorporating To Know You’re Screwed symbolize a duo maturing masterfully since their early days of jamming in their mom’s garages. Each of the five songs reflecting a different internal/external relationship to the precarity of the information-saturated and impossibly futile 2020s. “We just wanted to tap into the idea of knowing you’re screwed, and leaning into that existential doom, this inevitable doom,” Torrison says. “It’s individual to each person, but that also feels universal in some way.”
How has Boston been treating you since moving there?
Boston has been treating us great! Keely’s been here for most of the last four years, but now that we’re both living here, we’re having a great time getting focused on Mediocre.
I have seen some shots of recent shows you two have done. What has getting in front of an audience been like as of late?
It’s been so amazing to get in front of some crowds lately. It’s so rewarding to feel these songs having a life outside of ourselves – creating and sharing all these moments with other people is what it’s all about, so it’s honestly just the best feeling.
You two initially bonded over alternative rock bands. Who were some of the more influential acts that you two locked into?
The Arctic Monkeys is definitely an early band that we connected over. We also bonded over our interest in LA bands like Cherry Glazerr and ended up covering one of their songs at our first few gigs in high school.
At what time did you two see that Mediocre would be something special?
When Keely first moved to Boston in 2019, it was super clear that we had something that we weren’t ready to give up on. We both really wanted to see this project go further than just something we did in high school, and I think realizing we both shared that commitment was special.
I read in an interview that in the early days, you two were unfairly placed in rather uncomfortable situations with bookings for shows. Just how much did that affect your passion for wanting to perform live?
I think we agreed – and still agree – that playing music together was more important than any of those factors we experienced. We really were navigating it as teenagers and learning as we went, and looking back, it’s nice to know that our enjoyment of being in a band and creating as friends was the driving force behind that time in our lives.
Has the much-needed focus on making things safe for women artists become more visible?
Yes and no. The conversation still needs to continue, and people being open and willing to listen is the best way for those conversations to lead to tangible progress.
Having seen the much-deserved success of your work that’s been released, how much pressure was applied to yourselves when working on To Know You’re Screwed?
Our goal was to have as much fun writing together and allowing ourselves to see what we came up with without worrying about what we should be making, so the creative pressure was intentionally put on the back burner. I think the most pressure we felt throughout this process was trying to accomplish everything we wanted within the time frame we had, but it made us act with a lot of intention, so I think it worked out for the best!
How collaborative was the writing process for you on the EP than with previous work?
We’ve always been pretty equal writing partners, but this project was probably our most collaborative to date. We were living in different cities when we wrote the majority of the EP, so we had a pretty short period of being able to write while we were physically together. I think this time crunch ultimately worked in our favor, and it was super fun having very focused writing sessions and building this EP in a very intentional way.
To Know You’re Screwed has the ingredients instrumentally of a great album from the 90s. What was the vision for how you wanted to sound to come off when laying down the instrumentals?
We knew we wanted this EP to have a big, somewhat punchy sound, so I think that idea was in the back of our minds while recording and figuring out guitar tones, vocal arrangement, etc. But at the same time, not having an extremely rigid vision for all of the songs allowed for some experimenting and gave us space to just see what we liked in the moment and run with it. That’s especially how “Together Together” came to be.
I saw that lyrically you wanted to tap into the idea of knowing that impending or existential doom was imminent. Is this approach to writing stemming from your own personal events?
I think this theme of the EP stems more from a collective experience or feeling than from any specific personal events. It’s more of stepping outside of yourself and realizing, ‘, Wow, this feeling is really everywhere.’
What was your biggest takeaway from this experience of putting To Know You’re Screwed together than Emotion Sickness?
This was the first project we’ve released as a duo since our band arrangement was a bit different when releasing Emotion Sickness. I think releasing To Know You’re Screwed has given us insight as to what we are truly capable of in our partnership and has opened a door to what we will do in the future. It’s a great feeling, and we’re extremely excited to continue to nurture this current version of Mediocre.
What tracks off the new EP has you excited to play live?
All of them, really. But I think we’re especially excited to play “To Know You’re Screwed is to Know a Lot” and “Tiny Toad.” They get the crowd goin’!
Two EPs have now been dropped. When the hell are we getting an LP?!
That’s a good question!! Sooner rather than later! *wink*
Photo Courtesy: Ginger Port