Mind Meld | An Interview With Mediocre

The concept of choosing the moniker Mediocre stems from the duo’s profoundly deep homage to self-deprecation and dry sense of humor. They picture a backdrop that features both Piper Torrison and Keely Martin emerging onstage with a boisterous crowd and shout, “Hey, we’re Mediocre!”

While this has happened or not, Mediocre is hardly a band that should be treated as such. Hailing from Culver City, the rock outfit melds a sophisticated yet raucous concoction of riot grrl and indie-pop jams that are feverishly flawless. The chemistry between Torrison and Martin has matured over the years. The singles such as the joyful “Waiting For Your Heart” and the wry, hook-laden earworm “Mattress Bitch demonstrate this. This past week, Mediocre released their latest single via Dangerbird Records titled “Give In.” The track was originally written when Torrison and Martin were attending high school together, “Give In” flourishes from start to finish with hypnotic ’80s dream pop and dense vocals.

What was the connecting point that made you two explore playing music together?

I think our shared music taste is what really made us want to form a band together. We thought that it would be a fun way to spend our time, even though we were both relatively new to our instruments then. We had seen some of our friends from bands and play shows around us and thought that if they could do it, so could we.

What bands/artists were you listening to that made you fall in love with music?

Keely: When I was a kid, my dad and I would watch this DVD set that was just a huge collection of music videos directed by Spike Jonze. Throughout the years, I found myself watching and rewatching videos by the Beastie Boys, the Breeders, the Pharcyde, and the White Stripes. I honestly just thought they were all so cool, and they made me want to make music of my own.

Pipper: I don’t think I fully fell in love with music until I started listening to a ton of female musicians. I was around 13 when I first discovered artists like Amy Whinehouse, Alabama Shakes, Nina Simone, and Courtney Barnett, and I was overwhelmed by the power the music had over me.

What have you discovered over the past few years about each other musically?

Keely: I have always been more prone to figure out chord progressions and arrangements in comparison to writing lyrics, so Piper usually takes the upper hand in that department. I’m never not in awe of how they are able to capture a feeling in words, and it’s been really special to experience that as we’ve evolved together as both musicians and friends.

Piper: Something that I find so amazing about Keely is that she can start with the simplest musical idea and hear a fully fleshed-out song in what seems like seconds. It’s like her brain hears the whole song before our hands can catch up to the idea. That’s something that’s super cool to watch happen, especially since I have a much more trial and error approach to writing music.

With the sound changing, have you noticed the lyric writing moving forward as well?

Yes definitely. I think we’ve both grown so much as individuals in the past couple of years. The changes in our sound – along with our lyrics – really reflect that. In terms of lyricism specifically, we think about what our songs are saying much more intently than we have in the past. I think this approach has cut a lot of the fluff out of our lyrics and has created more truth in our material.

How much influence has the local scene played in crafting this project?

Due to the pandemic, we weren’t able to involve ourselves in local shows and relied more on listening to music in our own spaces in order to get inspiration. So in that sense, there wasn’t a lot of influence that carried into this project. At the same time, we feel as though we wanted these singles to be as authentic to us as possible. As a result, that almost made us veer away from the scene we were involved in even more.

Who would you say is your ideal listener to your music?

I think this question traces back to what made us fall in love with music in the first place. The artists and bands we looked up to when we were younger always felt so powerful to us because we connected with them in some way or another. This is especially apparent in female-fronted bands or just artists who didn’t fit the stereotypical mold of what a musician is. I think that with this in mind, our ideal listener is anyone who can connect to us in a similar way and see themselves in the music we make.

You released the EP Emotion Sickness last summer during the peak of the pandemic. Was there any talk about holding off releasing it?

There were a lot of discussions last summer about holding off the release of Emotion Sickness. We didn’t think it was the most appropriate time to be self-promoting, as we didn’t want to pull attention away from the critical issues in our country that were a primary focus at the time. We eventually figured that releasing the EP and donating the Bandcamp revenue would help contribute monetarily to the BLM movement while also allowing us to move forward in our writing.

Going into recording the singles for the Microdose Series, the dynamic was already very different from previous recordings, given that it was just the two of us. Keely plays both drums and bass on the tracks when we’ve had a different bass player in the past. We wanted to further develop our dynamic as a duo in these recordings together, and we think this project did just that.

The recording process was like for the new singles, especially with the latest “Waiting For Your Heart”?

The process of recording this latest project was incredible. We had two days in the studio, so we had to be very efficient with our time, but we had a very clear concept of how we wanted our first single, “Waiting for Your Heart,” and our last single, “Mattress Bitch” to sound. For “Give In,” we spent a lot more time messing with different sounds, which opened the whole song up into something we didn’t imagine prior to recording. Danny Nogueiras, who produced the tracks for us, was really able to understand what we were going for, which made the whole experience super relaxed and fun.

What can you say is in the works currently? Is there another EP or an LP coming?

We currently have a ton of finished material that we’re super eager to record. We’ve cultivated such an interesting and rewarding style of writing together while we’ve been away at college, so we’re excited to see these songs materialize.

Photo Courtesy: GInger Port