On the eve of two great gigs on July 13 at the Warped Tour at BB&T Pavilion in Camden and July 14 at Makin Waves’ “Trenton Makes Takeover” at Asbury Park Brewery, the septet Molly Rhythm chat about their love of music and hatred of ICE.
Founded by longtime bandmates and fellow bartenders Nikki, Elissa and Lori, Molly Rhythm are an eclectic, edgy band who typically perform a mix of ska, punk, funk, reggae, gypsy jazz and hard rock as a seven-piece. Hailing from both Trenton and Philadelphia, the wonderfully wild ensemble will represent Trenton when they play Makin Waves’ “Trenton Makes Takeover” of Asbury Park Brewery on July 14 with fellow Trenton-associated acts Hub City Stompers, The Cryptkeeper Five, Experiment 34 and Chalk & the Beige Americans.
They’ll also play the final Vans Warped Tour’s Full Sail University Stage on July 13 at BB&T Pavilion in Camden.
Via email, I spoke to nearly the entire band about a slew of other things they have going on, including touring, recording and taking a stand against a tyrannical government.
If you enjoy this chat, you’ll definitely enjoy Molly Rhythm playing with a whole bunch of their Trenton friends when they invade Asbury Park!
Q: How did Molly Rhythm get together and what previous bands had you been in together?
A: Oh boy. We have been through so many line-up changes and shake ups … The original line-up formed around Nikki and Elissa. Their previous band, Karma Bat, broke into two different projects, the other being Idiot Boy, which eventually turned into Moron Girls (Lori and Nikki’s other project). Nikki, Elissa and Lori have been friends for a long time, and they are the founding backbone of the band. They’ve been friends for so long and worked together artistically so consistently that a lot of the weird writing is almost intuitive. Lori learned the bass to be in Molly Rhythm; Elissa had been in a band with Jon and Zach called Under the Bed, so she brought them in, and Nikki bullied Jeff into picking up the sax for the first time since high school after they decided to add a horn section. Erinn was hanging out, and Nikki decided she was going to play trombone, and Erinn ended up going home with a trombone and a new demand on her time. Bern was brought in for Canada tours at first, and became a regular fill-in, but has recently leveled up to be the second guitarist! His solo band is Bern and the Bastards, a band we all love. We’ve played a few shows with our friend Lank’s kid, Gordon, on assorted instruments (bassoon/sax/clarinet).
For the Makin Waves “Trenton Takeover” on July 14, we will have another of our pals, Amy, on trumpet. There have been other members, but that’s how the current group came together. We are based out of Trenton, where some of us live and work at a bar/venue/liquor store, and Philly, where some of us work and live at a bar/venue.
Q: What is the greatest challenge of touring and traveling with the size of a seven-piece band?
Jon: We’re more of a baker’s 7. And we love muffins.
Jeff: Urine and passports. Next question.
Zach: Where to eat.
Nikki: Being late, and staying on task vs. not being on task when things are funny.
Q: What is the wackiest and/or funniest situation Molly Rhythm have encountered on the road?
A: We almost froze to death in our bus in Lexington because it wouldn’t start. This other time, we drove through a whiteout blizzard in Buffalo and almost died. Some dudes in masks tried to hijack our bus in Montreal after a show last tour. …
We drove straight from SXSW to Detroit in a van that was too small for all of us. You had to be there.
Q: What is your large, eclectic band’s greatest music common ground as a preference and/or influence?
A: System of a Down, early No Doubt, Tenacious D, Gogol Bordello. We all like a lot of things.
Q: You are so musically eclectic. Why do you mix so many styles up and how is that fun?
A: It’s unbearable. We hate it. Send help. Whose idea was it to add a bassoon player?
Q: Do members of your audience with disparate taste in music come together who otherwise wouldn’t? If so, how does that unity make you feel?
A: Yeah, there’s a pretty great mix of ages and backgrounds at our shows, and because of the amalgamation of styles, we’ve been able to play a pretty wide variety of shows. It’s super neat to see people come together. Inclusion is very important to us.
Q: Your music also can be as fierce as it is fun, not just stylistically but lyrically regarding issues such as mental illness, women’s rights and politics. Comment on which of your songs has made the biggest impact, why and how?
Nikki: I feel like a lot of people don’t listen to the words.
Lori: Impact is difficult to track and so is our perception.
Elissa: I see people singing along. It’s a sign, and even if they don’t understand everything, that shows an impact, and then when people ask for the lyrics, that shows their interest. The point is to start a conversation.
Nikki: Perception is tricky to nail down. We don’t know.
Q: We live in dangerous times with a Hitler-like president who fuels a Nazi-like administration, agenda and following. Five of my press peers were murdered yesterday by one of those followers, innocent border children are being detained with or without their parents, and in so many ways, our democracy seems to be unraveling in a threat to the freedom that we will have just celebrated on the Fourth of July. Molly Rhythm have not released an album since Trump was elected. How and why will your next one address today’s cruel political climate and when?
Nikki: Mmm, soon.
Jeff: We’re fucking up the Earth, and we’re gonna blow it up and leave. That’s the album.
Nikki: We try and point a bunch of fingers in the next album.
Lori: Compassion and understanding are important. The album addresses broad issues.
Nikki: Fundamental human issues. We need to get to the root of our problems and be aware that everyone can be corrupted.
Lori: Everyone has the potential to do good and bad.
Elissa: We’ve been writing this album for a few years, and it deals with issues that have been occurring: capitalism, materialism, equality, the environment, women’s rights, and now that those issues are on our door, these are things that are relevant to the whole world for our whole life. Of course, these are things that concern us, and as Americans we feel responsible with our current political climate. It’s more direct now, but it’s something that has concerned us for a long time.
Q: Do you perform any of those new songs live?
A: Yes. All of em. This is “Octopus Trap”: youtube.com/watch?v=yZ5qdTm8TRU
This is “Epilogue”: youtube.com/watch?v=B6f5mCUlviE
This is “Fossil Fools”: youtube.com/watch?v=s6pr4r_xF0A
Q: Have you ever played Warped Tour before? If so, when and where?
Elissa: Sold a lot of weed there (laughter).
Q: What acts are you most looking forward to seeing at Warped Tour, why, were they an influence on you and how?
A: We’re stoked to see our friends Riverside Odds and Dr. Beardface and the Spaceman. Nercogoblikon, Reel Big Fish. We don’t really know who’s playing. Any suggestions?
Q: Do you have any friends playing with you July 14 at the Makin Waves “Trenton Makes Takeover” of AP Brewery? If so, how do you feel to be playing with them at that show and why?
A: All of them. We love sharing the stage with our friends, and it’s been a while since we’ve played Asbury so to do it with a bunch of friends is gonna be great.
Q: You have a strong base and following in Philadelphia, but Jersey-centric Makin Waves’ connection to you is Trenton. How many members of the band grew up in, live in or work in the Trenton area, and is that music scene as much a base and following for the band as Philly?
A: Five of us are Trentonians at the moment, and everyone but our drummer Zach has lived or has an association with Trenton. We have a strong base here, and consider both our homes.
Jeff: Fuck Wawa!
Q: You played Art All Night in Trenton about five hours before the fatal shootings that canceled the remainder of the event, including sets by “Trenton Makes” mates Experiment 34 and Chalk & the Beige Americans. Was anyone in the band or associated with it still at AAN when the shooting occurred? If so, can they briefly describe how they are feeling now about Art All Night and Trenton as a whole?
A: Some of us were there when it happened. Art All Night is an incredible event every year and it means a lot to the community here. Seeing all the smiling kids, especially all the little girls who wanted to talk to us (Nikki, Elissa, Lori, Erinn especially) and have us sign autographs, that’s what we will remember from the night. It isn’t something we have a ton of interest in going over point for point, but Trenton is an amazing place and this is obviously a horrible and tragic event.
We’re fortunate and supportive of all the hard work that goes into it and feel lucky to have played so frequently. We will be there next year regardless, either as attendees or volunteers or artists.
Q: Should All Art Night continue as an event and volunteer opportunity? Either way, why, and if so, how?
A: Yes. It’s necessary. That’s a stupid fucking question. The event is one of the most visible arts events in a city that needs a light shined on its positive qualities. The horrific actions of one or two people do not define the event and its 12-year history.
Q: Besides Warped Tour and AP Brewery, what else is coming up for Molly Rhythm that you can plug? Feel free to provide as many details as possible.
A: We’re going to make more hats and pins.
We have two shows with our new friends in Tin Vulva coming up: one at The Footlight in Queens on July 28, and the other in Trenton at Championship Bar on July 29. Resilient from Philly is on that one, too.
We’re playing Le Délüge festival in Jonquière (in Quebec, Canada) in September. There’s a lot of great bands we love on that, like Tail Light Rebellion and Cirrhose et Cendrier, but also The Queers, who we … fucking dislike. They’re an all-straight pro-cop pro-Trump all lives matter, misogynistic band and they’re against so many things we believe very strongly in. We are very happy to be playing, but also hate that we have our name on a flyer with theirs.
Q: You play in Southeast Canada a lot and have a lot of friends there. Do you ever think about relocating there, why or why not?
Erinn: All the time.
Nikki: Half of me wants to run away there. The other half is here in Trenton.
Elissa: We do, but it’s very cold.
Lori: I love visiting, but I like living in Trenton.
Jeff: I can teach those motherfuckers a thing about pizza.
Zach: Yeah. Equal custody would be neat.
Q: Is there anything I didn’t ask on which you would like to comment?
A: New album coming soon, on a label probably.
Nikki: Fuck mining, resource extraction, fuck militarism and colonialism. FUCK ICE!
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.