Two professors and an east- to west-coast US spread makes for an interesting band… Kevin Jennings of MNRVA takes on our BotD questions.
I’m from South Carolina, Gina is from California, and Byron is from Texas. Pretty much a blend of east, west, and central US.
How did you meet?
Both Gina and Byron are professors at the University of South Carolina so they knew each other from work. I met Byron through Gina from hanging out and drinking tequila with him at his house, I met Gina at a karaoke show and we’ve been inseparable since. Both instances turned into three separate bands.
How long have you been playing as a band?
We’ve been playing together as MNRVA over a year now. It started out about three years ago as a Motörhead tribute band that ended up turning into our current project.
Before you get sick of being asked… Where does the band name come from?
I’m already sick of it haha, just kidding. Minerva is the Roman goddess of warfare and wisdom. We were going to spell it that way but there’s one million other bands with the same spelling. We decided to spell ours by dropping a couple of vowels. MNRVA. I think my ideas for names were too weird so none of mine got used.
What are your influences?
Musically, I’d have to say The Melvins, Electric Wizard, Witchthroat Serpent, Monolord, of course Black Sabbath, Space Coke, Void King, the list could go on and on. As far as other forms of art, literature, and various media I’d say from my point of view I’d like writing about horror with no happy ending, anything with a strange story to it, various ancient religious stories, stuff to put your tinfoil hat on for.
From Byron’s point of view, I think the stuff he writes about comes from just a general disgust of terrible people and shitty events, current or not current. It’s interesting how his stuff ties into my stuff and my stuff ties into his stuff because it ends up telling a larger story or painting a larger picture.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
We all come from different backgrounds. Byron played in different metal bands over the years that were more orchestral and really put together. Gina and I played in a low-fi garage band called Turbo Gatto and the Motörhead tribute band Iron Fist before all this. Byron’s sound has a mix of 70’s and 80’s metal mixed in with a prog-type structure, which really affects the changing structure of the songs. Gina has a real straightforward way of playing the drums, but the way she does it is uncommon. She is right handed but leads with her left hand, so she has to think a different way about how she puts the drum structure together.
Her and Byron actually work on the main structure of the songs before I add in my bass sound. I think the best way to describe my bass sound is a description someone else gave me, they said that it was like “black electricity.” It’s tuned really low with a really crunchy fuzz. So if you put all of these factors together with the different backgrounds – the different sounds, the different structures, and everything – it makes a really killer strange trip. You really just have to listen to get it, plus if you really like stories, listen to the lyrics.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
The lyrical themes between all the songs can be used as one entire story or each song as a separate story. A lot of it flows between taking bad trips, going into a different dimensional time and space or losing your sanity in a bad situation with another person and finally having enough. You never know when something in the lyrics is actually literal or if it’s imagined.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
Our shows get pretty loud. Everyone is usually into it. It’s one of those things where you have to be in the right state of mind to really get into the flow of things, which is usually the case. The crowd feeds off for you, which in turn you feed off the crowd. It’s much like a reciprocal cycle that just keeps going, which is great. It feels good.
We’ve played a ton of shows with our other bands but this band we’ve only played a handful of shows because the band is still pretty new. Each one gets better and better though and we love it. Everyone we talk to after shows have really enjoyed it. We wouldn’t be where were at without the people coming to the shows and supporting us.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
For me that would probably be going to shows in Memphis. People throwing half full beer cans at each other and throwing themselves on the stage. It’s pretty funny to watch because the floor gets covered in beer and the people will get covered in beer and shit’s just knocked everywhere. Complete chaos. Gina and I played a show with our other band at the Clermont Lounge in Atlanta. It was funny and surreal seeing people get lap dances by dancers while we played. Beer was of course all over the place!
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
Gina uses a five pieces Tama Swingstar drum kit. I play a five-string Fender MB-5 bass with an Orange OB 1-300 head, a Fender 2 x 15 cab and a Behringer Super Fuzz. Byron plays a ’79 Marshall 50w head with ’79 and ’71 Gibson L6 guitars.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
We’ve been plugging our October 4th EP release. We’re super excited to share what we worked on with Jay Matheson at the Jam Room Music Studio with everyone.
What are your plans for 2019?
Mostly, play shows, meet new people, release our EP, read more books, write more songs, pretty much kick ass and eat pizza.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
Witchthroat Serpent would be a great band to support and Hot Ram (Atlanta) would be a great opener. Both bands straight up kick ass.
Header image by Paul Jones Photography