Band of the Day: Hercules Mulligan

Yesterday we had a solo artist. Today we’re doubling the pleasure with a whole two people in a band! We spoil you…

Simple things first – where are you guys from?

We’re both originally from Richland, a smallish city in Washington state.  We both moved to San Francisco after college and have lived in the Bay Area for the better part of the last 9 years.  Ben spent a few years in Johannesburg, South Africa and is now in Oakland, but I’ve (Trent) been in SF most of my adult life.

How did you meet?

Our moms tell us we met at a park when we were in kindergarten but we both remember meeting each other in 3rd grade when we were about 8 years old.  We both switched schools that year and quickly bonded to survive the playground.

How long have you been playing as a band?

We started playing music together when we were 15 years old to collaborate on a Jack Johnson cover (a very sad attempt at Flake) for a school assembly to try and impress the girls in our class.  Since then, we’ve played in a couple different bands together that actually recorded and released music (Bare Bear, Father Teresa), but we didn’t start writing the songs for Hercules Mulligan until mid-2019.  

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Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?

Late last year we were fortunate enough to get to go see Hamilton in San Francisco.  When we heard the following line, we simultaneously laughed, looked at each other and agreed that we had our band name: “Hercules Mulligan, I need no introduction. When you knock me down I get the f*ck back up again.” 

What are your influences?

We’re both big music junkies so we pull from a lot of different places.  Ben’s favorite band of all time is Led Zeppelin but you probably won’t hear that influence directly in our tunes.  My favorite singers of all time are James Brown, Otis Redding, and Bob Marley, but unfortunately I sound nothing like any of them.  We both were super into 2000s/2010s indie (The Shins, Delta Spirit, The Postal Service, MGMT, STRFKR, Edward Sharpe, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, Phoenix, etc…we could go on and on…).  Recently, with how insane it feels like every single day is, we’ve found a lot of joy in music with fun, upbeat beats from all over the place: 70s Disco (Chic, Sister Sledge), 80s pop music (Tears For Fears, Hall & Oates) and 90s Hip Hop (Jurassic 5, A Tribe Called Quest) – there’s a whole lots of good music out there and we try to learn from all of it.

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

We’re definitely some sort of indie rock band, but we don’t really know where we sit within that.  Maybe neo-disco-synth-pop?  I think that’s one of the things that makes us unique – we don’t really fit neatly within a genre nor do we try to.  We usually start jamming with a beat, build around it until something feels good and we get in a groove, pick out some melodies, develop a coherent thought and write around that idea.  Every song is a bit different.

Do you have any particular lyrical themes?

We loosely write about our experiences and perspectives, but the lyrics are very rarely literal.  Usually we have an idea or emotion that we’re trying to communicate, and we tell a story around it or try to create a map to find that idea.

What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?

We were only able to play a few local shows in SF before COVID-19 kind of wiped out our summer show schedule / tour plans.  Our live shows are high energy and fun (at least we’re having fun up there) so you better be ready to do some dancing.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?

The wildest thing I’ve ever seen at a show was at Sasquatch (at The Gorge Amphitheater) in 2009 watching The Decemberists.  The Decemberists were playing an epic song during sunset with the beautiful Columbia River behind them, and all of a sudden everyone in the audience stopped watching and started looking up at the cliff above and to the left of the stage.  Two people had climbed up to the top and were very passionately, publicly and aggressively making love in plain sight of everyone at the festival.  The Decemberists clearly thought it was hilarious and continued to extend the outro, making it increasingly more intense as the couple went at it.  Eventually, security guards physically separated the couple mid-coitus, the crowd booed the security guards, and the Decemberists closed out the song.

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What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?

The live set-up has been fun to figure out and we’ve been trying to keep it lean.  We’ve got a Fender jazz bass, Fender Strat, Eastman Lil Smoky, a Nektar Impact GX61, a couple of iPads, and sometimes a very poorly maintained Yamaha saxophone.

What are your plans for the next 12 months? 

We’ll be releasing our debut album by the end of 2020.  Since it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to play live anytime soon, we’ll probably just keep on working on new material and try to put out another album by the end of 2021.

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!

We’d love to open for Daft Punk, who is opened for or closed out by Dave Chappelle, and we’d like to play a collaborative set beforehand with our good friend Sami Freeman.

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