10. Bands I’ve discovered via Myspace part 2: Mr. and Mrs. Muffins
Ever since I was a child I have loved a certain type of dreamy picture books. Crictor, Where the Wild Things Are, the Church Mice series etc. My favourite one is probably a bit obscure today though, Alexander and the magic Mouse by Martha Sanders and Philippe Fix. It’s a wonderful story about a friendly alligator named Alexander, who lives with a yak, a squatting cat and a magic mouse (which sometimes turns invisible at will) at an old lady’s house upon a great hill. One day the magic mouse comes up with a premonition, and says it’s going to rain for 30 days and 30 nights, which will cause a terrible flood that threatens to wipe out the city below the hill. Alexander is sent with a message, but every one is dead scared of him, since they can’t tell the difference between a hostile and a friendly alligator. Eventually he saves the day, and gets a big medal from the mayor in the end. I’ve always wondered what the soundtrack to this book, or similar ones would be like. And since I discovered Mr. and Mrs Muffins I needn’t look any further. Dreamy soundscapes, unconventional harmonies and friendly surrealism, strange instrumental songs that don’t sound like anything else? Perfect! I’m in love!
Tell me a bit about yourselves.
Mr. and Mrs. Muffins is the artistic vision of Mr. Muffins (Noah Wilson) and Mrs. Muffins (Sofiariantika Primananda-Wilson), two dreamers sharing a similar dream and a love for music, children’s literature, and art. We attempt to create richly detailed children’s stories that are set to music and address topics that resonate with both children and adults (i.e. fitting in, being yourself, respecting diversity, etc.). It would not be out of line to compare our work to that of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince” or Nilsson’s “The Point,” the latter being a huge influence in terms of the format in which we want to release our finished product.
The origins of this project date back to 2006, when we fell head over heals in love. It was around this time, October 24th to be precise, that Mr. Muffins flew to Indonesia to meet Mrs. Muffins in an encounter that can only be described as “magical.” From that moment forth, we have shared our passion for minimalist, yet lush, musical soundscapes that attempt to evoke a full range of emotions and compliment the artwork/stories.
Thus far, we have written two children’s books, which are both set to music and include illustrations by Mrs. Muffins. We have also played three shows — one in Indonesia, one in Nebraska, and one in Seattle, where we reside. Over the past two years, the Muffins family has grown to include a small circle of friends, who have contributed their many talents to help us realize our artistic vision. Currently, we are putting the finishing touches on the music and illustrations for our first two stories and looking for someone interested in releasing both on a single 12″ vinyl record.
Mr. Muffins has an M.A. in Education and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in music. He cares very much about the youth around the world and specifically about the entertainment that they are consuming. In a very quiet way, Mr. and Mrs. Muffins attempts to invite all listeners (young and old) to put down the video games and television programs for a while and let their imaginations run wild.
Mrs. Muffins played guitar in the Indonesian band, Clover, and spends much of her time designing artwork for bands, magazines, and companies. She, too, is interested in creating positive entertainment for children and adults.
In summation, Mr. and Mrs. Muffins are two people who try to capture the magic of childhood. Through the art of music and storytelling, they do their best to transport the listener to a whimsical world where dreams and reality intertwine to create a unique listening and reading experience…
Does your inspiration come from stories in the first place, stories that you try to transform into music, or do you write the music separately?
Thank you for such a thoughtful question. The question of inspiration is a difficult one to answer. In actuality, there is no logical sequence that we follow to shape the songs/stories. Our first two stories have materialized in very different ways. The impetus for our first story, The Adventures of Ms. Rabbit and Mr. Carrot, came from Mrs. Muffins’ illustrations. She sent me (Mr. Muffins) the artwork from Indonesia and then we wrote a story based on the illustrations I was given. Once the story started to take shape, Mrs. Muffins finished the artwork and I wrote music to accompany the story and art.
The Striped Ladybird, on the other hand, has been over two years in the making. Originally, the story spewed forth from my mouth, Kerouac style, in Mrs. Muffins’ car outside of an independent movie theater in Jakarta. The story lay dormant in my mind for over a year. During that gestation period, I began to think of songs that would compliment the sentiment of an outcast ladybird. Finally, just this past summer, we put the story on paper and began putting the finishing touches on the music. Currently, Mrs. Muffins is creating artwork based entirely on a story that is already written — quite the opposite of our first story.
Sometimes we use songs to steer the plot in a certain direction. For example, while composing “The Painter” a new character and sub-plot was actually being developed. That song is used to introduce the idea of artists having a unique outlook on life, and also a perspective that could help the protagonist (a striped ladybird named Lilly) realize the seemingly elusive beauty of her appearance.
Other times we use the plot to generate the mood of a song. Perhaps the best example of this is “The Magic Cloud” from The Adventures of Ms. Rabbit and Mr. Carrot. This song was written to convey how the very shy Ms. Rabbit felt when she finally left her rabbit hole to explore an unknown world of intrigue, mystery and whimsical magic.
For us, the process of inspiration requires continuous contemplation and communication. This project is a labor of love, and one that we want to continue for years to come. So, I suppose, when all is said and done — however corny this may sound — love is the source of inspiration for everything we create. Our stories and music come from a love that we share for each other and for art. Hopefully that comes close to answering your question.
It’s very hard for me to point out things that could inspire you musically. You have sort of created a personal musical universe that’s closely connected to the stories you write, and that is of course the beauty of it all.
But I’m curious; can you see yourselves working on a proper “album”, I mean some sort of traditional pop record (or what you might want to call it) and leave the stories out at some point? Or would that be a totally different project, under another moniker?
Both Mrs. Muffins and I have played music in several bands over the past few years, and we really enjoy playing in that setting. But this project is different because we have, as you said, created our own universe into which our songs are born and live. The music and stories generally coexist together as one.
However, it is never a great idea to put limitations on what a band can and can not be. So it is certainly not out of the question for Mr. and Mrs. Muffins to release a proper “album.” And to be honest, we have only played one show that included a story being told. Our other live performances have been music-only. It is my hope that the music stands on its own, and that the stories/illustrations only add to the wonder of it all.
In addition to our stories, we are inspired by many musicians and songs. Personally, I draw a lot of inspiration from film scores and melodic pop songs from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s.
Some of our favorite artists are Burt Bacharach, The Beach Boys, Steely Dan, Louis Philippe, The Aluminum Group, Rose Melberg, Kings of Convenience, Astrud Gilberto, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Yann Tiersen, Henry Mancini, Graf Tati, Club 8, Sore, Cab Calloway, Michel Legrand, Michael Franks, The RAH Band, Debussy, Beaumont, White Shoes and the Couples Company, The Free Design, Chopin, Heatwave, Mr. Wright, Harpers Bizarre, Ennio Morricone, Danny Elfman, Mocca, Orwell, Fantastic Something, Constantin Veis, La Buena Vida, Giorgio Tuma, Ella Fitzgerald, Chic, Satie, Vangelis, Mister Rogers, Quincy Jones, Toots Thielemans, and so on and so forth… Sorry for the ridiculously long list.
What may we expect from you in 2010?
2010 is going to be a busy year in Muffinland. We have recently booked three shows, which is equivalent to the total number of live shows we have played in our short existence. Then, of course, there is the prospect of releasing our book/record. The plan is to spend February shopping the project around to some record labels and possibly some publishing companies. If nobody bites in February, we will move forward with a self-release. After everything has calmed down, we will begin to work on our third book/record…