If It Is, It Is — A Q+A With The Homespun High Lonesomers Of The Mixus Brothers

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The Mixus Brothers are a Pittsburgh duo whose music taps into the elemental, unearthly soul of classic Appalachian music, but does so with its own spin and on its own terms. They recently released the third installment of their Lonesome Gods series, and Red and Jebbh Mixus were both kind enough to answer some questions for Bored In Pittsburgh. Check it out below:

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Who are The Mixus Brothers? A tagline or catchphrase, if you will. 

Red: What it means – it means. If it is – it is.

Jebbh: Two brothers making down-home, scrap music for the masses and especially, the music connoisseurs!!

Cliche question out of the way early; who/what are some of your influences, musical or otherwise?

R: Pink Floyd, Traveling Wilburys, The Band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It comes from everywhere and anywhere. Red is a big movie guy and loves adding little moments into the songs and albums. It’s a greater art that leaves the door open to infinite creativity.

J: I think we are both influenced by almost all genre’s of music and some alike, some not alike, I listen to or have listened to a TON of The Osborne Brothers, Pink Floyd, Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Ice Cube, Fruit Bats, Led Zeppelin, George Jones, Doors and countless others and in terms of styles, Bluegrass, Country, Classical, Rap, Classic and Hard Rock, mostly anything besides Popular music (after 1988).

Pittsburgh isn’t necessarily a hotbed of country music (as far as I know). What made you want to form a country/folk/bluegrass band?

R: I don’t know that we necessarily did plan to be anything in particular, that’s just what came out. We each could sing, I had my drums and he had his guitars but we both also dabbled with anything stringed or keyed whether it be a piano or an accordion. Instruments were also added as the years went by so you can hear them in the mix throughout the albums. All of those genre elements are present in our music but so are so many others – but you have to be lumped in somewhere and that’s where we were placed.

J: We definitely did not set out to be a country/folk/bluegrass band and I think if you would have asked us in the beginning, we would have said we wanted to be an Indie-Rock band but as the music evolved, it just sort of happened that we started out in a folksy style which evolved to Psychedelic Rock to Alt/Outlaw Country and which always had a tinge of Bluegrass and other styles…I guess you could say we never wanted to be pigeon holed but ultimately I think that is inevitable.

The Lonesome Gods series seems almost like a series of tall tales or folk tales set to music. Do you see it as a concept album? If so, talk about that concept a little bit.  

R: Only a concept album in that we had the idea to put out the album in three parts, mostly to make it more digestible for the masses (our future albums will go back to the original 12 song full length) but also so we could concentrate a bit more on the songs individually as opposed to one greater, sequenced LP.

J: Yeah, well, for the most part, after the first album, we always created our albums with a title in mind and that is why, after Westward the Tide, there is a title track to each album (Side note: We even included a song called “Westward the Tide” on our 3rd album so we had a title track for each album : ) . So we started The Lonesome Gods with the name picked out and started writing songs based upon that idea. However, I don’t think we thought of this as a “concept” any more than the other albums we have done but it just so happened that many of these songs had a folk-tale element to them, which I do enjoy about it. Luckily, Red and I truly enjoy writing songs with each other and we each bring our own ideas to the table but we also try to collaborate as much as possible on each song so there is a unity to the songs and sound.

The final track on the third Lonesome Gods release is called “The High Lonesome.” Can you expound a bit on that phrase and what it means to you?

R: It’s pure chance that that song ended up last and that it summed up the entire project so succinctly. Even as we were listening to the final mixes and sequence we sort of stared at one another like, did we do this or did it just happen organically!? 

Obviously we were drawing on the original hi Lonesome concept of the music but also in the way that we see ourselves as two rambling men who, even though we have families and responsibilities, were lucky enough to find each other out there and be able to create as much as we have. It can be hard to do on your own so it’s not just having the output and motivation but actually putting in the time to do it and get it out there. Anyone anymore can record a song or two at home but putting out 12 releases (so far) shows dedication to craft and also our prolific nature. We get together and the music just comes. 

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J: I love Bluegrass music and I had recently watched a documentary on the YouTubes called “High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music” which I thought was great. Additionally, one of my favorite bands is The Osborne Brothers, who were one of the founding bands that featured the “High Lonesome” sound and so with the album title in mind, we both thought a song that had that in mind would be apropos. Bobby Osborne was one of the first singers to use the high harmony as the lead harmony and so that sound is something that ultimately influenced us and the idea of the song…but in the end, the idea of a God or Gods being lonesome up in the heavens worked well with the title and so we went with that idea…and it just so happened to fit best at the end.

Is there a Mixus Brothers track that you’re especially proud of? If so, why?

J: I am proud of all of our music and take special pride in how different each song is while still maintaining a certain “sound” or quality so for me, and I told Red, no matter what happens, I will always want to make music together since its fun, I think we both enjoy it so much…and most importantly, we enjoy listening to it after it is done!!

Who are some other Pittsburgh artists that you’d recommend?

J: There are so many fantastic bands in/from The Pittsburgh area and we have been lucky enough to play out with some of them. We especially enjoyed playing with Arlo Aldo, Elkhound, The Commonheart, Angela Autumn, and listening to bands like The Deep Roots, Argus and numerous others but ultimately we have been a part of the local music scene for almost 11 years and truly think it has an incredible amount of talent to offer with a huge variety of styles and genre’s to choose from…so there is something for everyone!!

R: We aren’t jealous of any band in this city, but we are jealous of some of the attention other bands have gotten over the years considering their limited output, comparatively. 

Is there anything that I forgot to ask or that you’d like to let people know about you, your music, or anything in general?

R: Although it may be obvious to most or all listeners, everything we do is DIY and we always have done it that way. A few microphones in a basement or makeshift studio, some fairly inexpensive instruments but a lot of motivation and perspiration. That’s the only way Red has ever done it, whether it was him recording in a closet or an empty apartment he never saw the point in paying someone else to press record because it’s really about what you lose in the process and that’s the ability to truly make it your own whether it’s an effect here or a pan there or even adding cricket noises or the sound that Jupiter emits into space. We’d rather put out a bad idea that’s ours and our decision then release someone else’s vision of what we are supposed to be.

J: I just want everyone to know how thankful we are for the people who have supported us and folks like yourself, who really take the time to listen to our music and who let us know it. As artists, it can be frustrating when you feel like you have created something of quality and it does not seem like your art is reaching anyone so knowing there are blogs like yours, Bored in Pittsburgh, where it is obvious you take time to listen and write so elegantly about. It really makes us feel special and heard. So, thank you for doing this and for all the people who have listened to our music to this point. We appreciate it and also would appreciate any sharing you do in the future, as we hope our music is around for all of eternity and people get enjoyment form listening to it…we have more to come, including the next album called “Ride the Dark Trail”! It is sounding really cool so far and we think you will dig it!!

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Thanks to The Mixus Brothers for contributing to this piece. Make sure to check out their music and follow them on the various social medias.

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