By: Dawn Duncan
It was March of 2015 the first time I was introduced to Write Minded and their engaging, unique sound. I was upstairs at the 512 Bar, in the heart of downtown Austin, TX, for South by Southwest and the Colorado Music Party. It had started raining onto the upstairs rooftop music space and I, along with a hundred or so of my closest friends, decided to descend the staircase of the dive bar’s rickety corridor leading to the main level, where another stage was going. Halfway down, the music from the upstairs area was replaced with a high energy hip hop/funk/reggae infusion and I looked over the railing to see the 512 packed to the hilt, with people jumping up and down, excited about the band on stage.
I turned to another Colorado Music Party attendee and asked, “Who is this band? I’ve never seen them….” She pointed to a small sign on the wall that read “Write Minded” and screamed into my ear that this band was brand new and from Fort Collins. Then I recognized the lead guy, Sam Mouton, except he wasn’t the lanky teen I had viewed on “The Voice” a few years prior, he was leading the pack, along with Jesse Neth, and the two of them were tag-teaming off one another in a hip hop/lyrical exchange that was mesmerizing, to say the least.
Fast forward to December 4, 2016, at Hodi’s and here is Write Minded again, one of the 10 bands competing for top honors in Scene’s 3rd Annual Fresh Talent Showcase. Write Minded played eighth in the lineup and, after seven stellar competitors before them, all from different genres and showcasing their own special strengths and styles, I wondered what this next set would bring. The Fresh Talent Showcase is a fun, but very long day, with ten bands playing for 20 minutes each. Quick set changeovers keep things moving, but essentially it’s a full day into a late night of live music. Write Minded jumped onstage and within seconds, the entire space of Hodi’s was transformed. It was like having a massive group of people come out of the woodwork when you looked onto the dance floor. Suddenly, Hodi’s was FULL and the crowd was energetically cheering for Write Minded to take the stage. They did, and the entire 20-minute set was filled with fans singing along, dancing, yelling, and shouting for more. At the end of it all, it proved to be the foreshadowing for Write Minded’s unanimous sweep of the judges’ tallies; they became the third act to win Scene’s Fresh Talent Showcase.
The day of our January cover shoot, which was part of the Showcase prize package, Write Minded showed up at the beautiful custom home of Al and Kim Strope, which is nestled into the mountainside up from the old Hughes Stadium. The owners of Savant Homes, the Stropes designed their home with entertaining in mind, and now they had a full band of six, the band’s manager, and Scene’s photographer and editor, all under their roof. Following the shoot, the band sat down for lunch and our interview.
Just under two years into being a band, this group of men who attended Poudre High School together, with the exception of bassist Jarod Ford, illustrated how they formed and what lies ahead in their game plan. Sam Mouton and Jesse Neth founded the band as a two piece act, then added drummer Jonah Greene. Following opening for John Brown’s Body at The Mish, the trio decided they wanted to create a fuller sound and redefine their music. Enter Wilson Slaughter on keys, Forrester Tumkan on guitar, and Jarod Ford on bass, and eventuallly Remy Szekely as band manager. From here, hip hop influences melded with funk, rock, and reggae, with Mouton and Neth writing lyrics and members writing their own musical parts per instrument. This process, Mouton indicated, creates flow and also ownership of each piece of Write Minded.
As with all new bands, this group continually grew as a solid act, playing shows and eventually festivals, with their SXSW 2015 debut being a highlight in their history to date. Now, Mouton stated, the band has a “funkadelic jam hop” sound, a genre he perhaps created on his own, but that is nevertheless descriptive of Write Minded’s special sound.
Along with the Showcase win in December, Write Minded just released their first album, Eye Above, along with a Hudson Bloom of JETBLACK Film Co.-directed music video for their single, “Of the Night.” They also recently won the Independent Music Awards top honor for the Best Album in the Funk-Fusion-Jam category. IMA’s were judged this year by a star-studded cast which included Alt-J, Tom Waites, Dido, and members of Slayer.
“We feel like we are finally getting a platform for our music and to expand,” keys player Wilson Slaughter commented when asked about the current Fort Collins area music scene. “Our fans always show up and really bring the energy to our live gigs, which really helps us advance,” he added. “It makes us super happy,” Jonah Greene commented.
“It’s this level of fan dedication that inspired us to dig deeper into this sound we’re uncovering,” Forrester Tamkun stated. “There comes a point in musicianship where you start to not only listen with your ears, but through the ears of others.”
The band describes the current music climate of Northern Colorado as “fun, supportive, and not overly competitive, despite the level of talent here.” The goals of Write Minded currently include touring behind their new album, adding more festivals to their 2017 schedule, and to pair with more national acts for bigger shows. “We made our album through generous support we got from a Community Funded campaign,” Mouton stated. “We were able to make a quality album at the Blasting Room and work with Andrew Berlin, who is an incredible engineer. This is just the beginning for us and we are finding great joy in being with our fans, making music that we love, and sharing what we create,” he added.
The band certainly has a focus about it and one that seems to be the foundation for all that they do. Mouton commented, “We have found this outlet for living life, enjoying life. It’s music and we love to play it and share it. There’s something out there for everyone, you just have to get out there and find it.” Greene agreed, stating, “Giving people this outlet feels amazing. When they’re singing our words back to us, that’s everything. It feels fantastic.”
Jarod Ford ended our interview with a keen observation of the band’s current state. “Through music, you can tell that the universe has something bigger to offer.”
“We just want to keep moving and encourage people to never stop; that vibration and frequency are the energy that fuel us,” Slaughter added.
ALL PHOTOS BY TESSA ABIGAIL PHOTOGRAPHY