“What band are y’all in? I heard y’all say something like y’all sound like The Strokes or something?” asks a random dude at Lil' Danny Speedo's Go Fly a Kite Lounge. He’s been chain smoking all night, and has likely been stealthily (until now at least) eavesdropping on a conversation with a local psychedelic rock band.
“Mantra Love. Yeah we’re on Spotify,” says Fabian Silva. He and his friendly neighbor geek out on The Strokes. The stranger thinks that First Impressions of Earth was their first questionable record, but says he clicked with it after two listens.
Fabian’s older brother, Derek Silva, chimes in: “Then you’re 20 listens into it and you’re wearing a leather jacket and fuckin’ –”
“– and you’re like ‘I think this is the best album they’ve ever made!’” declares Fabian.
Derek believes audiences liken Mantra Love to The Strokes because of the way he and his brother sing. It’s a sincere comparison to make, one the brothers embrace – but let’s be clear, the boys aren’t a Julian Casablancas carbon copy. When a band internalizes then synthesizes their idols as Mantra Love has on their upcoming EP U called?, due August 2nd, it’s something to celebrate.
Set opener “Another One” lives in that space between a dream and a sunrise. Memorable hooks nestled in every crevice and Derek’s sleepy, fallen angel croon make you question whether the song etched itself into your ear or helped you realize that it was lingering within you, dormant, all along.
Should you find yourself head bopping to “Feels,” a just-drunk-enough indie dream pop-punk peppermint of a song, it’s probably because it’s irresistible. Like with the rest of the EP’s cuts, it’s nearly impossible to separate the track from its live performance. For those that have seen Mantra Love in concert, the track might spark rowdy memories of catching the band in their natural habitat Satellite Bar, where they’re slated to host a release party in support of the effort.
“It’s literally home. Whenever we play Satellite, it’s just like - oh it’s going to be a good night. All our friends are going to be there, everyone’s having a good time, it’s always good vibes,” says Derek.
Much of Mantra Love’s magic lies in their simplicity. No other track on the effort embodies this more than album centerpiece “IDC.” The opening ear-worm guitar riff, suited for festival stages beyond the Houston city limits, bears a different context with each reiteration, largely in part to the song’s straightforward as ever lyrics: “I’ve given you all I can give / But it doesn’t seem like you give a shit.”
Despite the song’s lyrically blunt stance, the East Houston brothers stress an underlying optimism to their musical output.
“No one wants to listen to a bunch of bitchin’,” says Fabian. They burst into a synchronized laughter.
“If we’re bitchin’ it’s always with the other side of the coin saying ‘This is the bright side of it all. It’s always going to happen. There’s always just tomorrow. It’s just only - just move on.’ That’s about it. I think it’s kind of in our name too, you know? Mantra Love is just, after all the bullshit, try to remember Love. So overall positive vibes,” adds Derek.
Lyrics from penultimate track “Trying to Relax” could be ripped out of a conversation between two friends, smoking a square on a Saturday night, ditching the week’s pretenses (“So all I say to you / Is do exactly what you want to do / There’s no use in being used / It’s not fair to you”). Perhaps it offers insight into a lifelong dialogue between the Silvas, who say being in a band has only strengthened their brotherhood over the years.
“My brother and I have always had a typical brother relationship. It’s like you love each other but you’re so close that you can kind of just get on each other’s nerves for stupid reasons. I think us having to spend so much time together has taught us how to communicate more and just have more empathy for one another and, I don’t know, just be more humane about being so close to someone. Like, you know exactly what to do to piss him off but instead of doing that you’re going to take a different route and sew peace,” says Derek.
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With about a minute left to spare in set closer “XO,” a roaring guitar gives way to the album’s climax (and most psychedelic moment yet) – a massively manic, swelling wall of sound aiming for another stratosphere. When Derek wails “So do what you want to / Just be what you feel too,” it’s as if, for a moment, the boys might just take flight.
Mantra Love. They’re on Spotify.
You can catch Mantra Love live in concert Friday, August 2 at Satellite Bar with Brother Sports and Get a Life. $10 in advance. Doors 8 p.m. All ages. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter @mantralove. Stream select songs from their new EP ahead of its release below.