Interview with Matt Mooney and Kendall Bruns from Koala Fires

koala fires
Koala Fires

Interview by Scott Preston

They will tickle your ear while stomping on your foot. They will kiss you on the lips then bite you on the nose. They are a quartet of rising post-punk rockers from Cincinnati, Ohio called Koala Fires.

Frontman Matt Mooney (Super77) and band mates Kendall Bruns (And How, I Invented It!), Dan Johnson (The Bell and the Hammer) and Mike Paolucci (Fizzgig) all came together with a common goal of creating an invigorating sound with heart-wrenching, thoughtful lyrics, catchy hooks, driving riffs and crashing percussion, and have created a passionate sound with inherent quirks built around words that jab you in the gut.

In 2008 Koala Fires released a three-song EP and were Cincinnati Entertainment Award nominees for “New Artist of the Year.” They are now boldly following in the footsteps of their evident influences (Pixies, Dinosaur Jr.) and ready to make a mark of their own. Their self-released EP, Sleep Tight, Lucky Grills, showcased three songs that landed them in front of prominent acts like Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, Stardeath & White Dwarfs, Oh My God, LoveLikeFire and The Pomegranates. Armed with their debut album, they’re ready to take their sound to a new level and launch themselves on the indie-punk music scene with a dynamic sound and stage presence.

Cincy Groove: How did the band get together? where did the band name come from?

Kendall Bruns: Matt and I have been friends since college and had played music together here and there over the years. One day Matt asked me about playing guitar in this new project with him—he already had a bunch of demos and the band name. I suggested Mike as a drummer since I had always wanted to be in a band with him since seeing him play in Fizzgig. Matt knew Dan.

Matt Mooney: The name was conceived from a phonetic misunderstanding during a phone conversation between myself and bassist Dan Johnson. The breakdown and / or success of the human communication of ideals and emotions is a common thematic element to our music and lyrics, so the fact that it was derived from a misunderstood communication gives it an added layer of metaphor. Conceptually, the juxtaposition of koalas and fire subtly adds a horrific and iconic visual companion to the recurring themes of cauterization, evaluation, suffering and rebirth.

Cincy Groove: What was the recording process like for the new album? Did it take long to write the songs? Where was it recorded? Where did the title come from?

Matt Mooney: The songs for this album were written over a breadth of 3 years. They were chosen democratically from a pool of 30 or more songs I had written during a 2 year hiatus from playing out. The recording process was deliberate and involved. The band recorded home demos together after relentlessly working out arrangements and parts.

Kendall Bruns: Yeah, we wanted to demo everything before going into the studio so that we could make a bunch of the creative decisions early and go in prepared.

Matt Mooney: These demos were used as a basis for how the studio time would be utilized. The band was extensively involved through each step of the recording, mixing and mastering process, in order to maintain the conceptual ideals that were decided to be the foundation of the album. It was decided that the production would be kept loose, so adjustments were continuously made to adhere to that decision. It was decided that the album concept would be communicated on various levels, so the band discussed and sorted out what those levels were going to be. It was repeated time after time that this was the most involved any of us had been with the production of an album. Jon Powers of Full Powers Creative Studios was the engineer that allowed the flexibility for a lot of the decisions that had to be made and did a very masterful job in helping make The Beeping in Our Hearts a reality. The title of the album was the title of one of the songs chosen out of the initial pool of songs and conceptually it says a lot about the making of the album from start to finish. It is organic and electronic. The beeping is a representation of the actual heart beat we can feel inside of ourselves. Like music, It is a rhythmic reminder that we are still alive, and a challenge to people to decide what that really means.

Cincy Groove: Tell me about your cd release gig on 1/2/2010

Matt Mooney: I’m very excited about it. The line-up is really quite phenomenal with a really good mix of some of the best new bands in town, as well as some really interesting baroque pop from out-of-towners Amo Joy. It feels like both a perfect finish to the year we spent creating this album and a perfect beginning to a new year of Koala Fires.

Kendall Bruns: I’m really happy to be sharing the bill with three bands that I love—The Guitars, The Harlequins and Amo Joy.

Cincy Groove: What music does the band listen to? (outside of your own)

Matt Mooney: I love old Rock and Roll via the Kinks, the McCoys, the Zombies. I grew up on 90’s indie rock like Superchunk, Dinosaur Jr., Polvo, The Pixies, Dead Milkmen, Jets to Brazil mixed with some punk stuff like Dead Kennedys, Selby Tigers, Descendants, plus a ton of small local and indie bands that went the way of the buffalo. These days, who knows what I’ll be listening to next as I’ve grown to appreciate a wide berth of music, some of my recent favorites have been: We Were Promised Jetpacks, Cloud Cult, Parts & Labor, Efterklang, Mountain Goats, The Little Ones, LoveLikeFire, Blonde Redhead, Stars, so many…

Kendall Bruns: Some of my favorite 2009 albums were from Bad Veins, Bear in Heaven, LoveLikeFire, The Pomegranates and Beaujolais. I also really love Grizzly Bear, The Magnetic Fields, Ratatat…

Cincy Groove: What have been some of the highlights for the band so far?

Matt Mooney: First and Foremost I’ve really enjoyed working with these guys on really tightening up the music. We pour a lot of energy into doing things right. It was an honor to be recognized by the city as some of the best new music it had to offer, and it has been great realizing that we have something exceptional that we are all excited about sharing with as many people as possible here at home and abroad.

Kendall Bruns: We’re shared bills with some amazing bands like Stardeath & White Dwarfs, LoveLikeFire…locals like Bad Veins, The Pomegranates, The Seedy Seeds. Playing the Indie Summer shows outside on Fountain Square two years in a row as well as our MidPoint showcases—those are ones that stand out in my mind.

Cincy Groove: With the decade coming to an end, what have been some of your favorite local musical moments of the past 10 years?

Matt Mooney: It has been great to see Heartless Bastards, Bad Veins, The Seedy Seeds and Pomegranates doing so well in the new music business climate. Showing the world that Cincinnati is just as viable a place to create music as any other. It has been great to see MidPoint Music Festival becoming something more focused and exciting. It has been amazing being part of the environment of new artists coming to life in this city and really creating some exceptional and varied music.

Kendall Bruns: The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards at the Emery Theatre in 2008—that was a great night. Watching Ralph Stanley sing to the hushed crowd in that historic space was amazing.

Cincy Groove: What kind of effect do you think the internet has had on the music industry?

Kendall Bruns: It definitely gives you easier access to the world of music fans. Everything is in flux.

Cincy Groove: What was the 1st album you ever bought?

Matt Mooney: Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em by M.C. Hammer

Kendall Bruns: Classic Queen by Queen

Cincy Groove: Which do you prefer? Skyline or Goldstar Chili?

Matt Mooney: Goldstar

Kendall Bruns: definitely Skyline

Cincy Groove: Favorite show on Cartoon Network?

Matt Mooney: I don’t have cable.

Kendall Bruns: My favorite show on the Cartoon Network that I don’t really watch very often is Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

Cincy Groove: What plans are there for the band for the upcoming year?

Kendall Bruns: We’re planning more regional shows and touring. There are some music video plans. We’re also working with some remixers that I’m really excited about. I think we’ll have other music releases of one sort or another in 2010. Right now I’m really excited about sharing the album and connecting with new people.

Jan 2 2010 Southgate House (CD Release w/Amo Joy + The Harlequins + The Guitars) Newport, Kentucky
Jan 22 2010 Melody Inn (w/Amo Joy) Indianapolis, Indiana
Feb 20 2010 Mayday (w/The Atriums + Wolf Ram Heart) Cincinnati, Ohio