Your Weekend Playlist, Courtesy of Teebs
For nearly a decade, Mtendere Mandowa, more commonly known as Teebs , has established himself both in music and art by “[exploring] the worlds of communication and semi abstractions.” Originally hailing from the Bronx, NY and now a staple in LA’s music scene through his involvement with Low End Theory, Mandowa’s projects pull you deep into the worlds he creates. To describe his music would be to describe one’s emotions. His music is multi-layered and unique and can speak to his life experiences, while keeping you engaged, curious, and challenged.
Today, after a five-year hiatus, Teebs drops his third full-length album with the help from a host of musical friends including Panda Bear (Animal Collective), Sudan Archives, Ringgo Ancheta aka MNDSGN, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Anna Wise, Daydream Masi, Former Boy, Pink Siifu, Jimetta Rose and Thomas Stankiewicz. For Mandowa, family is at the heart of his life and inspiration. The birth of his daughter, as well as the relationships with his wife, mother, brother, and the friends around him all are reflected in this record.
Despite being a significant member of the LA music scene, his presence online is scarce; the interviews he’s done are few and far between. We had the chance to sit with him in his home to discuss the process of making this upcoming album, the music that helped inspire it and his mediums for his own expression.
The “Stuff [Teebs] Cannot NOT listen to”:
Starting with your early life, you have spent time living on both coasts, even some time in Barcelona for the Red Bull Music Academy, at what point in your life do you feel like you learned the most about making music, discovering your own sound and your own personal growth?
With music, it was during my time in Barcelona for the Red Bull Music Academy Program. Just seeing like-minded kids getting excited about creating music, and being in that environment helped me feel like what I was doing was okay.
Also while I was living in Northridge. That was when me and a few of the other guys from Brainfeeder all lived together. That kind of inspiration of getting through making the first record with all of them made me get more in tune with my work.
Music is not the only form of expression you choose to work with. As both an artist and a music maker, what have been the defining moments, respectively? What were the pivoting points?
Working out of necessity, in the beginning, was definitely a strong pivoting point.
I didn’t have another means of making a living and I wanted to spend all my time doing art and making music. It was a hard choice initially but this was an important time for me.
Another point for me is trying to understand what these mediums do outside of my own box. Especially in music, I was seeing it go out in the world for years and was then getting all this feedback.
Now it is up to me to see what I do with all that information and how it evolves.
Where do you find yourself most often when discovering, listening and creating music?
Usually, around one-on-one conversations. I think I find the most discovery when I get closer in a personal conversation. I feel worlds of information start to pour out and it leads to ideas from a different sound.
Your upcoming album, Anicca, comes out today. What are some things that helped inspire this upcoming project?
Definitely family has been the most inspirational. I had a kid, and going through that process of initially being really scared and getting my mind around me being a parent. Then seeing the baby born and essentially re-learning through how she discovers stuff has been really insightful.
Also, trying to be present was a big idea for this record.
How did you come up with the name for the album?
While I was working and traveling, I made a song that stands out to me as being a really big highlight to the album. With that song, I kept on going back to the word impermanence. I loved the meaning behind it and for a moment, I thought that was going to be the name of the album.
I started looking into another term and then I saw Anicca. This was a lot more of an umbrella term to a larger religion that bases some of its guidance through the same idea.
There is also this book I read a few years back sometime after my last record. It was based on a Japenese philosophy of life. It all ties in with the Buddhist practice of Anicca. I felt like everything was leading to this kind of place.
I might be biased, but I believe your album artwork is amongst the most creative in music. Can you give us a little on what helped inspire the album art for Anicca?
A mixture of wanting to change the process with the paintings.
So I went with glass this time. I thought it might be interesting to be more collaborative and so I worked with a really close friend that does glass cutting.
I wanted to use something a little more translucent, light-driven, and no matter what angle you look at it, you see something different.
I also wanted to use a material that was representative of the word Anicca, something that wasn’t going to last forever.
When painting, what is the first color you gravitate towards picking up?
What shade of blue?
What is your first step to creating a song?
Long recordings. Just Gibberish. Then looking back at it.
Can you elaborate on gibberish?
I try not to care about what I am playing. It’s my expression.
Where did you listen to Anicca for the first time in its entirety after being mixed and mastered?
At home first. Then went to some of my friend’s house that had different sound systems.
What would be the perfect setting to perform your music?
A run-down church.
Describe Low End Theory in one word?
Tell us about the playlist you created?
Stuff I cannot NOT listen to. Music that I can decompress to. Eclectic music that can go in all scenarios.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Weekend Playlists.