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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Veteran music journalist with 20+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, & B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Mandala Goes West – The 3,000 Mile Journey of One of CT’s Favorite Bands
Friday, May 13, 2022

When indie rock foursome Mandala hit the stage at L.A.’s Viper Room on Saturday night (May 14th) it was more than just a show, it symbolized that the band’s incredible cross-country journey was all worth it.

The packing up of their lives, the mileage they put on their cars, and the goodbyes they had to say to friends and family weren’t easy by any means, but Abe Azab, Sean Connelly, and Morgan Fasanelli, joining Chris Desiderio (photo: L to R) in Southern California was a risk the formerly Connecticut-based band wanted to take.

It’s a risk that’s paying off.

As they’re finding their way in L.A.’s indie music scene, they’re also readying the release of two projects. Their next EP, Bed of Flowers, is due out May 20th (pre-save here), and it will be followed by a full-length album, titled Basement Flower Bouquet, in late summer / early fall, with the physical album coming out a full month before it will be available on streaming services.

I caught up with Morgan, Abe, and Sean to find out about those upcoming releases, as well as their cross-country road trip, their initial months in L.A., and the unique challenge they faced filming scenes for their latest music video on the roof of a pizza place.

 

Last year you packed all of your stuff into a van and drove across the country to make L.A. your new home base. First off, what sparked the desire to move to the West Coast? 

Morgan: We were always talking about moving, to Los Angeles specifically.

When the pandemic got really really hot, and I couldn’t come back to Connecticut from New York to see them, we were writing over Zoom. I hadn’t seen them in two or three months at that point. I had an opportunity to live with a couple of my best friends at a house in Connecticut, so I moved home in June of 2020, and then we had a big conversation – OK, are we moving to L.A.? Are we moving to New York even?

I love Connecticut, but I didn’t want to live there at the time. When the pandemic happened we decided to stay in Connecticut for a year, so we stayed, and we wrote the record, and we recorded it. Then when we were done with recording we were kind of like – we’re ready.

When it comes to the 3,000 mile drive, did you have specific places you wanted to see, or experience along the way? 

Abe: We kinda did the midwest route, and we did it in … five days?

Morgan: I think it was six.

Technically he left from Connecticut, I left from New York. We did Connecticut, Ohio, and I think from Ohio we shifted all the way to Missouri, then we did Oklahoma City, because I have a friend down there, and we stayed with him, then we did New Mexico, and Arizona. That’s everywhere we stayed, but there were two 10 to 13 hour days of driving, and I drove the whole time in my car, because my partner doesn’t drive, so I did the entire drive myself. Something happens to the mind when you’re driving for that long. {laughs}

Abe: As far as things we wanted to see, we saw the Grand Canyon. That was great, (and) way bigger in person. We performed a little acoustic set up there, which was cool. We posted that on YouTube.

Morgan: I’d never seen that much of the country. I’d never been to L.A. before we moved here. I’m a northeastern girl.

Abe: None of us had ever been to L.A. before we moved there.

So you all moved to a place you’d never visited before? 

Morgan: It was a risk.

When you arrived in L.A., what were your first orders of business? 

Sean: Finding a house. We stayed at an Airbnb for like a month, so that was a process.

Morgan: Sean was one of the lucky ones, he is able to work from home for his company. Abe does his photography and film full time now, so I needed to find a job, and our other roommate needed to find a job, so we stayed in the Airbnb for a month, and I got a job, so we could be like, “I swear, I have money, please give us a house to live in!”

Did the city immediately live up to your expectations, or did it take some time to become a place you love? 

Abe: It’s still growing in progress.

As much as we wanted to expect it to be glamorous, and Hollywood, I think we all knew that it wasn’t going to be so easy. We’re all doing this big change for the first time, so I think at first it was important for us to be like alright, let’s just see what’s around, check out some shows, and see if we can meet some bands.

It’s honestly all starting from scratch. We might as well have renamed ourselves Chocolate Starfish. {laughs}

Limp Bizkit might have sued you if you had done that. 

Abe: Right. But basically it’s just been trying to make friends.

Obviously it’s really easy to want to just stay with your circle, because we all came here together, and we have a couple other friends who also moved here at the same time who are right around the corner from us.

Morgan: We have a handful of people here that we know we can count on, but I don’t really know how to make friends after the past couple of years.

Abe: Same. I’m out of college, so it’s hard for me.

It’s that adult thing. It’s weird, like, “Hey, what’s your phone number,” but in a I just want to hang out kind of way. 

Morgan: Yeah. Literally.

What have been some of the initial pros of living in in L.A.? 

Sean: The weather’s beautiful every day, and the vibe is very relaxing. I feel very refreshed when I wake up every day.

With the weather it keeps you optimistic, and I’m very active, and I try to eat good.

I also feel it’s just a little bit more entertaining than Connecticut, as far as things to do every day. In reality it could never end if you really know where to go, but we’re new in town, so sometimes we don’t know where to go, and you just gotta walk around the street, and see what’s poppin off. I do that sometimes, and that’s fun for me because I get to explore.

Abe: There’s a lot more people here being creative, which is really cool. Pretty much everyone you meet does something (artistic). Nobody’s like, “Oh, you’re in a band, that’s unreasonable living.” Here they’re like, “Oh, you’re in a band? Dope, who’s your team?”

Your upcoming EP, Bed of Flowers, is due out May 20th. I know it’s been a long time coming. You mentioned earlier that you recorded it before you moved.

Morgan: Yeah. It’s five songs, and in September we’re releasing an album that’s gonna be 15 songs.

Musically, what kind of evolution do you hear in your sound? 

Morgan: It’s tricky, because the album is done already. It’s what we recorded in Connecticut.

So you had more than just the EP completed before you moved. 

Sean: Yeah, we had about 18 songs that were recorded and done, and we’re releasing them strategically.

Have you decided on a name for the LP? 

Sean: Yeah, it’s called Basement Flower Bouquet.

Essentially the plan is to put out the EP in May, and let it rock through May and June, and throughout the rest of time. In July we’re gonna drop a single, and in August we’re gonna drop a single, then we’re gonna drop this album. It will be 15 tracks. The EP, and the two singles that we’re gonna put out, are gonna be on the album with eight additional songs that nobody’s ever heard before, and it’s all gonna be in a completely different order.

The video for your latest single, “Better Now”, came out last month. Who came up with the concept, and please tell me you thoroughly washed that mannequin after the dumpster scene. 

Morgan: Nope, I didn’t even wipe it, and then I put it in Chris’ bed.

I remember probably a year ago I heard little rumors of this music video idea from Chris. His friend Eric Alt, who directed the video, had come up with this idea a while ago. They went to the New York Film Academy out here together, and he was like, “I’d love to shoot it for you guys.”

The DP (Director of Photography) was Piotr Niemczewski. He’s a really nice guy from Poland who lives out here now.

So they had the idea, and we sat down and were like – I think we can bring this to fruition, and I’m totally in love with the concept.

We rented a mannequin, which I’ll tell you was the most expensive part of the music video, probably. Crazy. Who knew? I feel like in Connecticut I could’ve gone on Facebook Marketplace and found one. Out here they have a mannequin store where you go to rent them.

(Eric’s) from L.A.,so he had a major shot list of all these locations where he wanted to film. I hadn’t seen much of L.A. at that point, so it was nice to explore with someone that knew what they were doing.

It was a small team. When we did most of the guerrilla shots, besides the full band shots on the roof, it was just me, the mannequin, Eric the director, Piotr filming, and then Chris with us doing production, and Chris’ partner, who was the editor, I believe.

We’d go to these little spots, and I’d be holding the mannequin, and people would just laugh, and they’d take a picture. It was very nice. It was very fun, and interesting. Then the band shots are on top of a pizza place in Hollywood.


How’d you pull that off? 

Sean: I guess Piotr knows this guy, or used to work with this guy that runs this pizza place that’s also a record label/vinyl store at the same time. You can get a pizza slice, and buy records, and they also sign old rappers.

Morgan: They have a studio there.

Sean: It’s a pretty wild spot. We befriended the guy who owns the place. He’s a super nice guy. He’s just like, “Oh yeah, you need to climb on the roof and do whatever, go for it.”

Morgan: The crazy thing about the roof is there’s just a fire ladder that doesn’t go down to the ground, so you have to climb a really tall regular ladder, then the escape ladder up to the roof. To get all the equipment up there – all the lights, all the cameras, all the drums – we had to tie it with a climbing rope and a carabiner, and hoist it up.

Sean: We have some good videos of us taking an upright bass, and lighting rigs, with not even a pulley system, just by hand. It was pretty crazy.

Finally, will you be touring in support of the EP? 

Sean: We’re basically playing as many shows out here that we can find in June and July. As far as tour goes, we haven’t announced anything officially, but we are coming back (East) in early August for about two weeks.

 

For more Mandala, check them out at mandalact.com, pick up their music and merch on Bandcamp, and follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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