Bach Mai Crank Up The Volume With “What You’ve Given”
“We want the world to know who we are. This is our introduction and our true beginning.”
There’s an inherent electricity in collaboration. Working on songs with other people is one of life’s slept-on joys. Omaha band Bach Mai has stumbled onto the secret on their new album What You’ve Given.
Sometimes existing as a solo project of songwriter Bach Mai, the band has really stepped up and wrote a collection of killer songs. Bringing to mind bands like Bomb The Music Industry! and Rozwell Kid, What You’ve Given is full of pop-punk sentimentality without feeling formulaic or defined by any one genre. When asked about the record, Mai said, “This album is about reflection, growth and accepting the world around you for what it is. You are solely in charge of what you do and how you react to the evolution of life.” Like a bildungsroman for the band, What You’ve Given highlights their blossoming songwriting and tasty instrumentation.
Melodies pour off the songs on this record. The second song “Whoa” starts off with one of the catchiest basslines I’ve heard in a good minute. As Mai’s vocals enter with another insanely hummable melody, he brings along with him a horn section that mirrors the bassline. Lead guitarist Molly Gaughan’s skills are on full display in “Burn Me Down,” where she plays a riff that feels math-y but still breathes. “Mediocre Me” feels almost like Desaparecidos meets Jimmy Eat World, with distorted vocals and an extremely tight rhythm section courtesy of bassist Matt Capoun and drummer Joshua Von Kampen.
This is also one of the best sequenced records I’ve heard in a little while. The band chose songs that flow extraordinarily well together. Towards the middle section of the record, Bach Mai & co begin to slow the tempo down and add some interesting textures. The run of songs from “Together, Horrible People” to “Sure to Let You Down” add some new wave flare with chorused-out guitar chords and danceable rhythms.
The final trio of songs function as a recap of the entire record. “December” is upbeat like the early songs on the record, but with all the textures of the middle three songs. Gorgeous piano melodies and sustained violin notes peek out from behind the mix to create an introspective mood. “First Breath” begins its life as an acoustic song, then gradually builds into an urgent pop song. And, last but not least, “Better” is a subtle, yet effective, closer to a fantastic collection of songs.
What makes Bach Mai’s album so great is that it sounds like a group of people having fun. Though the lyrics are about the difficulties of human relationships and the struggle to be our authentic selves, the music really sounds like four people in sync in the rehearsal room. Mai said, “From our first album to this new release, we as a band have learned how to create together and it shows. . . We want the world to know who we are. This is our introduction and our true beginning.” With What You’ve Given, Bach Mai are putting Omaha, NE’s scene on the map. I’m really looking forward to what they cook up next!
Listen to What You’ve Given below, and read an exclusive interview with the band!
What was the writing process like for What You’ve Given? Did you write together, or did the songs sort of come to the group fully formed?
Usually I come to the band with a fully formed song and ask them to add their parts. For this album, I opened myself up to the process and came to them with pieces of songs for us to build upon together. Some portions of my part were more developed than others, but overall this album was truer to collaboration than ever before. This was the first time I was able to go to my bandmates and say, “Hey, what if we have an instrumental here. What do you guys think that will sound like.?” Or even develop songs in conversation, trying to evoke specific sounds from other artists like Radiohead, or Julien Baker.
I saw on Bandcamp that this record was made at Make Believe Studios. What was the recording experience like there
Recording at Make Believe is always an exciting experience. The folks there have always treated me like family. I’ve known them for a long time and always am excited to get back into their studio. The space itself is world class and the engineers know exactly what equipment we need to make the sounds that we express to them. Making music with friends always makes the process more organic, and, in the end, more special.
What is Omaha’s scene like? Do you think playing music in that city influenced the songwriting on this record?
The Omaha scene, like the city itself, is small and big at the same time. It feels like we all have an idea of who the big players are in town, until we go to a dive bar and find someone we’ve never met playing the best music we’ve ever heard. The benefit of being a part of the Omaha scene is that if you make some noise, people will hear you. That definitely impacts your songwriting because you are able to test out sounds and let an album of songs form themselves in performance rather than virtually, in studio.
What’s next for Bach Mai?
Like any performing band in 2021, we are itching to play as soon as it is safe. We have some modest plans of renting a home and recording something fully DIY. We have plans to do some higher quality livestreams. We plan to hopefully print the album physically and release it in-person. But all of that is going to be decided by how this vaccine rolls out. The long and short of it is: we will play music, record music, and write music absolutely whenever we can.