Mekong Xpress Chat About Their Debut Album, "Common Knowledge": "There’s No Pressure, and Nothing to Really Lose"
Mekong Xpress was formed under incredibly unique circumstances, so it's no surprise that everything the band does it a little bit off the beaten path. After gathering with other musicians every Monday in the back of a Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond, the owner suggested that they start playing together. Four years later, after plenty of hard work and in between working on other projects, the band just celebrated the release of their debut album, Common Knowledge.
Recorded in five sessions over the course of four years, Common Knowledge is the product of hard work, collaboration and most importantly, passion. Each member of the band comes from a different musical background and brings their own influences and drive to the table, making the album a perfectly collaborative effort.
We recently caught up with the band to talk about their formation, Common Knowledge and what lies ahead. Read the full interview and listen to the album now below.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Mekong Xpress for anyone who might not be familiar?
Sure. We’re a band that was put together by a Richmond beer mogul from Vietnam. Haha
You all have such different backgrounds in music prior to forming Mekong Xpress - how did you all meet and begin playing music together?
On Mondays nights in RVA, musicians would gather in the backroom of Mekong, a Vietnamese restaurant known for its beer portfolio and it’s owner An Mekong. You would get to hang with local musicians, musicians passing through, discuss music, and be educated about beer by An. One night An said to us, “There are so many musicians coming on Mondays, you guys should start playing.” The next Monday we came in, and he had the backroom all set up and ready to go. Most of us hadn’t played together before, so it was a scramble to figure out what to do, to play, etc. Eventually a band formed out of a rotating cast, and we moved over to Mekong’s sister brewpub next door called The Answer. We started writing together, felt a chemistry, recorded, & are now releasing a record. We still play every Monday night at the Answer.
With varying experiences in the music industry and a wide variety of influences, what are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from one another while you’ve been writing together?
Patience and an open mind. Trust. It’s a nice setting to be in creatively because none of us really started the band, there’s no pressure, and nothing to really lose. If it were a project that was started by one person, or there was a specific goal in mind, it might not be so easy to pass the reins around and just enjoy it for what it is.
Although you’ve been playing together for a while now, you just released your debut album, Common Knowledge this month! What goals did you have in mind when you first started working on the album?
We didn’t really. We just had a collection of songs that we liked, and thought it might be nice to sort of document them and make a record together. This whole project has really just been an experiment with no goals or plans in mind.
What are you most excited for listeners to hear on Common Knowledge?
Everything really. It’s a unique story and this is the product of that story. I’m excited for listeners to hear what artists and musicians are capable of when there’s no pressure. Just creating to create.
How do you feel you’ve grown as musicians with the writing and recording of the album?
We’ve definitely become more of a “band”. We’ve learned from each other, expanded our vocabulary individually & collectively, and have a certain sense of confidence in what we are capable of and have to offer. It’s given us an appreciation for how unusual this whole thing actually is.
What was the most challenging part about working on the album? What was the most rewarding?
Time was challenging. We all make our livings with other bands, and are in the road a lot. The record took 4 years to make, but in total there were only like 5 sessions. Rewarding is the record itself. It’s a collection steeped in collaboration and love for music. It feels really cool to be able to hold the album and know the history behind it and where it came from. It’s surreal.
With Common Knowledge out now, do you have any other big plans or shows coming up?
Not really. Our schedules are so tight with our other projects that it makes playing on anything other than a Monday night difficult. We hope to carve out some time to put some short runs together, especially if the record finds an audience and there’s some demand. The band live is pretty badass if I do say so myself. Haha. So it would be fun to take it on the road and hit other cities. I’m kind of proud of what we can do on stage together.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
My pleasure. Just that I hope everyone enjoys the music and that we hope it inspires people, and other artists to come together and maybe collaborate with someone they might not have considered before. It can be really rewarding on many different levels.