Headliner Interviews: Mike Mains and The Branches

Mike Mains and The Branches are an indie rock group from Owosso Michigan. The group is currently on a US tour, which includes a stop in NYC at Lit Lounge on August 12th. The group’s music is a blend of well produced rock and smartly written lyrics that instantly commands attention.  After the band signed up for Headliner we listened to some of their music and decided to interview them. To learn more about Mike Mains and the Branches or to hear some of their music check out their their Myspace.

Your “About” section talks a lot about the idea of home. What does Home mean to you?

One thing that we have all sacrificed as a band is our previous understanding of home. Some of us have left our families and moved across the country to do this band, and all of us sacrifice knowing what roof we will be under each night every time we go out on the road. But for us, it wasn’t until we sacrificed our sense of home that we truly understood home. Home for us is not a place, but the comfort and support you find when you are with those you love, and that is what we hope people will find in our music.

You guys are in the midst of a lengthy national tour- how has that been? How much of a challenge has it been to do without label support?

This tour has been a lot of fun. The headliner for this tour is Tooth and Nail band Spoken, and it has been great to work with them and see how they navigate the industry after 14 years of touring. We have had a few bad turnouts, as well as some very well attended shows. But the experience has been invaluable. As far as our lack of label support, that is definitely an issue that we’re looking into fixing! I think it’s a matter of finding the right home for a band though, and we’re waiting for a label that really believes in what we’re doing. We’ve been doing our best to compensate by handling the tour promotion ourselves, which has been overwhelming but rewarding at the same time.

How effective/helpful has social media been in furthering your careers?

Social networking is bittersweet. We are very much about community, and building meaningful relationships with people, not just gaining fans. I think you lose some of the sincerity of relationships when everything is so impersonal and digital. But at the same time, if not for Facebook and Myspace, a lot of bands, including us, couldn’t stay on the road full time. You can’t ignore the tremendous help that social networking has been to indie bands.

How did you end up signing up for Headliner?

We found Headliner through the same way that Headliner helps people find bands: online networking. So we looked into it and saw the impressive line-up of bands that Headliner works with, and figured we’d give it a shot. Needless to say, we don’t regret signing up, and Headliner has exceeded our expectations.

What are you doing to get your music to more people?

We are trying to stay on the road as much as possible. I think that by a few days from now we will have done 26 shows this month. In addition to touring, our record, “Home,” is available on iTunes and CD Baby, and I believe a few more outlets as well. Burk, our bassist, does a great job of raising awareness online about what we’re doing through different promotional ideas and primarily through personally contacting people we think might be interested in our music.

How does your faith manifest itself in your music and/or live performances?

Our faith is what defines us as people. But that doesn’t mean that it is always the focal point of every song. Our goal is to be real with people. We don’t want to be labeled as a Christian band. That’s such a confining term that turns so many people away. Our hope is that the love that’s in us will naturally surface in everything that we do, including our music. But we’re no worship band or anything. We just sing about life, and the way we view it and deal with it, for better or for worse.

There’s a lot of facial hair going on. Any particular reason?

Hahaha! Yeah man, I don’t know. I guess it’s a just matter of philosophy. You don’t cut down trees just because they grow, why should you have different standards for what grows on your face? Burk has been growing his beard for almost a year now, and it’s getting pretty beastly. But we like to mix it up with the occasional mustache or two. Our music isn’t super heavy, so I think we may be subconsciously compensating by trying to emphasize our most manly features. Shannon excluded…

Who do you consider to be some of your biggest influences?

We all have different musical backgrounds, from jazz to metal. But as far as stuff that has impacted our band’s sound, mewithoutYou has definitely influenced our rhythm section with really groove-based stuff. I know Mike has been fairly influenced by old-school bands like Thursday, and his vocals definitely have hints of Jesse Lacey from Brand New. We read a review of our album recently that said he sounded a little like Bright Eyes, but we don’t know if it was meant to be a compliment or an insult!

What are some of your favorite experiences from touring thus far?

Well, getting to know the guys from Spoken on this tour has been a lot of fun. On our last tour we got to play in New York City, and that was a cool experience. It’s always really rewarding anytime we see people sing along with our music, especially if we’ve never been to the city before. But ultimately what gets us the most pumped is getting to hang out with new people and genuinely connecting with folks. That’s why we’re in this (aside from all the money obviously!).

Any plans to move out of the MidWest to a more music concentrated place?

Well, a couple of us are from Texas, and I think that eventually we all want to be there. But it’s just a matter of timing. Our goal for right now is to be on the road consistently enough that it doesn’t matter where we live. We do have a stronger fan base in Michigan than anywhere else though, so perhaps it’s the place for us right now.

Does the name “The Branches” have any particular meaning or significance?

Or goal in our individual lives is to walk in love with all those around us. Jesus once said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” So the name is our way of reminding ourselves of the only way that we have ever been able to walk in love. A lot of bands become arrogant and prideful as their careers become more successful. So using “The Branches” as our band name is a preventative measure against pride; it takes us back to the peaceful simplicity that we strive to walk in.

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