Last November I spent a week with The Reverberations as they recorded their forthcoming sophomore album in beautiful Joshua Tree, CA. On a particularly beautiful Monday in between recording sessions, seated in hammocks outside the studio, Reverberations’ bassist Cam Mazzia and I began a conversation which I’m sure was inspired by our surroundings- discussing what our “desert island discs” would be. After I was back home, I kept thinking about the desert island discs conversation, and how much you can learn about someone through their music preferences. I’ve always thought that sneaking a peek through someone’s record collection is much like peering into their soul. I became more and more inspired to have conversations with musicians about the records that mean the most to them.
As any music lover knows, there’s a huge difference between “desert island discs”, favorite records, most influential records, etc. The ones that interest me the most are the ones that are the most personal- the albums that define who you are, the ones that could be called the soundtrack of your life. Every month here on POW, I’ll be talking to a different musician about the top 3 albums that make up what I’ve affectionately titled their “Discography Biography”.
For this inaugural feature, it seemed only appropriate to talk to the guy who inadvertently inspired this whole thing, Cam Mazzia. In addition to playing bass in The Reverberations, Cam also fronts the indie-psych trio Mantis, who POW interviewed back in March on their way down to play SoCal Psycheout. I caught up with Cam over the phone to talk about his Discography Biography, and what his album choices say about him:
So let’s get right to it, what are your 3 albums?
“Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, Mazzy Star’s She Hangs Brightly, and Modest Mouse The Lonesome Crowded West”
Okay, so we’ll just go through each album-
“Edit this so i sound smarter, okay?”
Haha, okay. Now, back to Wildflowers. When did you first become aware of this album?
“Umm Wildflowers was probably like, 5th or 6th grade-ish and it just kind of hit me with the starting song and just, start to finish it just grabs me”
So did it immediately become your #1, or did it take a while to earn that spot?
“Oh yeah, no, this has been a long standing, pretty much since I’ve listened to music, top album.”
Why does it mean so much to you, is it the music itself or something more nostalgic?
“Ummm it holds up! It’s still a great album. And it’s just about love and loss and Tom Petty getting out of a divorce, and it just has some of his best written songs on it.”
Are there certain tracks that are your favorites?
“I love the opening track, ‘Wildflowers’…..ummm, when I was younger my favorite was ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’ cuz of the joint reference, I’m sure. Lately I really love the song ‘To Find A Friend’, and ‘Time to Move On’”
Are there any songs you’d change, or anything about the album that you’d change at all?
“Hmmmmm…..I don’t think so actually. It’s a 15 song album, there’s not a song I would take off. Yeah, it’s great.”
Do you think your feelings towards the album have changed over time?
“Well yeah, I appreciate more things the older I get and the more I learn about music. Like I appreciate more the melodies and the songwriting. I think when I was younger I just thought it sounded cool, ya know?”
So let’s move to the second one, Mazzy Star’s She Hangs Brightly. I know this one is a newer addition to your top, so when did you first discover it?
“I mean I’ve always known of it and heard the songs but actually it’s just been more recently [after someone played it a lot for me] it just hit me on a more emotional level and it more recently got into my top 3.”
So do you think it’s just the right time now that it struck a chord with you now instead of when you’d heard it previously?
“Yeah, they have this famous song, ‘Fade Into You’, and that was blasted on the radio forever, so I’ve always kind of known about this band. But more recently I love just the emotion behind the songs, and the guitar work, and then of course Hope Sandoval’s voice is just haunting and amazing.”
Do you have a few favorite songs on the album yet?
“Oh man, that’s hard. All these albums are ones I just put on all the way through. I love the opening track of this album too, ‘Halah’, it kinda gets me every time. This is an album that will make you cry-“
And you listened to it the whole drive driving down to So-Cal with Mantis!
“Oh yeah, all these albums I make my bands and friends listen to whenever we drive until they hate me for it”
What does the album mean to you?
“I don’t know…as a kid I didn’t always feel comfortable expressing being sad, I guess? So I think I’m just drawn to music that can make you feel sad.”
Alright, let’s move on to the last one, Modest Mouse’s Lonesome Crowded West. When did this one come into your life?
“This was probably more freshmen year of high school era. It’s another one I always put on during long drives. I remember being young and skipping class with my friends to do what was then illegal activities, and I must’ve Limewired this album somehow or something…and I remember just walking around town when I should’ve been in school listening to this album. And I remember specifically it taught me that music could break the rules. It doesn’t have to follow a traditional sound or structure. And I guess metaphorically that’s what I was doing by skipping class or whatever….not following structure. I don’t think I thought that deeply of it back then.”
So….you’re saying that Modest Mouse influenced your degenerate behavior?
“No, no, no. It’s the chicken or the egg. My degenerate behavior influenced the liking of Modest Mouse.”
Hmm. So why does this album mean so much to you? Is it just because it was at that certain time of your life, or is it really the music? Do you still enjoy the music as much?
“Yeah. All 3 of these albums hold up and I think they have a huge impact on my current songwriting and the way I write my own music, the guitar especially. I mean all of these albums are just big influences on me basically. And yeah, this one specifically was an age thing, and the fact that it could break the rules. I think The Pixies’ Doolittle album was another one that I connected to like that. But then I also love the really catchy hooks and melodies of Tom Petty, so I think it’s just the combination of it all just kind of makes music work and makes sense for me, and then the emotion behind all of it.”
You mentioned another album there, and I know it was super hard for you when I asked you to narrow this down to 3-
“Oh I need a top 50, really”
So do you wanna make any honorable mentions to the ones that almost made the cut?
“It’s hard cuz these had a huge influence on my current music but there’s SO many others that did too that’ve actually become my top 3 depending on the month or the season probably. Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub was big in my high school influences too and still to this day I listen to that album all the time. And honorable mention to All Things Must Pass [George Harrison], because that one is always floating in my top 3 to 5 all the time…Let’s keep those two in the top. I have more, and I have a list of desert island albums too…. Another one that falls in here is The Exploding Hearts, Shattered and Guitar Romantic, it was a huge influence on me. I love that first album by The Booze. Yeah. It’s really hard to choose, but these ones currently still hold up. And I noticed they’re all 90s albums, so I guess that just says when I was a kid and getting into music”
So do you think that if someone didn’t know you, and we told them the three albums you choose as your Discography Biography picks, would it give them a pretty good insight into who you are?
“Yeah. Anyone who puts on any of these albums is immediately my friend.”
And what do you think your choices say about you?
“Ummm it says that………I don’t know. I don’t know what it says! I like melodies and hooks and kind of a powerpop sound, and also things that aren’t traditional and kinda break the rules.”
I think that’s fair enough! And I think that the evidence of that is definitely clear with Mantis’ stuff!
“Yeah. Oh yeah. I think the real thing with music that I’m looking for is something that sounds genuine. That’s the main thing that comes to my head. Like a genuine, honest music and then just great songwriting is always helpful. And that’s what makes these my three albums.”
Listen to a playlist of all Cam’s Discography Biography picks:
Listen to Mantis’ first EP:
Written by Sheena Salazar for POW Magazine