Profile: David Mnemo (2019)

At a Pennsylvania house party around 2007, Penn State students John Dubosky and Eric Goeller heard a sound that blew their minds.

“There was this infectious bass line coming from the first floor,” said Dubosky, 33, of Polish Hill, then the drummer in State College, Pa. band Electric Lemonade Stand. “Eric discovered it and introduced me to this guy – ‘This guy is really amazing and we’d be really lucky to play with him.’ We begged him to join our band.”

That guy was David Mnemo.

On Saturday night, more than a decade later, Dubosky and Mnemo – a Penn State journalism student who, in the end, did become Electric Lemonade Stand’s bassist — will take the stage at Wolfies Pub in Downtown Pittsburgh to celebrate Mnemo’s new record, As Surely As The Sun Will Rise. Mnemo is self-releasing it this week on CD and in digital formats.

Despite the fact he’s releasing his solo debut, Mnemo is no amateur. The multi-instrumentalist, who switched to guitar for the project, played in countless bands – The Ruckus Brothers, Gypsy & His Band of Ghosts, The Olga Watkins Bands, Broke Stranded & Ugly – before moving to Colorado a number of years ago. He returned East in 2018 and now is striking out on his own.

“Doing this is liberating, honestly,” said Mnemo – born David Pfister — 33, a Beaver Falls, Pa. native who now lives in Bloomfield. “I have so much experience basically being able to fill out other people’s sounds. It was a real push to be able to do that myself for a change.”

“It’s an amazing thing, to stick your neck out for your own music and for your own art.”

The new six-song LP, recorded at Wright House Recording in Greeley, Col. and Etc. Audio in Ambridge, Pa., is a thing of wonder. Opener “Lifeboat” is a classic folk ballad, perhaps as performed through the prism of Mark Knopfler. “Bridges Car Fires Prime Meridians” would make Hank Williams proud. But the record is more than the sum of its rustic charms. “Chasing Coasters” waxes country-and-western (think Link Wray on the prairie) and “Stealing The Jewels,” with its pixelated opening and bouncy backbeat, is pure Detroit soul.

Mnemo avoids the blender analogy all together and jokes material on the new record is an amalgamation — “alt/indie/country/folk/pop/soul.” The production, carefully choreographed, is part Sun Records, part Flaming Lips.

“It’s very singer-songwriter-based but it has a lot of production and arrangement – I’m a pretty omnivorous listener,” he said.

Dubosky, who today works as publisher of Steel This Magazine, said that’s a massive understatement.

“The dude is just a sponge for Americana,” said Dubosky, who played music in Philly before moving to Pittsburgh six summers ago. “He’s also just a pleasure to listen to. The timbre of his voice is cutting – it cuts through you. I love hearing his voice.”

“I’ve been lucky enough to be a fly on the wall for much of David’s solo career,” he added. “For some reason, he likes playing with me – I’m lucky.”

Mnemo returns the compliment, calling Dubosky “a real kindred spirit musically.” Their interplay, on stage and in the studio, is part of Mnemo’s intoxicating chemistry.

But Mnemo is a man of many collaborators. Take his younger siblings, Adam, Tim and Leah, each of whom provide backing vocals on As Surely As The Sun Will Rise.

“It was the first time I worked with them in that capacity. It was challenging but ultimately very rewarding,” he said.

The same could be said for much of Mnemo’s first experience in the studio as a frontman.

“I was trying to bring classic sounds with a modern twist,” he said.

Well, mission accomplished. – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, June 28, 2019

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