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Interview: The Homegrown Success of MSPAINT

On Friday June 2nd, Hattiesburg, Mississippi band MSPAINT will be playing at The James Theater in Iowa City, with local hardcore bands Psyop, True Commando, and Dose. The group has seen plenty of recent success following the release of their album “Post-American” in March of this year. On that record, they engineered a new, heavy sound using shredding, fuzzed-out electronic elements.  

I talked with the their berserk vocalist and front man Deedee as the band were driving to Omaha, Nebraska to start the headlining leg of their tour. Leading into the interview questions, we chatted about a house show that happened in Iowa City the night before, and about some people that we both knew. 

Interview has been edited for clarity.

Deedee of MSPAINT. Image via Brooklyn Vegan

Hattiesburg is a smaller college town like Iowa City, so what’s the music scene like there? 

It’s bands mostly composed of people who live there, who don’t have to commute back and forth. At least when I moved there in 2009, there weren’t a lot of bands touring, or who had a desire to do that. It was mostly about being in a really good band to play at bars. Over time though that would change with more people coming through. People would then go play where other bands were from. That shift is kind of when the scene grew to being an established respected part of the city. From then it’s grown, and now the Hattiesburg world is being perpetuated outside of itself. It’s fun to turn people on to being from a place that rightfully no one really comes to play, but that will change over time.  

Is there a lot of turn over with bands there since people are coming in and out of the college there? 

It’s definitely been a part of it. Like there’s an exchange program with the jazz school at the University of Southern Mississippi, like where there would be kids from São Paulo, Brazil who have bands before going off to other schools. I feel like what’s happening is the people who start bands end up just staying. It’s kind of cause there’s nowhere else for them to go in Mississippi.  

It’s like Hattiesburg is a bubble for the people in Mississippi.  

For sure. The closest thing to us is New Orleans, and that’s like an hour and a half away. There’s a lot of people who move to Hattiesburg as an in-between spot to decide if they want to go to a bigger city or not. The scene here is so small and so tight that when people get involved with it they lock in. 

Are there a lot of venues there that allow for that scene to happen? 

It comes and goes. There are some spots we would go to that are closed or some DIY spots have changed locations, like with house shows. We have a community arts center we do shows at too, but there’s not a venue for like mid-level rock bands that come from, but there’s a steady supply of people making places work out. 

Yeah, like here we have a place called Public Space One which is an old Victorian-era mansion they turned into a community arts center.  

I saw some videos of that shit, it looks crazy. When I saw it, I was like “That’s lit.”  

Since Hattiesburg is small, was it hard to find other people to play together with in a band? 

The cool thing about Hattiesburg is all the weirdos in the state end up there, so you end up finding people who want to do the same things you want to do. That’s the cool thing about it, is that the community aspect of it is very real. Because it is so small and there’s not much else to do you end up finding those people that are doing those weird things too. 

Image via The Fader

Did you know Nick, Quinn and Randy for a while before you guys got together in MSPAINT? 

Yeah, me and Randy have been in bands together, and me, Nick and Quinn have played music together, so it was kind of a meeting of everybody who wanted to play and record some music together, for fun. Now we’re all in a van driving to Omaha.  

I read before that you all started the band because you were all somewhat tired of the hardcore scene and wanted to do something new. What brought you guys to that realization? 

It wasn’t even that we were tired of the hardcore scene, it was more that we were tired of ourselves using the same instrument to write songs. It’s us exploring more song writing in general. Three fourths of the band were highly interested in guitars, so we’ve always been writing music that way. So, the intent was mostly musical to see what it would sound like without guitars, as a way to challenge ourselves, and have fun with something different.  

It’s not so much you were tired of the scene, but rather you were tired of the same sounding compositions.  

Yeah exactly. There’s no distinct sound where we’re from, and I think what’s cool about the band sounding so unique and refreshing, is that it doesn’t sound like one thing or one genre. It’s influenced by different veins. It’s a really fun thing to be a part of, and it’s cool to be supported by people who love seeing us being our weird selves. 

I saw you guys describe your genre as “post-modeM.” Where did that term come from? 

That was something that came from being goofy and not really thinking about it. It might’ve been something somebody else said when messing around. I can’t really reference where it’s from. It’s also part of an interesting concept to think about using what could be aging technology to create new stuff that sounds advanced. 

It’s kind of akin to the whole vaporwave aesthetic thing with bringing in old elements from like the 80’s and 90’s and trying to make something futuristic sounding with it. 

Yeah, for sure! 

I guess it’s way more intense and aggressive compared to the chilled-out vibe with vaporwave. 

It’s like a different spectrum of similar things. There’s the chill ambient version of electronic music, and then there’s the heavy aggressive side of it. It’s like the different emotions of it. But yeah, “post-modeM” is related to not really sounding like anything else, and being androgynous with where we get our sound, not trying to fit into any defined structure. 

MSPAINT’s “Titan of Hope” Music Video

Doing something new and novel has drawn in a lot of people and has caught their attention. Would you say MSPAINT has had a lot more success than previous bands you’ve been in? 

For sure, I think that between our first EP in March of 2020 and now is seeing more people listening to our band or coming up to us at shows. Then we put more energy into the band and people respect that and being interested in it. As far as other bands we’ve been in, they’ve never gotten the offers and opportunities we’ve gotten. We can appreciate them more now because of that. 

What are your guys’ thoughts and feelings on how quickly that success came? 

Definitely it has challenges for sure. It’s one of those things where we can recognize the positives and hardships with the things we have to learn and figure out on the fly because there aren’t really any other bands in our hometown that experience this type of touring and scheduling. It goes through challenges, but we embrace it. We have to look at ourselves and realize it’s a special opportunity. We maintain our energy as much as we can, and we can’t ignore it when something special is happening right in front of you though. 

With that, would the success even matter to you all, like if you only had traction in Hattiesburg, would you still be going for it? 

I think that’s what would’ve happened if nobody listened to it. We would’ve just done some shows when we wanted to, and maybe have done some tours with the homies that we know. The intent would’ve been the exact same. Let’s be in a band, and whatever that means, we’ll do it. Let’s have some band practices and do whatever. 

I can’t find lyrics for all your songs, but they seem revolutionary yet optimistic. What do you put into the lyrics? 

It’s definitely about trying to evoke the feeling that change isn’t scary. It’s something you can stand on and be proud of, and be empowered by, instead of it being something that throws us off. It seems overwhelming, but you’ve got to embrace that moment and feel powerful doing that.  

It’s like as the world is falling apart there’s still that drive to make it better, and beauty in it. 

Yeah, you got it. That’s exactly it.  

Image via The James Theater

What do you know about the Iowa City scene in general since you’ve been here before? 

It’s been a while since we’ve been there, but to me it reminds me of where we’re from. It’s like a smaller place where people usually don’t go to play shows. It’s like a place that you don’t see on a lot of tour flyers. I always kind of look at places like Iowa City, Springfield, Illinois or Chattanooga, Tennessee. They’re places that people totally could play at, but don’t really know anything about it. I feel like for us coming from such a small place, we see places like Iowa City, and places people don’t normally go to, we get drawn to them.  

I get that feeling being in Iowa City, you can feel isolated, but you still have this drive to make your community better and have it be a place that other people want to go to.  

Yeah, that’s why we come to places that remind us of Hattiesburg like Iowa City and such, because it’s kind of like trying to fight that feeling and help contribute to scenes there. Also, when we go around to different places more people hear about Hattiesburg, so it’s all about growing the scenes, and having more people getting involved. 

MSPAINT is headlining the show at The James Theater in Iowa City on June 2nd. You can listen to their new album “Post-American” on their Bandcamp page. You can also read a review of the album on the KRUI website here.