The Mantras: A Transformative Sound
photography by John Powell
The Mantras are a band on the rise. Over the past six years, they have developed a devoted fanbase in their home state of North Carolina and are now emanating outwards, playing to new faces and leaving none of them un-melted.
In mid-February, the band kicked of its “first major tour” with a sold out show at The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC, opening for the one and only Umphrey's McGee. After the Charlotte show, they embarked on their first trip through the northeast, opening for Dopapod in Boston, Burlington, Providence, and New York City.
The two bands would then work their way down to Saint Cloud, Florida's Aura Music Festival (with the Mantras headlining the southern dates). Comprised of Keith Allan (guitar), Justin Loew (drums), Justin Powell (keyboards), Brian Tyndall (bass), and Brent Vaughn (percussion), The Mantras are probably most reminiscent of prog-jam acts like Umphreys, but have a sound that is uniquely their own; a sound that is ultimately unclassifiable.
Justin Powell and Keith Allan sat down to discuss the state of the Mantras before the Burlington date, a show in which the band touched often on their jazz, metal, electronic, and Middle Eastern influences, jamming often and rocking always.
You’re from down south, but not way down.
Keith Allan: Right in the middle. Right near Greensboro, which is kind of right in the middle of North Carolina, which is kind of right in the middle of the Eastern seaboard.
Where do you play around your hometown?
Keith: We stick to the five major markets in that area: Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilmington, and Asheville, and we maximize on the populations of those places. That’s our steady rotation, but we’ve been booking a lot more out, traveling more.
Justin Powell: We’re on the second leg of our first major tour. We started up to Chicago, with dates in Ohio, Kentucky, and took a week or two off and took a trip up here with our good friends Dopapod. They’re killer.
When did you first meet Dopapod? I noticed you have a similar sound with some of the electronica stuff going on.
Keith: They played our hometown venue, with Blind Tiger. Before that they were touring with the Josh Phillips Folk Festival- good friends of ours. They’re on Mantrabash as well. At first we just did a show trade with them. We’ve been constantly trying to find bands on a similar level to tour with, not do one offs, but combine momentum. It all fell into place.
Have you done any dates with people that don’t work out?
Keith: Oh, yeah. Luckily, not too many.
Justin: It becomes water under the bridge.
Keith: My first band in high school, we played with a band one time. Their set was done, and we tried to get them to stop several times, and the drummer was the only attention we could get. Finally, after two songs we said, “You need to stop.” He took his drumsticks, threw them over the drum set, and stormed off. [Laughs]
Justin: We’re all out here to make music, man. Music, for me, is to cross boundaries and talk to people.