Mulholland were Stan Smith (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) and Ann Dunford (harmony vocals, fiddle, mandolin).
Below is the description of the band, now sadly no more. Ann died on the 2nd April 2018 from a lung condition (IPF) that she had been living with for the last couple of years. You can find out more about the condition and donate towards research into preventing it here.
Mulholland bring their own take on acoustic rootsy Americana with their close harmonies and well-crafted, bittersweet songs. Their influences reach back to the heyday of singer songwriters in the 60/70s and since forming as a duo in 2015 they have firmly established themselves as part of the York music scene. They have been busy performing regularly with gigs all over the UK and, amongst others, they have supported Cale Tyson [USA], Charlie Parr [USA] and The Hot Seats [USA].
Their first album, North Country, was released at Easter 2016 to critical acclaim as was the single and video Black Feathers which was filmed in Belfast and on the Antrim coast.
Taking some time out ahead of the launch of their debut album 'North Country' we catch up with York based duo Mulholland.
Recently featured in our Introducing series, we find out a little bit more about the band, influences, song writing , debut album 'North Country ', views on the music industry and much, much more:
How and when did the band originally form?
We played our first gig as a duo called Mulholland on July 4th 2015, Independence Day. Up until then Mulholland had been a five piece band and the two of us had played as a duo under various guises – Kettle of Fish, Ghost of Electricity or just Stan & Ann.
What's the story behind the band's name?
We were looking for a name that evoked a notion of the type of music we were looking to play which was always going to be influenced by the sounds of the west coast of United States in the 60/70s. We settled on Mulholland as a reference to Mulholland Drive (although Ann wanted Roadkill Café :-) ). As well as the title of a very cool/stylish David Lynch movie, it’s a road that winds its way along the hills overlooking LA and looking down over the city. There’s also a line in a Tom Petty song, 'Free Fallin'', “I wanna glide down over Mulholland, I wanna write her name in the sky”.
Having started off as a covers band was it always intended you would release original material at some stage?
Yes, though none of the band were particularly prolific when it comes to writing. John, the bass player had written a lot of music over the years prior to joining and Stan had written a few bits but we were all coming at it from new really, even though we weren’t twenty-somethings.
Mulholland as a 5 piece band released first original material on 'Ghosts & Shadows' EP in 2014. Debut release was very well received so it was a surprise when the group was disbanded in 2015. Why did the band spilt?
By then we’d been together for about three years and had developed a particular style focussed around showcasing the musicianship of the individual players. The other guys were happy to move forward along that path (and have formed a new seven piece band, Kan0Wurmz). The two of us were looking for a simpler, more stripped back sound. We’d also started writing the songs that would become North Country and they didn’t seem to fit with the sound of the band as it was then.
Who are your favourite bands and musicians? Influences?
Stan - Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams
Ann - The Civil Wars, Jason Isbell, Rachel Ries, Dan Lucas, Chris Stapleton, Carole King
How would you describe your music and sound?
We badge it as alt-country but it’s basically two voices, a guitar and fiddle producing folky/country/rootsy sounds.
What is your usual songwriting process?
Ann has notebooks full of lyrics and Stan, recordings of snippets of tunes. The two get fitted together and then reworked and reworked till a song comes out the end.
Where does the inspiration for songs come from?
Ann: Some of them have been based on personal experiences, others tell stories and deal with themes. Sometimes I just hear a great phrase or come across an idea and a song gets built around that.
Your debut album 'North Country' is released on 25th March 2016. What is the story, background and inspiration for this collection of songs?
Well the title of the album is a reference to where we are located and the type of music on the album but also referencing the North Country in the US where Bob Dylan comes from c/f 'Girl From The North Country'.
You could say that this is an album of themes – York, unfulfilled dreams, secret lives, love, loss, fractured relationships, wanderlust, redemption, but the songs weren’t written that consciously.
One thing we did want to achieve was coherence in the musical style so the choice of instruments was really important. That’s why we have (amongst others) dobro, country guitar, upright bass and mandolin as well as fiddle and guitar.
What have you got planned for the launch of your 'North Country' album?
We have a gig at the Basement on the 25th March where we will be starting the night with the premier of the video we filmed for one of the songs 'Black Feathers'. Then we have two of our favourite York bands joining us. Both duos – The Bronze and The Lungs. After that we’ll be playing all of the songs off the album with a lot of the musicians who played on the album.
As individuals –
Stan: probably a folk club somewhere on the Wirral in the early 70s.
Ann: with Mulholland at the Victoria Vaults in 2012. Before that school orchestras and choirs with a break of many years in between.
As the five piece Mulholland – the Victoria Vaults in York in February 2012
As the current Mulholland duo – in 2015 we played at the New Ebor Street festival on Parliament Street in York. We’re back there when it has its May festival at the York Railway Institute
Most memorable gig(s)?
Stan: The Troubadour Club in London. The place where Bob Dylan played when he first came over to England in 1962
Ann: Our Neil Young birthday gig in November 2015 at The Basement in York. We had some great local musicians playing, but what really made the night was the Hands & Voices choir from Accessible Arts & Media. The gig was to raise funds for them and they just added to what was a fantastic night. We’ll be putting on another gig for them in November this year at The Crescent in York.
The Basement (York), Furley & Co (Hull), Pavilion Café (Whitby), Hootenanny (Inverness) and The Troubadour Club (London)
York has many extremely talented musicians creating a very strong and diverse music scene. Do you think this is typical of what is going on throughout the country or is there something very special happening in York?
From what we’ve seen York is very different from other similar sized towns/cities. It has the range/quality of places much bigger. The great thing about it is how small it feels, you can walk between venues/gigs and bump into musician friends. Always thought it is like Greenwich Village must have been like in the 60s.
As musicians how important is it to have an online presence? How do you use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter?
It’s essential for us as we want to gig and get our music across the country and beyond. We’ve found that the main benefit of Facebook etc though is networking with other musicians rather than expanding our ‘fanbase’. A great online presence means you can be based anywhere in the country and still spread your wings to pretty much all over.
The internet has changed the landscape of the music industry and made it easier for musicians to record and make their music available. Do you see this as a positive thing?
The internet is fantastic for communication/networking, gaining information on where to play etc. and making your music visible. It has effectively killed off the music industry as was though. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, depends on what, if anything, replaces it.
What do you think about online music sharing services such as Spotify?
Great from a music listener’s perspective. Terrible from a musician’s one trying to make a living out of their music.
Music format of choice - CD, digital or vinyl?
Stan: CD. Good to have the thing in your hands. I was never good with vinyl, all my records ended up scratched.
Ann: I have to confess I hardly had any vinyl so CD and digital for me – I work from home so it’s great to play the music I love while working
What was the first and most recent music you bought?
Stan: First was probably a Beatles single. I don’t buy or listen to music much anymore. I replay the ones I know in my head most of the time though. If I do buy a CD it is usually by an unsigned musician/band who I’ve seen.
Ann: Do I have to confess to this one? My first single (I think) was the theme to The Persuaders (1970s TV show with Roger Moore & Tony Curtis)! Most recent ‘Traveller’ by Chris Stapleton and ‘Cardinal – the Rouen EP’ by Rachel Ries.
What was the last gig you went to as a music fan?
Last gig we went to was Rachel Ries in York. A brilliant singer/songwriter.
On the fan side of thing -
Stan: Bob Dylan in Blackpool a couple of years back
Ann: last year Fleetwood Mac in Leeds
Highlight(s) in music so far?
Stan: Releasing our first album and now two music videos we’re really proud of.
Ann: Writing songs that I never knew I had in me.
Plans and ambitions for 2016 and beyond?
We’re taking a little break in April and then will be back gigging all around the country. We’re currently trying to put together a small tour of Germany and Denmark for later in the year and hopefully we’ll make it over to Nashville in 2017.
"The authentic sound of a band stripped down to its acoustic core."A thrilling set from a duo that is really hitting its stride" York Mix
"Mulholland paint the picture of America’s heartland." "Put this record on, close your eyes, and banish the last of the winter blues" York Calling
"Wonderful" HonkyTonk Radio Show