California-based and female-fronted band Mama Said recently caught my attention with their newest single “Diamonds & Cigarettes” – a delicious earworm of a track that immediately gives off Fleetwood Mac vibes. Produced by Jim McGorman (Goo Goo Dolls, Weezer, Gwen Stefani), “Diamonds & Cigarettes” opens with the shimmering note of an ’80s synth and the light tap of a bass before diving headlong into a retro-classic rock soundscape, blending a deep nostalgia with a modern-pop edge and creating what the group dubs a “new classic rock.”
Needless to say, I was super keen to find out more about this group, the inspiration behind the song, and learn what it’s leading up to… and they were kind enough to sit down for an interview. Read below for more insight from band members Latifa Reeves, Jennifer Knight, Derek Bromley.
Before we dive into the new release, I have to know… how did you come up with the name for your band ‘Mama Said’?
Derek: “It’s got a few meanings…first is a nod to our musical influences. We’re GenX’ers, and came of age during the Classic Rock revival that happened in the late ’80s/early ’90s, just before grunge broke. Lenny Kravitz’s second album of the same name was hugely impactful, and also happened to be a name that works well for a band fronted by two rockin’’ moms.”
Jen: “Yeah, we’ve got 7 kids between us. We’re moms and we’re a little bossy.”
How would you describe your sound to listeners who have never heard it before?
Derek: “We call our music New Classic Rock—rooted in the elements that made that genre great, with some modern touches that make the music relevant today. Saturated, guitar-driven riffs over a rock solid rhythm section, soaring solos, and layered arrangements summarize our instrumental approach. Our sound is also unique in that we are fronted by two female vocalists who trade leads and harmonize off each other, often within the same verse or chorus. Our producer Jim McGorman was struck by Jen and Latifa’s singing together, how their vibratos sync up, to the point where it is sometimes hard to tell where one voice ends and the other begins.”
Latifa: “Singing in harmony is definitely important to us. When Jen and I met it was something we connected around right away. We both love singing harmonies and our voices blend in a really satisfying way.”
The new release “Diamonds & Cigarettes” has a very retro feel…. very reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac. Is that representative of your overall vibe/influences as a band?
Derek: “Fleetwood Mac was a huge influence. While this song is on the more ballady side of our overall sound, it does capture the retro/modern vibe we are going for with the ’80s-style keyboard enhancing the riff, the blues-based lead lines creating and releasing tension over an otherwise pop-oriented arrangement, with the more modern percussive elements…”
Jen: “To me, it has a very ‘Pretty in Pink’ vibe. Like it could be in the bins at Trax Records. Ducky and Andie would totally love this song, haha.”
What is “Diamonds & Cigarettes” about or what was it inspired by?
Derek: “The tension of our own past ‘opposites attract’ relationships was the inspiration behind this song. Lyrically, we had fun exploring unlikely combinations and the visuals they evoked—love by a thousand cuts, dancing on quicksand—the joy/elation/fulfillment undercut by the unstable foundation, sense of foreboding, and deeper knowledge that this won’t likely last.”
What’s your favorite lyrical line in the song? Why?
Latifa: “‘A sad song skips again’ I love the image of a record skipping to represent how we stay in the same situation, unable to break out of a familiar rut.”
Jen: “‘Some say that this is love by a thousand cuts’… ‘A thousand cuts’ can really undermine boundaries. Like if someone came up and slashed you with a knife you’d be hellbent to say F$#@ off. But when someone comes around and loves you in a way that really lights you up, then leaves you with just a little cut…you tolerate it and justify it and sometimes come to even crave the pain to feel more alive. It’s not the healthiest love, lol, but probably relatable.”
This single is supposedly a tease to your forthcoming EP…. what kinds of songs and messages can fans expect to hear?
Derek: “Song-wise, we’ve got a range of sounds from the pop-influenced vibes of ‘Diamonds & Cigarettes’ and ‘Gimme’ to rockers like ‘Change In The Weather’ and ‘The Needle,’ some mid-tempo grooves like ‘My Kind of Crazy’ (our next release), and even a stripped-down acoustic number called ‘Down to the River.’”
Latifa: “This album was written during the pandemic and political stuff going on. We felt drawn to themes of hope, the human spirit, and the power of love in all of its forms, but most importantly its power to bring us together.”
Jen: “Yeah, love and unity. It’s been said a million times in a million ways, and we’re adding our voices too, because it’s important. We’re looking for a tipping point for when we can all just be more tolerant, more loving, more unified. We want our music to reflect that optimism, seeing through differences and making connections, building bridges.”
Creating music during the pandemic has been challenging for everyone…. what was the most challenging aspect for you?
Jen: “Well with live music shut down we had to decide how the band was going to keep moving forward. One of the ‘Covid silver linings’ was the dedicated time we got to spend writing and recording together. Our producer, Jim, plays keys and backing vocals for the Goo Goo Dolls, so we got to take advantage of the break in his touring schedule. We just Covid tested a lot! The biggest challenge is not being able to play live as much as we’d like.”
Latifa: “Yeah, and cancellations. We’ve had a lot of shows cancelled due to Covid. But we feel good about what’s coming!”
How do you think the pandemic ultimately shaped this new EP? Did it change anything or do you think you would have made the same EP regardless?
Latifa: “100% the pandemic shaped this EP. I’m not sure we would have slowed down enough to write and record a whole album if it weren’t for Covid. We started out writing and recording 5 songs, but as the pandemic marched on and live music still wasn’t happening, we went in and recorded 5 more. Adversity made that happen.”
What can fans expect next from Mama Said?
Derek: “More singles, shows and festivals around NorCal…we’re excited to get out there and rock with people!”
Jen: “Hugs. Lots of hugs.”😜