Pop-punkers Mulligrub find catharsis from old grudges on debut LP

By Julijana Capone
Left to right, Mulligrub are Kelly Campbell, J. Riley Hill and Mirella Villa. Photo: Eric Roberts

Left to right, Mulligrub are Kelly Campbell, J. Riley Hill and Mirella Villa.
Photo: Eric Roberts

CALGARY — Grunge-y pop-punk outfit Mulligrub aren’t the type of band to let an old grudge die. On their debut album, Soft Grudge, vocalist/guitarist and lead songwriter Kelly Campbell delivers angst-ridden, autobiographical songs, drawing from an amalgam of resentments and regrets.

The band—also composed of bassist Mirella Villa and drummer J. Riley Hill— mostly focuses on the experiences of Campbell, whose confessional style of songwriting and affection for ‘90s grunge-sounds, hearkens back to the open-book musings of artists, like Liz Phair, and contemporaries Waxahatchee and Swearin’.

From the most revealing lovelorn track “Anyways However,” regarding a past relationship, to “Man on the Moon,” in which Campbell laments a butt tattoo that never came to be, all of the songs, she says, are “super personal.”

Perhaps, the heaviest though, is “Europe,” about a friend of Campbell’s who turned out to be a sexual predator. “I was sad and confused because that’s not how I thought of him at all,” Campbell recalls. “He was a safe space kind of person for me, and then when that happened he just ran away from any kind of accountability, both physically and emotionally. It was kind of a cathartic thing for me to write that song.”

It could be said that Soft Grudge is an album about dealing with the complexities of broken relationships. “It’s being nostalgic, but also really bitter about the shitty things that happened,” Campbell adds. “You have these really bad feelings, but you also still remember the good ones, so it’s hard to have a pure grudge.”

Formed in 2013, the band initially started with friends Campbell and Hill before Villa came on board. Hill is known in music circles as a solo artist, and for his work as a producer and engineer, having recorded releases by Winnipeg acts Living Hour, Basic Nature and The Zorgs, to name a few.

Villa cut her teeth in a one-off punk band formed through Not Enough Fest (NEF), a festival that supports the participation of woman-identified, queer, trans and non-binary individuals who want to get into music.

“I always wanted to be in a band, but was always really nervous and shy about it—just intimidated by the scene,” says Villa. “Not Enough Fest made me more ambitious and confident.”

After seeing Mulligrub play as a two-piece at a house show, Villa says she had to be in the band. “I was like, ‘I love your band. This is the best band I’ve seen in a long time,’” she remembers. “Then Kelly and Riley asked if I wanted to be in it. I bought a bass and have just learned to play by ear.”

Inspired by NEF, Campbell was also one of the organizers behind Cootie Club, “a project responding to the low visibility of women and non-binary people in music in Winnipeg,” according to their Facebook page, which allowed for some underrepresented people to play their first shows in a safe, supportive space.

“I started it with some friends and got too busy to keep up with it, but I hope to keep doing it again,” Campbell says. “There was never really huge attendance, but I thought it was really important for the people that went, and the people that played went on to play more shows.”

While her work with Cootie Fest is community-based, Campbell says as a songwriter she mainly writes for herself. Even still, she hopes that her music is able to make a connection with others.

“If anyone can connect with my own experiences, then I’m into that,” she says.

Mulligrub perform at Broken City on May 8 (Calgary), Vinyl Envy on May 13 (Victoria), Fratters on May 18 (Red Deer), and The Almanac on May 19 (Edmonton). To purchase and hear more of Mulligrub’s tunes, head to their Bandcamp page.

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