A few weeks ago, in one of those serendipitous connections in life, I met Dune Butler at a friend’s wedding in Seattle. In a long conversation about a lot of things, we discovered we had several friends in common (insert small world comment here). I also learned that his band, General Mojo’s, had played in Richland several times and would be back for Tri Town Get Down. I wish I hadn’t missed those earlier gigs. After listening to some of General Mojo’s recordings, I couldn’t wait to talk to Dune more about his band and his next visit to the Tri-Cities.

Ted: This will be a return visit for General Mojo’s. Tell me about your experience last year at the inaugural Get Down. How did you get involved and what was it like being part of a festival like this?

Dune: Last year was a great time. We’ve been working the Tri-Cities area for a couple of years now and we had a little buzz around us, enough to get us into the first Get Down. However, I think we took a lot of people by surprise, which is what we always shoot for. We exploded onto the Emerald stage for a midday set which drew a lot of people in, including the festival organizers. We spent the rest of the day running around catching other acts, doing photoshoots, answering interviews, and meeting other artists and promoters. The whole scene was electric; it felt like everyone was stoked to be part of this new event and really excited to have us there. We became tight with Caleb who spearheaded the Get Down, and we’ve since taken him on as management. He was really excited about bringing us back for Tri Town this year and getting us on a bigger stage. Apparently, we were one of only a handful of acts that the Get Down committee selected to have back.

I love your music. It reminds me of some classic early rock style, but with your own sound. What are your sources of music inspiration? What is your writing process like?

Well first off, thanks for digging it! The classic rock style will always prevail in our music, but we draw on sounds all across the board. More contemporary acts that heavily influence us include Tame Impala, St. Vincent, Temples, Melody’s Echo Chamber, and Janelle Monae. All of these acts have some flair of ‘Neo-psychedelia’ which is at the root of our sound. Usually when I write a tune, I’ll have an idea kicking around my head, and when I sit down to work it out, I’ll spend anywhere from 8–16 hours creating a demo, getting all the ideas out. I believe my best work comes out in one sitting rather than breaking it up over time. That demo then gets taken to the band and we work together to arrange it for the group. As we start to work the tune into our live set, it usually undergoes another round of changes as we see how the audience reacts to it and how the energy carries in the set.

I know you play with several bands; we’ll get to some of that in a minute. First, tell me about the origins of General Mojo’s. How long have you been together?

Oh boy.... Well General Mojo’s has basically been the title of the project I’ve been leading for about a decade. It started out as a very prog-jazz fusion project that I put together with some colleagues I met at UW. At that time, we were all working musicians, playing in lots of different projects, and really working as hired guns. General Mojo’s was this sort of side project that we turned our attention to when we could. It was also more experimental and instrumentally focused, with the largest ensemble utilizing two drummers. Over the years our priorities all shifted. It became clear to me that I wanted to make the band my life and really go for it, hit the road touring as much as possible, making the project a priority over anything else. Around that time, I was also really starting to find myself as a singer and performer in a way I never had before. This was not the case for the rest of the crew who were being pulled in different directions, one of them moving to New York to pursue a career in jazz, for example.

About a year and a half ago, the band was reborn with the current lineup.

General Mojo’s. Photos courtesy of the band.

Who are the other band members

The current line up has Raoul Hardin on drums, David James on guitar, Natalie Colvin on keys, and me on bass. All of us contribute lead vocals and write for the band. We’re also all consummate performers, which has elevated our live show significantly. On stage we feed off each other so well. If you’ve seen our live set, then you know what I’m talking about. This lineup came about, initially, to fulfill some gig obligations for the summer of 2022. Raoul and I knew each other through the Seattle music scene, David sat in with the band for the first time at Burning Man, and Natalie and I met a few years ago when she had me produce some of her solo material. We started playing together and it was immediately clear that we had some seriously special chemistry. However, it really might as well be a new band. The vibe is entirely different from the old version of Mojo’s, which I think was a necessary change. We also all share similar goals of wanting to make performing our life.

You’ve had a number of releases as General Mojo’s over the years. How do you think your music has evolved?

I think the songwriting has gotten much better. When I first started writing for the band, the music was more experimental and focused more on jamming. Over the years, I’ve just written more and more and become more assured in myself as a writer. Writing is a muscle and I’m a firm believer in the iterative process. So, the more I’ve written the more I feel like I have a story to tell.

You and Natalie are also performing at Get Down as the duo Bedroom Eyes. How did that project come about?

Natalie and I really work well together as creators. We both have our own backgrounds that I think really complement each other, and we’re both willing to ‘go there’ in the sense of trying just about anything. The project came about when we came home from a Mojo’s gig all jacked up and high on life. We started kicking around this phrase “Hammerhead Handouts” and quickly set to work on writing our first collaborative tune, which we stayed up until dawn working out. From there we decided that we needed another outlet to chase the ‘bedroom art-pop’ sound that became Bedroom Eyes.

Dune, you’re involved in a lot of music in the Seattle area. Where else can fans hear you play?

I do the occasional one-off gig here and there, but as far as performances, I work in a cover band called Herding Cats that plays every Sunday at the Lime in Kirkland.

I also work in the studio a fair amount, mainly at Bear Creek in Woodinville. You can hear me on records out of there from the likes of Jonah Kagen, Zach Bryan, Prentiss, and a whole bunch more.

I also wrote and produced a few tunes for a movie starring Orlando Bloom and Andie MacDowell called Red Right Hand under the moniker ‘up & over’. Natalie contributed some vocals to this, as well.

Anyone else in the band also performing as a solo at the festival?

Yes! David James and Natalie Colvin!

Where is General Mojo’s music headed?  Tell me about your next release?

We are currently sitting on a concept record called The Flat Earth Project. The story loosely follows a woman who is killed during a protest but is brought back to life in non-physical form using her social media accounts. It includes features from Marshall of the Marshall Law Band, Kate Dinsmore, and Hector Tellez Jr.

What are you most looking forward to at the Tri Town Get Down?

Playing outside in the lovely eastern Washington sun! And running around with all of our Tri-Town friends.

You’ve played at the Emerald a few times, and we are both huge fans of Dara Quinn and her amazing support to our local music community. Any plans to return again before the festival?

We’ve been tossing around a few dates, but it’s looking like we may not be back to the Emerald until sometime later this summer. 

Anything else you want our readers to know about you or the band?

We appreciate sooooo much all of y’all’s support as we give this thing a shot. I know I speak for the whole band when I say going out and performing absolutely fills our souls, and we’re hopeful for the road ahead of us. We have so much music we can’t wait to share with you. We’ve only just begun.... 

Find General Mojo’s at generalmojos.com with links to their socials and Spotify. See them live at Tri Town Get Down June 7–9.

Ted Miller has been part of the local performing arts scene for over 25 years. He currently serves on the board of the Washington State Community Theatre Association.