The Mowgli's strive for a positive vibe

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

The chart-topping hit "San Francisco" brought the Mowgli's national exposure, but it was also the song that brought a longtime group of schoolmates and friends together to form the band in the first place.

Five of the seven members of the alt-rock band, which plays the Shelter tonight, grew up in the same Los Angeles suburb and attended school together as children. As adults, they began playing in each other's bands and opening shows for each other, joined by future Mowglis Colin Louis Dieden and Josh Hogan, who arrived in southern California via Oklahoma City. But when Diedan and former Mowgli Michael Vincze penned the now-ubiquitous "San Francisco" in 2009, the group finally coalesced as a real unit.

"They just wrote it, not for the Mowgli's, because the Mowgli's didn't exist," says vocalist and percussionist Katie Jayne Earl. "The band kind of started as a means of telling that song."

Earl says it was almost immediately evident that in "San Francisco," the band had something big on its hands.

"We'd go and play these shows and by the time we got to the end of the show and 'San Francisco,' everybody was dancing and everybody was moving," she says.

Three years on from the studio release of their big hit, the Mowgli's are preparing to debut their third full-length, "Kids in Love." Earl says the band didn't attempt to "chase" the sound of "San Francisco." She says the band aimed for high-energy songwriting.

"We definitely wanted to make an album that was going to be really fun to play live."

One running theme is the word and concept of "love" — more in the sense of universal brotherhood than in a romantic context. But positivity and togetherness aren't just slogans for the band. Earl says the band's philosophy arose out of youthful anger about social ills. The group has used its shows to organize fundraisers, food drives and, in one case, a diaper drive for Happy Bottoms, a Kansas City diaper bank.

Earl says she wishes the group could do even more.

"I think there's a lot of anxiety and frustration that people feel when they're young and they start coming to terms with a lot of the social injustices in the world," she says. "I think there's this hunger to do something about it, and the Mowgli's is kind of our answer to that. We thought if we put a little positivity in the world… then that'll circle out and people will be inspired to be nicer to each other."

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

The Mowgli's

with Hippo Campus and Night Riots

6 tonight

The Shelter

431 E. Congress, Detroit

Tickets $16

(313) 961-8961