The quartet punk-rock band, MAMIS delve into contemporary political issues and create lyrics with heart-pounding sounds that pay homage to their collective roots. Read our interview with them below and be sure to see them perform at Cheer Up Charlie's in Austin on May 6th!
Hello Mamis, so glad to finally get a chance to feature you LADIES. Tell us a little bit about the band, its members, and how you all met
Lisa Limón: Thank you Tope. We’ve been together as MAMIS for about 1.5 years, but we’ve all known each other in different capacities - friends, organizing, music. Before MAMIS, Nikki and I were in another band, Sonoita. Some time ago I met Mimi at the Rhizome Collective where we both had radio shows for the People Will Radio. I met Ash through Nikki -- they were playing music together. I had known of Ash being a dj though, and had always wanted to meet. Something really magical happened to allow all of our paths to cross at this time, and it’s truly been uplifting.
Mimi Scabs: I originally met everyone years before we formed MAMIS through grassroots community organizing here in Austin. Both Lisa and Nicole were part of the Son Jarocho community, a space committed to learning traditional Mexican folk music from Veracruz, which I was deeply involved in for years in Austin. I met Ash through mutual friends while volunteering for a community collective that offered free childcare to low income women of color. All of my band mates have hearts of gold and our paths have crossed in multiple ways. I feel these connections naturally happened since we all strive to be politically conscious and manifest that through our daily lives and engagement in our communities.
Nice Nikki: With MAMIS I think we are very intentional about creating a safe, healthy environment for us to express ourselves and connect with others. We all bring different styles and influences to the table and our music reflects our individual identities as well as our collective dreams and visions. I consider the act of creating and sharing our music to be healing and cathartic and I feel super blessed to have ended up with such amazing bandmates! MAMIS is Ash (guitar), Lisa (drums), Naomi (vox) and me on bass.
Ash (Big Peach): To add to all that was wonderfully described above, I really think divine energy brought us all into each other's path. We are all super intelligent, spiritual, empathic humans. I think the further we move into the process that is MAMIS, the more we nurture a familial bond and really use our experiences to create a cathartic expression of ourselves, our emotions, and the challenge of harnessing creative energy. I think we challenge each other and definitely commit to upholding a dynamic that affirms each of our perspectives and encourages us to tap into the better versions of ourselves.
Mamis performs both in Spanish and English, what was the motivation behind that decision?
Mimi: Growing up on the US/MX border, and being part of multicultural communities, I feel singing in both English and Spanish comes natural to me. It can break down barriers to segregated racial spaces and allows us to engage with more folks. I also feel like it’s a way to honor my ancestors, acknowledge my roots and be proud of where I come from. Especially considering today’s current political climate, and how anti-immigrant and xenophobic our society is, I feel the importance of sharing culture without guilt or repression is important to the healing and progression of our communities and society at large.
Big Peach: I don’t speak Spanish well and actually am always looking for clarification and better understanding. But I also appreciate the opportunity that our songs give to non-Spanish speakers. I learn a lot of colloquialisms and metaphors and poetics, that I might not know otherwise. It is definitely a bridge and a symbiotic exchange. And just a general break from the English language is always refreshing and a very much needed break in the hegemonic Austin musical landscape.
Does Mamis stand for anything? If so, tell us the story behind the name.
Limón: I’m not quite sure how MAMIS came about, but I believe at one point we were saying Espiritu Mami or Mami Espiritu, then our practice space/home became known as Casa Espiritu, then MAMIS stuck for the band. It’s the spirit behind mother: birth, creativity, being humyn, expanding, nurturing, but in various manifestations -- physically, emotionally, to ourselves, to community. It’s also a vindication of the term “mami,” as in “hey sexy mami,” as a term of endearment, and a nickname for mother… and with our powers combined, we’re MAMIS! Lol.
Mimi: The word MAMIS to me represents mothering/caregiving, rebirth, growth, strength, survival and creation. I feel we’re reclaiming the word as a powerful indicator of resistance of the wombyn negating machismo/sexism/racism/xenophobia/classism/homophobia/anticapitalism/etc. We are tough MAMIS who are soft and kind but also loud and in yer face. Proud to be speaking light and speaking truth into this universe. As we like to say in our internal convos and music making sessions….we’re brewing MAMI Magic. Like sorcerer’s of our own light.
As female musicians in Austin (particular, female musicians of color in a band), how do you navigate the music world here. Is there anything you are conscious of or have experienced?
Nikki: We’ve been lucky to meet a lot of rad folks working to create safe and diverse shows and spaces in Austin, but most scenes are largely dominated by straight white dudes. It’s very common for female/femme musicians to be heckled, objectified, not be taken seriously, offered less money for gigs, treated differently than their male counterparts, or assaulted either verbally or physically. All of the above I have either experienced myself or had friends experience and it is something we have to be vigilant about calling out and combatting at shows and venues. We try to be conscious of who we are performing with / where we are playing so as not to support or perpetuate fucked up behavior and environments and try to support others who are doing the same.
Limón: Navigating the music world here has been interesting, particularly people’s reaction to a black and brown all womyn line up who express in English and Spanish. We’ve def been type casted, like an invite to play a Cinco de Mayo party (umm, thanks but no thanks). But it varies depending on the places and spaces we’re in. We’ve had a great response from folks who seem really inspired by our vibe and who we are. That part is really amazing. Sometimes, when I’m socializing and tell people I’m a drummer, they’ve asked, “are you good?” or “how long have you been playing?” It’s as if I’m being tested in a way that I don’t think men are, and these questions always come from men.
Mimi: I truly feel our music is healing to all communities (across races, languages, cultures) and can help to break the cycle of racially segregated music scenes in Austin. We as MAMIS are invested in creating safe spaces for women and people of color in Austin. This work is so important especially at this time; as undocumented peoples are being deported left and right, once black and brown native Austinites are being forcibly removed from their houses/communities due to gentrification and police brutality and the death of black/trans people in Texas, for example. MAMIS care about these issues because they are part of our personal lived experiences. We put our identities at the forefront and are not afraid to share our pain and struggle but also our joys and focus on healing ourselves and our communities.
How has Austin influenced your music and your profile as a band?
Limón: One thing that being in Austin has made me think about is how music/cultural work is valued. A lot of people really expect musicians to play for free (or basically free) and it seems that musical production/creation isn’t considered work or labor, but it is. Capital is being created for work that musicians produce, but how is that being distributed? Particularly for larger productions, festivals, and events that are organized by people with access to wealth.
Mimi: The community here is very open to hearing new music and there are so many venues to perform at and festivals to be part of that there’s never a dull moment. Austin audiences have been very receptive to our sound and overall vibe. People have approached me after our shows saying our sound and lyrics are “refreshing” and “inspiring”. I think we’re diversifying the scene and making it a little more dynamic and inclusive to more people.
Big Peach: You know Austin lacks a lot of musical variety. Yes, you can see live music anywhere in this town, but it’s not always great. And I think that comes down to accessibility as Austin musicians have been struggling for decades be it through housing, healthcare, or just access to decent paying gigs. I know a lot of musicians are looking to other Texas cities that are more advantageous for diverse musical acts. Houston, San Antonio, and RGV have all treated us really well.
Your music has a rockabilly/punk-rock vibe to it, how did this come about? And what is about the genre that appeals to you.
Mimi: I started going to rockabilly and punk shows back home (in El Paso where I’m from) when I was about 12 or 13. Rockabilly and punk have always been appealing genres to me since they are cultures that represent resistance. Rockabilly pachucas/os were supposed gangsters and threats to Anglo society in the 50s because their polished street/flashy fashion sense was flamboyant and threatened a racist culture. This paradigm still exists today. I think flamboyance shows pride and should never be restrained, policed or criminalized. Punk at it’s roots is the act of not giving a fuck about what others think of you and expressing yourself with no restraint, as long as it’s not hurting yourself or others. Punk to me is fiercely living as a liberated individual amidst the restraints of our mainstream, boring societal norms.
Nikki: I’m drawn to faster/heavier music because of how it makes me feel - powerful and free. I also like the idea of challenging traditional punk spaces which tend to be mostly white/male dominated. Growing up I would go to punk shows but they were definitely not always safe or inclusive. I’d like to think that we are making our music not just for ourselves, but for every woman/queer poc punker who has ever had to deal with racism or misogyny at shows or felt like they weren’t welcome in those spaces.
Big Peach: I think we are actively looking to self-define as zumba punk. I grew up listening to a lot of doowop, jazz, surf rock, riot grrl, post punk, and like hardcore stuff (Bad Brains, Subhumans, Crass). Punk music is totally derived from ska and reggae, and I feel that we get kind of lumped in with these genres. Stylistically, my guitar playing is definitely influenced by other international tropic grooves--lots of West-African and Southern American folk music, delta blues, afro jazz, highlife, chicha, cumbia, afrobeat, reggaeton, afrohouse, kuduro, and a lot of psych rock, krautrock, and African electronic experimental music of all varieties covering several landforms. And these genres are really more in alignment with my definition of “punk” because these folks were breaking a lot of rule sound, and complicating popular and traditional music culture in terms of song structuring, lyrical content, rhythm, key, and even production quality.
Frontera is one of our favorite tracks from you. What is the message or story behind this track?
Limón: Naomi wrote this song, so she can speak on it, but I really like this song too. It’s super fun to play, and for me it has come to mean a number of things around borders: physical barriers, our own and collective process of decolonization, and boundaries.
Mimi: Part of the lyrics to Frontera are taken from a traditional Mexican song called La Caña. The song focuses on the strength of peoples who live on the US/MX border, a militarized border zone. It refers to key border symbols such as “nopal, sangre, migra, muerte, mujer libre, raza fuerte” in English translates to “cactus, blood, border patrol, death, freed woman, strong people”. The song’s chorus “Mi cuerpo, mi derecho” means “My body, my choice (right)”. Touching on the importance of consent/repro health, as well as the importance of allowing people to be autonomous, happy, healthy life free of violence and criminalization.
Big Peach: I also think about Frontera as a song that can be applied to reproductive justice and consent in general.
Are there any upcoming gigs or new records coming from the band we should look out for?
Mimi: Yeah! We’re playing for Cine Las Americas/Cine Sin Fronteras at Cheer Up Charlie’s on May 6th. We also have plans of releasing an album in the upcoming months and talking about the possibility of shooting our first music video.
Big Peach: We are going to be at ABGB on May 20th and looking to build up an ep/record of some sort in the near future.