Mama Lion had all the characteristics my ears had been searching for: a jaw full of sharp guitars, a soft, Patti Smith-like growl, and a wardrobe of psychedelic, ‘70s melodies. It took only a second, but after our first audio introduction on the ol’ Web, I knew I needed to hear her again. Typing up an email or two, I mustered up the courage and asked Mama Lion— who’ll be performing Mon/22 at El Rio and Tues/23 at Retox Lounge— out to dinner— all three of them.
I showed up at the restaurant, Pakwan, a Pakistani Indian joint in the Mission, promptly at six-thirty, still a little sweaty from my bike ride there. Mama Lion members, Hannah Frances Healy, Victor Mitrani and Gabe Gipe, met me by the counter a few moments later and we all ordered our chosen items for the anticipated feast. I went for the spinach and lentil combo and Mama Lion picked out an assortment of steamy mushy items that looked strange and smelled amazing.
During the hour that followed, conversation flowed without effort, the nan was devoured, we laughed, I cried (only a little on the inside as I fought off the spiciness of my meal) and when the bowls were left in a stain of reds and browns, not only was my stomach satisfied, but the four of us had really managed to have a successful first date. Even without the goodbye kiss or a promise to call, Mama Lion and I covered all first date bases.
The members of Mama Lion all grew up in the same San Diego school district and Mitrani and Frances Healy started a band together in high school. The three of them went to different colleges, but when they all relocated to San Francisco, the band was born.
Frances Healy (vocals, guitar) is a dog walker, or as I see it, a canine chauffer/soccer mom combo. She drives around the city, picking up dogs in a van and takes them to Golden Gate Park. Mitrani (guitar) went to school for accounting but is totally not down for a nine-to-five in the profession, so he’s been doing maintenance work. Gipe (drums) is still a student, dreaming about one day becoming a history teacher, currently feeding the bank account with PT jobs at Apple and Starbucks.
Mama Lion thinks it’s pretentious to say their sound is ‘unclassifiable’, but they’re also not comfortable with pinpointing a specific genre. Somewhere under the indie-blanket, the band takes direction from their old school influences: strong guitar attitude from Sonic Youth and the Pixies and more mellow tones from Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel.
When Mama Lion was young, the band took on whatever gig they could find, meaning they ended up in some odd, very quiet spaces. A performance at the former Green Earth Café turned out to be the opening act for a group of belly dancers, shocking the crowd of little old ladies drinking tea.
Mitrani is a “Riot Grrrl at heart—a riot boi?” While writing his guitar parts, Mitrani imagine he’s pissed off, hanging out in a parking lot with a bunch of feisty ladies. Frances Healy was an anthropology major and likes to analyze people and situations in her lyrics. Gipe gets angry before putting together his drum part and puts himself in the mood to hurt something, like overly picky Starbucks customers.
Looking for a new musical love interest yourself? Mama Lion plays two intimate shows this week.
Mon/22, 7pm, $8
3158 Mission, SF
628 20th St, SF
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