Curtis Heimburger (Mom Rock) – The BIRN Interview

Founded during their first year at Berklee College of Music, Mom Rock is a lively alternative rock group influenced by bands like Weezer, Talking Heads and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Recently hitting over 333,000+ streams on Spotify and quickly winning over a dedicated following, they’re climbing to success quicker than ever. 

Today, we’re chatting with Mom Rock’s founding member and the BIRN’s station manager Curtis Heimburger, about the story behind Mom Rock’s formation, the scoop on Boston’s underground music scene, and exciting new projects coming up. 

Curtis, congratulations on Mom Rock’s singles “Conversation” and “Grand Romantic Life” reaching over 100K Spotify streams! Can you tell us a bit about how you met the other members of Mom Rock, and what led up to you guys working together? 

Thank you so much! Well at the beginning of my first semester, there was an impromptu jam session in the basement of the 270 Commonwealth Dorms. We were going around the room playing songs we knew and somehow we started playing an Alabama Shakes tune. I was really into them at the time and so was Josh Polack who had been standing next to me playing guitar. So, we connected that way and would see each other and talk at the cafeteria a bunch. After we got back from Christmas break and had started our 2nd semesters, Josh and I were chatting and he said he’d talked to a drummer, Wilson Reardon, about setting up a jam and wanted me to come. After that initial practice we decided we wanted to meet up again and tentatively agreed on trying to form a band. We later recruited our first bass player Miguel Aragon who played with us for our first few shows from March until May when we all had to part ways for the summer. Before the summer ended, he told us he wanted to leave the band so that he could pursue other musical endeavors. So, we’re once again bass-less. At the start of our 3rd semester, we held auditions to find a new bass player and Josh had mentioned he’d recently reconnected with an old friend and bandmate, Tara Maggiulli, who he had invited to audition. Right away we knew we wanted her in the band and a year later, here we are!

Why did you decide to call yourselves “Mom Rock”? 

Well when we were trying to come up with a name, we were trying to go for something that sounded cool. I had come up with a few names and among them was Mom Rock, which was definitely the odd one out. But Wilson, Miguel, and I, half joking and half serious, wanted to name the band that. Josh was hesitant at first but later admitted he’d really come around to liking the name. We see it as a way to thank all moms, but our moms especially, for all the hard work they did raising us and the work they still put in day to day. Plus, we wanted to take the spotlight off Dad Rock for a while.

What were your initial expectations for Mom Rock, if you had any? Did you ever foresee the success you’re currently experiencing?  

I wouldn’t say I had any expectations going into it. I just knew that I wanted to be playing shows as well as writing and recording music again. I never would’ve thought we’d be where we are at all! I couldn’t be more grateful for our fans and friends who attend every show and listen to our music.

Can you describe the (literal) underground music scene in Allston, for those who have never been to a basement show? Do you perform those basement shows differently from more traditional concerts at venues? 

Well, every year when college kids move out of their dorms, most will find two or three friends to split apartment rooms throughout the Boston area. But some will get about 8-10 people to go in on a house together and will use their basement for house shows. Within the year, the venues grow in popularity and have show’s every other, if not every weekend. When the leases are up, the scene resets and we get a new set of venues. Some of course renew their leases or just move houses and keep the name, but for the most part it’s ever changing which is what makes it so exciting. The scene is a win win win situation; people get the chance to go see their friends play as well as listen to new bands for cheap, Bands get a local venue to play at where they know people will attend all the while getting paid, and the venue takes a cut of the door to help with rent or utilities. I think every city/town should have a system like this. Getting shows at bars and clubs isn’t easy when you’re just starting out and having a good place to play can help get anyone’s feet off the ground. As for our performance, it’s definitely where we feel most comfortable. But since we like to move around a lot, it can feel pretty cramped. No matter what though it’s the same moves, same songs, and same energy!

What was your experience at Mom Rock’s first ever show vs. the most recent one? 

Our first show was in March of 2018 at the Great Scott upstairs venue. We were definitely shaky and made quite a few mistakes but it was a bunch of fun and we put on a good show. I remember I wore my favorite Hawaiian shirt and we covered “Lithium” by Nirvana, “Just” by Radiohead, and “My Name Is Jonas” by Weezer. Regardless of how we did though I was shaking with anticipation. I was so incredibly excited to be playing again and to be honest, that feeling doesn’t really go away. Our most recent show was a house show charity event where we played last out of 6 bands. It was a long night and we were all pretty tired before we were about to play but as soon as we got on that stage we lit up and gave the best show we could. The one thing that hasn’t changed is our presence on stage. We love giving people a show and if the audience is into it, then we’re into it.

Looking at your visual aesthetic and musical influences, you definitely have a lot of 80s/90s nostalgia going on. How do you incorporate that into your music while also bringing something fresh and modern to the table? 

At the start, before we even rehearsed, me and Josh wanted to do something in the same vain and style as Weezer. It was one of the few bands we completely agreed on musically and lyrically and we kind of used that as a base. After writing the first couple songs we started to realize that it was a bit of a melting pot of both Josh’s and I’s music taste. We wanted our music to be accessible and fun but also have some grittiness and honesty to it. Plus, we had noticed that there were very few bands in the scene putting on a show with energetic/fun songs. The aesthetic is a much different story though. I was at a friend’s house when I spotted in her closet, this purple and gold two-piece jumpsuit. I had never really seen anything like it. I asked her about it and she said it didn’t fit her so she was going to return it. Being the person I am, I immediately asked to try it on and it turned out it fit! …sort of. I paid her $40 for it and showed the band who also loved it. Slowly over the following months, the band looked high and low for their own unique jumpsuit and color. Having set outfits is of course not a new concept but you rarely see bands in something other than what is basically street clothes. Even just having a set t-shirt you wear is better than nothing. We just really want to give people something to look at as well as help people remember who we are and I think it’s worked out pretty well so far. 

How would you break down Mom Rock’s general writing process? Is there one person who is good at coming up with the concept and lyrics, while another member’s strong suit might be melody and arrangement? 

Josh and I are currently the only songwriters in the band but we always like to bounce our ideas off each other when we can. We both like to write the entirety of a song by ourselves and if we think we’re finished or we get stuck, we’ll go to the other person to get their take. Once we both think we got a good finished song, we’ll show it to Tara and Wilson to get their thoughts. Songs are always open for critique but we also have a rule that every song gets a chance to be played by the band before we make the decision to add it to the set or not.

Mom Rock has been releasing singles pretty consistently, so what’s coming next? Can fans anticipate an album in 2020, or possibly a tour? 

You can definitely expect a few more songs to be released between now and next semester! Most likely not an album but quite possibly an EP. We’ve also actually just booked flights to go to Austin, Texas over our Spring break so we can have the chance to play in SXSW as well some other venues around Texas. Last but definitely not least, I won’t say too much but new outfits are currently in the works and are being handcrafted by my very own Mother so stay tuned!!

Thank you, Curtis! 

Be sure to check out Mom Rock’s performance on birnCORE live, coming up at 8PM on December 5! The show will also feature Weakened Friends and Lady Pills. Tickets are on sale now: