And it's precisely self-worth that took MOURN this far. Their journey was premature, with their self-titled debut album – released in 2014 when all the members were still minors – earning them widespread critical acclaim and devoted fans. They followed with two more: Ha, Ha, He (2016) and Sorpresa Familia (2018), and became intercontinental with tours in North America, Europe, and Japan. An indie dream come true for Jazz Rodríguez and Carla Pérez Vas, both born in 1996 in El Maresme, Catalonia, where the two became inseparable in high school. That bond remains today, and when their voices and guitars combine it is pure fire.
Of course, there were obstacles along the way: a local label with mismanaged finances and careless managers, and more recently, a line-up change with Antonio Postius no longer on the drums. The band isn't the same as when they formed. The world isn't either. MOURN grew up, and that's evident in the songs that make up Self Worth. Their melodies – energetic and captivating – venture into less level grounds, and their lyrics show their newfound readiness to tackle issues of a different weight and size.
Self Worth began to take shape in the spring of last year. Back then, things weren't going so well. “We were in a very bad moment; the group dynamics were no longer working with Antonio. We didn't feel like we could write a record with him. It didn't work. So in the end he left,” Jazz recalls. “I think his departure was something that had to happen. We no longer understood each other. And it got to the point where it wasn't comfortable, either on tour or in rehearsals. So it was a very positive change. It gave us the peace of mind we needed,” Carla adds. In May, once freed from the “bad vibes”, Jazz and Carla took refuge for almost a week in a small house in the mountains, near the Pyrenees in France, to start projecting their next album. No phones, no internet. Just what they needed to write and record demos. New melodies, lyrics and guitar parts appeared, and with these first songs, they returned to Catalonia, where Leia Rodríguez – bassist and sister of Jazz – and Víctor Pelusa – the new drummer – were waiting. “We finished it with the four of us together, at the end of that summer,” Carla says. Jazz: “We've been able to enjoy the process of writing an album throughout the summer. In the past that could only happen under pressure.”
The band's reconfiguration paid off. “We worked more as a team. We communicated more. Each one gave something in the composition in a much more natural way. Even with Víctor – who we hadn't played with much – ended up adding elements and a different air to the songs,” said Jazz. Carla recognized that it was the ideal environment to go one step further: “I think we weren't just ourselves before. Now we've let go. We've finally pushed the things that had to come out – things that we wanted to say and play.” These obstacles had a lot to do with their former drummer and their disagreements. Jazz: “We no longer fully shared ideals and ways of thinking. I suspect that some lyrics on this album would not have seemed right to him, and that would have meant a battle. I rescue the fact of being ourselves with these songs, without anyone judging us. For me, it has ended up being the best album we've ever made, because we've lived it much more intensely, with more freedom and welfare.”
The singing – between the melodic and the effusive, with that emotional, imposing and vital courage – becomes a magical, chemical act, definitely magnetic. Music as an outburst is part of MOURN's nature. Jazz explains: “I use songs to capture my emotions. So when I make an album, I feel calm, because I'm getting rid of the traumas, anxieties and feelings that overwhelm me. I need to dump all this stuff. And that becomes a good vibe: the songs radiate it. With this record I've been able to take something that hurts and turn it into something that does good.”
Both singers write lyrics. Sometimes one of them underlines what she likes in the other's notebook. They end up crisscrossing their writing, defining themes and overlapping language. Jazz: “Carla and I come from different families, but we share similar conflicts. We have feelings that connect and that we need to express in the most free and direct way.” That guideline – to say it all – is the result of their realization as a band. Only then, after rearming and emancipating themselves, could they make an album like Self Worth. Jazz defines it as “an album of empowerment”, and Carla agrees: “In the past, things weren’t as clear to us. We have grown. We have read about feminism. So now we feel more comfortable talking about these subjects.”
“Men” is lyrically patent proof of this growth, and their heightened consciousness as women. A revealing song, necessary and deliberately uncomfortable. A beautiful melody of war against patriarchy; the impulsive rescue of the riot grrrl. Jazz says: “We talk about the difficulties we run into; what we're exposed to in the subway or on the street when we come across men who tell us things or look at us in a certain way. It's our refusal to feel restrained. It's a liberating song. I like to generate this discomfort, either because there's someone who feels identified, or because there's a man who feels upset. In fact, I want to upset: this is how we live and feel it.”
“No matter what I said/ I’m the form you don’t respect” – from “Stay There”– sticks to that empowered spirit. Its fury does not overshadow the vocal arrangements. Jazz seems satisfied: “At this point, we already know what works and what doesn't. Here we found our style, our personality. We have also enjoyed trying combinations – one sings the melody and the other recites above it.” One of those spoken words surfaces at the beginning of “Apathy”, while Leia's bass takes the reins and grants the guitars a cease-fire. Carla says that it wasn't easy to stop playing, “The guitar is our instrument. And for us it has the same importance as the voice.” Nothing to fear: MOURN is still a guitar rock band with its heart in the 90s (from PJ Harvey to Sleater-Kinney). Jazz agrees: “The guitar is my shield, what protects me. It's the rope that I hold on to so I don't fly away.” Self Worth validates this guitar fascination, not only on its unstoppable rides, but in the sparser moments as well (the vibrato haven in “The Tree”, the intro for “Gather, Really”).
The world of relationships runs through the entire album. Certain needs stand out: leaving behind abusive ties, externalizing the interior noise. Jazz: “We talked a lot about getting out of toxic situations – not resigning ourselves to that, not enduring that anymore. The songs are like flags to stand up and say: ‘we are done.’” Just as “Stay There” draws a limit and “Apathy” spits truth in your face, “Call You Back” seems to paint that instance in which love paralyzes: “I’d rather die/ A thousand times/ Before letting you know/ How I feel about you”. The songs disregard structures: it doesn't matter what the verse is and what the chorus is – everything works equally. “I'm In Trouble” confirms new drummer Pelusa’s impetus and turns exasperated voices into machine guns. Punk assault with a clear message: the body speaks when the mind is not well.
Unlike its predecessors, Self Worth expands the rules and uses a different method: fulfill what each song demands. Jazz: “In our first albums, we recorded only what we were going to play live. We said, ‘the sounds here will be equal to the concert.’ Two voices, two guitars, bass and drums. And that's it. Instead, this time the plan was different: ‘if this song needs a mind-blowing chorus, let's do it – then we'll see in rehearsals how we manage to do it live.’” Carla: “We gave ourselves to what the song needs. And we had more fun. We left some songs without vocals before going to the recording studio – the idea was to take a chance and sing on top whatever came out at the time. That gave us more freedom; we adapted the melodies without limiting ourselves, because we weren’t thinking about playing.”
All the uncertainty suggested in “This Feeling Is Disgusting” – the album’s opener – dissipates with MOURN's dedication. Two chords and a small melody tame the listener before the storm breaks: the future is uncertain, but they want this to work out. Sometimes they feel like a mushroom hidden in the moss (“Worthy Mushroom”). Sometimes they get frustrated at the idea of losing everything (“The Family's Broke”). MOURN is an enclave of post-teens dealing with the dilemmas of adult life. An abyss of questions and decisions. “When we started, we played a lot. But suddenly that changed, and music stopped giving us economic stability. In these times of Covid we are constantly looking at what to do. It’s difficult to find a job. Who is going to hire you knowing that you'll be absent every time you have a show? For the ‘work’ world, we have very little experience: I can put all the records I made on my resume, but that doesn't mean I’ll get hired at a bakery. Some friends have a job and a band, although they don't play much. Then that band becomes a plan B. In the end, it's all or nothing. It's hard. Especially here in Spain, where what we do is considered more of a hobby than a profession,” says Carla. Jazz resolves by fighting failure: “Will we have to look for jobs that have nothing to do with what we like just to survive, while we are dying to play? Because the band is our work, it's our vocation. This album gave us what we needed: self-worth, the desire to go forward, to love ourselves, with everything, with the good and bad. This album empowers us.”