I first read about The Mixus Brothers in the Pittsburgh City Paper several years ago. The article interested me enough to check out their music. Their laid-back “we’re just a couple of dads making music on the side” description of themselves didn’t match the music that they were making and the way they presented themselves. There was something highly artistic going. This spring, out of nowhere, my cousin’s husband asked me if I’d ever heard of The Mixus Brothers. His childhood friend, Jacob Stempky, was Jebbh Mixus. He put us in touch. Stempky graciously answered my questions, and I think the conversation will keep going.
The Mixus Brothers recently released their new EP, The Lonesome Gods, Chapter 2.
This Q&A is my second installment in what I’d like to be my “How do they do it? Series.
How do you fit music into family life and working full-time?
I have been making music since I was 19, so I don’t think I could live without that outlet. It is like going to the gym for my brain. It is almost like a therapy.
Being creative is part of our family life. I love inspiring my kids, and they inspire me back. We love to sing and draw together. One of my favorite sayings is “I will never run out of things to be inspired by,” and I try to live each day with that in mind, and my family is the catalyst for many of our song ideas.
How has your formal education helped? (Where did you go to school and what did you study?)
I have always been a creative type of person. I graduated from The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) with a degree in Drawing, Painting & Printmaking. My education has helped me maintain a creative life. I also studied creative writing and writing lyrics is a lot like writing poetry. I started playing in bands when I was in college. One of my best friends bought a guitar and I bought a bass and we started playing and singing together. We called ourselves Dirty Hairy. I loved it. After college I moved to Chicago and lived there for 10 years and was always in a band. My friends from U of M have supported me wherever I have lived especially with music and 2D art.
Does your professional work overlap at all with your music?
I work at Carnegie Mellon University as a Research Administrator and have always been rather right and left brain balanced. I will write lyrics at all hours, if I am inspired, and find writing the best suppressor of stagnation. I can’t say my work overlaps, but I have found that many friends who are creative for a living sometimes have a hard time being creative sometimes. I don’t have that problem. I make music with Red Mixus on the weekends, usually Friday nights, and it’s a fantastic outlet after a long week of work. Many of my co-workers are supportive of The Mixus Brothers and have ventured out to see us play over the years and listen when we are on the radio. It is always a little better feeling when you know people are listening.
What role did your family play in pursuing your music?
I love when my family is able to come see us play at a festival or other place where the kids can dance and have a ton-o-fun. My wife Dawn has ALWAYS supported me and tried to help me maintain perspective when I might get down about music or creativity. In addition, I have four sisters who still live in Michigan. We are very well known in Southeastern Lower Michigan as a singing family. We were always involved in musical theater productions and from that I have always loved to sing and entertain.
How often do you play out and where?
Well before COVID, The Mixus Brothers played out about once a month and on a rare occasion twice a month. I think with both of us having kids it seems we always need to make sure there is a balance. These days we haven’t played out at all, but we have a couple of things in the works that are self-controlled. We would be open to playing on-line shows but have not been asked. Opportunities are limited and seem to go to more well-known bands
How are you able to record? We record our music in Red’s (Johnny Willett) basement. He has a great little studio. He has his drum kit set up there, and we keep a lot of our equipment there. We have been doing this now for almost 9 years, and we continue to evolve. We have always used Sony Vegas to record. It was mainly used for video editing but does a great job with audio as well. When I am at home, I record on my laptop and send Red the tracks through DropBox. It is amazing how the cloud sites have simplified collaboration. Ultimately, without Red Mixus, I wouldn’t be who I am, and The Mixus brothers would be nothing. He is a fantastic friend, producer, sound engineer and creator and has always had my back in all-ways and especially in a creative sense. He is amazing at collaborating and helping fine tune ideas, lyrics and songs. I have told him that no matter what happens in our lives, I always want to make music with him.
New release can be found here: https://themixusbrothers.bandcamp.com/
Other Mixus Brothers music can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP762_Ls_xAssRzDZhU0sZQ
My visual artwork can be found here: https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/jacob-stempky?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=31315
My older music can be found here: https://www.reverbnation.com/bandsofjacobstempky