Interview: Mentalist iPhone musicians tell their tale

London-based all-girl band the Mentalists caught everyone’s attention this week when they published a video of their cover of MGMT’s hit trackl ‘Kids’, all played entirely on a bunch of iPhones and iPod touch(es).

We were compelled to get in touch and spoke with Mentalist Kim E. Leon today, only to find out they’re a proper band, with music and websites and gigs and everything, who describe themselves rather adroitly a “like Cyndi Lauper – on acid…”. Here’s what we found out.

Distorted Loop: So, tell us about your recent iPhone/iPod touch MGMT cover:

DL: When did you get the idea?
Kim: Sat around on a couch at my house just before xmas

DL: Was it challenging to achieve?
Kim: It was difficult to all play together as there are tiny latency issues so it was hard at first compared to real instruments! was super fun tho

DL: Was it fun to do?
Kim: Yeah! I’m a closet geek so I loved it.

DL: Where did you do it – it looked like it was filmed at an event of some kind…
Kim: We originally wanted to do it just sat around on couches cos that’s how we first did it but it was difficult to tell that we were actually playing the instruments on the iPhones, so we went to a friend’s office/studio that had actual lights and everyone who worked there ended up watching, gathered quite a crowd who wondered what on earth we were doing.

DL: What did you expect when you did it?
Kim: Just thought maybe people hadn’t seen anything like that before so the ‘internets’ types would think it was funny like we did

DL: But you’re a proper band really, aren’t you – what do you play?
Kim: We are:
Me (Kim) on vox, microkorg and guitar
Alice on bass and vox
Lyndsay on drums and Kelly on guitar

I’m also into design and animation/motion graphics. Alice and Lyndsay both teach music.

DL: When did you get together?
Kim: 3-4 years ago, in a disused asylum in North London

DL: How would you describe yourselves musically?
Kim: Cyndi Lauper on acid!

DL: Do you perform live, if so how did the last gig go, and when is your next one?
Kim: Our last gig was a King’s Cross Rock and Roll Disaster! My guitar got stolen from backstage just before we went on stage, I had to borrow someone else’s guitar and it was a bit of a stress — the audience didn’t realise though and seemed to love the gig so maybe the stress added crazy energy.

DL: Do you have any music available?
Kim: We have one single out, “Don’t Know What To Do”, which you can get off iTunes (vinyl and CD’s all sold out), and will be putting out more tracks this summer. (Editor’s note: Here’s the band’s promo single for that song).

DL: Do you have a record deal?
Kim: We currently put our own records out.

DL: What was the last bit of music you purchased, and the first?
Kim: Last: Grace Jones — Hurricane
First: INXS — Kick

DL: Who are you most influenced by musically?
Kim: Cyndi Lauper, Hall & Oates! shameless pop

DL: How much of an impact have things like MySpace, FaceBook, iTunes, digital music, YouTube had on music?
Kim: They are definitely having an impact in terms of creating a buzz. People can put up their own silly videos so fans can find out more about the bands…

DL: Your release of the video clip on YouTube attracted you lots of attention, did you expect this?
Kim: We didn’t realise it would blow up quite so big and so quickly, the speed of the way word spreads is pretty incredible

DL:: What sort of response have you received?
Kim: We’re ‘internets famous’! Ha-ha. it’s funny though — we started out being on tech and music sites like Gizmodo and Pitchfork and are now in mainstream daily newspapers like The Metro, Evening Standard, The London Paper.

DL: Do you have any music coming out, or new songs available people can wrap their ears around?
Kim: We’ve just finished a new track called “Again & Again” — check it out at

DL: What about Apple, why do you like the iPhone and the App Store?
Kim: iPhones are great the way you only need one well-designed tool to do everything. The Ocarina app is GENIUS the way you blow into the phone to get it to work like a wind instrument.

DL: Why did you choose those apps for what you did?
Kim: The Ocarina app sounds kind of like the synth MGMT use at the start of ‘Kids’, as well as being super fun to play. The miniSynth has great sounds and looks a bit like an old moog which is sweet. The Drum Kit app is cool the way it has picture of the drums you are hitting, even if it’s a bit hit and miss occasionally with the latency. The retro synth (which we used for bass) has limited sounds but next to no latency. All together it is drowning in awesomeness!

DL: Are you Mac users?
Kim: Yea, but we’re not anti-pc or anything

DL: What do you think the future is for music and musicians?
Kim: The future is bright, the future is Mentalist!

DL: If you could get the choice, which band would you most like to tour with, and which festivals would you like to play at this year (as a band)?
Kim: MGMT!
Festival wishlist: Would love to play Glastonbury again, The Great Escape, some festivals in Europe like Sonar in Barcelona would be super cool…
The most exotic festival in the world for us would be that one on Mount Fuji in Japan, Fuji Rock! and being an Aussie, The Big Day Out would be the greatest!

DL: Would you ever consider playing a gig at Apple Stores using the iPhones and iPod touch?
Kim: Yeah totally. We’d feel like we’re advertising Mac a bit tho so maybe they might give us some laptops haha 🙂

3 thoughts on “Interview: Mentalist iPhone musicians tell their tale

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