By AMANDA GIGLIO
The first thing I see is shoes. Snowboots and rainboots of all kinds are scattered outside a slightly ajar apartment door, where sounds of excited conversation can be heard. Walking into the apartment, I see about 20 people lounging around on the couch or sitting with pillows and blankets on the floor. A small stage is set up with three guitars and two chairs, and tapestries line most of the walls in this living room. I sit down on a pillow and take it all in: this is King Mulhacen’s single release show.
For those of you who do not know, King Mulhacen is a Fordham band made up of Henry Bartholomay, FCRH ’14, and Sean Lemkey, FCRH ’14, two friends who have been playing music together since freshman year. Originally from Minneapolis, Bartholomay arrived at college not knowing how to play the guitar. When he overheard Lemkey and some of his friends playing, he decided to teach himself and the two ended up forming a blues, funk and rock group. This past year the two studied abroad in Spain and experienced a spiritual awakening. Their journey on the Camino de Santiago, an 800+ kilometer pilgrimage through the mountains of Spain, gave them a lot of time to think about what they want from their music. Spain is where King Mulhacen’s folk sound was expanded upon and most of its upcoming album was written.
“It was where the whole thing was birthed,” Lemkey said when asked about Spain’s influence on the band. “We would sit on the balcony watching a nicer view than the one here, and try capturing the metaphor for life.”
And their song “El Camino” explains just that. One of the last songs King Mulhacen played took the band’s whole experience in Spain and put it into music. As Lemkey, in a flannel and slippers, and Bartholomay, in a sweater and socks, sat between two giant speakers, their feelings were poured into the music. Their guitars and voices were completely in sync, and, every once in a while, they would laugh together or share a smile over certain chords. It was like watching an inside joke between two friends. The whole set showed their dedication to their music.
They performed two covers, [“Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes] and a cover from the movie Inside Lleywn Davis. The rest of the songs were originals. Among these were “Hard To See,” written by Bartholomay, and my personal favorite, “Morning Sun,” which displays their harmonies wonderfully.
Many of these songs have stories from Lemkeu and Bartholomay’s respective Global Outreach trips, GO! Glenmary and GO! El Salvador. Bartholomay talked about his experience with the people he met on his GO! trip and how the ideals behind the trip inspired many of his songs.
When the time finally came for the band to release its new single, the audience was on the edge of their seats. “Abigail” starts with a familiar sound on the electric guitar and immediately lulls the audience into a trance with the soft voice of Bartholomay. The song itself has a nostalgic, melancholic feel, but after listening once, it remains stuck in your head.
“We are very proud of it and feel good about it,” said Bartholomay. “This is the beginning of a journey for us and we are glad you are all here with us.”
The theme of this upcoming album is where life can take you. Both Lemkey and Bartholomay are geared for adventure, and they realize that “there is no orthodox way” to get where you are going and where you want to be. The two are fond of simple living, even going as far as trying to get an old VW van and road tripping across America to play music. What is important to them is the immediate.
“When life gives you a lot of options, there’s no specific way to do it. We are 22, and now is the best time to pursue music,” Bartholomay said about their pending music career.
After graduation, King Mulhacen will continue to record and produce music, trying to make a career based on its folk acoustic harmonies. “Most people call us crazy [for pursuing music professions], so we really appreciate the support from our friends and fans,” said Bartholomay.
Now, as their college careers come to an end, the two artists reflect on their time at Fordham University. The blossoming of the folk scene in the past year at Fordham really helped them come into their own with their music and realize that music is their calling in life. “I don’t think we would be writing what we would be writing without Fordham,” Lemkey said.
Look for King Mulhacen’s upcoming album after spring break and for any shows they perform at Fordham. Breaking into the music industry is difficult, but Bartholomay and Lemkey have the determination and hopefulness that comes with a love for music, and I look forward to buying their music one day.
Amanda Giglio is Culture Editor at The Fordham Ram.