Our first featured band from Down Under, Mayan Fox is an exotic and eclectic pop group with an impressive blend of sounds. Having already made a splash in our podcast, Mayan Fox is an optimistic and catchy band with a very world-conscious lineup. Nate and Maria Hamon, husband and wife, not only write, sing, and perform music but also speak out about issues that are often overlooked in America, especially that of forced labor and slavery all around the world. I got in touch with Nate and Maria and asked them about their influences, the causes that motivate them, their music, and their faith, and they graciously agreed to have their interview published here. For everyone who enjoys music that is as fun as it is deep, read on.
Congratulations on being our first featured artists from Australia! Where did you first hear about Linescratchers?
Nate: Thank you. We’re stoked! My Uncle actually sent me the link. He lives in New Zealand and we, as you noted, live in Australia so you can be assured that Linescratchers is spreading outside of the States.
Your band is a diverse mixture of different heritages, leading to a surprising musical blend! Give us the names of the members of your band and tell us a bit about where they’re from.
Nate: Maria comes from Nicaragua. Her family had to escape when she was a baby due to the fact that the country was in civil war and her Dad, who was a foreigner, had recently escaped a hostage situation. They found themselves in Florida, then Canada, and then they finally settled in Aussie.
The rest of our stories are not so dramatic. Scotty and Dwaine are born and bred Australians and Maui and I are New Zealanders. We both went to an LDS High School in NZ (which has recently closed down). I’ve also lived around the world from New Orleans to Utah to Tonga to Fiji to Hawaii… As you say the cultural influences help define our style musically.
How many members of your band are LDS?
Nate: There are 4 of us. Maria, Maui and I are all RM’s and Dwaine is about to go on a mission to the Phillipines! I guess we need an interim drummer for 2 years!
Maria: Scotty isn’t a member but he understands our values and has high standards of his own. I’ve never seen him drunk and I’m pretty sure I’ve never even heard him swear. He’s a top bloke and we’re working on him, haha.
From what I understand, the Church has grown quite a bit in Australia in the last 30 years, but Mormons are still a smaller minority. Do you feel that makes you stand out in a unique way?
Nate: I don’t know if it’s really an issue at the moment. There are a number of high profile sports stars that are Mormon in Australia but I don’t know of too many other entertainers. Perhaps there are and they just keep it on the downlow!
How popular is Mayan Fox over in Australia?
Nate: We’re not yet as popular as we’d like to be.
Maria: Thinking locally, as in our hometown, you could say we’re big fish in a small pond. We’ve outgrown our pond in fact so need to move to bigger waters soon. America maybe? Haha
Nate: We’re at that stage where we are getting some great support gigs with some big bands and our album is selling as fast as we could have hoped and while we’re not quite a household name at the moment, we are generating a great buzz wherever we go which is cool.
Is there a particular songwriter in the band, or do you write songs as a group?
Nate: I write the lyrics and while Maria and I used to write everything else that makes a song complete including melodies, chord progressions etc., we’ve noticed that as Maui, who is a really good ‘riff-maker’, has hit his straps, it’s enabled us to write quicker and pump out some really tight tunes.
Maria: About half of the songs on the album Nate and I used to do as a duet. The rest of the band has obviously helped to create a whole new dimension.
Your website shows that your band is extremely conscious of certain important causes that often we in America overlook. For instance, you are on a crusade against slavery, which you define as any kind of forced labor or poor working conditions. Tell us about this cause and others you have taken up.
Nate: Don’t worry, it’s an issue overlooked around the world. I think though that here in our western ‘bubbles’ we can easily overlook the fact that a lot of what we do is having an extremely negative impact on the lives of those who we will never even meet. I don’t have the stats for Australia but I understand that in America alone up to 17,500 people (mostly women and children) are trafficked into the country for slavery purposes! Around the world there are millions of people living in slavery. This can range from blatant slavery where let’s say a child, is stolen from the street and forced to work under extremely poor and often hazardous conditions on a cocoa plantation, to ‘disguised’ slavery like bonded labour.
Maria: It’s as easy as carrying $90 in your pocket, travelling from Florida to Haiti, asking the right questions, and buying your own slave boy or girl who come complete with documentation! It’s a monstrous disease that has just about overtaken drug trafficking as the world’s largest illegal trade!
What can we do to help lessen the awful slavery conditions that exist all around the world?
Maria: We need to crack down on human trafficking for one. Also, we can become more conscious of where our product comes from. It can be really hard but there’s nothing like a mass boycott to shake up a company. Companies like Hersheys and Nestle know where their cocoa comes from. Much of it comes from known child slave-worked plantations yet they do little or nothing to change that.
Nate: Sometimes it’s hard because not everything is transparent but once we do know something to be wrong we need to at least make an effort to better ourselves. For example though it was going to be more expensive for us we decided to stop purchasing our Mayan Fox t-shirts from a cheap, unknown source and instead opt for getting them from a company that we knew was organic and slave and child labour free.
Maria: Google search modern day slavery or follow the links on our ‘causes’ page to learn more.
Do your religious beliefs influence your outlook on social issues such as slavery?
Nate: I think our religious beliefs have helped to keep our consciences awake. It has also helped to teach us the meaning of respect for another.
In America, the dream of “hitting it big” is diminishing in these tough economic times, and smaller bands are forced to get “real” jobs, save money, and manage their expectations. How is the music scene in Australia? Is live music still a viable career choice, or is it more a hobby for you all?
Nate: It’s definitely not a hobby. It never has been but yes it can be really tough for an originals band. We still all hold down at least part-time jobs while pushing the band. I’m a Personal Trainer, Maria’s a Mum and a Vocal Teacher, Maui’s works in a bank, Dwaine teaches drums and Scotty has a mobile recording business. The truth is however, that we couldn’t give up on this dream no matter how hard we tried. The faith we have in this band is unbreakable!
Maria: Nate and I actually started our relationship via our work! He was my Personal Trainer and I was his Vocal Teacher. I lost 20 kilos and he learnt how to sing.
Nate: Better! I learnt how to sing better.
Maria: A lot better!
Nate: And then she repeatedly punched my arm until I agreed to marry her!
Maria: He’s still got bruises! haha
What are your plans as a band for the future?
Nate: Make a living off performing full-time and travel the world on the back of our music. I miss America. The landscape is amazing. I’d love to take the band there.
Where can interested readers learn more about your music, or buy your songs or albums?
Maria: Our website is the best place to learn more about us and hear our music. You can also purchase merchandise and our album etc. from there. We’d also love it if you joined us on our Facebook group page.
Any other cool LDS musicians out there we should know about?
Nate: Xy Latu is one. He won Australia’s X-Factor a couple of years ago and is an old friend. If you’re after some fresh Aussie/Polynesian hip-hop you could check out Dave Fogarty (AKA V-Con). That’s a start anyway. I could probably rack my brain and come up with a few more. There’s a wealth of talent over here and across the ditch in New Zealand aching to be heard by the wider world.