NOLAfied: Miss Mojo


After a transitory period, funk band Miss Mojo revealed its new name, several new members and a fresh sound. The group is comprised of nine musicians, including Tulane students and alum. 

Taylor DeMulling, Associate Arcade Editor

Miss Mojo is an apt name for a band with such a particular charm. A combination of funk, pop and soul, the group knows how to work its mojo — Miss Mojo’s appeal lies in the ease, the level of comfort, that comes with truly knowing the ways the band members interact. The bandmates possess a finish-each-other’s-sentences type of vibe that makes for a dynamic, cohesive stage presence and an easygoing ambience in-person.

The band consists of nine members: drummer Mack Major, keyboardist Rob Kellner, guitarist Cody Greenstein, bassist Leo Skovron, trumpeter Ashton Hines, trombonist Jeremy Phipps, saxophonist Ari Kohn, and vocalists Jenna Winston and Piper Browne. Many of the original members met as freshmen at Tulane, but it was not until their final year at Tulane that the band, in the words of Skovron, “serendipitously became the real thing.”

After Skovron and Greenstein moved into a house together in 2014, there was a consistent space available in which to practice, and the band used this opportunity to develop further as a group. It began getting offers to play gigs Uptown, and developed from a group of musically-gifted friends to a full-fledged band.

“Our big break was we played this show at Southport Hall … there [were] like 600 people there … and we all just had the greatest time of our life,” Major said. “At that moment, we were like, ‘Let’s take this seriously and actually try to work on our craft.'”

As the group graduated into a bona fide band, many of its members were graduating from Tulane in 2014. They then had the time to really dedicate to growing as musicians.

“I think what changed after [graduation] is that we kind of came into our own in terms of a dynamic and a style, you know?” Winston said. “We started playing stuff that was unique to this combination of people, not just what we heard on the radio, and replicating it to the best of our ability. I think that that’s evolved considerably in the past two years.”

The band has been doing a lot of evolving as of late — honing a new style, undergoing changes in band members, playing around with the addition of trombone, trumpet and saxophone, and writing new music. To usher in the new era, it recently underwent a name change, from CakeWalk to Miss Mojo.

Back when we were just starting, we chose the name under the impression that the phrase meant something easy and laid-back,” the band wrote in a state on its Facebook page. “We felt the name embodied our vibe and had a great ring to it, but were completely ignorant of the history and racial implications of the phrase “cakewalk”. The implications of the name make some of our listeners uncomfortable, which is the opposite of how we want to make people feel.”

For many bands, going through such a transitory period could run the risk of harming the group dynamic, but this doesn’t seem to be of concern for Miss Mojo. Beginning as friends and growing into a band means that the members already had compatible personalities, established bonds and similar tastes. This level of closeness and attention to group dynamic makes its stage presence more cohesive, and Miss Mojo is able to be more spontaneous on stage due to trust in the judgement calls of all the bandmates.

“[The group dynamic is] something that we really focus on as a group,” Skovron said. “Every rehearsal it’s something we work for, and every show it’s something that we look back after the show and critique how well we did at that, especially.”

Between monthly shows at The Maison, a Tulane homecoming performance alongside Smash Mouth in 2014 and playing among the likes of Big Sam and Rebirth Brass Band, Miss Mojo continues to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with within the New Orleans music scene.

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