For some artists, simply being onstage is a goal in itself. For others, like keyboardist David Appelbaum of Los Angeles-based alternative band The Mowgli’s, it’s a chance to help make the world a slightly better place.

“Most people on this planet don’t have the opportunity to perform in front of thousands of people who are wide-eyed and hoping to hear something positive,” Appelbaum says. “We’re all different people in the band, but our message is simply peace and love. We’re just trying to have fun, and put smiles on people’s faces, and create some positivity in a world that’s not always like that.”

The Mowgli’s infectious songs—like their hits “San Francisco” and “Say It, Just Say It”—feature gang vocals that invite participation and blur the lines between band and audience. The intent, David says, is to create an inclusive sound that doesn’t rely on a single star performer commanding the spotlight.
“We all sing together,” he says, “and no one’s like, ‘Oh, your voice sounds like this or that.’ I want everyone in the audience to sing too! It’s fun, and that’s definitely part of the sound itself. We used to play shows where we’d invite everybody in the audience up onstage. People definitely like that. They want to go to a show and be part of it, rather than just observing it. And they might leave with a better feeling in their hearts.”


As the group’s fan base has grown, it’s become less practical to bring the entire audience onstage. But The Mowgli’s have found other ways to amplify the communal goodwill that has become their hallmark. They’re active supporters of initiatives such as charity: water, which brings safe, clean drinking water to people in developing nations and the Ally Coalition, which promotes GLBTQ equality. And on the Mowgli’s current Random Acts of Kindness tour, supporting their major-label debut LP Waiting for the Dawn, they’ve incorporated a new level of social engagement into their shows.

“In every city there’s essentially a food drive,” Appelbaum says. “We ask people to bring canned goods and such to the show, and they get donated to shelters across America. At each show, the person who brings the most gets a meet and greet with the band. And it’s great, because a lot of people do bring stuff. Last night in St. Louis someone brought 500 cans. It was insane!”

Onstage, Appelbaum adds to the Mowgli’s huge, harmonious din with his Yamaha Motif XF8. “It’s a beast of a keyboard, and I love it!” he says. “I use it for every single show we play. It hasn’t hit the studio yet, but it’ll be on the next record for sure. I grew up playing piano, so I wanted something with a great piano sound—and Yamaha can always say they have the best keyboard piano sound. That’s important, because that’s really where the instrument comes from.”

davidaHe’s also a fan of the keyboard’s more advanced features: “The LCD screen is great, and the fact that you can customize the sounds. I can split the keyboard, or use like four patches simultaneously in one performance mode. I can have my whole set list mapped out on the XF8, with all the songs ready to go.”

The Mowgli’s look forward to bringing their music and message to new ears in 2014. “We’ll be back on the road almost for sure,” David says. “I think we have a few festivals booked for next spring and summer. And we haven’t gone overseas yet, but I really hope we do soon.”

Regardless of the itinerary, the band will be spreading its positive point of view along the way.

“It’s become more apparent lately, with the bigger shows we’ve played, that it really has affected people in a positive way,” Appelbaum says. “Before, when we were just playing to our friends, it was fun, and everyone was having a good time playing in a rock and roll band. It’s still like that, but now people send really nice letters or bring gifts, and they cry, and they say, ‘Oh, I listened to this when I was going through a really rough period in my life.’ Like I said, our message is clear and simple. It’s third-grade philosophy, but you forget it: Just try to be good to other people, and find a way to be happy. If you can do those two things, you’ll probably be pretty successful in life.”