This time on MIMR Band Chat are one of my favourite new bands, the excellent Mechanical Owl. They released the superb ‘Winter Songs’ record earlier this year (a album i’m listening to whilst i’m doing this write-up) and was lucky to catch them at a recent gig at Gullivers, Manchester. It was their performance at Focus Wales Festival, Wrexham where they first caught my radar and it turned out to be one of the best sets of the festival
I was fortunate enough to have a chat with the band, where they shared with us the positivity of Winter Songs, their favourite records of this year and their love for gigs and cycling
MIMR: Thanks guys for talking to us at MIMR, how did the band as it is now come about and was their clear direction where the music would lead?
MIKE: The band as it is now emerged at the start of the year (2015). The album Winter Songs was recorded the year before following a few years not doing anything with Mechanical Owl at all and realising there wasnt much to show for the years that had previously gone into it. So the band was initially put together to play those songs live for an album launch and a few shows, but its really grown into its own thing now. Weve started to develop our own style as four musicians, rather than it being a kind of live band for a solo recording project.
MIMR: ‘Winter Songs’ is a superb record, are you pleased with the reception it has received?
MIKE: Thank you, its always very nice to hear that. People who’ve heard the album do seem to like it. It can just be tricky getting people to hear it, the internet is saturated with music and video and other (shudder) content, but Im honestly not too fussed about that. Hopefully itll get listened to more as we continue to play more shows. We didnt have a big flashy release, It was quietly recorded, mastered and then we had a small party with some friends and played through all the songs as best we could to celebrate. But, just as long as it was finished and out there, it didnt really matter if it died on its arse. At least in 30 years there wont be any regret for never finishing an album, given the years writing and playing songs. So any reception, good or bad is a bonus and Im really happy with how it turned out.
MIMR: You’ve been very busy with gigs of late and got a few festivals this year too, whats the best thing about being on the road as a band?
MIKE: I wouldn’t say weve been on the road as such, most gigs we end up tucked up in bed in our respective houses at the end of the night. I dont really like the rock and roll lifestyle thing anyway, being unwashed, perpetually hungover and late for everything, having to look cool all the time, to me thats boring. Its just great to be out spending time with friends and watching live music in cool little places. We played a show in Liverpool on the weekend with Bandito Rey for their single launch, it was in an old Nordic Church with a big domed roof. Before the show I went to look around the Tate gallery. Then I met up with the band and we walked to get some chilli and beer in a bar. We played our set and people applauded, then we watched Bandito Rey rock their way through their songs and we all had a chat and drink afterwards. I was back home before midnight having a cup of tea, watching some old episodes of Red Dwarf. Its not so bad really.
MIMR: What music has the band been listening to this year, any stand out records?
MIKE: I’ve been listening to the new Antlers record nearly every night in bed, Avvays Avvays in the car and Nils Frahm on the record player in the morning. The new Mikal Cronin album is also great. Ive started getting back into Ultravox, Human League and Joy Division recently. Theres lots of other things, but I cant quite remember what they are now, I feel a bit like Im HMV staring blankly into space.
ANDY: I work from home and have a turntable set up next to my desk, so I’m lucky that I canlisten to whatever I want all day. Theres a lot of great psych about these days, and Ive been loving some of the poppier stuff lately. Jane Weavers Silver Globe and The Holydrug Couples Moonlust have been on heavy rotation. Im a bit late in the day getting onto Marker Starling (Mantler), but his new album Rosy Maze is gorgeous. And for my punk fix, Sauna Youths Distractions ticks all the boxes!
THESTON: I’ve been listening to the new Triptides, Pinkshinyultrablast and Death & Vanilla albums, of late. Ive also been revisiting This is Another Life by Case Studies and Love by Amen Dunes, along with the Bunnymens Ocean Rain and Heaven up Here.
MEI: I couldn’t name a specific group or artist. Anything I find interesting.
MIMR: Saw you at Focus Wales a few months back, one of the best bands of the festival did you enjoy the festival and how important is it that a town like wrexham has a event like this
MIKE: Thank you, we really enjoyed that one, it was probably the first gig where it felt like things started to gel and make sense for us playing live. I don’t think its possible to overstate the importance of events like Focus Wales in towns in Wrexham. It has turned into a real international event now, and its beautiful to see. When its on, it kind of feels like it shouldnt be happening in Wrexham. Its just a small town after all with some shops, a small University, a few pubs and a cinema. But there is this group of people willing to put a huge amount of time and effort in order to make it a more special place for a few days a year and leave people feeling inspired and energised about where they live for the rest of it. Musicians dont need a lot really, we basically just need a room with an electricity socket in it. It doesnt even need to be a big room, or a particularly safe socket. There are plenty of those in Wrexham, and every other town in the UK. The guys that put on Focus want their town to be a nicer place to live, for local music to thrive, to attract music from around the world, put Wrexham and Wales on the map and for people to have a good time. It also helps massively that there is a foundation of musicians and promoters, art spaces and artists in Wrexham, everyone feeds of each other’s work and energy, and Focus is a brilliant, well, focal point for that.
MIMR: What does everyone like doing in spare time when not playing in the band?
MIKE: I do a bit of painting, our instagram account is full of that at the moment. I’ve started cycling, but in jumpers and trousers, not into the lycra, head cam stage yet. Most of the time Im trying to come up with decent new songs, recording demos and ideas. Also do some electronic music and play in a two piece electronic band with Maff Stenning called Half Avian.
ANDY: Gigs, lots of gigs. There’s always music to go and hear live, and Im lucky that there are some great promoters (ROPE, House Of Lux etc) on my doorstep putting on great bands.
When I’m not at gigs… Im DJing at gigs. Its a great excuse to justify my addiction to buying vinyl. Other than music, I can usually be found throwing myself down the mountains of North Wales on my bike.
THESTON: I try to get to gigs as often as I can. Cycling is my non-musical passion. I’m in the middle of moving house, at the moment, so spare time is at a bit of a premium.
MIMR: Thanks for sparing your time and chatting to MIMR, see you back in Manchester very soon, whats been your favourite venue you’ve played?
MIKE: We’ve only played in Manchester once as the current band, so by default that makes my favourite venue Gullivers. Were playing in A Carefully Planned festival later in the year though, so might be another contender by then. My favourite venue at the moment in general is UnDegUn in Wrexham, its an art and music space run by a local community of artists and musicians, it’s really something special.
Get your Mechanical Owl fix here, including the excellent ‘Winter Songs’:
The guys will also be playing ACP Festival, Manchester in October, ones to watch for sure, watch out for more from Mechanical Owl coming soon to the blog