Awoken from the lockdown Manchester trio Ether Mech look all set to blast their way into your conscious with their hell raising noise punk sound. We spoke to the band about their beginnings, future plans and gigging
MIMR: Welcome to the blog, let’s get straight into the beginnings of the band, how long have you been together, how did your engrossing sound develop and is it a collective effort when it comes to the arrangement of a song?
It’s wonderful to be here! You have a lovely home.
Madeleine and I met through Partisan Collective and held onto our little island of diy bands amongst a sea of techno DJs, putting on a few shows together. Madeleine suggested we start actually trying to make music together in Summer 2019, writing a few songs together with a drum machine, playing a 5 minute cabaret slot at Creatures of Catharsis at Jimmy’s in November and in December we got our first drummer Nico (who Madeleine met at Decolonise Fest earlier that year), and played a few gigs, most notably supporting SPECIAL INTEREST at Yes with Humint which was just an incredible show.
But then wahey, lockdown, which meant Nico moved to Bristol to be with his partner. We started practicing in Madeleine’s garden for covid safety, and her v cool then-housemate who i didn’t know super well but wanted to be friends with came and listened to us for a bit. One thing led to another and they ended up joining us to play drums when we managed to get back into a practice room!
So though Ether Mech as a concept has existed for two years, we’re still pretty new! I adore Sleater-Kinney who are a big influence on us in terms of songwriting style – they never really play proper chords and their melodies always tangle around each other, and we like doing similar stuff. I’m a big fan of very expansive metal like Jesu, Chelsea Wolfe and Zeal & Ardor so a lot of my guitar lines come from that, combined with 80s punk and hardcore like Fugazi (who Madeleine is also a huge fan of), Big Black, Black Flag, and Hüsker Dü.
When we started, we knew we wanted to make a lot of noise and weird sounds. But we’re also into more traditional songwriting and melodies. And we generally want to make people move and dance. So in a way, there are a lot of objectives to fill but it’s not like we’re consciously thinking of all those things while we’re writing – it’s our natural approach. My synth has over 300 presets that can all be manipulated and Vivien has a big multi-effects guitar pedal, so basically between us exists quite a wide sonic palette. And we’re both vocalists and sing on different songs which keeps it interesting. We also recently added bass guitar to our set up so that will open things up further. I wouldn’t say we have one, unified sound but that’s not really the goal. Our music is as evolving and surprising as being a person in this world is. There’s definitely a freedom in starting a band and not being like “we want it to sound like x” and trying to shape all your ideas around that. I imagine for other bands those sorts of structures are helpful but not for us.
I love artists that merge different genres and create their own really unique thing, ultimately dissolving the whole concept of genre altogether. People like Prince, Priests, US Girls, Special Interest, FKA Twigs and Le Butcherettes are artists who have inspired me with their cutting and splicing of different sounds.
Our songwriting process is always collective. It all comes from bouncing off each other’s ideas. I like to think of our songs as collages. I really like writing by myself but normally I just write lyrics with a vague idea of melodies and tempo. And I keep note of my favourite synth sounds, normally broken-sounding ones. So when I bring them to practice it gets way more fleshed out and the songs become something way beyond what my imagination could have envisioned. Vivien is kind of the opposite – she tends to come up with song parts on the spot during practice and writes lyrics later.
At first Madeleine and I wrote a lot of the songs together, but since Rami joined it’s become way more of an all-band thing. ‘Front-Facing Animal’ is a song in particular that started off as this quite bluesy and pared back, but with Rami’s drumming it’s become more of a post-punky vibe with a bit of ska in it too?
I’m very much a jammer and come up with most of my ideas in the practice room (Rami’s the same with this, we wrote our opener ‘Ill Desire’ based off a jam the very first time we played together!). Madeleine conversely will come with a list of songs which is where most of our develop from. I’m a very bad lyricist which means that we especially work perfectly together, and Rami’s musicality really centres a lot of that. The only exception is ‘Astral Parade’, which I came up with in an afternoon because I really wanted to have a proper Hardcore song in there!
Madeleine and Viv have been part of Ether Mech longer than I have. I appeared one day, they realised I could play drums (kind of) and they slotted me in the band. I come from a different kind of musical background than Madeleine and Viv, I’m into artists like Umi, Darren Korb, Epoch and bits of Thundercat – stuff that generally has a driving beat, a groove to move to, more focus on chord movement and melody, that kind of stuff. Though Ether Mech definitely had that kind of noise/disco/punk sound before I turned up, that’s the kind of sound I’ve really leaned into. The drums for Front-Facing Animal are an example of that, I think. Which answers your last question, too: yeah, it’s usually a collective effort when arranging a song, though all the ones we have at the moment are written by Madeleine or Viv. We’ll see if that changes, but you know that old thing about drummers writing songs.
MIMR: I recently saw you play at The Peer Hat courtesy of my good friends Deco Records and you blew me away with the sheer gusto and energy of your set, i bet you’ve missed the feeling of playing live, how was the gig for you and how is to be playing live again after so long away?
I was definitely anxious about being there but when we played it was just so fun to be back at it and I was on such a post-gig high afterwards, which I haven’t really had before. I had never performed music in front of people before doing this band. It was nice to be playing with bands as noisy as us and Deco Records are a great team. We’re still quite new to playing live so are still figuring things out – we just want to play as many gigs as possible!
I’m probably the person who enjoys performing the most of the three of us? I adored it, especially being on such a stellar lineup (Chihuahua blew me away they were incredible). I also don’t really get stage fright which is why I end up doing the most talking between songs. I have a bit of a background in theatre and run Fatty Acid, our trans little cabaret at Partisan – I love a drag queen, and feel there’s a sort of glamour I can take from them that’s really missing in a lot of grotty (said with absolute love) punk shows you know?
It was great! It was actually my first gig with Ether Mech and I really, really enjoyed it. Nothing went spectacularly wrong, we survived with all our fingers, couldn’t ask for more, really. It’s been great watching live music, too. I was super impressed by Swine at that gig, and was recently blown away by Ideal Husband playing at the Grafton Arms. I personally haven’t played live music behind a drum set in a long time, or with other people. It really got me wanting to do more!
MIMR: So after the write-off year that was 2020 and things hopefully returning to some sort of normality now, what can we expect from the band for the rest of this year?
Just a bit more of everything y’know? Few more gigs, maybe some recording. Always looking for more shows so please hook us upppppp.
We have a pretty big gig in October that we can’t announce just yet. We’re slowly starting to do some proper recordings so there may be a single out before the end of the year but we’ll see. And I’m sure we’ll write some new stuff too.
More live gigs, hopefully! We’ve also got some sketchy plans for new songs, maybe swapping some instruments around. I think there’s going to be some fun experimentation in the near future. God knows I want to play around with Madeleine’s synth. I’m a piano and keys player usually, so it’d be nice to do more of that stuff.
MIMR: With people rushing to get back to pubs and watching live music now, what are the gig venues that you missed the most during the seemingly never-ending pandemic?
Band On The Wall. One of the only fully accessible venues in Manchester! Islington Mill. Rebellion. Deaf Institute – the high stage is great when you’re a short person. And I’m looking forward to seeing Partisan’s new space.
The first time I came to Manchester was to see Deafheaven at Gorilla and so I’ll always have a soft spot for there. I also love Deaf Institute and the Peer Hat is probably the place I’ve seen the most gigs? Will always love that. I’m running Partisan’s in-house trans/queer night Fatty Acid for our grand return on October 16th, and that’s gonna be a doozy.
I got nothing. The Deaf Institute?
MIMR: Thanks for talking to us on the blog, wish you all the best for rest of the year, where can people follow you on social media?
Thank you! It’s been a treat xxx