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MOGWAI Bring The Noise

Mogwai

Masters of volume and primarily instrumental outfit Mogwai hit the Chevron Festival Gardens for a two night residency supported by fellow brother of loud, J Mascis, on Monday-Tuesday, February 23-24. CHRIS HAVERCROFT reports.

Mogwai have found themselves on a couple of All Tomorrow’s Parties Festivals at the same time as J Mascis, but this is the first event that they have shared the billing. 

Keyboardist/guitarist, Barry Burns, is looking forward to standing at the side of the stage and let the laconic rocker help him to kick his jet lag. While Mascis will be exercising his broad American drawl, Mogwai will be very light on the vocals during their set.

“If I am being very honest we don’t write songs to have lyrics in them,” suggests Burns. “If the song doesn’t sound finished then we will try and find a sample to fit in there, or if that doesn’t work we try a vocoder, and as a last resort we have to write some elementary school lyrics and then sing them. We don’t let the other band members in the studio when we sing them because we are embarrassed and we don’t like to do it.”

When the five-piece do find themselves with a song needing someone to sing, they often bury the voice deep in the mix or they tend to cover it with effects that make it difficult to decode. Things didn’t go quite  to plan for Burns on their first trip to Australia.

“We usually sing through a vocoder and it is unintelligible and you can’t hear what I am singing, but the first time we played Australia – I think it was in Melbourne – and the dry vocal came through and I was just saying things about the audience and it came out loud and clear through the PA. I’m sure I was lucky to get out alive”

Latest album, Rave Tapes, is another epic from the band in terms of texture with there being a heavier reliance of electronic sounds. That is not to say that there isn’t the odd abrasive guitar or two, its just that the palate is a lot broader these days. In spite of the title of the record though, don’t be afraid that Mogwai will be turning up with a reliance on fluro and whistles.

“When we are live, we are probably playing louder than we ever have. It kind of changes when we leave the studio and we all of sudden become loud again. We don’t focus on the guitar noise songs in the studio as often anymore. That is not to say that it won’t happen again, its just that for the moment we feel we have done that and we are focussing on something else.”

Mogwai have always had a knack for cracking song titles – probably as a result of not having to tie their songs down to a set of accompanying lyrics. Titles such as You’re Lionel Ritchie, I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead, Stop Coming to My House and I Love You, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School show clear signs of a band that are having fun. Clearly the band try to outdo each other in terms of the best title.

“Martin (Bulloch) the drummer is good when everyone is drunk, as he has an app on his iPhone and he will record the dumb stuff that people say that we could use as song and album titles. It is not always the members of the band that are saying the stuff either, it can be friends of ours or people in our family. Most of the time you think you have a really good one when you are drunk, but when you look at it the next day it isn’t funny and it’s rubbish.”

Mogwai are one of those bands that tend to remain at the same level of popularity where if a fan drops away, a new one jumps on just around the corner. Their reputation for ear-splitting live shows appears to attract more people than it repels.

“You notice it at the shows that the people that come to see us is a complete mix. I remember it used to be only guys and you would see a girlfriend there who had obviously been dragged out because its his birthday or something and I’d feel sorry for her, but these days it is pretty split down the middle.”