Image by Nick Wesson
It used to be a decent band would do a few gigs locally, sign a record deal, release a couple of singles followed by an album and see where they went from there. These days a lot of bands are lucky if they get to release a full album in their entire career, the old adage that you can’t keep a good band down has never been further from the truth.
So let’s not underestimate how far Mouses have come in just two years. Countless gigs, two self-released EPs and two singles so far, I sat down with Ste and Nath from the band to talk about The Mouses Album: 25 minutes and 10 songs of quirky Weezer riffs and Stephen Malkmus-esque mini-dramas. “We always knew exactly what we wanted to sound like and how we wanted to play live.” Chatty and endearing, Ste is every inch the Mouses frontman you see on stage when we meet in a sunny Saltburn cafe, while erstwhile tub thumper Nath is a little more subdued but equally forthright.
In case you’ve missed it, things have ramped up for Mouses of late. First single proper, Poison, released through Sister 9 Recordings/Cargo, was a heart-on-its-sleeve post-punk tussle with anxiety and prescription drugs that opened up their fanbase, but it was follow-up effort Hollywood released in July that caught the attention of Huw Stephens and Radio 1, and helped add a Reading & Leeds Festival invite to their already impressive musical CV.
The album itself is a rollicking, high-speed train ride of garage-y, post-grunge riffs; scratchy, poppy vocals and visceral drums; one-word song titles and even shorter tunes, and has the primal urgency of Goo-era Sonic Youth matched with a terrific underlying darkness that’s like a teen horror movie trying to break out. Whether it’s the infectious anti-fame polemic of Hollywood or the playful awkwardness of Psycho, the surreal mythologies of our childhood never seem far away and as it rattles along you can’t help but be completely engrossed.
There’s quite a lot of anger in it. I write about the things I give a shit about basically, it’s easier to do that
I asked the band if it was a lot different recording an album with a label compared to the earlier self-financed EPs. “It was actually pretty rushed,” Nath says, “we recorded it in May last year after playing Brighton and Manchester on the same day. We started recording the album the next day and did the whole thing in three days in Sheffield.” Ste continues: “we aimed to try and get the album out late last year but I’m glad we didn’t because we’re a lot more ready for it now.”
It’s a very cohesive album, contemporary in its themes yet familiar in sound. “It’s about disillusionment with everything and a lot of that is growing up in the 21st century. The internet being as it is you just know about everything all the time, and you read things every day and it’s not that good most of the time, so people get angry at things. There’s quite a lot of anger in it. I write about the things I give a shit about basically, it’s easier to do that,” explained Ste.
The album closer Pope is the most overtly political on the record. “Pope is definitely the song that is least likely to get any radio play,” Ste laughs. “We never try to push it like that but it’s definitely the least subtle one. Each of the songs have similar tones and themes to do with politics and religion but I think you get what that one’s about straight away!”
The band have always had interesting ideas merch-wise, Hollywood came with a Polaroid set and popcorn bag while the album vinyl release will come with a 40-page lyric book, it’s clear that offering their fans that little bit extra is an increasingly important aspect of a Mouses release. “It’s one package for me,” states Ste firmly, “I have to be on top of stuff, helping with designing artwork and everything else. When you know what the image of your band is it’s nice to have that DIY part. We filmed all of the video [for Hollywood] ourselves, I edited it and our friend did all the artwork. We even make all our own tickets and posters.” “You can’t really take one aspect away from the other,” agrees Nath succinctly.
With the album being so long in gestation the band are keen to kick on. “Some of the songs were written two years ago so it does feel like the end of that phase, but it also feels like it’s suddenly happened, the last two years has gone so fast. There will be a UK tour in support of the album and then we need to sit down and decide what happens next year.”
So never fear, as Ste has the last, reassuring, word: “Whatever happens when we play live happens, and we’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing and sometimes something good happens. It’s not planned in that sense, and we’re not very good at turning stuff down!”