INTERVIEW: Mouses | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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After seven years of creative hiatus, Mouses, the lo-fi garage queer-punk duo comprised of guitarist and vocalist Steven Bardgett and drummer Nathan Duff, have stormed back onto the scene with their latest album, bwywtb (Be Who You Want To Be). This new release embodies the band’s enduring commitment to championing individuality and challenging societal norms. The path to this album has been as unconventional and challenging as the band itself, with disruptions from global crises and personal milestones shaping its narrative and depth.

Steven Bardgett delves into the complex journey of the album’s creation, which began earnestly in 2018. “We’d put a date on it in our heads as April 2020 and we all know what happened then! Covid came around and we basically just shelved the whole thing for ages and life happened.” The pandemic not only delayed the album but deeply influenced its content and the band’s perspective. Bardgett, who became a parent during this period, notes that fatherhood brought new dimensions to his songwriting and thematic focus.

The title, bwywtb, stands as a clarion call for personal freedom and self-expression, themes that are deeply woven into the album’s fabric. Bardgett reflects on the significance of individuality for Mouses, noting that while the band has always embraced quirkiness and authenticity, the current social environment has made their message even more relevant. “Hate crime is a daily occurrence, bullying is so much worse and now with social media it just never ends,” he laments. This critique is palpably laced through the album’s lyrics, particularly in songs like Edison, the opening track of bwywtb, with its sharp, raw guitar riffs and bursts of energy. The track inspired by the tragic suicide of a local teenager – a poignant reminder of the devastating effects of societal rejection.

bwywtb is a manifesto for living authentically in a world that often seems intent on enforcing conformity

Musically, bwywtb represents a significant shift from the duo’s previous work, embracing a more introspective and refined approach. Opting against a traditional studio setting, the band chose to record the album in Bardgett’s childhood bedroom, a space imbued with personal history and emotional resonance. This choice was emblematic of the band’s DIY ethos, which Bardgett champions as not only a necessity but a profound artistic advantage. “We set up everything ready to record in a bedroom in my house and it was basically left like that for a good couple of months,” he explains. “There’s always going to be limitations with home recording, which really forces you to be creative, kind of like trying to act out your musical ideas within the constraints of a two-piece band, so it fit perfectly with everything we were trying to do.”

The album’s lyrical content tackles a spectrum of deeply personal and societal issues, from the celebration of individuality to the critique of conventional norms and injustices. Bardgett’s songwriting is both reflective and confrontational, aiming to not only address but also ameliorate the social and personal conflicts he observes. “With the writing for this album, a lot of the songs were a long time coming and songs changed and were moulded over the course of months sometimes,” he explains, underscoring the thoughtful and evolutionary nature of their music-making process.

Among the standout tracks on bwywtb is the single Fiends, which unleashes a surge of punk intensity, with vocals that growl in defiance alongside pulsating drums and guitars that roar with distortion, infusing the song with a kinetic aggression. It encapsulates the album’s critical engagement with societal issues, particularly the dangers of idolisation and the dark underbelly of celebrity culture. “It’s about not being afraid to turn your back on artists and people you once idolised when they do terrible things. It’s something we’ve seen come to light so often in recent years,” Bardgett explains. The song challenges listeners to reconsider their admiration for public figures, emphasising that: “You can’t separate the art from the artist; art is too personal for that.”

Bardgett’s personal growth and his experiences as a new father have profoundly influenced his artistic vision and aspirations for the album. His hope is that bwywtb will inspire listeners to embrace their identities and challenge the status quo, much as he intends to instil these values in his daughter. “Everything I do now, I do for her,” he states, emphasising the transformative power of music to inspire and effect change.

Moreover, the album arrives at a time when divisions and the questioning of identity are more pronounced than ever. Bardgett and Duff, both shaped by their upbringing and personal struggles with identity and acceptance, imbue their music with a sense of urgency and advocacy for change. The duo’s live performances, known for their raw energy and unscripted nature, are extensions of the album’s themes, aimed at blurring the lines between the performers and the audience, fostering a more inclusive and engaging experience.

Looking forward, Mouses are not content to rest on their laurels. Bardgett hints at ongoing creative explorations, suggesting that the release of bwywtb is just the beginning of a new chapter. As for the impact of their music, Bardgett is modest yet hopeful. “I’m not going to say our music will particularly shape any real change… But, if we can keep inspiring people, even on a small scale, to be powerful role models for the next generation, I feel like we’re doing our little bit,” he reflects.

For many, bwywtb will be more than an album; it’s a manifesto for living authentically in a world that often seems intent on enforcing conformity. Through their unique sound, heartfelt lyrics and unwavering commitment to their values, Mouses not only challenges listeners to reflect on their own identities but also to act against the injustices that pervade our society. As the album makes its debut, it stands as a beacon of hope and a call to action, inviting everyone to embrace the ethos of being who you want to be, against all odds.

Mouses release bwywtb on 21st June via Butterfly Effect. The band play The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on Saturday 20th July.


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