This interview was made in Helsinki by MewX.info on October 10th 2005. The interview was made while MewX was in Finnish language only and therefore some of the questions are about Finland. It is somewhat edited due to some bad recording material and the lack of tape. All copying and/or publishing of this interview without permission is strictly forbidden.
About the structure of the new album… It is obviously meant to be heard in one go, but you still manage to take certain singles out of it. How would you describe Mew to someone who has only heard Special?
Johan: (laughing) That’s a good point. Well, Silas do you have a good answer for that?
Silas: Hmm… You probably just have to listen to the whole album to get the picture of the sound…
Johan: Well, Special is a very, probably the most sort of straight forward song on the record, which is why probably it is chosen to be a single, because – you know – if you listen to the radio these days it has sort of format which is like a three minute song that has a good chorus, good beginning and good verses. And that sort of format we have tried to avoid – you know – throughout the record, but it’s also that we… we… we really like pop music, to be honest. So for us, it was also pretty natural to have some songs that are a bit more pop and a bit more sort of straight forward as long as they fit in to the whole of the record. I mean, we wrote all the songs with the idea in the back of our heads that we have to tie them together. So, it was basically… we wrote them basically from start to the finish in that order – almost – not exactly, but we knew like with the song like Special that it had to come right after Apocalypso, cause we kind of wrote it like more than just one long song. You know, we ended the Apocalypso track and then we were just like: “What would be cool if we just went into it and started this fucker… you know, this disco-thing” and that developed a whole song. But how do we describe it? That is difficult – you know – like Silas said that you probably just have to hear the record to really get what the whole picture of the band and the songs are all about.
On your album it says “all songs by Mew” and most bands have one songwriter and occasionally the rest of the band might come up with the tune. What exactly is the situation in your camp?
Silas: We spent a lot of time writing this stuff and it’s probably also why it took so long to do the record. It is a very collective work. Parts of guitar, drums – all sort of connected.
Johan: Like the way we wrote this record – and in part also Frengers – we were in our house in London and we had set up this little practice space and we annoyed the hell out of the neighbors. But it was like, every day we went out there 10 o’clock in the morning just with nothing really – other than just let’s play and let’s see – you know – where it goes. Kind of – you know – I hate the word “jam”, but it was kind of how this record was written. None of the songs – except for maybe White Lips Kissed, which was written quite a bit by Jonas – but other than that it was all sort of just jammed up between the four of us and sometimes that was difficult, because Jonas didn’t do the vocals when were actually writing the melodies, the chords. He didn’t have to find the melodies on top of that – sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was hard. I think it was more than ever, it was a case of all four of us just sitting in the room and not leaving the room until we got something that’s good. So in that sense, it’s quite a special record, cause it was just like said, everybody was there all the time. It’s also a motherfucking tough way to work, because it’s a very slow process. Everybody had to be together. Jonas writes his lyrics afterwards or before, but that’s not something that the rest of us get too involved with. But all the music was really like building a song upon the other and then the whole thing sort of just … yeah… blossoms. We spent so much time on trying out all the possibilities and… in order to find out which part or which way we like is the best for the song. It’s a slow moving machine, but it’s also the only way that it can end up sounding the way it did.
As a big movie buff, I must ask this. There’s a real cinematic feeling in your music – very widescreen. It’s like there’s this 2.35:1 aspect ratio feeling in it. How much cinema as an art form has influenced the sound of Mew?
Johan: That was a very good observation. I think, if you know our background of how we met and all, it’s pretty obvious that we have interest on film. But I don’t think there is a song that is directly influenced from any film (due to tape ending, this answer is not complete).
Your both gigs sold out here in Helsinki in a matter of minutes – like in five – and compared to other Northern countries that is really amazing. What do you think in your music attracts especially us Finns and how do you see the Finnish audience in general?
Johan: I think there are certain things that are really obvious. There’s a trauma and a sort of darkness and melancholy in the music that we do and that is very routed in Finnish people. At least if you look at what kind of bands you guys are into – you know – I’m not saying we really sound the same, but there’s definitely some big metal bands and stuff like that up here that probably would never be big in Denmark, but because – you know – you have that mentality that you do that it works here. I think, you probably cross over into some of that, that sense of grandness and it’s very serious music as well. I think you just like the melancholy and the emotion that it has. That’s what we like about it and that’s probably why we connect very well with the audience. We’ve always – you know – sold a lot of concert tickets up here. Actually from the very start, so there really is a some kind of connection that is really strong and you can tell that the Provinssirock Festival we didn’t really know what to expect and we come on stage and there’s like ten thousand people just going apeshit and probably one of the best gigs of the whole tour. So, there’s definitely – when we heard that these gigs sold out so fast, it was like “wow”, we’re doing something right up here. There’s something that really connects.
Silas: It’s the wildness, the insane stuff that it’s so busy. The Finnish and Danish are very like in that sense.
Johan: Yeah, it’s definitely about the emotions, because I find the Finnish people very emotional. Very closed on the surface, but probably, inside – you know – very deep and very thoughtful and I think it goes to most of the Scandinavian countries. Maybe less for Denmark, but definitely for Sweden and Norway. And it’s about, it has do to with nature – you know – long, dark winters. Environment, having a sense of isolation. I think some of those feelings, they can probably come through from our music. There’s a sense of hope. I think at the concerts especially, there seems to be a very strong bond between the fans and us. We treat the fans themselves, there’s a very sort of – they take a lot of pride of being into Mew and we’re very happy about that. But it can be great fun tonight.
What’s next for Mew?
Johan: Okay… well, we’re just gonna be touring this record as much as we can and that’s really – then we’re looking like a year into the future. It can take a long time. Depends on how popular it becomes and how much demand there is. We’ll probably just tour as much as we can. We need to go to England to do a lot of tour there, need to go back to Japan and we need to come back here to Scandinavia again and then we need to start working the European countries. So, it’s gonna be busy. There’s talks about some, maybe American stuff as well and I can’t even think about that, cause there’s so much work right now. I think we’re just sort of going to enjoy, cause we’ve gone through a very long phase of recording an album and waiting. Because, you have to understand that a record can be done and finished some six months before it’s released, so you can spend that six months obviously rehearsing a very good live show, but we’ll be back in Finland next March, I think.