by Keavin Wiggins
For this edition of Unsigned Heroes we
venture across the Atlantic to the U.K. and catch up with one of the hottest
bands on the English music scene, Mohair.
The band sprang forth a few years ago with
the name “Trooper” in the English town of Watford. In their short time
together they have proven to be determined to attain success, no matter
how hard they have to work at it. To prove that point, they have recorded
no less than five albums in their short time as a band. Last year they
caught the attention of industry veteran Billy Graf, best known as the
former manager of Rob Stewart, John Cougar Mellencamp and Atomic Rooster.
Graf loved what he heard and signed them to his new English record label,
M1 Records. With a deal on the home front, the lads ventured out earlier
this year to secure a deal with an American label. To accomplish this they
flew over to play a series of showcase gigs at renowned Hollywood music
venues, which culminated in a headlining show at the world famous Roxy
Theatre on March 21st.
I was on hand the night before when they
made their US debut at the Cat Club in Hollywood and I was duly impressed.
They gave us a high energy, down and dirty, back to basic rock n roll show,
with lots of raging guitar, well orchestrated harmonies and a sound that
has been sorely missing from rock for years, the unforgettable underpinning
of a Hammond organ. Last year, the New York retro rockers The Strokes took
the music world by surprise, now Mohair is primed to give them a run for
their money. That is once a US label with enough insight is prudent enough
to sign them and bring their music stateside.
While I believe this is the first American
press the band has received, I am willing to bet it is far from the last.
Look for these guys to make some serious waves in the music scene in the
coming months. So with that in mind, we’ll let you read on and sit
in on a conversation Rocknworld had with the band shortly after they returned
home from their Hollywood showcases.
RNW: First off can you tell us where
the name “Mohair” came from?
Tom: When we started this mental
journey we were called Trooper... but we found out (not so long ago actually)
that there was a fairly big Canadian band in the 70s with the same name
so we had to change it to Mohair. It was a word that had been knocking
around us for a while. When we started we did a load of stuff with a DJ
friend of ours called DJ Mohair (he was part of the band for a while...
along with a crazy bald German violinist with leather trousers) ... and
we’re all big Beatles fans and they used to wear Mohair suits... erm...
and I gues we’ve got a load of hair, not that we wanted the name to be
a gimmick in any way (after all Mo’ in England doesn’t mean ‘more’... ).
It just kinda fell into place as a name. Mind you it took ages to get used
to... it was like being told that your name isn’t Keavin anymore it's John,
it was a tough time for us all.
RNW: Can you give us a little
history of the band?
Tom: We were all playing in different
bands from the age of about 12. Everyone knew each other in some way shape
Tim: I reckon it was a case of all
of us playing with the best musicians we could find in our town, and in
various line-ups. after we’d done everything from a ten piece soul band
to jazz trios, it was a case of getting on with some proper rock’n’roll.
Alex: Tom went traveling for
a year - when he came back Tim, Pete and I had just left school, so being
like minded and available - got on with doing what we do best.
RNW: How would you describe your
music to someone who has never heard you?
Alex: I always refer to Mohair as
a Rock and Roll band. It is very hard to go into and break down the absolute
definition of what we do, because I’m not sure if there is one. Perhaps
one day an over-analytical music fetishist will work it out and place us
into 27 sub-categories, but until then I don’t really know.
Tim: Try splicing Fleetwood Mac
and the Counting Crows with a raw energy that only four geezers in their
early twenties could muster.......smiling, of course.
Tom: We’ve been described as ‘elecro-pop’,
‘indie rock’, ‘psycadelic groove rock with melodious pop tendancies’...
the lot.... its just filthy Rock n Roll to me... an extentension of who
we are at any one point in time. We’ve never faked it and I hope
that comes across.
RNW: The impression I got when
I saw your recent showcase here in L.A. was that you guys are the
U.K.’s answer to The Strokes? You have that sort of retro brit pop rock
sound plus a bit of the Acid rock thing going with the Hammond Organ. Do
you agree with that assessment or do you think your music comes from a
Pete: thanks for the complement,
The Strokes are a f***ing cool band. I think we are similar in the fact
that we are both into the whole retro thing and playing live. I think bands
like them, the White Stripes, the Hives etc are opening the door for us
to come into the picture. It really is reverting back to the filthy live
music scene, not over produced or squashed into a particular bracket, and
that is where we are coming from. Good songs played with a smile.
Tom: As for Brit pop... I dunno...
we’re British if that helps!
Alex: ... Nothing beats having a
real Hammond on stage - one day I will learn to play it properly!
RNW: On the same note as the last question,
which artists have had the biggest influence over you as a musician?
Tom: Collectively the influences
range from Joni Mitchell to Led Zeppelin to Miles Davis to The Doors and
Fleetwood Mac. we’ve all grown up listening and getting off on such a variety
of different things... ultimately thats why we sound like we do.
Tim: Bob Dylan....Peter Green.....The
Who..... the list could go on but maybe these fellas have guided
my musical career the most so far. they’re just brilliant.
(side note from Keavin.. Tim scored
major points with me for that answer. I contend to this day that Peter
Green is perhaps the best blues guitarist who ever lived, ok with the exception
of Robert Johnson of course!)
Tom: The Who are my band of choice
at the moment. It’s filthy, its theatre, its complex and intricate but
astoundingly simple at the same time... that’s the beauty.
Alex: basically anything that excites
or moves me musically is an influence, credible or not.
RNW: What is your song writing process
like? Do you take an idea to the rest of the band and work together to
create a full song or do you take an almost complete song to the band and
have them add their own little flavor to it?
Tom: Sometimes someone will come
into the room with an entire piece in their heads, melody, words, chords,
arrangement and everyone else will help to extract it and turn it into
something real by adding their own take on it... sometimes someone will
play one note and that’ll be it, everyone goes off on their own thing and
it comes together before you even know about it. The only thing we try
and do each time is make sure that two songs don’t sound alike.
Pete: I think we are fortunate in
that one person’s weakness is another’s strength. So if a chord is wrong
or a lyric jumps out as crap there is always someone with an alternative,
and what I find weird is that my strengths and weaknesses change constantly
depending on what mood I am in and who I am around.
Tim: Its good fun for a start. It’s
possibly one of the best feelings as a musician, when either individually
or collectively you make brand new sounds. I get excited when I write by
myself but probably none more as when the whole band puts together the
latest buzzing idea.....the beauty is that the ideas are coming from all
of us. helps with royalties n’all !!
Alex: You know you’re on to a winner
when a song sounds great with just an acoustic guitar or piano backing
up the singing. After that you can add what you like so long as the melody,
the harmony and the feel is right.
RNW: I understand you have a record
deal in the UK but not here in America. In fact, you recently flew over
here to showcase for American label’s at the renowned Roxy on Sunset
Strip in Hollywood. First how was the experience of coming to America and
Tom: It was like getting taken into
an alien spaceship and taken elsewhere for a while. We just had stupid
amounts of fun. American people are wicked.
Pete: its a fantastic country, which
I kind of expected but didn’t really realize till we got there. The first
thing that hits you is how nice every one is.
Alex: To me, it was like being in
a film, and a good one at that. It was one hell of a holiday and it made
us realize how bloody lucky we all are to have this job.
Tim: I had no idea I was ever allowed
to have that much fun.
RNW: How did the gigs go from a showcase
point of view? Does it look like any of the label’s you showcased for are
going to step up to the plate and offer you a deal?
Pete: Well none of the record companies
left which is a good sign. Our people here are keeping it close to their
chest so we don’t get excited. It’s now a case of sitting back and
getting everything right before we unleash on the public.
Tim: I think we managed to unfold
a few arms!
Tom: We never expected people running
at us waving cheque books, but it looks like some people enjoyed themselves...
RNW: Do you have any plans to return
to the US anytime soon?
Pete: We are going to tour the arse
out of the country when the album is out. It is such a big place that you
just have to play and play everywhere. I can’t wait.
Tim: Give us a couple of months
and we’ll be back
RNW: Since most of our readers are from
the U.S. can you tell us a little bit about the English music scene and
how it differs from the American scene?
Tim: My advice to any bands playing
in L.A. or anywhere happening in America, is to appreciate how good it
really is over there. Obviously good music will always shine through, but
it feels in England that they’re really not too bothered at the moment.....even
if the music is great! its taken us 3 years to realize!
Tom: Good things lie ahead for music
here in England but people have got to get their heads out of their arses
and start enjoying themselves before any kind of change is possible.
Alex: In terms of an up-and-coming
band trying to make it, it’s incredibly tough as there is no thriving live
music scene. All the major cities’ nightlife revolves around clubbing (in
the DJ sense) and so the music scene, especially for young people, isn’t
pushed as equally as it should be.
RNW: I was amazed to see that
you guys have recorded 5 CD’s already, considering you have only been together
for what four years? When you land the US deal, do you plan to write all
new material for that first American album or include some of the best
of your previous work on it?
Pete: I think it is important to
make your mistakes as early as possible and on a small scale, that’s not
to say that those cd’s are bad but you learn so much from each session,
they were important to do.
Tom: We’re writing all the time
and every band thinks their newest material is their best. There are people
we know who still want us to play and record songs we wrote over 4 years
ago... to them the still sound great but we’re elsewhere with it all really.
I’m really looking forward to recording, it’s gonna be a great record...
I just have no idea what’s gonna be on it.
Tim: Only the best stuff will go
on the album. simple as that.
RNW: How can a band like yours that
doesn’t follow the current musical trends get a head up over all the copycat
bands and get noticed in today’s music climate?
Tim: I think its simple. You just
gotta play what feels natural. If its forced, you can always tell it ain’t
Tom: People have always responded
to the way we put things across because we have such a great time doing
it. The music should hold up on its own, even if it doesn’t fit any kind
of mould. A good song is a good song, whether people get it or not is another
thing... you can’t predict that kind of thing.
Pete: There are so many different
facets to it at the moment and its always evolving, I think we are giving
people an alternative to the sounds around, not necessarily trying
to avoid conformity and a good song is never out of fashion ... I have
been told we have a few... it now depends on what costume you put on it,
then it gets affected by fashion.
Alex: Good songs and big smiles
- there’s no point looking miserable when you’re doing what you love...
people love that s***.
RNW: Along with that thought,
what do you make of the current music scene? Is there any artists that
are out big today that do it for you?
Pete: I am more excited by the music
scene now than I ever have been. It isn’t perfect but it is certainly heading
the right way. I like bands that sound like them, and haven’t been contorted
into something they are not . Good examples are The White stripes, they
have f***ing balls to do what they do. The strokes are great as are
bands like The hives, bands that get a buzz out of playing live, and their
records sound like one mic has been hung in the middle of the room to capture
that. Also stuff like Elbow, Zero 7 and Turin Brakes. Music with soul will
always effect me.
Tom: The Strokes have been great,
I hope they can move it on and do something different with it. Equally
bands like Coldplay and Travis have been amazing... again they’ve just
gotta keep rolling with it. I hope Coldplay don’t just bring out a copycat
album like the first because they know it works. I like bands who finish
chapters and try something different, its the only way anything’s ever
going to evolve. One of my favorite bands around are called MOKE. They’re
little known over here but seem to be doing okay in the US... you should
check them out.
Tim: Its about to get better!
But when you got amazing bands like Radiohead and the Foo Fighters
(just off the top of my head!) it’s quite a challenge to be anywhere near
as good as them. Yes, I reckon the music scene is flourishing.
Alex: I think that good, unpretentious
Rock n Roll is on the way back with bands such as The Strokes and The White
Stripes paving the way with what they’re doing. My favorite British bands
at the moment are probably Reef and Travis.
RNW: What made you decide to get in
the crazy business or rock n roll to begin with? What I mean is it about
the music, the quest for fame, wanting to change the music scene etc?
Tom: I just knew that I wasn’t gonna
be any good at anything else. I’ve grown up around music... one of my earliest
memories is going to see Queen at Wembley with my dad in 1986... I was
7 and it was so amazing, I fell asleep against a Hells Angel with tattoos
on his neck.
Alex: My brother showed me The Doors
movie when I was 12 and almost instantly I wanted to be the keyboard player
in a band. I’m pretty useless at doing other stuff - I can’t even vacuum
Tim: It just sucks you in, man
RNW: Where do you hope to be five years
Tom: Somewhere hot.
Pete: In a studio with Kylie
Tim: In my Cadillac!
Alex: with nothing to worry about.
RNW: Finally, what do you want people
to take away from your music?
Tom: Some kind of smile I guess.
Whether its a ‘f*** me, that was great’ kinda smile or a ‘yeah, very nice
but don’t give up your day job’ kinda smile. I just want people to have
a chance to hear it... they can think what they like. Some people are gonna
get it and be able to hear things that others wouldn’t and some people
won’t... I’ve just got to say bollocks to them and get on with it. I’m
always getting inspired to do things (or not do things) or feel stuff when
I listen to good music, its a privileged thought to think that someone
out there might do the same with ours.
Pete: I want them to feel any emotion
they like. Whether its positive or negative if they express an opinion
that means they have been affected one way or another. Obviously I want
them to feel elation out of the happy songs etc if they get a chance to
hear it, that will be enough for me.
Alex: I’d like the music to excite
people and not pass them by. I want to appeal to people who don’t quite
know why they like us but still have time for what we do.
Tim: Some feeling of real connection with
it, followed by a smile and then some dirty air guitar.....lets bring it
you have it, Mohair in their own words! Now that you've gotten to know
the personalities of the band members why not click over to their official
site and learn more about the band and more importantly, listen to some
of their songs!
of a great unsigned artist or band? Let us know.