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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 or form...

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 different place?

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 playing here?

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... we’ll see

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 really you.

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 efficiently. 

Tim: It just sucks you in, man

RNW: Where do you hope to be five years from now?

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 on! 

There 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! 

Know of a great unsigned artist or band? Let us know. 

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