Four Shy People – Mitchell Museum interview (Part 1)

It hardly seems like yesterday that I marked my 500th post with an interview with Martin John Henry. But here I am celebrating another hundred posts already with an interview with a band I’ve been following with interest for the last 2 plus years.

Since first seeing them play at Rock The Boat in early 2009 Mitchell Museum have released two wonderful singles in ‘Warning Bells’ and Tiger Heartbeat’  and, last summer, their critically acclaimed debut LP  ‘The Peters Port Memorial Service’.

Their first gig in Dundee last week therefore offered me a perfect opportunity not just to see the band live for the first time in a while but also, along with Andy, to have a chat with Cammy (C), Dougie (D), Kris (K) and Raindeer (R) from the band beforehand.

So to mark my latest centenary, here’s part 1 of the interview, with part 2 to follow over the weekend.

Warning (Bell) – I can’t help thinking that this would have worked better as a podcast but then hardly anybody ever listens to them. So it would perhaps be better not to take some of what follows too seriously!

MPT – Tell us a little bit about how the band first got started.

C: We’ve been going over two years now. Me and Raindeer are brothers. So that’s how we met! And Kris is Raindeer’s friend …

K: It’s more than that, give a bit of juice to the story! We met at a New Year party a long time ago through mutual friends. I hated Raindeer because I knew of him from a previous New Year party where I thought he was making time with my woman.

R: I was not! I knew your woman because we were friends.

K:  But I didn’t know that. It was ‘Who’s this Raindeer guy, everyone keeps talking about?’ ‘He’s such a nice guy’ and you know what that means! So I hated Raindeer for several years but then I met him and it turns out he’s alright!

R: Me and Dougie met at college so I’m essentially the reason that we exist.

C: You’re the heart of the band!

K: Cammy came out for my 17th birthday to see Ben Folds Five. We got a lift up to see Ben Folds in the same car but neither of us remembers it particularly – I was sitting in the front and you guys were sitting in the back and you were not worth looking back for!

MPT – So where does Afterchristmas fit in to the Mitchell Museum story?

D: You guys thought you’d buried your past!

R: That was the band that me and Cameron, and Kris, were in.

K: I did it for one gig. That was the death of Afterchristmas!

R: It was good fun and it was a bit more straight up kind of poppy.

C: Like the band the Unicorns or Islands – quite alternative and fun. I guess it was more of a hobby and for me it was testing the songwriting and how a live band works. We weren’t really sure what we were doing with it and there came a point when we definitely decided we wanted to take things more seriously and work at being a good proper band.

R: I’m glad that Afterchristmas existed because I wasn’t meant to be playing the drums. Cammy talked about this new band and they were  going to be having a different drummer. But they didn’t get him and I said that I’d fill in despite not being a very good drummer. But thankfully because of that I can play the drums now. So Afterchristmas was a learning process.

D: I learned how to watch a band from Afterchristmas!

C: But you stood in once on bass and Dougie doesn’t play the bass! That was a great gig!

MPT – What do you remember about the Rock The Boat gig? It was a pretty varied bill with De Rosa, a heavy metal instrumental band (You Already Know) and Evan Crichton.

C: Yeah that was very early on. We did some covers for that which was quite good because we didn’t quite have a full set anyway!

D: 15 minutes material which we played in about 6 minutes!

K: I was still playing the keyboard at that time because I remember forgetting HOW to play the keyboard that night! Just going ‘I know it’s roughly this area … shit! Try again!”

C: At Wickerman the soundman who is one of our friends and who recorded ‘The Peters Port Memorial Service’ (Andy Bush), told us we had another 15 minutes. And we didn’t have any more songs to play! So I rolled around the floor!

K: We played a song which we’d previously played and was no good.

C: I’ll give you a clue why it was no good – it was called ‘The Recorder Song’ and it did feature a recorder.

K: Expertly played.

MPT – Tell us a little bit about how the songs come together.

C: The songwriting normally starts with me writing down the lyrics and bits of melody, keyboards and rough guitar parts and normally me banging on a table because I can’t play the drums. I bring that to these guys and we work through it together. A lot of the time we tend to find that my ideas spiral off in different directions and they’re good for quality control.

With the new stuff, we’re working on it in rehearsal a bit more. It sounds a bit pretentious but we’re trying to find the song in rehearsals.

K: I suppose we play it until we work out what’s missing from it. Then we work out why there’s too much stuff in it and we take it back out!

MPT – Although I think that the Scottish scene is quite healthy, a lot of the bands I like sound nothing like each other. Is there a lot of support between bands to help build things up?

K: We don’t really like people enough to do that! We keep meaning to, we’ll go and see a band and think ‘These guys are cool, we’ll go and be friends with them’ because that’s what bands do. But then we have to go and talk to them and it’s just such a stress!

C: I think we’re quite shy people ..

K: Or ignorant, it’s one of the two.

C: I like to go for shy. It’s not as if we’re rude or horrible people.

K: No – there ARE guys that we know like the guys from Meursault and Inspector Tapehead, they’re nice guys and we’ve played with them a few times. But we don’t braid each other’s hair, we maybe buy each other’s albums for the sake of support that way, but we’ve never been asked to guest on anyone’s album yet, so we’re not there.

C: I was, I’ve been asked to rap on the new Meursault album!

K: What?

MPT – It’s funny, I’d got the impression that you were part of a network since the singles have been remixed by different people. So how DO you get people to do that, put them in a room with a gun to their head?

C: Yeah! You must have seen it!

K: No, we just send out begging letters saying ‘Do you want to do this, there might be money in it.’ (There’s not!) We always offer to do it back but they never ask!

C: I do sometimes worry that we put ourselves in a wee corner. Do we do that? Our music is quite different from everybody else’s music.

K: I think we’re not allowed to play because we don’t sing in Scottish accents.

R: Embrace the motherland.

C: I’m trying to get in touch with that side, I’m trying to get rid of my Canadian side.

R: Je parle un peu Français.

As things start to spiral into foreign languages, it seems a good point to leave this interview at that point and I’ll pick it up again over the weekend.

Afterchristmas can be heard on the Mister Tramp compilation LP ‘Off The Beaten Track‘. Buy the Mitchell Museum LP here.