Stark Contrast – Meursault interview


Neil performing at last year’s Pale Imitation Festival

Last year Matthew from Song, By Toad Records, Neil from Meursault and Bart from eagleowl came up with the idea of the Pale Imitation Festival to run during the Edinburgh Festival. Ahead of this year’s Pale Imitation (which starts on Saturday) Neil spoke to MPT about the Festival … and the rather unexpected and imminent demise of his band Meursault.

At a time when Edinburgh is saturated with all sorts of events, the trio reckoned that there was element which was missing as Neil explained:

“Music basically. That’s the whole point of it. There’s very little representation for music in Edinburgh whilst the Fringe is taking place. Every year less and less emphasis is put on it and I really like music and Matthew really likes music!

“It’d be foolish to say we’re going up against the Edinburgh Festival but the idea is that it’s all Scottish bands, and for the most part it’s all independent bands and just showcasing that.

“Hopefully we’ll get a few new faces appearing, people who are here for the Festival that hear about it because it’s an amazing platform for the Scottish music scene. Although it may be slightly in decline in Edinburgh, in Scotland in general it’s still really vibrant and there’s an awful lot to show off to an international audience. And if we can get some of those into Henry’s Cellar Bar that would be nice!”

Looking back on the first festival last year Neil reckons that they went some way to meeting that goal.

“A little bit of that happened last year, but a lot of it was just the regular audience coming in – but you expect that. Actually, no, you don’t expect that, you’re absolutely massively grateful for that. But we saw a little bit of that last year and we’re hoping for a little bit of progression on that this year.

“We’ve tried to keep a lot of the artwork and the posters fairly similar to last year and keep the identity there and hopefully we can try and build that up over the years and continue with it as a growing thing.”

With Pale Imitation largely taking place at Henry’s Cellar Bar, there was never any doubt that the Meursault gig at the Queen’s Hall was to be the flagship event. Then, apparently out of the blue, Neil announced that the show would be the band’s last.

He explained some of the reasons why:

“When we booked the show it was always the plan. It’s nice to end the chapter, it’s really cool.”

Delving a little deeper into the reasons for the split, the over-riding impression I got from Neil was simply a desire to keep moving forward.

“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about since the last record came about and for a whole host of reasons now is the time to do it before I start releasing new records. It feels time for a clean slate, I guess in a lot of ways.

“Sometimes project names can get really lucky like King Creosote and they can be really elastic and you can attach them to loads. But Meursault was really rooted, for me personally, in me as a younger man, reading existentialist novels and being all dark and gloomy. It just felt that I didn’t relate to the music that I was making any more.”

There’s been much hilarity in recent days as Bart instigated a ‘find Meursault a new name’ campaign on Twitter. Whilst Neil has enjoyed the suggestions, it seems unlikely that any of the proposed names will stick!

“There’s been a few. My favourite one by far is Vaginasaur! That’s from my friend Mark in Woodpigeon. Neil and the Crimons Queefs, that was a good one, or a bad one! A lot of them aren’t repeatable actually, I shouldn’t have even said those last two.

“More than likely it’s going to be Neil Pennycook and the band that I’m working with at the time. On any given record that’ll be the title of the project. It kind of gives each project an identity of its own, rather than just everything being lumped under Meursault which is sometimes an uncomfortable fit, especially for me.”

Rather than regrets, Neil is looking to his future projects with a great deal of anticipation:

“I’m excited about the new thing and I’m excited about putting Meursault to rest, as well. That feels really nice and I dunno there’s not many people that I speak to or that I’ve met can say that they’re happy with their entire back catalogue. I’m chuffed with those three records and to have a beginning, middle and an end, it feels really neat.”

In terms of what to expect from Mr Pennycook and co, Neil denies that the record will be “death metal” as drummer Sam suggested to me at the tail end of last year (jokingly, I think!).

“I think he’s led a sheltered upbringing! Sam should know better, he’s a reformed metaller like me! “

It seems though that there’s a germ of truth in that statement.

“The music we’ve made for the new record has quite a stark contrast. Like there’s some really, really heavy stuff which people will have heard in the sets we’ve been doing this year. Then there’s some really lo-fi stuff, you know piano and vocal. So it sways wildly.

“I won’t lie to you, when we started doing it we thought we were making a new Meursault record. And then that changed so the brakes were put on it a bit. But the recordings that we have will still be used – just in a different context.”

Bringing things back to Pale Imitation and the last Meursault show (ever, sob), Neil gave MPT an idea of what to expect from that last show:

“I’m really looking forward to it. I’m going to try and play the hits! I’ve never done a set where people said that ‘Aw, you played all the songs that I wanted you to play’!

“So I’m going to try and do that and, I don’t know, play all the songs that I’d imagine that people would like to hear at the last Meursault gig. And also the songs that I’d like to hear at the last Meursault gig!”

The Pale Imitation Festival 2014 runs pretty much for the duration of August from this Saturday (2nd). Meursault play the Queen’s Hall on Wednesday 13th August with support from Plastic Animals (more info and tickets)

The full list of shows is as follows:

Sat 2nd Aug – Adam StaffordLe Thug & Duchess
Thu 7th Aug – The LegNow Wakes the Sea +1 TBC
Sat 9th Aug – The YawnsSharptooth & alansmithee
Wed 13th Aug – Meursault & Plastic Animals – Queen’s Hall
Thu 14th Aug – DeathcatsGarden of Elks & Passion Pusher
Sat 16th Aug – Jonnie CommonJesus H. Foxx & Andrew R. Burns
Thu 21th Aug – Rick RedbeardSiobhan Wilson (Ella the Bird) & Kitchen Cynics
Sat 23rd Aug – LAWNumbers are Futile & Wozniak
Thu 28th Aug – eagleowlIan Humberstone & Smackvan
Sat 30th Aug – PAWSHalfrican & Et tu Brute!!!

All shows with the exception of the Meursault/Plastic Animals show take place in Henry’s Cellar Bar and a £25 season ticket is available for the Henry’s shows. More info here.