2020 might have been a chaotic one for most of us, but for scuzz rock newcomers The Mysterines, it was an opportunity like no other. A year away from the temptation of touring gave the Liverpool foursome, helmed by the inimitably cool Lia Metcalfe, a chance to focus, and to write and record 'Reeling', their explosive debut album just announced for next year.
"As distressing as lockdown was for the whole world, it was actually really, really enjoyable for me. Got dealt a good card there in terms of writing an album," Lia explains over Zoom. "I don't think a lot of those songs would have been written without that time, which is interesting because it was such a freak moment in history, Covid occurin'. There's nothing I've ever experienced in my lifetime that's been anything like that."
Pre-pandemic, The Mysterines - completed by bassist George Favager, guitarist Callum Thompson and Paul Crilly on drums - were trending upwards and gaining speed. 2019's 'Take Control' EP introduced the then-trio as hooky rock virtuosos while tours alongside The Amazons and Royal Blood gave their already massive sound the stages to match. They'd just ticked off their first headline run in February last year when... well, you remember.
"Everything looked like it was really on a great run, and then a month later, everything closed!" laughs George.
Time away hasn't dampened their momentum at all, though. The first taste of the record, 'In My Head' is a grisly, prowling affair with monster riffs à la 'AM' era Arctic Monkeys and Lia's most commanding vocals to date. It dropped back in July and went straight onto BBC 6 Music's A list.
"Radio 6 and especially Steve Lamacq have always supported everything we've done. We appreciate it a lot," she nods.
Lia also got stuck when it came to making the video, which sees the band shredding it in a hazy warehouse on a dark and stormy night. Its striking monochrome aesthetic was inspired by her love of film noir.
"I've always been interested in film. I've never actually edited anything before, but I enjoyed doing it, and I probably will do it again on the next video. I love film so much, so I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to that [aspect of the band]. The more videos that come out surrounding the campaign, the more the audience will understand what's being portrayed."
To achieve a sound that really gnashes its teeth, you call Catherine Marks. The esteemed producer has helmed the control panels for Foals, Wolf Alice and plenty others; with 'Reeling', she adds The Mysterines to her success story portfolio. You hear Catherine's influence on 'Hung Up', the record's relentless latest single which attacks from all angles.
"She's fucking amazing. She's helped us create the album in a way that no one else could have, and we're all very proud of it, so we've got her to thank for that one," lauds Lia.
"I do think that she's fuckin' boss, like!" adds George, whose Scouse accent is as fine as his basslines.
Working with the seasoned hitmaker taught Lia patience, she says. "And that it takes more than one woman to control a group of men!"
But for George, there was a more practical takeaway: "Don't concuss yourself on the last day. I hit me head off the cupboard door!"
Album in the bag and lockdown (and concussion) a distant memory, The Mysterines are back on the road this month, finally completing their 'Life's A Bitch' tour, postponed who knows how many times. It'll take them around England and Scotland before a closing night blow-out at Liverpool's O2 Academy, which is bound to be a riot. Looking back on their last hometown show, George is audibly excited.
"It was really, really, really fun. I loved every second of it. That first experience of properly having a venue in your own hands, you know what I mean? Really playing with the crowd and stuff."
Anyone who's seen one knows that Mysterines gigs are executed with buckets of energy and a swagger you can't teach. So, what's the secret to putting on a great show? The answer is simple.
"The only way you can deliver anything live is by practising a lot. Because the album was recorded live as well, [we] have to be tight otherwise, we're letting the songs down," says Lia. "There's only so much thought you can put into it before you become Def Leppard, you know what I mean? So, we just practice and let the present moment on stage be the pre-empted thought that goes into it." She pauses. "Other than what you wear."
Taken from the November issue of Upset. The Mysterines' debut album 'Reeling' is out next year.
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