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In Conversation: Mutes

Mutes,a Birmingham based Post-punk band have recently just gifted us with their new album 'Dreams of Being Cornered' and if you haven't yet listened to it you're missing out! The band have previously played with the likes of The Cribs, No Age & The Wytches and are set to take over the Birmingham scene!

We chatted with frontman and principal songwriter James, from Mutes, discussing the latest album 'Dreams of Being Cornered' and plans of a UK Tour.

Photo @mutesmutesmutes

When and why did your musical journey begin?

Mutes began in earnest in 2014- it had initially begun as a solo bedroom project, which was more ambient/soundscape-focused. After writing some songs that were more full-band-focused I pulled together a cohort of local musicians in 2015 to take it to the stage. The band has been through quite a few twists and turns since, with Tom and Craig joining in 2018/2019 respectively. Since then we’ve finally been able to knuckle down as a united group- it’s finally become a collaborative band rather than me and various musos passing through the ranks! Dreams of Being Cornered is our third album but in many ways our first as a real band.

Describe your sound in three words?

Kinetic, Introspective, Meandering.

How does your typical songwriting process go?

In the past, I would demo entire songs at home before taking/teaching them to the band. Nowadays though, we do a lot more hashing-it-out in our lockup- I finally feel confident enough to take a song’s embryonic form to Tom & Craig and let them guide it to its full fruition. Lyrically I am constantly writing and generally employ somewhat of a cut-up technique when piecing together a full song- letting myself be guided by the melody that’s in my head. A narrative usually ends up forming anyhow. There’s a lot of trial and error! We’re definitely not a jam band though- we’re far too impatient to just go with the flow, we like to have an end goal in mind!

Who were some of the biggest inspirations when recording ‘Dreams of Being Cornered’ and why?

In terms of the sonics, I wanted to make something that sounded bright, urgent, and polished. We’ve done the lo-fi thing to death really, so I wanted to make a pop record with a lot of 12-string and jangle to it, but with a good dollop of fuzz and noise where needed! So records I would say influenced the sound would be Siamese Dream, Celebrity Skin, The Noise Made by People, and even more contemporary records like Charly Bliss’s Guppy. In terms of material though, I think we were pretty confident in doing our own thing we played these songs live a lot before recording, so we had good faith in them and that they weren’t too derivative or aping of our own personal influences.

Dreams of Being Concerned Artwork

What’s the most important thing to think about when starting a band?

I’d say it’s asking yourself if you’re looking to do it because you think it’s “cool”, or because it’s simply the conduit for your art. If you’re looking simply to be a cat on the scene to get all the social points, then there are far easier ways to achieve such a sociopathic goal. We do this because we couldn’t bear not to it’s an arena in which we can express ourselves in ways the mundane 9-5 worker-herding world doesn’t often allow you to.

Which of your own songs is your favourite to play live?

‘Identifier’ is a really satisfying one- it’s a good distillation of everything we feel we do well, and generally gets even the most aloof of crowds nodding along. Pareidolia closer ‘Form/Colour’ is always a hoot as we often draw it out in a cheekily self-indulgent way, but honestly, at this point, we are most excited about performing even newer material that we’ve been writing since finishing Dreams of Being Cornered.

Photo @mutesmutesmutes

Is there a message you always aim to convey in your music? And why is it important to you?

Not so much, as I tend to write about the personal rather than the political (though they are often one in the same). But, with that in mind, I would say that ‘truth’ is at the core of it. It is not fun to delve inside yourself and spill it out onto paper you often end up confronting some unfortunate truths. As long as I can say that I have been honest in what I have written (or even the sounds we make), then I shall feel some sense of pride in our music.

Is there a specific song in your catalog that has a hidden message or a story behind it?

Given the cryptic nature of a lot of my lyrics (though those on Dreams of Being Cornered are far less so than usual), often they are alluding to thoughts and feelings that I do not feel comfortable with explaining outright. Like many people I struggle with depression, feelings of disillusionment, self-medication and being unable to identify with my own body. So there’s a multiplicity of struggles to be found within… but then again some are just about food, dying and getting drunk.

Photo @mutesmutesmutes

What has been a highlight in your work so far?

The first show we played with Craig he had been in the band for 2.5 hours and we supported Cloud Nothings to a sold out room. We absolutely nailed it, and it was a true “oh my God we’ve finally found our guy” moment for Tom and me. Hearing Dreams of Being Cornered back was also amazing validating and self-assuring to know that we could lay something down we are all proud of. But really the highlight is simply still feeling in love enough with music to want to continue to make more of it.

What's next?

We are aiming to record another album before the year is out it’s turning out to be a lot more long-form than DoBC, so it may be a double album. Until then though, we’ll be announcing a UK tour soon and, like anyone else, just playing it by ear really. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this Coronavirus malarky, but it’s really chucked a spanner or 2 in the works! I just pray that all our creative friends across the country who are integral to the music scene get the support they need to re-open safely and successfully. I would hack off my own leg for a warm Red Stripe in a cramped green room whilst waiting to play for 12 people again!

Mutes' Links:

'MODERN WASTE' Music Video:


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