Mugstar appear to be on a roll at the moment. With a new album, Magnetic Seasons, receiving rave reviews (my rave review is here), and a reputation as an amazing live band that just seems to get bigger. This seemed a great time to find out more about the band and how it has taken in the positive response to the album. I went down to the brilliant album launch at Electrowerkz in Islington, London on 26th of February (see photos between each paragraph) and was able to catch up with Peter J Smyth who patiently answered my questions.
The new album has been very well received, are you surprised by this?
Yeah totally, we were all unsure about how it would be received. We’ve had some very positive responses from reviews and people who have listened to it before. Some have said it’s the best thing we have done.
How did you go about making Magnetic Seasons? Was this a different approach from other albums? If so, how?
The approach was very similar to the last albums, recorded live in Whitewood studios with Rob Whitely. But I think this time we had more confidence to put out stuff that we all didn’t agree on or were unsure about. We talked about a double album before we recorded anything. There was a lot more improvising than the last album, and I used a Fender Rhodes, which I found in the studio, which gave the music a different textures. On the whole I think were a more confident band in our music this time around.
Is there a message you are putting across with the album? Are the ‘seasons’ the four sides of the (vinyl) album?
It’s funny, we are predominately an instrumental band, so when it comes to meanings and titles, it’s a lot harder to pin down. I know from my own stand point that the music has meaning emotionally and that it translates to other people, either at live shows or listening to the albums. I think music makes people less alone in the world and is a good communication to other people, even when it is wordless. As for the seasons on the album, it’s totally a happy accident. The way the album flows makes it feel that way as well.
What music are you currently listening to (and/ or were listening to at the time of making the album)?
Stuff like Richard Dawson, Steve Gunn and Michael Chapman. Were all massive fans of (hate using the term) Krautrock. Can, Neu and Harmoina. I love all the This Heat albums too. I was listening to a lot of bands like Liturgy and the Cleaners From Venus when making the album. We also love Hawkwind.
Is there one Mugstar album/ track that all four of you really rate at the moment?
It’s hard to say. We all like different albums that we’ve done, but with Magnetic Seasons we couldn’t decide what we liked on the album. Jason (bass) really lovely the tracks Sky West & Crooked and Regency Blues. I was really into Unearth and Time Machine. I think the one we all liked was Ascension Island, which came out of nowhere in the studio. It sounds like Winter, ha ha. We ended up with a double albums’ worth of stuff, which fitted in with our original idea nicely.
You’ve been together for well over a decade now and seem to be growing as a unit all the time. If this perception is right (and the new album would suggest that it is) what do you put that longevity down to?
We have all had great and challenging experiences together that have made us stronger as a band. There is so much more than writing music in a band, you need to know how to work together and be understanding of each other. There will be times that it is tested, but the band comes out the other side better.
Is there anything that you wish someone had asked you about Magnetic Seasons? If so what?
No, I mean it’s hard to know what to ask about Magnetic Seasons. I just hope people enjoy it and make up their own opinion about it
Where do you see Mugstar going next?
We have a European tour in April and are playing Raw Power Festival, which looks great! There’ll be more recording and releasing of albums too, we just keep going.
See below for the tour, in reverse order; starting in Brighton on April 1st.
April 16th 2016 – Dorfschänke, Karlsruhe, Germany
April 15th 2016 – Kinoebensee, Ebensee, Austria
April 14th 2016 – Magazzino Sul Po’, Turin, Italy
April 12th 2016 – Dal Verme, Rome, Italy
April 10th 2016 – Macao, Milan, Italy
April 9th 2016 – Arci Taun, Fidenza, Italy
April 8th 2016 – Frame House, Verona, Italy
April 7th 2016 – AKC Attack, Zagreb, Croatia
April 6th 2016 – Klubnova, Prague, Czech Republic
April 5th 2016 – Urban Spree, Berlin, Germany
April 4th 2016 – Hafenklang, Hamburg, Germany
April 3rd 2016 – Sojo, Leuven, Belgium
April 2nd 2016 – W2, Den Bosch, The Netherlands
April 1st 2016 – Green Door Store, Brighton
You can find my other writing for Backseat Mafia here.