Hailing from the DIY capital of the North, Leeds band Mesmer Disciples are hard to slip into any particular niche, cock your ear left and they’re a full psyched out Cramps influenced garage band, cock it back the other way and they have gritty Northern sound not too far removed from The Fall, turn around and they’re as different again.
We took them aside recently and asked them to introduce themselves.
BM: How and where did you all meet?
MD: Mark, Dave and Mike had been jamming together and had been looking for a vocalist for some time. Mike and Stewart met on a night out in Leeds. Stewart was dj’ing at a garage/psych night called Bloodstains and they got chatting about music and bands. Stewart hadn’t sung in a band before and had always been a bass player. They arranged for Stewart to come down to a rehearsal and that was how it all started.
BM: You’ve all been around a while in various guises…
DM: Stewart played bass in a punk band called The Dead Pets for 10 years until they split in 2008. He also plays bass in a melodic hardcore band called Jaded Eyes. Mark and Dave used to play together in a band called Nervous Shakedown. Mike has been in many bands over the years and currently plays drums in a surf/garage band called Razerbills. Mark also currently plays guitar for an alternative rock band called Thieves of Misfortune. We have all been in many bands over the years. We should be old enough to know better by now really.
BM: So how did Mesmer Disciples get together?
MD: Approximately 4/5 years ago, it’s a bit of a haze really. We started out with no particular ideas about what sound we were trying to achieve. We saw a lot of other bands starting out with a fixed idea about which bands they wanted to sound like. We all agreed that it would be far more satisfying creatively if we had no barriers or constrictions in our way.
BM: You’re quite hard to pin down and explain to people who haven’t seen or heard you. How would you describe yourselves?
MD: It’s difficult to pigeon hole our sound really. We have been compared to Captain Beefheart, The Fall, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Can, Edgar Broughton Band…however we often can’t detect those influences ourselves.
BM: ‘Mesmer Disciples’ Intriguing name – where’s it from?
MD: Mark came up with the name; inspired by Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer. He was a German physician who believed that there was some kind of transfer of energy that occurred between all living things. He established the terms animal magnetism and mesmerism. Deciding on a name can be challenging. There’s a tendency to initially find a name that somehow represents the image and sound of the band. We all agreed on this name because we wanted our music to have a mesmeric/hypnotic quality.
BM: Are there any bands that have influenced you over the years?
MD: This is a tough one for us to answer. As we mentioned above we began this band without intending to sound like anybody else. Each individual within the band has diverse tastes. Rather than point out any individual bands or artists it would probably be easier to mention a few genres that we either appreciate individually or collectively. Psychedelic music from the 1960’s has a huge influence on us. Not just UK or US stuff but music from other parts of the world that was inspired by western music of that time. Krautrock is certainly an inspirational in terms of the hypnotic qualities that are central to that genre. Punk, soul, blues, funk, afro-beat and world music are also at the foundation of what we do. It’s a real melting pot and we like it like that.
BM: I really enjoyed seeing you live a couple of times now. Can you remember your first gig?
MD: In 2013 at a little pub in Leeds called the Fox & Newt. We put the gig on ourselves, with some friends, something that we still do from time to time.
BM: In your opinion, what would you say people will get from a Mesmer Disciple gig?
MD: Something a little different or challenging when compared to a lot of other bands that you might see in the back room of a pub. Somebody once said our show was ‘Menacing, experimental and at times unhinged.’ We loved that description so we’ll stick with that.
BM: What has been your favourite gig to date? And why?
MD: We recently supported Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. We enjoyed it because there was a bigger crowd in attendance than usually. The sound is always great at that venue and we had a great response from an audience that didn’t know what to expect..
Bm: Your worst gig to date? And why?
MD: Probably our first gig due to nerves and poor choice of jokes between songs – that’s all we’re going to say.
BM:Which songs do you like performing live the best?
MD:Any new songs because they’re fresh and unfamiliar to us and the audience. We have a constantly evolving set and we don’t play any of the songs we were playing at our first gig. The only difficulty we have is deciding on which songs to remove from our set when we have new songs that we’re excited to include.
BM:What’s more important to you? Playing live or getting in the studio? Or do you think the two go hand in hand?
MD : Mark, our guitarist has recorded all of our material up to date. This has been a learning curve for the band, in terms of getting a sound that we’re happy with as our sound evolves. We will be self-releasing these songs within the next couple of months and have recently made the decision to keep everything in-house including the artwork, which will be created by Dave Royston. The visual representation of our band is something that we feel is equally as important as the sound itself. We write music principally for ourselves and enjoy the creative process that this provides. Despite this, playing live is also gratifying especially when an audience feeds off our performance. Surely that’s why most performers do what they do.
BM: What are you working on at the moment?
MD: We are currently completing the recording of a song called ‘Book of Love.’ It’s inspired by the teachings of Alastair Crowley, occultism and the supernatural. Once the song is completed we will make a video and post it on our Youtube channel. We are currently putting together 2 releases which will include all the songs we have recorded up to date. This will be self-released in limited runs and will be available through ourselves and at gigs.
BM: How do your songs usually come about?
MD:Generally our songs start through jamming in rehearsal. We usually improvise and if the idea has legs and seems to be going in a particular direction then we will attempt to put the idea into some kind of structure. Stewart then comes up with a vocal melody and we can usually tell quite quickly if it is going anywhere. We generally come back to the idea several times adding sounds, percussion etc. if needed. Stewart then writes some lyrics and we work on it until each of us is satisfied. We also occasionally use an electric tanpura, which is an electric version of a traditional Indian stringed instrument. It provides a constant droning sound and we use it to add bass frequencies to our sound. We also use an extra guitar with an ebow and slide which can mimic strings and adds extra texture to our sound. We don’t have a bass player so we add different sounds to the mix to ensure the songs don’t miss out on those frequencies.
BM: Are you aiming for anything specific with your sound?
MD: We don’t attempt to make it sound like anything else really. We like a big sound and don’t necessarily mind if some things are in the red. The energy of our songs is important to us and wherever possible we try and make things sound as close to our live sound as possible.
BM: There’s some pretty neat imagery in your videos. How important is the artwork for your releases to you?
MD: The visual element is just as important at the music to us. Many of our songs are inspired by cinema, pulp novels and other aspects of counter culture. The releases that we are currently working on will reflect that. We would love to play some festivals.
BM: Where can our readers catch you next?
MD: We’ll be supporting Thee Hypnotics on 12th April at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds(click HERE for tickets etc) It’s always great to play there. Also we’re playing the Rumble all-dayer as part of Live at Leeds at Sela bar on 5th May. All of our future gigs will advertised through our Facebook page.
You can keep in touch with us at (social media links)
- stAn x