Interview: Our Mutual Friend

“We’re all over the UK right now so it’s a serious affair,” says Our Mutual Friend singer and guitarist, Jack Goodall. “[Bassist] Thom and I have known each other all our lives and he lives just up the road from me. I don’t think we were always friends – I was an annoying little kid making plays and putting on shows and he was an annoying little kid destroying those shows. We didn’t plan to form a band but I’d been writing songs for ages and they were there…there wasn’t much of a recruitment process.”

Split between Cardiff, London, Lancaster and Bromsgrove, the young five-piece craft the self-professed sounds of ‘glamorous middle England’, drawing on The Kinks, Lou Reed and Neil Young to produce beautifully nostalgic whimsy belying their years which veers from the delicate British Summer Time to slices of David Bowie glam. Yet they manage convincingly to keep it from disparity.

“Bromsgrove doesn’t especially inform our music because our musical tastes originate from much further afield,” says Thom, “but perhaps there is something about the growing up in a relatively cultural backwater which gives our stuff a little bit of an Arcade Fire Suburbs style of claustrophobia and restlessness.”

“It’s a very conservative place,” continues Jack. “Lovely, but there’s a temptation to be as subversive as possible. I think it inspires a bit of a perverse stance. Like a lot of satirists, there’s a front of respectability…you’re more likely to trust the guy screaming at you if he’s wearing a suit and tie.”

Last February the band released their five-track Ambition EP. Jack explains its composition.

“I’d been writing songs when I lived in Canada as a student and a lot of those were about Canada. That got me thinking about England and what that means to us personally and as a band, so on the EP there are songs about childhood, memory and unemployment. The title track definitely has this sense of having to be on the move…like the place cannot hold us anymore. We’d love to do albums called England, Canada and France because the songs do fit into those categories. When I wrote the Canada songs I was alone but Ambition feels like we’re collectively wondering what’s out there. We’re not children anymore.”

Ambition was followed by Truly Gone, a stand-alone single which the band released on orange vinyl last month.

“The sales of CDs and vinyl in particular have held up surprisingly well in the post-digital environment, and perhaps that is part of a backlash of people who don’t like this impersonal, anonymous style of culture consumption via digital media,” explains Thom of the band’s decision to physically release. “It’s probably the same people who campaign to keep live music going by supporting small, independent venues. It’s also undergone a kind of conversion from a transportation and delivery device into a piece of art with value in its own right. Look at all the exciting new packaging for CDs like the recent Atoms For Peace album with foldout artwork, or Alt-j’s pop-up pyramid; the days of the old plastic boxes are gone,” says Thom.

So what are the band working on now?

“We have about two or three albums-worth of songs and more being written all the time but I don’t think we will do a full album until we have a decent concept or structure nailed down,” says Thom. “We’re not in any particular rush. We’ve just released a video for Truly Gone and there’s a remix by Camcussion, who’s a Canadian electronic artist, up online.”

And one final thing – the band name refers to a Dickens’ novel, right?

“We named the band after The Divine Comedy song of the same name,” says Thom, “a beautiful eulogy to a thwarted romance in a world that is changing beyond recognition in every other heartbeat. The original recording has a fantastic string orchestration, but the mood of the piece, a sort of naïve nostalgia, is something we often try to recreate in some of our own songs.”

“I am a Dickens fan and I read the book later but it was crap,” ends Jack.

Our Mutual Friend play the Brum Notes July Issue Launch Party at The Sunflower Lounge on July 2 with My Grey Horse and The Mourning Suns. Entry is £3 on the door.

Brum Notes_July_Online

 Photo: Imogen Buller

Poster: Charlotte Owen-Meehan


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