Interview: Midnight Bonfires

Midnight Bonfires were the perfect choice to headline our Christmas Party this year. But behind the fun party spirit is a serious side to a band determined to succeed. They tell us how they have come out of a busy 2014 with a sound that is bigger and bolder than ever.

“It was great fun. Away from home is always strange at first but once we were on stage it was great. We saw a few cockneys dance about and have a good time which is unheard of.” Midnight Bonfires frontman David Langley is talking about the band’s debut headline show in London, which they played at The Buffalo Bar in Islington last month.

Since releasing their debut single Misbehave in 2011, Midnight Bonfires have come a long way. From sharing stages with Jamie Cullum, Cosmo Jarvis and The Twang, to releasing their self-titled debut EP in November 2012 and enjoying an appearance on BBC WM. From a sound which started off rooted deep in folk, Midnight Bonfires have evolved into a band cavorting that folk influence through snappy pop structures and creating party songs to have a good time to, with choruses you can whoop with abandon. There’s something of Alt-J’s Joe Newman in Langley’s vocals and they’re subverting the traditional pop construct in much the same way. While it might not have been the speediest of ascents, it’s been a steadfast one.

“So much has happened in the last 12 months,” says drummer Mark Banks, “playing the Brum Notes Christmas Party last year only feels like five minutes ago. We did some touring early this year, put out another single and video, played a few really good support shows locally, headlined the Lunar Stage at Moseley Folk Festival, and wrote and recorded a new EP. Warming up for Johnny Marr at a festival down the road from where we grew up was a definite high. There’s hundreds of low points when you’re in a band at this level, but the love of what we’re doing and the support from each other keeps our heads up. We’re very committed.”

Each single Midnight Bonfires have released, from Misbehave through to Someone Else, Lights Out and Exhale, has felt like a marked progression showcasing the differing aspects of the band’s diverse talent. They’re a band who don’t stand still.

“We all feel that we’ve moved on with our sound, it’s bigger and bolder and we wanted to get that down on record,” says David on the recording of Midnight Bonfires’ second EP. “It’s mainly brand new material, five tracks recorded over three days.”

“It’s where we want to take the sound of the band,” adds guitarist Simon Gregory, “we’ve changed a lot musically in the last year and it shows on this record. We’ve pretty much left the ‘folk’ label behind us, although it will always be there. But I think the sound is a lot fuller now. The EP has a name but it won’t be revealed until the release date. It’s a bit of a musical journey, it shows an aggression in parts that may not have been apparent before…”

“As for themes…lust, love, control, irony and loss…in fact all, in that order,” continues David. “Most of what I write is either from personal experiences – warped, warts and all – or tall tales.”

The EP was recorded with Dave McCabe at Muthers Studio in Digbeth, fast becoming one of the go-to recording spots for upcoming bands in Birmingham.

“He’s worked with a lot of bands at Muthers as well as doing loads with his own projects so his ideas come from a load of different experiences,” explains Mark. “Dave understood the songs and could see where we wanted to go with them. The studio was fantastic too, it’s been hand built with love.”

Midnight Bonfires headline this year’s Brum Notes Christmas Party at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath on December 20. They will be joined by psych blues duo The Good Water, party poppers The Jacarandas and garage noisemakers The Mighty Young, with further doors to be opened on the rest of the festivities over the coming days.

“It’s going to be a very quaint event,” conjectures mandolin player Rick Hughes. “[Bassist] Theo [Hockly] has agreed to perform his one man show of It’s A Wonderful Life. We’ll be lucky if there is any time left for music to be honest.

“The heat inside that Santa outfit nearly killed me last year so I need to rethink that one,” says Mark. “And someone slagged it off for being the red Coca Cola version…maybe I’ll wear a big advent calendar this year, and lucky – or unlucky – members of the audience can open the doors throughout the night.”

And after that, how do Midnight Bonfires plan to celebrate Christmas?

“We are firm believers in the tradition of Christmas,” says Rick. “So we plan on getting extremely pissed and eating till we shit.”

Midnight Bonfires headline the Brum Notes Christmas Party at the Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, on December 20 with support from The Mighty Young,The Good Water and The Jacarandas. Tickets are £5 adv here.


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