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Mitchell Museum - Interview

  by Paul Waller

published: 4 / 12 / 2010

Mitchell Museum - Interview


Paul Waller speaks to Cammy MacFarlane from Glaswegian indie rock group Mitchell Museum about the surreal nature of his band's videos, and why while his group's music is upbeat in sound his lyrics are more downbeat

It was probably down to the Scottish/English divide that caused me to get my appointment mixed up when I called up Mitchell Museum’s singer, Cammy MacFarlane, for an interview. I’d loved the band’s debut record, 'The Peters Port Memorial Service'; it was full of hook driven indie rock that had been the soundtrack to most of my summer so when the opportunity came for an interview I grabbed it. I did get the time right. It was just I somehow managed to call 4 days too soon. As luck would have it, Cammy was walking home in the rain when his phone rung and he had a half hour to kill before reaching his destination so I grabbed the Dictaphone and fired away. This is how it went down. PB: What was the catalyst that spurred you on to become a musician? CM: I just really love music to be honest and there is just nothing that affects me in the same way. I started writing songs as simply something to do. Then I found that I really enjoyed it. Initially it was just something I thought that I would enjoy myself. It wasn’t something that I intended to be shared with anyone. I actually started out as an acting student. That is what I initially planned to do. But then I had an accident (laughs). I got hit by a taxi and ended up in a hospital. I now have metal plates in my head so I lost a bit of confidence around that point and I didn’t think I could go back to my acting course. I no longer felt that I could stand up in front of people and perform in that way again. During that time I went back to the music I had been writing. There was a point where it just clicked in my head, I thought screw it. I should just focus on this as a career. It took that smack in the head to make me release that I should do the thing that I love most and that was music. For some reason I find it easier to perform music in front of people on stage. PB: Do you still suffer from stage fright now? CM: No, I don’t get stage fright with the band at all, I don’t know if it’s because I have the support of the band behind me? I really get into it, no problems at all. Going back to the taxi accident I already had a problem previously with mental health which I don’t ever talk about really. But there was a manic episode that I had where I sort of freaked out and had to go to the hospital where I was treated for mania. PB: Does the music help you though episodes? CM: To be honest I don’t really suffer from mania any more. I’ve been sectioned and hospitalised. I have had bouts of quite extreme insanity but ever since I came out of the hospital I’ve been ok. I don’t have to take medication.... anymore (Laughs). I am actually happier and more stable than I have ever been. Certainly with ‘The Peters Port Memorial Service’ having references to the madness I’ve addressed this. Not directly maybe. Some of the lyrics are probably quite obtuse but the listener can make their own stories from it. I don’t want to bum the listener out so what I like to do is write a song about my past but without giving away too much information. PB: You have this juxtaposition with the band in which the music is uplifting but the lyrics are quite downbeat, was that the idea from the start? CM: Yeah, I love it when bands do that and they take a dark lyric with uplifting arrangements. Part of that but not all of it of course is in reference to mania. That’s where that energy comes from. Plus I don’t want to do that to the listener, have someone become really depressed after listening to it. So yeah, I enjoy taking something that is quite sad and then turning it into a positive thing. Music for me has been like a supportive crutch for me after the mania had left, I would listen to my favourite bands and they would help me through really bad times. I don’t know really how far this music will reach but maybe somebody that will listen to this album may feel a little better, a little cheerier. That was the idea behind it. PB: Well you have an outlet now with the music and also I’ve noticed that you have begun beating on robots if the new video of 'Tiger Heartbeat' is anything to go by. CM: Well that came from the twisted mind of our bass player, Kris Ferguson, who created the whole video himself. Once again it has nothing to do with what the words of the song say (laughs). Yeah, the song is actually about the first funeral that I ever attended but Kris spent so much time of completing the spectrum part of it, pixel by pixel, it’s amazing. He is a very talented man; he built the robot costume himself and storyboarded everything. I played the part of the robot for the majority of the video except for where the robot gets a kicking so we got one of our friends to stand in for me at that point. Well, I hope he’s still a friend. PB: Compared to Scotland, how are you finding the shows in England? CM: It’s been really good actually, pretty immense. People are actually singing along to some of the tracks now and that’s amazing. But what is really cool over the course of this tour I’ve started to notice people singing along to 'Copy and Paste' and 'Room for Improvement'. Obviously that means that they have gone out and bought the album and come along to see us and sing along to songs that aren’t singles. So yeah that’s been immense, Manchester was great and Koko in London as well. We were a little overwhelmed by the size of the place so, yeah, we are doing well. PB: As you have got to this stage where you can play venues that size, have you thought about what comes next for you, how are you planning to take things further? CM: We are already working on the next thing; we are actually planning an EP because we have some tracks left that didn’t quite fit with the album. They were sort of more glitchy and electronic. When we were making the album we realised there wasn’t many moments of subtlety. So songs like 'Number 3' and the title track, 'The Peters Port Memorial Service', were included to create space and gel the album together a bit better. Initially we didn’t have a proper sampler or anything like one, we had this keyboard that has a terrible sample memory so all the samples that are on the album are done for six seconds at a time. We realised that some of the people that had heard the album will want to see us live and you know originally it was just us four playing it live with the usual band set up. We put into it so many layers and different arrangements with the album that we were worried that if someone knowing the songs from the recordings came to see us that they might leave disappointed so we had so save up, put our money together and get a proper sampler. So with us getting to grips with that we learned how to get more sample related types of songs together. That’s where we are headed. PB: And for the new album itself? CM: I have been writing some pretty experimental stuff, playing with the ideas of song structure; a lot of the songs on 'The Peters Port Memorial Service' come in at around the three minute mark so I’ve played around with these different ideas. That’s where having the other guys around me comes in really handy, I wrote a song a couple of weeks ago, I’ve put a lot of time into the structure and it will probably be on the next album. It’s all very intense. That’s were the guys come in as the music now goes off at all sorts of tangents. They hold it together. Hopefully this will be start of the new Mitchell Museum record. PB: Well as a fan it all sounds really exciting for me. Thanks for the interview and I hope the rest of your journey home is a safe one. CM: Aye, hope to see you soon.

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Mitchell Museum - Interview

Mitchell Museum - Interview

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