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Interview: The musings of Misty's Big Adventure

9th October 2008

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Misty’s Big Adventure are an enigma... waging war on this ‘bland age’ with new album Funny Times. Phil Dixon took tea with the band’s Grandmaster Gareth and Erotic Volvo, the nicest monster in pop...

Misty's Big Adventure
Misty’s Big Adventure are mystifying. It’s not the band themselves, despite counting the dour, fedora-wearing front-man Grandmaster Gareth and the blue, discotronic dance machine that is Erotic Volvo in their ranks - which, admittedly, would be a mystifying sight to those passing by the quaint little Islington café where TNS finds itself enjoying tea with these two. As a band, Misty’s are beguiling, colourful, and ever so slightly odd, with an outlandish live show that truly has to be witnessed to be believed.

The mystery is, in this current musical climate of cookie-cutter indie outfits and a conveyor belt of infuriatingly vapid acts singing about lemons and such, that a genuinely unique and enjoyable act with infectious tunes backing meaningful lyrics aren’t nearly as big as they should be. It’s a time the band themselves have dubbed ‘The Bland Age’, indicted so incisively in their previous single ‘Fashion Parade’, which gave them their biggest hit to date. It was more of an underground success than a commercial one, as despite over fifty thousand hits on YouTube for the video and its use as a backing track on promos for a BBC Four series on Edwardians and an Irish anti-litter campaign, it was conspicuously absent from the higher reaches of the charts.

Erotic Volvo: Yeah, what did Fashion Parade get to in the charts? Was it 406?

Grandmaster Gareth: No, we did better than that. I can’t remember though.

EV: It was something like that. It was the highest selling single Sunday Best (DJ Rob Da Bank’s label) had ever had, though.

GG: But the thing was that we just didn’t get much airplay for it, because we were taking the piss out of all the other bands that they played. Because I have this theory that no one listens to lyrics at the radio stations - they just put it on and go, “Oh, this sounds like Franz Ferdinand, we’ll play it,” and unfortunately they obviously do.
With our other singles they’ve always said, “Oh, you know, it doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio so we can’t play it.” So I figured if I made a song that sounded like everything else on the radio then they’d play it, but… It was a cynical attempt to…

EV: …to take the piss out of the music business. Which doesn’t always work. It was fun, though.

Unfortunately the music industry is not an area renowned for its sense of humour or irony. And for a band as humorous and ironic as Misty’s, to toe the line would be to compromise what they’re about. So, for the imminent release of their much-delayed third album, Funny Times, the band ultimately decided to do things their own way, forming the record label Grumpy Fun Recordings.

: We couldn’t decide at the start of the year who we wanted to put it out with - only because we generally hate anyone who works in the music industry. Well, just the whole fakeness of it all, so it seemed to us the best idea to just do it ourselves.
It’s kind of just saying ‘fuck it.’ I don’t want to be a popstar, I just want to make music and that’s the same for all of us, really. It’s never like we wanted to be massive, we just want to make good records. And that’s the trouble with most bands these days…

EV: The trouble is if you get massive then you can’t really make good records any more.

GG: We’ve got friends who are in bigger bands and there is a pressure on them to deliver a certain thing, whereas I don’t think we’d be very good at that, because you just write what comes out, you know? It’s not like you sit down and think, “I really want to write a three and a half minute Facebook song, and moan about me girlfriend…”

EV: “Moan about one of my several girlfriends…” This sort of “I’ve-got-everything-handed-to-me-on-a-plate” mentality.

GG: “I’ve got absolutely nothing to rebel against. And yet I’m moaning.” But you need something to rebel against, don’t you? Personally, I’m rebelling against the Five-A-Day campaign.

Fascinating as it would be to enquire further into what issues Gareth could possibly have with a government-endorsed healthy eating campaign, my attention instead remains focussed on what we can expect from the new album.

GG: It’s sort of Serge Gainsbourg-y, in that it’s quite lush arrangements and we’ve got lots of strings and the brass and the kitchen sink as usual. The last three years have just been mental touring whereas this year we’ve been doing loads of stuff in our studio, just sort of working on ideas. Because when you’re on tour all the time you don’t get a chance to write much, so we’ve been experimenting a lot.

Indeed, Misty’s are no strangers to jam-packed tour schedules, in all the far-flung corners of the UK and beyond - often traversing from one corner to the other in a single day in a Herculean effort to bring their idiosyncratic stylings to those starved of decent entertainment (and “because no one thinks about it in advance and we just take what gigs we get offered.”). And so it goes with the ‘mammoth tour’ the band is currently embarking on throughout the UK in support of Funny Times.

GG: When you book a tour you get the key cities - Manchester, London, Birmingham, whatever - but then you’ve got to fill the gaps. And if you’re a big band it’s really easy, whereas we kind of end up in Peterborough or these totally random places. But often those gigs are the best.

EV: Taunton, man, we got mobbed! All these girls just got on stage. They were behind Gareth like that (does crazy dance). It was weirder that anything I could think of. There’s just loads of kids and they haven’t got anything to do, so they all go to the one venue and it’s amazing.

GG: Yeah ‘cause they don’t get any good bands coming there, so at least we always know we’re probably going to be the weirdest band that’s hit that place.

And the weirdness is not merely confined to the UK. The band are also making waves in several locations across Europe. They have tales of riotous gigs in Germany in which they played more encores than there were audience members; they have recently returned from a town-centre festival in Krakow, and earlier this year they were hand-picked by the British Council to represent British music at an Eastern Europe music industry conference in Vilnius, Lithuania.

GG: We’ve never done anything like that before so we said yes. I don’t really know anything about Lithuania. I mean that’s the thing with Misty’s, we’ve been to so many places. You know, what do you live for? Is it just money or is it the experiences? Like when we were on tour with The Zutons every night’s the same and you just get bored of it. And that’s why you end up taking cocaine, and trying to find better ways to spend your time. Whereas we couldn’t take cocaine because we’ve got to somehow get to Lithuania. With no money.

But you know that the people will enjoy it and respect the fact that you’ve come all that way to do it. It’s not like you’re going to get some Londoners going, “We’re so grateful to you for coming down to London. No one ever comes here!”

And so with such a fervent reception from crowds wherever they play, how is it that they are not more ‘commercially successful’?

GG: The thing is, I think, even if it’s not your cup of tea musically then it’s still something to watch, isn’t it? It’s just a bit different. I think that people aren’t exposed to that much weirdness these days. If we were around in the sixties we’d be totally ignored, like we’d just be another band. I think ‘cause we’re living now it stands out.

And the element which makes them so watchable - and would doubtless stand out in any era, sixties or otherwise - is the presence of the inimitable, indefatigable, indefinable Erotic Volvo, whose on-stage (and off-stage-over-the-barrier-into-the-crowd) antics and often-improvised moves have garnered such a following as to earn him his own entry into the hallowed annals of Wikipedia (“Do I? Whoa! That just makes me feel quite confused.”). Not bad going for someone who, in fairness, looks like a reject from Doctor Who.

GG: He wants to be on Doctor Who, that’s sort of the main reason we set up.

EV: Is it?

GG: Yeah. That’s the only reason I write songs. He’d be like the Jar Jar Binks of Doctor Who, they’d bring him in and everybody would be like ‘oh, fuck sake!’ and they’d drop it again. And then I’d be rid of him.

EV: And then you’d be free to sell out, or…

GG: Then I’d be free to change the name to, er… what was the name? Oh yeah, ‘Terrorists Use Computers’. We’d get some art rock type of songs. I’d get a hair weave…

EV: Jerky samples and angular guitar chords. You have to play it at forty five degrees…

GG: It’s actually very complicated. People like us shouldn’t really take the mickey out of it because they’ve studied it.

EV: It’s all about geometry, you see. You have to go to engineering college to learn how to do stuff like that.

GG: We’ll come off stage going, “I just wasn’t angular enough! I didn’t quite get it right.”

EV: “The angles were too flush, man. You need to be more obtuse!”

They may be off-kilter, but there’s nothing obtuse about this outfit, that’s for damn sure. So as they forge their own way through the mire of the music business, what then lies ahead of them on the path to glory?

GG: Basically it’s my New Year’s resolution to kill the music industry by trying to download enough music for a hundred compilations, right? And every single song on all the hundred CDs is going to be totally amazing. And then I’m going to make multiple, multiple copies and just give them to people, like, “a hundred CDs, there you go; they’re all amazing. Just listen to them and you’ll be happy.” That’s my plan. So all students: get Emule, and then just don’t pay for anything. Just download as many albums as humanly possible. Don’t give them any money, they’ve had enough money. And if you want to support bands then go see them live and buy a t-shirt or something.

And so goes the Misty’s Manifesto. Support the bands who need it, and who deserve it. Jump on the bandwagon, go and experience the phenomenon for yourself on this tour and for the love of all that is good and pure help END THE BLAND AGE once and for all!

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