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Introducing: The Motion Poets


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Graduating from a popular music degree course at Edinburgh Napier University, The Motion Poets are looking ahead to life post-academia. The National Student caught up with half of the band - frontman Jonah Stead and bassist Morgan Smith - ahead of the release of the new single ‘Speak No Evil’ and prior to a launch event at Audio in Glasgow on 16th May. 

Image Credit: Emanuelle Centi

Stead explains how the recording process for this single differed from the band’s previous releases. He describes that work in the studio was a “hell of a lot smoother” this time around. Jonah qualifies this – “we’re learning more to know what we want”. He adds that determining this is usually a democratic process, which can be difficult in a band of four where 50/50 splits are common. He and drummer Euan Lyons are often “at musical odds”, but this can help because good ideas come out of the “scrap” – and “there’s usually a scrap”.

It’s clear that the quartet’s influences diverge significantly, as a simple icebreaker about what the pair have been listening to reveals. Whereas Jonah mentions the jazz of Ezra Collective and the Cuban sounds of Buena Vista Social Club, Morgan speaks of a recent passion for spoken word:

For our final projects we can do whatever we want, so I’m doing a kind of acoustic-y folky spoken word type thing. A lot of it’s on the more […] not really pop punk. There’s a band called La Dispute […] their early stuff is rooted in emo. I’m kind of more into the lyrics, for the dissertation”.

The Motion Poets are bringing fellow Edinburgh self-described “spooky psych” band Choka through to Glasgow with them on the 16th for the single launch. Jonah also mentions Chrystal, a Glaswegian garage punk act, as ones to look out for on the Scottish scene. He also speaks about his work behind the sound desk for Jimi Get Your Funk On’s new single ‘My Soul’.

We get to talking about differences between the music scenes of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Jonah dismisses the idea that it is any easier to secure venues in the Scottish capital. He says: “It took us a few gigs to get through to Glasgow […] but we knew a promoter in Glasgow, so that helped […] I can’t really comment. They’re different […] I think Glasgow’s got more of an interest in live music. There is very much like an indie kids’ rock scene in Glasgow. It’s like a breed of people.”

This seems to partly explain why the band has chosen to stray from their home city for the launch:

We know more people,” says Jonah. Morgan interjects: “It’s just more vibrant, music scene wise.”

Jonah adds that “because Euan and Struan [Nelson, lead guitarist] are from Glasgow, our audience pull is actually bigger in Glasgow than it is here.”

The new single, ‘Speak No Evil’, is a stand-alone release, but an EP is on the horizon in the near future - although the band is reticent to speculate on when that might come out. Lyrically the track explores themes of “feeling at odds with a relationship […] the relationship will head for that if you don’t speak [...] Often talking about the really difficult things, like maybe it’s not working out, can help to iron things out.”

‘Speak New Evil’ sounds bigger than previous singles from The Motion Poets. Morgan says the band is “embracing the electronic side of things more”. He adds, “you’ll see us introducing a trigger pad [for samples] into the live set”.

Specific musical touchstones include a mutual appreciation of Canadian band Suuns, who uniquely incorporate elements from minimalist techno into noisy art rock. Jonah cites a particular admiration for French electronica group Justice, and all members of The Motion Poets draw inspiration from Foals. Yannis Philipakkis seems to be responsible for the fact that guitarist Struan “never turns his delay pedal off”.

The Motion Poets ought to be on your radar as they expand their sound ever wider and set their sights on a UK tour. Their new single ‘Speak No Evil’ is out now.

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