The first ever Monitors album premiere was initially going to be Arcade Fire’s Reflektor album, but quite frankly its bloated double-disc format was not only a struggle to make it through in one sitting, but also a struggle for our servers to upload. Luckily, the day before we were due to announce it to the world, the debut album from rambunctious London three-piece Mickey Gloss, who we fell in love with after hearing their ‘Are You Happy’ single back in September, landed in our inbox like a friendly mailbomb.
Streamlined, scattershot and passionately punchy, it had a hell of a lot going for it also boasted a complete lack of superfluous appearances from David Bowie and Jonathan Ross*. As a result the Canadian band were gently let down, and, with no one else willing to host it, were forced to stick Reflektor on Youtube instead. It was harsh on them, sure, but once you’ve heard MG’s Astral Projections for the Kinetically Deranged we think you’ll agree it was the right decision. From the riotous opening track and the bouncy ‘Celebrate’, to the punk balladry of ‘Old Fast’ and the brooding ‘Love Is Strange’, it’s a bloody storming listen that we’re proud to present here for your delectation.
We were delighted that, as well as giving us the opportunity to gift your ears with their superb sounds, Australian frontman Daniel and his English cohorts, bassist Andy and drummer Rod, were also willing to drop in for a chat about the album, as well as having a good old natter about music industry charlatans, Lindsay Lohan’s mum, and what it’s like to have your guitar pedals ripped out by an irate French sound engineer. So dunk your ears in the stream below, buy a copy on Bandcamp, then scroll down to see what the Brothers Gloss have to say for themselves…
So what’s with the name Mickey Gloss? Is it an alter ego for the band as a whole?
Daniel: It’s kind of a pseudonym for a particular character I’ve been writing about for a while, an alias like Iggy Pop or something like that. We started off as a two-piece, which is kind of what the band was in its early stages in Australia, and then we decided we were gonna go all out and get a THIRD MEMBER. Then it was a process of about a year gigging and recording.
I guess the thing is we can write in a lot of styles. This album is quite rock and quite punk, but I think the next album will be maybe more of an ode to RnB or something. With us, we all write – Rod writes for newspapers and Andy’s done a lot of writing before, film scripts and stuff, and I write kind of weird poetry – so we’ve got a huge focus on lyrical quality.
So you were recording things all the time for this album?
Daniel: We kind of did it in two bursts, really. We did a recording session, about half the record, at Southern Studios, which doesn’t exist anymore. That’s a famous recording studio – Jesus & Mary Chain recorded Psychocandy there – and there was a guy there called Harvey who my friend Chris from Upset the Rhythm told me about. He came to one of our shows and said he wanted to work with us, so we did some recording sessions with him. We recorded a whole bunch of songs there, but it was when we were just getting down as a three-piece. We listened back and were like, there’s some good stuff on there but we think we can do better.
So we knuckled down for six months and then kind of went to the opposite side of the spectrum. Our friend Mark was starting this new studio, Sound Savers Studio, a real budget studio but they were recording reel-to-reel 8-track and he was offering us really good rates. So we did that over another three days, and it was a whole different ball game. We probably only recorded over five whole days – everything’s live basically. There are no overdubs apart for maybe a couple of guitar solos and some piano parts. We could knock out an album in three days easily, I reckon. Mark really helped us with the recording and got us to make it more personal.
Andy: It was a very different environment. His studio, including the mixing desk, was about the size of this room [for context, we’re in a pretty small room], but it gave the songs the character we needed.
Apparently Daniel arrived in London just as the 2011 riots were kicking off (a recording of the riots is sampled in the album’s opening track ‘Are You Happy’). Where were you based when that was happening and what are your memories of it?
Daniel: Hackney. Just down the road from where it kicked off really. It was quite weird ‘cos I was teaching at a PRU [Pupil Referral Unit] at that time, so I had lots of kids telling me that day that it was all going to kick off.
Rod: Were any of them involved in the riots themselves?
Daniel: Probably. When you walked around Hackney that day everyone was saying it was gonna kick off. There’s a place in Dalston I often go to, Bardens, and the owner was like, “I’m closing at midday”. It was quite funny in some ways because everyone was waiting for this impending…thing. If you walked around while it was happening it wasn’t even that scary, but when you watched it on the TV it looked so much more scary. And then everyone was kind of nostalgic about it, weren’t they? It was kind of like this romantic thing, all these kids thought they were doing this revolutionary thing, you know? But they were really just smashing down JD Sports and grabbing a pair of Yeezys or whatever…
Andy: Rinsing Poundland for all it was worth…
Daniel: It was such a weird thing, especially working as a teacher. That was during summer holidays, and around Hackney they’d cut all the youth programs for all these kids. These kids are living on estates in little flats and they are just gonna kick off…
Andy: Yeah, I mean whenever I go for community meetings with the charity I work for, you see how swathes of community funding has just been ripped out. And that preceded what happened. I’m not saying, you know, a youth centre being closed was to blame for that…
Not directly, obviously, but it’s a contributing factor. There’s a great documentary called Riot From Wrong, made by young people in Tottenham, thatgoes into all this in some detail…
Daniel: That song, ‘Are You Happy’, is about how they’re protesting but with more destruction. I just kind of found it…I don’t know…no one was winning in that situation.
Andy: The most disturbing thing I found about it was that it was an opportunity for the main political parties to come out and question why it was happening, but it just turned into a fucking mud-flinging exercise. Some of these kids might just be wanting to smash shit up, but why did it become so widespread? That wasn’t looked into at all, and I found that pretty disturbing.
Daniel: I mean, you get outlying groups. Like, we play with that Fat Whites band a lot and we love those guys, they’re like little brothers to us…little brothers that we’re kind of scared of sometimes…but they started groups like Yuppies Out and I dunno, that kind of stuff doesn’t feel so responsible. That’s a reaction, but it’s an angry reaction…
Andy: …and misses the point, man!
Daniel: I think, especially with the youth and stuff, there needs to be more engagement. I just don’t know, if I was a youth, what I’d actually do in London, because there aren’t that many facilities you know? I see these kids down at the skate park, and when I first came to London I thought that was great, to have a skate park underneath the South Bank Centre, and now they’re talking about ripping that up. It’s like London’s just building on top of itself and on top of itself…
Andy: I’m fucking glad I didn’t grow up in London, man. I wasn’t a fan of where I grew up but being in London for the last ten years or so, I’d have fucking hated to grow up here. Most of these areas that got trashed, they’ve built them up and gentrified them now, while rental and housing prices have fucking gone through the roof.
You’ve engaged with politics in your music too.
Daniel: I guess the whole album is a critique of different things, but I don’t think, apart from ‘Are You Happy’, that there’s anything on there that political. Maybe ‘Jesus’ I guess, which critiques Catholic and Christian ideologies, but I don’t think there’s much apart from that…
Rod: The thing with your lyrics though is that they’re very metaphorical, so you can read them on a personal level or you can read them on a political level. That’s the nucleus of a great songwriter I think.
Daniel: Well, I don’t want to be that person who’s like, “my song’s about this”, or whatever. I’m more interested in what other people think of the album and how they interpret it. Your insights are just as valid as ours; I think probably more so because we’re so close to it that we can’t really be arbitrary. There are songs on this album that I like, and then there are ones that Andy will like and ones that Rod will like, and no one’s more correct…
Rod: I think it’s a sign of the strength of an album if you’ve all got different songs that you like. If all of you are saying there’s one song that’s the favourite, then there’s probably not that much depth there.
That’s a good point. I think the thing that surprised me about it was that I was expecting quite a fast-paced, punky album, but there’s actually a lot of dynamic contrast on there, and a few slower, quieter moments. Have you always produced quite varied music?
Daniel: To be fair, that’s our main problem – we write so many different things. We wanted continuity on this record and I feel like we’ve done that in some kind of way, I feel like the record plays out like a record. We kind of get lumped in with these punk kind of things, we play with all these bands from America that are, like, punk and whatever, psych-y, garage-y…
Andy: I don’t think we set out to make a record that was punk or was this or was that, those songs are just symbolic of that time.
Daniel: The next record’s gonna be completely different, in terms of songs and feel. Which is good. We got the test pressings [for this album] the other week and were listening through, and we know the songs and how it plays out so there are no surprises for us. But I guess for people that haven’t heard the whole record, I think it’s gonna be surprising. I think the production level on it is gonna be surprising for a lot of people too, because we put a lot of weird stuff in there.
Rod: I think that’s another positive. On ‘Are You Happy’ you’ve obviously got that sample of the riots in there and you’ve got those weird, synthy sounds, but live we’re a bit more stripped back, so I think you’ll get a different experience from seeing us live. I always like it when bands that I listen to do that, when you get a different experience listening to them at home than you do when you see them live.
Andy: For me, if you’re just playing the album verbatim on stage you’ll end up like fucking Snow Patrol.
Rod: Well, do you remember Vampire Weekend? We were both really disappointed weren’t we, because the first album came out and we saw them at Brixton, and they’re great musicians and they played really tight, but it was just the same as the record, they didn’t push themselves at all.
Andy: There was just no character to it live, and for a band of that level, playing tight is a minimal fucking requirement, you know what I mean? We know you can play it tightly, add a bit of character to it.
So your most recent video, ‘Right Kind of Love’, is all about Lindsay Lohan. What’s the concept behind it?
Daniel: Well I guess that whole song’s about the bullshit of wanting to be famous, this kind of celebrity culture. One of the lyrics is “I’m gonna make it baby / I’m gonna be a star / I’m gonna get out of here / Go some place real far / And the next time you see me / I’ll be on that TV screen / And you’ll be in that trailer park, girl / Still wishing you were my queen”.
When I came over here from Australia, the biggest impact on my understanding of music and art was how the industry worked. You spend six months in London and you see how it works with bands. Australia does not have any of that. Even the bands that are massive, there’s some industry presence and stuff but it’s not like ‘Flavour of the Week’.
My friend who cut that clip up is this guy Garry Sykes, and he made this documentary about Lindsay Lohan. He’s an expert on her, in the sense that he made this whole documentary about her life from found footage, without having a narrator or anything, just cut from footage from when she was a child and all the way up. There were a lot of movie companies that actually wanted to release it and it was gonna get shown at Cannes and things like that, but he couldn’t get clearance for certain things because there was so much found footage. James Franco’s doing a similar thing, but because he’s doing it about his own life he’s gonna get a release. But Garry’s pre-dates it. I think Franco’s ripped him off.
But yeah, I just asked him to do a cut ‘cos I feel like Lindsay Lohan was the flavour of the week in terms of that kind of thing. I wish now, in hindsight, I’d done Miley Cyrus! But yeah, you see that film clip of her getting into the car and it’s just ridiculous how many people are there. Do you really want that?! For your whole life? You walk out of a club and there are, like, 400 people following you!
I mean, you know, we always talk about wanting to go on tour, or play with these bands, so we’ve got those kinds of aspirations and things. But if I had 400 people shoving cameras in my face, it wouldn’t last very long. It’s quite interesting for me, that kind of desire to be famous. I’ve never had a desire to be famous, it’s more of a desire to leave a watermark, you know?
Andy: It’d be pretty easy for her to escape that if she really wanted to, but it’s the only life she knows isn’t it? And isn’t her Dad an absolute fucking loony as well?
Daniel: Garry’s documentary is called LXHXN – if you google it you can watch the whole thing on Vimeo. It shows her parents, and her Mum’s just this horrible…she was taking her to the Viper Room when she was like 14 or 15…
Andy: And her Dad was selling voicemails that she had left him to the fucking press and stuff like that.
I mean, you may not have any desire to be famous, but at the same time getting any kind of recognition as a band in London is pretty difficult. Have you found that?
Daniel: Yeah, but I feel like we get recognition from the right people. We get to play with the bands we wanna play with. We’re releasing the album ourselves, I run this thing called H Badger. We’ve had experiences with some people… like, we had a flexidisc put out by this guy and a tape that was supposed to come out, then we sent out the record to some labels and there were a few people interested in America, and then you wait for them to get back to you and it’s like, this is all bullshit, let’s just put it out ourselves. At the end of the day, we play gigs all the time and we know that half the bands in London are just shit. I’m sorry, but they’re just shit…
Andy: Half of them? More like 95% of them! I’ve been in a few of them…
Daniel: I could bring over ten bands from Australia that would just blow everyone’s mind, and you compare it to London and it’s always like, so-and-so has got a connection…
Andy: That’s the main thing about London isn’t it, fucking connections. I know people that work in TV and what not, and the most talented people, eventually, if they can stick at it, they’ll come through. But more often than not it’s talentless fuckers that end up coming through, because they’ve got the right connections. Nepotism at play.
Daniel: Also, the music that we make, we’re not gonna be as big as Jay Z or Katy Perry! We’re not making beats. I think young kids, or the young kids I work with, they might listen to some guitar music but it’s mostly electronic-based. So I think in some ways we only have a niche market anyway. But we’d definitely like to be bigger. Like, we’ve seen in the past year how we’ve played with the Fat Whites a bunch of times, and now they’re gonna play The 100 Club and they’ve got a big following, and we feel like we’re as good as those guys, you know? We’ve got as much to say. But when it comes to all that stuff there’s a lot of luck. We’ll get our time you know.
Andy: We made a decision. Once you have an album and know how good it is, you either sit around waiting for someone to put it out for you or you make your own decision. We’ve got the album, let’s put it out there.
Rod: I think it was getting burned by bullshitters, for want of a better word, people who were saying they were gonna put the record out. Basically, I think the number of shit bands is only matched by the number of dickheads who say they can do something for your music…
Daniel: And at the end of the day, it’s probably better for us in the long term. I know a few bands that get burned by labels and can’t make money and stuff, and then there are people like Grouper [Liz Harris]. She’s had all those big labels like Domino throw money at her and she’s like, no, I’m just gonna print my own stuff. She’ll bring 300, 400 vinyls out with her on tour, sell them all cash in hand. We’ve printed, for this run, 250, and we only have to sell 80 records at ten bob a piece and it’s covered our costs for the actual record. That’s easily done I reckon.
When you put it like that, it’s almost surprising more bands don’t go down that route.
Rod: It’s going that way…
Andy: Well, it’s better for the industry to have this holy grail: “You must get signed to a label”. But the reality is, you know, we’ve forked out for the recording and the promotion and the cutting of the record, but it’s not like we’ve run ourselves into fucking bankruptcy doing it.
Daniel: I dunno, I can understand if you’re, like, 18 or 19 and you work in a minimum wage job…
Rod: …but with us, on our 100 grand a year salaries – easy peasy!
Beyond the mechanics of making and releasing it, what musical influences have been a factor on the album?
Daniel: God, I dunno. I guess these guys are into ’90s lad rock [the others crack up laughing] and the classic ’60s side of stuff.
Andy: Yeah, I guess Dan’s been influenced by different things than me and Rod, really. I don’t know, is that a result of growing up in Australia?
Daniel: Where I grew up in Australia was a weird country town, but for whatever reason we had the coolest hardcore punk scene near Sydney. People would come from miles away to see 16-year-old kids screaming and playing punk. That was a huge influence on me, because from the age of about 14 or 15 I was putting on shows with friends and selling them out to like 300 people in a car park. And that’s fun, and the way it should be really. From there, once you’ve got that as your ground level, you can only get weirder.
Andy: I grew up very near to this town called Braintree, where the Prodigy are from, and people used to say birthed rave. But I grew up a few years after that and there was a really big punk scene that probably didn’t exist in London at that time, in the mid-nineties. I mean, I grew up listening to what my older brother had. He put Metallica’s Black Album in my ears when I was like 7 years old and I liked that for about 6 months, but I wouldn’t say that’s ever been an influence on me! But I was going through the old vinyl collections, The Jam, The Clash, Beatles, Kinks, that sort of stuff.
Daniel: I guess we model ourselves on a classic rock band, at least for this album.
Rod: I’d also say punk. Not hardcore punk, but punk with a melodic edge. Stuff that pushes the boundaries, like The Clash used to do. Bands like that, progressive bands that don’t rest on their laurels and move forward with their sound. I used to listen to a lot of dance music…but then I got sober! It works though I think, because my influences aren’t as far out as Dan’s, and I think that works well in terms of him having a blank canvas in a lot of ways. I just try and keep it quite simple, and he can do his stuff over the top. He can let his ego really fly free!
The way it came about was quite beneficial, in that they played as a two-piece for a while and I just thought they were really, really good. I didn’t think they needed a bass player! But the thing is, as a two-piece, it’s difficult to get it right every time in small venues. In big venues it’s fine, but in small venues the sound engineers are different, the rooms are different, and sometimes it wouldn’t work as well just because of the sound. But having seen what they were trying to do, I went in and had some ideas about how I wanted to keep it really minimal, almost with a dance edge to it.
Daniel: It just seemed really quiet before that…
Andy: I remember when we started as a two-piece, that was Dan’s big frustration, that sound guys in London were just so fucking hard on it.
Daniel: They were like, “No! Turn it down!”, because in Australia the venues are bigger and there’s more space, I could just rock up and turn the amps up to 9, and it’s so much easier to feed back and all that weird stuff. And over here I had to learn a completely different way of being noisy. It’s taken me so long to just be able to get back to the edge. But [sound engineers] here are so hardcore, I’d never experienced that. Remember that French guy? He just came up and turned all my pedals off during a song!
Rod: Where was that? [there’s a long collective attempt to remember, before Rod recalls it was The Wilmington in Clerkenwell]
Daniel: God, that was horrible. And he was screaming at us and I was like, dude, this is what we wanna play. It wasn’t even that loud.
Andy: And that was a promotion company that sold itself as a psychedelic fucking garage promotion company!
Daniel: The quality of sound systems over in Australia compared to over here, in terms of pub venues, the sound systems over here are just shit in the smaller kind of pubs. So then you’ve got to learn to do it another way. It’s always the case, and I think you learn a lot more that way.
Rod: Sound guys are ‘artists’ in the same way as anyone else. Some of them like to have it quieter so they get a lot of definition, others like to have it louder on stage…
Andy: The majority of pubs in London that do gigs just aren’t set up to be venues. Every other pub thinks it’s a venue.
Daniel: It’s like in Dalston, any basement they can cram over twenty people into is a venue. But I think it’s a good change. Now I’m down to 3 pedals and another way of playing, and it’s cool. And we’ll do something different for the next album, we might introduce some keyboards or something, see how that works. It keeps things interesting for us, ‘cos we get bored easily. That’s why we write so many songs.
Rod: I think that’s the biggest thing about the band, the…prolificy? Is that a word? I’m gonna say it is a word – the prolificy of the songwriting, because we always come in with new ideas every time. I think we do two or three new tracks every rehearsal pretty much, and it never dips. There’s always new stuff to be heard.
Andy: We won’t pore over a song and rinse the life out of it. Once we’ve got it we’re like, OK, sweet, let’s move on. And we’ll come back to it, but we’ve always got new stuff coming through.
Daniel: And then choose the best ones to put out.
I guess that’s the best thing about putting stuff out yourselves, you don’t have to worry about release schedules or anything.
Daniel: Yeah, as long as they’re selling we could do that. It’s better doing stuff yourself if you can do it, but it’s good to be on a label as well in terms of publicity. We’ve got this guy Danny [All Teeth PR] who’s doing some cool press for us, but you’ve got to start from the bottom. Whereas if you’ve just got signed to Captured Tracks or whatever it’d be like: Pitchfork!
And the label would have a booking agent, whereas now you hit booking agents up and they’re like, “we’re not going to talk to you unless you’ve got a thousand friends on Facebook”. And that’s so preposterous because you could just buy those friends on Facebook fairly easily. That’s the whole thing with the music industry, I think the internet has gone back on itself really in terms of what it promised for artists. Now with digital streaming sites and everything I feel like artists are gonna lose so much money. Spotify just kill it. You’ve gotta pay for a registry to put something on – we go through these guys called Tunecore or something – and you put it on and pay fifty dollars a year to have it on Spotify…
Andy: And then you make that money back once you’ve had ten kajillion plays on it.
Rod: It’s sort of the same principle as that ‘pay to play’ there used to be, you had to bring a certain amount of people to a gig or else you had to pay to play. Thankfully they don’t seem to do that anymore…
Funnily enough, I went to a gig last night at The Roadtrip on Old Street, and that was the first time I’ve been asked “What band are you here to see?” in ages…
Andy: Yeah, I used to work for a promotion company who I won’t name…
Rod: Water Rats!
Andy: …but they did all their shows at the Water Rats, and this fucking junk that we got told to say on the phone to these bands, that you’ve hit up through this software on Myspace, pre-Facebook days, with the same bullshit that all these other promoters use: “I’ve listened to your tunes! They’re amazing!”. And then you were like, “it’s definitely NOT pay to play, but if you buy sixty tickets for three pounds each, you can sell them all to your mates for six pounds and make £180 quid off it, isn’t that great!”. And you get enough bands from these provincial towns and they’re like, “A gig in London! We’ll book a coach for our mates to come up!”. After about two months of that I just felt like I’d fucking trampled my soul into the dirt. But the other guys I was working with all had backgrounds in fucking telesales and shit.
Daniel: Another one was: “get a chance to play with Bloc Party!” with (DJ) next to it. And it’d be Kele turning up at 3am or whatever.
Rod: My friend played one of them. It wasn’t me, I promise! And he said The View were meant to be on…
Andy: Yes! I remember who that was, but I almost feel uncomfortable saying who…
Rod: Yeah, it said: “Play with The View! The View are here!”.
Andy: And then a week later it was, “actually, The View are playing an acoustic set”. And then a week later it was, “oh, the singer’s Djing”. And then a week after that it was, “the drummer’s doing a DJ set for half an hour!”.
Rod: And then he didn’t turn up till two in the morning, played for twenty minutes, and that was literally it! Played four songs and then fucked off! Unbelievable.
By Kier Wiater Carnihan
*Just for the record, we do actually like the new Arcade Fire record. See?