Rubbing Elbows with Mystic Peach
Today we have the pleasure of rubbing elbows with Curtis Gale, frontman and guitarist of Southampton psych-rock three-piece Mystic Peach.
Since releasing their debut single, Downtown, in mid-2017, the gentlemen of Mystic Peach (Curtis Gale on guitar, Joe Ingram on bass, Jimi Allen behind the drums) have been building a fierce live reputation around the South of England for their wall-of-sound guitars and confrontational and energised sets.
After a long period of recording with producer George Murphy (The Big Moon, HMLTD), Mystic Peach are back with their formidable new single Across the Pond. We sat down with Curtis to talk 60s garage, the progression of their sound, and how Hampshire has become an unlikely hub for psychedelic rock.
Egyptian Elbows: What would say your main influences are?
Curtis Gale: It’s a really hard one, because i’m trying to speak for the whole band, and we’re all weird and basically don’t like each other’s music. There’s only a few bands that we really agree on. Obviously Nirvana is one of them, and that’s a massive influence on my part. We all love Nirvana, if you play guitar you’ve got to love them. Tame Impala is an absolutely massive one. Which i’m sure is the same for everyone, it’s sort of... reverberated through music.
I think their influence has been massive in the last ten years.
Yeah massively. I think it’s the way they’ve gone about it, they’re just an amazing band… or man [laughs]. 60s garage is probably the foundational thing that we really click to. We just love the pure rawness of it and all the reverb on the vocals.
That’s cool, I’ve heard people reference that before but I don’t really know many of the bands from that era.
Yeah it’s a weird one, because there are bands that are a part of that, that you would never really think were part of it, if you know what I mean. It’s basically like a rawer version of Motown, but with punkier guitar, and really cool melodies. Bands like The Sonics, they were part of that scene. I would say our influences would basically be psychedelic music and psychedelic rock meets 60s garage. But I also tend to put a lot of shoegaze and nineties influence on the sound of my guitar, so I kind of bring that ambience of shoegaze onto the garage-y foundation. It turns into a wall of noise almost.
I always think that’s an interesting way of doing things, when you take certain aspects of certain genres and try to bash them together.
Exactly yeah, and I think with Joe and Jimi, they’ve got their own influences as well which I might not like and they put that into the mixing bowl. Joe’s bass playing on the new track Across the Pond is so upfront. It’s probably one of the most prominent parts of the song, and the stuff that’s he’s influenced by is totally different to what i’m influenced by, so it does make a really nice mix.
So what’s the songwriting process within that?
I basically just sit in my room, and just… get annoyed about things, and then i’ll write a song based around whatever i’m annoyed about. I’ll record it on my phone, send it off to those two and they’ll learn their parts, and then we’ll go into rehearsal and put it all together.
Ah okay, so you flesh it out together?
Yeah I kind of have an idea of how it should sound, and then usually it turns into something completely different in rehearsal. But yeah, we all sort of write together but I come to them with the backbone.
The nugget of the idea.
Yeah all the melodies and blah blah blah. But yeah, all credit to them. They write all their own parts and everything so…
So your new release, Across the Pond, came out last Friday, and your last single before that, Downtown, came out way back in 2017. What have you guys been up to in the time between that?
We’ve basically been gigging and writing more material, and recording down at Eastcote Studios with a guy called George Murphy. He’s recorded with The Big Moon, HMLTD… so we got involved with him and he’s recording four of our tracks. So yeah, recording and gigging, I think that’s why it’s taken a while. To be honest, and I think the whole band would agree, Downtown was a rushed thing, which we didn’t want to repeat. You know, “We need to release something in order to get gigs”. Trying to go out there without any sort of recorded music, it’s so hard to get anywhere. We’re still proud of it, and we still love the song, but yeah we wanted to take our time this time.
I saw you played a couple of gigs with Gengahr recently.
Yeah, they were fun. They’re an incredible band.
Yeah I really like them.
Really nice people as well. They were both fun gigs. And yeah, there was quite a lot of people there for us which we were quite surprised about, so that sticks out to me as one of the best gigs we’ve done for sure. I think performance-wise and just how many people were watching us.
And you played one with them in Leeds as well, right?
Yeah recently, actually. But it was sort of like, an ‘indie banquet’ kind of thing. Maybe our music was a little too confrontational or aggressive, maybe a bit too dark live. I think at moments they liked us and at certain moments they were a bit scared. But yeah, we’ve come from Southampton so no-one’s gonna know who we are and what we’re like.
Is there much of a music scene in Southampton?
There is a scene, but i’m not sure… we’re more associated with the Portsmouth scene really. The Portsmouth psych scene, and a lot of the bands we play with, or support, they’re all mainly in Portsmouth. Just because there doesn’t seem to be the bands that we could play with in Southampton, because the scene’s a little bit different.
The style of music?
Yeah, basically with Portsmouth it’s a bit more psych-based, but I think in both there’s obviously scenes going on because there’s loads of gigs most nights down here. I think it’s the most exciting time I’ve seen for it down here, with bands emerging. It feels like there’s finally something there for us to cling onto. Whereas I think before it was more sort of... we were excited about other bands coming in.
I noticed a lot of your gigs, and you mentioned that Gengahr gig too, have been at The Heartbreakers, is that the main venue down there?
If you want to see emerging bands then Heartbreakers for sure. Absolutely. The guy that owns it, Tom Dyer, he does wonders for the music scene as a whole in Southampton, he’s definitely a big influence in our little scene. He’s done a lot for the Southampton music scene, so credit to him.
Your first single, Downtown, I think has quite a relaxed feel to it particularly in its verses. But i’ve been reading reviews of you live, and one in particular described you as being like ‘The Wytches on coke’, and that at one point you were punching your distortion pedal. Do you think you’re new recordings are more representative of your live show?
Definitely. With the new track Across the Pond, and everything else we’ve been recording recently. I’m sure you can hear the massive difference between Downtown and Across the Pond. I’ve always wanted to make a show out of what we’re doing, and performance is such a massive part of music. We’ve all been there, where you go to see a great band but they’re just kind of stood there doing nothing… it’s so disappointing. When we started, our friendship was still quite fresh, so we didn’t know how to be with each other, or, had thoughts like, “Would they mind me being a bit weird and scatty”. It’s just a natural progression, and I’m certainly pleased that people are seeing it in that way and that people are enjoying it, because it means that hopefully we’re doing something right. The newer stuff is going to be far more in your face. Far more intense and quick. It’s not going to be almost five minutes long, it’s going to be like... two [laughs].
So in terms of moving forward now into 2019. What’s the plan?
It’s just about staying busy really, just gig as… not as much as possible, because we all work full time, so you know… fuck that [laughs]. But yeah just keep playing important gigs, do a bit more recording, and hopefully we’ll have another single out again maybe March, April time. But, you know, music’s unpredictable so don’t hold me to that. But yeah, just keep busy, and keep on going all the way to Andromeda really [laughs]. That’s our aim, to be the first band to Andromeda.
Well you’ve got to aim high I suppose!