Just a few months ago we here in the States, were graced with the second recording by 4AD’s Mojave 3, Out Of Tune (released in the UK back in late 1998). Because a good number of 4AD bands are not from the States, it is rare that they tour over this way. Mojave 3 decided to make the journey to America and do some traveling for about one month with their friends Gomez. I was able to catch their show at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, MA on April 13, and sit down with Mojave 3’s frontman Neil Halstead.
Neil explained to me how European bands are usually just as excited to visit to States as American bands are about visiting Europe. Neil and Rachel Goswell, bass player and vocalist respectively, both used to be in famed shoegazer band Slowdive, and had a few opportunities to see America then, but had only been here two other times with Mojave 3. They do enjoy touring around their homeland whenever possible, and usually do complete “tours” instead of just “one-outs,” meaning just one show at a time, but the idea of traveling to a new country is very intriguing. They try to get out and see the cities they visit as much as possible. If you have seen the insides to Out Of Tune , most of these are pictures they took themselves from tours they have made. A personal favorite is one featuring guitarist Simon Rowe holding a sticker that says “Don’t mess with Texas.”
Mojave 3 had just got off a tour in Europe with Gomez. They had such a good time that they insisted upon touring together in America. Neil said he has been a fan of Gomez for quite some time, and had been eagerly awaiting their new album. So far, their tour had been going very well. They had not had any major tragedies, except for a small fire outbreak from the generator on the tour bus. This happened just the night before they arrived in Cambridge, somewhere on the highway in Massachusetts. He told me it was really no big deal, no one was hurt, and it was actually more humorous than anything else! But “thank you” to the seven police and two firetrucks that responded immediately! Mojave 3 has had very good luck, ‘knock on wood’, with their tours. The only other situation Neil could remember was when Rachel injured her eardrum while traveling in an airplane. “Something having to do with the pressure,” he recalls.
Before I had come here to meet Neil, I was told not to mention that Out Of Tune sounds like it could be a Nick Drake album. However, I was truly interested in knowing how he felt about the new recording. In my opinion, it seems like a new day rising. It is not vastly different then their debut album, Ask Me Tomorrow , but it has a fresh feel to it. Almost as if something new had happened in their lives, or they discovered something that changed their point of view. When I asked Neil what he would attribute all of this to, he said that mostly it is because they took one full year to record it, versus the two days Ask Me Tomorrow took. That was recorded mostly at their home studio in Cornwall, England on an eight track. Out Of Tune was also recorded on eight track, but with a variety of producers and engineers, one of which includes Belle & Sebastian’s Tony Doogan. Another interesting thing Neil mentioned was that he had been listening to a lot more different music that My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & Mary Chain; now he was more interested in things like… Nick Drake.
Another characteristic of this “new day” feeling I found with Out Of Tune was its artwork. It is homemade… meaning they did it and not infamous design team V23. Neil said they do not work out of 4AD anymore, so there was no pressure to use them. Neil wanted a new feel to the record, so they decided to use their own photographs. The cover is a picture of the guys surfing at a beach in Cornwall. Yeah, that is right…these moodrockers are surfers too! In fact, Ian McCutcheson had a Billabong sticker on his drumset, not to mention that he and Neil both have grown their hair out tremendously! I merely want to mention this to let you understand that Mojave 3 really do know how to enjoy life, and they don’t just go around singing “Woe’s Me” and acting like pretentious rock stars. They are a good group of people that write fucking brilliant songs.
One thing I found most admirable about Mojave 3 is that up until about six months ago, they had been doing their own management. As Slowdive, they had a manager, but when Mojave 3 began, they had realized there was no need for one. Since Out Of Tune has been doing so well and they have been so busy, they decided they need the help. However, Rachel stills plays an active role with the business side. As Neil said, “She is the one with the computer!” Rachel is also involved with some of the semi-official Web sites out there. She does as much as she can with returning e-mails fans send.
So, after a half-pack of cigarettes, a dozen or so people walking by giving Neil the “Oh, look…that’s the guy from…” eye, and enough swapping of tour stories to bore The Billions Corporation, Mojave 3 had to get ready to go on stage. Surprisingly, there was no opening band for tonight’s show. That did not seem to bother the sold out crowd that had been waiting since 8:00PM.
To put it bluntly, Mojave 3’s live performance was phenomenal. I asked Neil if they just played songs as is or if they toyed around on stage with stuff. He said they tend to “get in to” what they are doing. The songs really came to life! Most of what they played was from Out Of Tune , but they actually did play some new songs that no one had heard. With the entire band on stage, including pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole, the Mojave 3 family enlightened the audience with their beauty. They finished the evening with the only song they played from Ask Me Tomorrow , “Mercy.”
It’s funny. Before, I would probably have recommended Mojave 3 to a friend who needed to identify with a sadder emotion. Now, I find myself recommending them to show that same friend that tomorrow will be beautiful day and there still are plenty of things to enjoy in this world, and Mojave 3 are one of them.