‘A yellow van, if you see it, don’t egg it!’: An interview with The Mispers (10/03/2015)

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I caught up with London-based The Mispers right after their sound-check at O2 Guildhall Southampton as they set to support Kodaline for the night. Explaining to me how manic the crowd has already been getting into the venue, tour manager Pete hurried me through the back door and security to The Mispers’ dressing room. Quite opposite to how concerned Pete was trying to keep on time, telling us we had around ten minutes to get this done, each band member greet me warmly and began with small talk before we got into the interview.

How has supporting Kodaline been so far? You have been playing in Europe and in the UK?

Jack Balfour-Scott: Pretty magical really. We’re used to playing quite grungy, quite small venues across London and we’ve always been quite successful with those but it’s an interesting challenge moving on to bigger stages and also just being with Kodaline, you’d just think through the amount of success they’d had, it might be… I don’t know what you may think, but they are all really nice people as well so, just cool to meet a band that are properly legitimate.

You also played a show with Hudson Taylor in February? Was that a bit different?

Jack: I don’t know.

Joey Arnold Zapata: We played Shepherd’s Bush Empire so it’s quite a nice venue, it’s amazing!

Hannah van den Brul: Great audience.

The first time I saw you was about a year ago here at Southampton supporting Saint Raymond…

Jack: At Joiners!

Joey: Awesome!

…it was such an amzing night! And I know you have so much energy and attitude for the people you are playing for, does that vary – say you play to somebody who hasn’t heard of you before? Do you have a specific way to warm up a crowd?

Jack: I think there’s a way, it’s different for everyone, but for me…

Joey: I think it’s high energy all the time.

Jack: Oh yeah! I’d say it’s high energy, but I guess it’s different for every band member really, but for me, I also approach it like – if they don’t know you it’s more an interesting challenge, but you just have to do slight different things each time. If you’re walking out into a crowd of people that are there just to see you you might just keep them waiting a bit longer so the excitement’s there, or just like them hype themselves up – whereas with an unknown crowd you need to make a more solid impact on your first song so they make a statement to the fact that you are like a professional band and you’re at that level where you can entertain them as it is you know. So I guess that’s been the difference.

As for those who had seen you played and love you, you created special events for them such as the Missing Til’ Monday Party or Search Party – is the dynamic of crowds your favourite bit of playing live?

Jack: Yeah! You know about all that! It’s that but it’s just such a human thing – if you’ve got people shouting and screaming and being excited, it fills you full of serotonin, it makes you feel special and happy and I guess it’ll always be like that with me to bring people together ’cause it makes people feel good. And the more we can do that the better.

The energy and excitement you have live are there in your songs, what are the ideas behind the songs? Are they in particular personal or you just think of all sorts of ideas?

Jack: Usually lyrically it’s me and Joey, me and Joey start concepts, and we usually sit and have a cup of tea and then we’ll just…I’ll usually throw an idea, Joey says no and then Joey says an idea and I’ll say no…

Joey: Six months later we got one line!

Jack: It can be quite quick actually. We had certain sessions where we’ve written all lyrics. I think if you get it out quicker it’s better, it’s more soulful and more romantic if you just write what’s in your mind at the time always instinctive, I prefer that method rather than we used to do shit like look through magazines, get random words or go on the internet and look for rhyming words and stuff but not really that organic, like a rhyme shouldn’t be such an unnatural thing, it should just come off the tongue.

Is the writing process behind every song different? Is there always a new way of trying different things?

Jack: I suppose so, yeah! It’s usually started with a guitar melody or vocal melody and then we just build it up.

Your style of vocal is unique as well, have you always been singing in this way?

Jack: I’ve been described as like a baby sheep before and then as you smoke enough cigarettes and then it kind of became…

Joey: An adult sheep.

Jack: An adult sheep goat. But Joey and I kind of taught each other a little bit along the way, Joey’s done different types of singing, he’s done like wedding singing and all that and a bit of kind of like lounge singing and I’ve done more kind of like shouty indie and I guess the merge has helped each other kind of improve, I suppose.

Back to touring, which is your most memorable gig so far?

Hannah: Paris.

Jack: Paris, yeah! I don’t know, maybe Manchester Albert Hall actually, I just liked the vibe afterwards.

Diego Porto Belmonte: I liked the small festival in Germany.

Joey: The first time we ever went to Germany as a band, it was awesome.

Jack: That was good. The was the kind of situation where we were really converting a crowd. We were playing an afternoon festival and everyone was sat down, it was raining and, “Woah, this could be difficult!” but there were a lot of people and all of a sudden they were all on their feet and dancing so it’s nice to do the converting. There’re a lot of people out there that assume they went a gig they might not enjoy themselves but they’ve kind of loosen up a little bit and it’s better to be a bit looser in general I think.

What’s it like on tour? Are you on a tour bus?

Jack: We’re on a van! In a yellow van! Spread that: “A yellow van, if you see it, don’t egg it!”

[They all start to laugh.]

What do you do between gigs and cities?

Jack: Just do nothing! Just literally do nothing, just drink more water, Red Bull and just…what do we do?

Other band members: We play football.

Jack: Yeah! We do play football and sometimes do like press-ups, walking, music…

Hannah: Talk about music.

Jack: We don’t talk about music though.

Hannah: Yeah we do!

Jack: Do we?

Diego: It’s the only thing we talk about!

Jack: Oh when? Oh in the van! I thought in between shows! Just driving!

[Another wave of laughter.]

Is there anyone you are listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?

Jack: Jack Garratt. I just heard of someone, you can spread this for him, this guy called Raury, who’s apparently like 17 years old and he’s the new Kanye West, he’s from the UK. I heard about that but that’s not what I listen to, me and Jordan have got really similar taste and everyone is different, it’s hard to say. Music just really changes all the time.

You are going to have a headline show in London Oslo on the 15th of April? And you’ve also been writing in the Mipsers’ Manor in Edinburgh?

Jack: Oh Mispers’ Manor yeah! That’s cool, that was like, it was a really nice treat!

Joey: It was just a little flat we had for like two weeks.

Jack: It was a nice treat because basically I was up in Scotland, kind of visiting family, and I had some family problems I needed to sort out and all that – so they all came up to Edinburgh and we rented quite a nice flat. In London we paid a ludicrous amount to stay in really horrible places and in Edinburgh we got this quite luxurious like flat for just a couple weeks and it just felt like we could called that Mispers’ Manor. I eventually want to do a real Mispers’ Manor if we ever had that money… but we probably won’t so but it would be cool to just have a commune.

Hannah: Slide from the bath to the swimming pool.

Jack: Oh yeah! Or surely the other way round, so the chlorine doesn’t…

Hannah: And back!

[Then all kind of ideas start to come up and some more laughter.]

What else can we expect from you for the rest of the year?

Jack Balfour-Scott: I hope big things! I really do! It feels like a big year for me, not for me personally but my personal opinion is it’s gonna be a big year for the band. I hope to be on loads of festivals, gonna be bringing out an album, that’s the point!

The Mispers are so friendly to talk to, there’s constant laughter and knowing exchanging of looks between them that made each other smile. As I slipped out the door while they discussed where to grab a bite, they said goodbye to me again and they are just really nice.

Experience their friendliness and highly energetic and thrilling live set at their headline show at London Oslo on 15th April 2015.

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