I have been chatting with the chaps of Midnight Embargo…
about their new E.P., 00:00, and what sort of ideas inspired the music. They discuss their formation and whether they each have favourite cuts from their E.P. – I ask whether there are any rising artists we should be aware of and follow.
The guys share favourite music memories and which albums they hold dearest; if there are going to be any gigs coming and what we can expect from their live set; the advice they would give to artists coming through – the band members each select a song to end the interview with.
Hi, chaps. How are you? How has your week been?
Rob Macpherson (Synth/Vox): Hey. We’re good. Excited. It’s been a packed summer getting these tracks recorded - and now we’re all ready to shout about them.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
Ha! The obvious question, right?! I love describing other bands. It’s much harder to describe your own stuff...
Well. We’re Midnight Embargo - an Alt-Rock trio. Definitely upbeat. The kind of music you want to get up and move to. But, there’s also some attitude there; an electronic edge to our songs. Mixing Micro-Korgs with guitar riffs. ‘Dark-Disco’ I call it.
00:00 is your new E.P. What sort of themes and ideas influenced the songwriting throughout?
Mario Rojas (Drums): I think there’s definitely much more of an emotional edge to this E.P. than our first one. On 00:00, one of the main things on my mind is the heartbreak thing. I mean, it’s the title of the first track so I guess it hits you straight off the bat.
Rob was going through a break-up when we were writing the songs, recovering through that and I’ve been going through a slow break-up. It’s tough but definitely been a theme. Rob uses the second-person a lot in his lyrics - talking about ‘you’. Maybe he has someone in mind?
Rob: Yeah, I do that a lot. I guess it adds a bite to the lyrics when I’m on stage and feeling that attitude. That doesn’t mean the songs are about anyone in particular - not every time anyway. Maybe that helps people identify with them while listening.
As Mario said, we’ve been through a lot when writing these songs. The music has been a great way to get through it - that wave of feelings. From feeling strong to angry to vulnerable and out the other end. We’ve all been there, right? I think these songs reflect that.
You recorded the E.P. in Nottingham. Was it a like putting the songs together? Do you each have a standout cut?
Mario: Standout cut was definitely HRTBRK because of how many takes it took and how intricate it is. I love the ending; how the coda switches up. It came together really nicely. Guy (Elderfield, Producer) was really good. He let us really do our thing and didn’t chop up our songs. Maybe we’ve matured and they were good as they were? You tell us.
He gave us a really good sound which we really love. He brought the idea of more produced drums which gave them an electronic edge. We’re quite a hybrid in our sound between live Rock and Electronic. I think that’s a cool sound.
Ian Wybron (Guitar): It’s definitely HRTBRK for me. We kept thinking which song should go first on the E.P. and we wanted to start with our best single. HRTBRK’s got everything.
Rob: The rest of the E.P. definitely shows off our range of influences though. Borderline is a proper 100 M.P.H. rock song. We wanted to capture the energy we give off when playing it live. Burn Your Fires was probably our biggest surprise. We brought it into the studio with one vibe and it came out sounding a hundred times bigger. The vocal harmonies are huge.
How did Midnight Embargo get together? When did the band start life?
Ian: I’m definitely claiming credit for this one, guys. Well; I was ready to start a new project like three/four years ago. I was working with Rob at the time and knew he was into his music too. We got chatting and realised we had some similar interests; got the guitars out and tried a few songs...
But, it wasn’t until we found Mario through a friend of a friend that things really clicked. We didn’t know what to expect for our first practice session. But, we got into this great little rehearsal space in Hoxton called Kafri - really lo-fi but chilled out. We just jammed for three-hours-straight. When it feels right, you just know.
Rob: Yeah; I think we all felt it. Like; that feeling when you’re all about to change mid-song and you do it at the same time without making a big deal of it. Just a little look and BAM, here comes a chorus. We’ve always been at our best when the three of us are just jamming in a room.
We considered a fourth member and tried out a couple of bassists but it never had that connection that we instantly found as a three. We joke that we have probably forgotten more songs than we’ve written. But, the good scraps always find a way of coming back into new projects.
In terms of artists and music; what did you all grow up listening to?
Mario: I’ve been through so many phases. I grew up first listening to Pop music like Michael Jackson, stuff like that. Then, into Rock through R.E.M. in the late-'80s and early-'90s; College-Rock in the U.S. I went through a big Metal phase in my teenage years.
Ian: Yeah; me too. I was in a Metal band in school. Luckily, we don’t have the tapes here.
Rob: Obviously, I went through that Nirvana phase as a teen. But, quite quickly found myself drawn to bands where the sounds were as interesting as the songs: The Cooper Temple Clause, Nine Inch Nails; Radiohead. Then some electronic stuff too: LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk. I love hearing sounds I haven’t heard before.
Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?
Ian: So. We just played a couple of summer dates to launch the E.P. Mario is in the U.S. for a few months but, in the meantime, we are lining up some tour dates in the New Year when our intrepid drummer returns. If you add Midnight Embargo on Twitter or Facebook we will announce some dates very soon and hopefully do some gigs around the country. Watch this space.
What could we expect in terms of your stage show? Is the stage somewhere you all love to be?
Rob: Oh, there’s definitely a side of me that loves getting on that stage and strutting our stuff. Especially when you’re playing your own songs. I put everything into it - which anyone who has given me a sweaty hug after our gig will attest to!
Mario: Anyone that’s seen Rob knows he’s very energetic. Ian and I keep the show on the road and Rob is the frontman. The three of us work evenly on stage. We all love being there.
If you each had to select an album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Mario: God. I gotta think about this one...
Maybe Thriller? I know it doesn’t maybe work with being a Rockstar. But, I love that album a lot. One of the more recent albums that totally slays me every time is Funeral by Arcade Fire. Every song is incredible. They use so many instruments to create such haunting melodies.
Ian: Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses
Despite the fact I play a Strat out of a tweed amp, Slash was/is my guitar idol. Watching him as a kid made me want to learn guitar.
Rob: Musically, I’d have to pick The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails
I must have listened to it a thousand times and I’m still finding new layers in there that sound like nothing else. But, on a more emotional level, I would say Born to Die by Lana Del Rey. The production is amazing but I listened to it so much when dragging myself through a rough patch a few years ago and some of those tracks just cut you open.
There’s a line in one of our songs called Algorhythm where I sing “Now the songs that used to cut in two/They don’t touch me like the way you do”. I always think of Lana when singing that line because her songs can make you cry when you’re struggling but also uplift you once you’re back on your feet.
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Ian: Can we have two? A good one and a funny one? Our best gig was maybe supporting The Libertines’ John Hassall and his new band at Proud in Camden last summer. That was a great venue and all the bands that night did a great job of filling it. A shame that it shut down. Our funniest memory is definitely a gig we played in Nottingham recently…
Mario: The Spinal Tap gig. Ha!
Ian: Right. It got arranged at short notice while we were up there recording. I’ll spare the name of the venue but they didn’t know a gig was on that evening when we turned up. We had to cobble together kit from all corners. The drums kept collapsing throughout the songs until I started holding it up with my leg. Rob almost electrocuted himself on the microphone because of some dodgy connection…
Rob: Yeah. That wasn’t fun. It’s only after it got sorted that the sound guy told us that people have died on stage that way.
Ian: Oh…did I mention the pub was basically empty?
Rob: We still had a great time. It doesn’t matter if there are ten or one-hundred - we still love playing our songs.
Mario: On a more serious note; the last gig we just did at The Water Rats will live long in my memory. The culmination of a few years of playing together. Loads of our fans came out and we love how much they support us. We’re used to these thirty-minute sets that get cut short with some promoter trying to keep everyone on schedule and I always want to play more. It was great to play for almost an hour and show off our good energy.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Mario: Wow. This is hard. Interpol are back with a new album so they come to mind. The National, certainly. I’d love to play a show with them.
Ian: I’d play with The Black Keys. Our early songs were definitely strongly influenced by them. We even had a ‘Black Keys Ones’ as a working title which ended up becoming ‘BlackList’. I also saw the Dandy Warhols recently in Toronto and thought they were still awesome. That would be a fun gig!
Rob: Yeah. I’m guessing the rider would include a bit more than just blue M&Ms though for that one! I don’t know what we’d demand. Just some burgers, beers and a bottle of tequila? We all need to get a little bit better at being prima donnas.
What advice would you give to artists coming through?
Mario: Just keep practising. More than we get to at least! Don’t have full-time jobs or leave the country for a few months like I have. Ha! Always have something to work towards. Book a gig or a recording session. It’s so much cooler when we’re preparing for something. Let’s just get on with it.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Rob: I would say all the music I discover these days is through Spotify recommending stuff or Shazam-ing tracks on T.V. programmes and in bars. But, that isn’t always new stuff you know? I was in this great bar in Brooklyn recently. All it did was serve meatballs and play '90s Hip-Hop. I basically Shazam-ed a whole playlist over dinner.
Ian: People should definitely hear the two bands who played at our E.P. launch party. Wild Rival are a filthy sounding two-piece worthy of the Royal Blood or Death from Above comparisons. doops have a great new single people should check out.
IN THIS PHOTO: doops/PHOTO CREDIT: Jon Mo
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Mario: Well, yeah, in a way. We all have jobs, so that is time away from the music. But, to relax? I love to travel to new places. Oh…and I love karaoke. Love singing. Is that getting away from music? Who knows…
Rob: I would say I use music as a way of chilling out. Both playing and listening. I’ll happily noodle around on a piano or guitar for ages coming up with new things.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Ian: Thickfreakness from The Black Keys
Mario: Hate to Say I Told You So - The Hives. The driving drums in that song has had such a big influence on my style, even today
Rob: Sad and Lonely - Secret Machines
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