Originally published 14/05/2013 on Chunk.ie
A few weeks back, I noticed I had a new follower on Twitter. I don’t have many, so when someone decides to follow me, I get curious. My new follower turned out to be My Tribe Your Tribe. The name alone was interesting so I decided to take a look at their profile and see what they were about. It turns out that MTYT are a band and George Mercer is the creative force behind them. Oh and as luck would have it, they had just released a free EP for download.
Since we are nice people here at CHUNK.ie and we like to promote up and coming acts, we thought we’d get in contact with George and see what MTYT were about. You can read how we got on down below!
Hi George, no dilly-dallying here, we’ll get straight in to the questions! “My Tribe Your Tribe” is a great name for a band. It conjures up a meeting of minds and people, marriage even. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where did the idea for the name came from?
Thanks. Your thoughts on the name are on the button and it’s been pleasing to see that people are picking up on that communal/communicative aspect. I come from Portarlington, Laois, and I think that growing up there has made me aware of different personality types and how the music I write relates to the people I’ve spent the majority of my life around. It’s a good and bad habit but I fantasize about the idea of relating to both the more specialized alternative listeners and also to the people who just like to dance and don’t have as deep a connection to music.
The name My Tribe Your Tribe came about quite naturally. I tend to think about life in quite an abstract way, narrowing a lot of events in a persons life down to simple or primitive habit. That kind of survival reference kept on creeping into my lyrics for about three years. When I started writing demo parts for “Outside Red“, My Tribe Your Tribe was the working title.
Your artwork is very striking. Do you see this as integral to your image, almost as important as the music or is it purely incidental?
The artwork was done by a very talented guy from Belfast called Paul Irwin, of Ogopogodesign. He’s a very talented bloke both musically and artistically. I’ve never actually met him but have worked with him on other music projects and he had a way of using abstract imagery to hint to a depth in the music that I really like. Usually I fire all my concepts to Paul, and then I leave him to interpret those concepts with his own vision. I never know what it’s going to look like, so it’s really a form of collaboration. The imagery is an extra atmospheric layer that takes the listener down a different imaginative path than the music does.
On to the music… You’ve posted three tracks so far on your Bandcamp site. My own personal favourite is “Outside Red“. Can you tell us a bit about the tracks and how you create them. Is it a case of lyrics first and working the music around them or is it music first and hope the lyrics come to you?
I started writing demo’s for MTYT about a year and a half ago. It was a fun experiment at the time, as I was really enjoying the fact that I had so few limitations, in contrast to the guitar-based music that I had been struggling to write beforehand. It really got my imagination flowing again. After writing the drums, bass and synth parts, I actually let the songs breath for nearly a full year before going back to rearrange the song structures and add guitar parts, vocal parts and extra ambiance.
I pen down a lot of lyrics while I’m out traveling around, that may or may not make it into songs at a later date but “My Friends Live Here” is an example of that. (The lyrics written whilst waiting for the ‘Green bus of doom’ at the Red Cow roundabout outside of Dublin actually, on the way home from a loud and intoxicating party that I was happy to escape.)
Writing electronic music allowed me to build songs from a percussive base. I’d start with a beat and layer up with other sounds and on reflection, I felt I was using rhythm as the dominant communicating element, which I guess relates to the tribal imagery. While this is apparent in some of the songs, I think it’s a good template to work from, not to mention, insanely fun to band a big floor tom on stage!
The EP was a steep learning curve as it was the first time that I decided to self-produce and record an entire project from home with the view of attaining a professional production standard. I had a lot of learning to do, and still do. The joy of the chase!
How do you class your style of music? Obviously it's electronic, but not in a Calvin Harris fists in the air style. Do you have plans to play live or are you strictly studio based?
This is definitely the most difficult question! I think each track on the EP leans to a different place stylistically. I would probably class the EP as a form of slower-paced atmospheric electronic music each relating to a different mood. It’s my first opportunity to let the music be as deep and atmospheric as I want it to be. I used to record a lot of rough, elongated ,ambient tracks when I was a teenager and just fill the recordings with lots of smaller details and flowing textures, and I guess this is my way of returning to that fun creative place where anything can happen. But ultimately, the rhythmic flow is the focal point on this EP and I’d like to maintain that in the next recordings.
My Tribe Your Tribe, for me, is a vessel, for the music to go wherever it wants to go and I definitely plan to make an EP primarily for the function of dancing. That could be a lot of fun. I’m a big fan of darker electronic music styles too, but regardless of where the style goes, I want to make sure the music has a direct connection to the listener, as this isn’t just for me. I’m writing thinking of how the listener can relate to the music as much as possible. My friend made a ‘MI-WADI ‘joke the other night about the band-name. It’s not Your Tribe..it’s Mine… ‘
However funny, it’s the opposite of my intentions for this music!
I’ve already done two shows with a five-piece live group: Drums, Guitar , Bass, Backing Vocals and Keyboards/Drum Pad. Our first gig was at Louth’s Vantastival Festival and the power actually went on-stage at the start of our second song (Outside Red). I thought I’d cry at a moment like that, but once we got the laptop and tracks back running everything went uphill. I wanted the music to be functional both a live-band setup and also a more minimal one or two man show. I’m lucky to have some great people as the current live band, and there’s an exciting energy on-stage. I think having a larger line-up is much more interesting for the audience, more energy, we can cover nearly all of the sounds ourselves and not be as reliant on backing tracks. I think people like to see a chemistry on stage between band-members and it’s really nice that the shows seem to be more about watching each member of the group add their own taste and personality to the music.
I've made it this far in the interview without asking about your influences? That's pretty good going, even if I may say so myself! But now that I've brought it up, who are your influences? Are there any strange ones buried in there?
Ha, the dreaded influences question! It’s a nice question to be asked actually, as finding influences of other artists in your own music, makes you feel more confident about your own. Well, it does for me anyway! Makes you feel like you’re on the right tracks.
There’s probably about three or four influences that are undeniable in how much they’ve changed my approach to writing.
Certain bands like Wild Beasts, Phantogram, Beach house, Bat For Lashes ,Caribou, Jape, Radiohead. These guys seemed to construct both their musical arrangements and live sets with a sort of central rhythmic authority.
Straying away from the obvious influences, I remember seeing a band called Great Lakes Mystery supporting Jape in Spirit Store when I was in college in Dundalk. They were a two-piece group with a large visual backdrop of underwater scenes and I was completely blown away by how ethereal, colourful and how much comfort music can provide an audience with in a live venue.
So, what does the future hold for My Tribe Your Tribe? Is there an album in the offing? A world tour? or will you just have to settle for a collaboration with Rihanna?
Exciting q! The next step is to release another single in June. It’s probably going to be a bit of a surprise as it leans more towards the dance style that I mentioned having an interest in pursuing.
After that, one more EP and then the album process begins! Other than that we are developing the live set and getting some more live experience. I’m itching to write new songs too, as the live shows are giving me ideas!
Obviously our learned readers will want to find out more about My Tribe Your Tribe, how can they do this?