Live photos by Georgia Penny Photo
Back in May, Southampton punk rock outfit Miss Vincent released their third EP ‘Somewhere Else’. The songwriting, production and overall musicianship has grown considerably since their previous efforts and will appeal to fans of latter day AFI. Their third release finds them exploring bigger sounds and tighter songwriting resulting in their strongest effort to date. Recently before their London show in support of US band Energy I got the chance to speak to lead vocalist/guitarist Alex Marshall and guitarist Lawrie Pattison.
How’s the tour been?
Alex: Very enjoyable. Energy (tour headliners) are great live and as dudes. Shows have been a lot of fun, we’ve been to some places we’ve never been before. We been to some places we’ve been a lot. We’ve been to some places we hadn’t been too in a long time. It’s been great. I’m really bummed it’s the last show.
L: It’s the same with any tour where it feels like it’s flown by and at the same time it feels like ages since we played the first show.
When you get into that tour cycle does everyday feel the same?
A: In a way it’s like a comfortable routine.
L: It’s fresh everyday cause you’re somewhere new, different venues, different support bands every show. It’s routine but fresh at the same time.
Any stand moments?
A: The Energy guys are nuts, with them being American they get really fascinated by things that we think of as completely normal. They’ve been to probably more Wetherspoons then I’ve been too in my life. They’ll message us at ten in the morning like “we’re in this local joint, real hidden gem it’s called J.D. Whetherspoon”. They’re drinking fucking pints with their breakfast.
Most of you guys are Vegetarian. Is it easy for you guys to eat out on the road?
L: Being vegetarians pretty easy. Georgia, our photographer was vegan and emphasis on WAS. I was vegan for about a year and I struggled out on tour. You go to a service station and all you can eat is Pringles. Being vegetarian is easy cause even places like McDonalds do Vegetarian stuff.
A: I think when you have a specific rider you can specify that you want vegan options but we’re grateful when the beers vegetarian. I’m not strictly vegetarian but I’ve stayed vegetarian this entire tour just because I wanted to try it and it really isn’t that hard. I was kind of surprised by how easy it was. It is a lot easier with these guys (the band) cause they’re veggies.
What struck me listening to ‘Somewhere Else’ the new EP is that it sounds much grander than your previous work. There’s something more sweeping musically and emotionally was that something that came natural or did you work towards that?
A: Both I think. We did some demoing right at the end of 2015 with a guy called Hamish, who used to be in Yearbook. We had a great time demoing with him but when we got the tracks back they were very Yearbook style. Quite abrasive and raw.
L: Much, much harsher than anything we’ve done. We sent them to some friends of the band and some people were like “this doesn’t really sound like you guys” but not in a “it’s a step in a new direction” more of a “I’m not sure who I’m listening to” way.
A: That basically made us go “oh christ”. What are we? We thought “so if that doesn’t sound like us what does?” We spent a lot of time working out, not just what needed to go in the songs but how we wanted to presented and find our identity. I hate talking in these terms because it sounds like I’m Bono and presenting this massive concept album. But it was; who are we going to be?
L: I remember on our last EP thinking “oh yeah this is us”. But looking back I’m like, “I guess not!” We really have, with this EP, not just what we think we are but what we want to be. With the first two EPs there was always one track that stood out to me like a stepping stone to the next one. Whereas this time the whole record is a stepping stone to whatever it is we do next.
A: Doing this EP was literally a statement of identity, like “hello this is Miss Vincent”. Not to forget everything else we’ve ever done but this is like us growing up? You know what I mean?
L: Yeah it’s just the stepping stone to where we are now, this is the destination. Continue what we’ve done with this EP on to whatever the next project will be. I think Daly (George) has been a big part of the revolution of our records. Daly who works at The Ranch (The Ranch Recording Studio in Southampton), he’s done all of our EPs, he did the first one in his own studio and then we did the next one with him and Neil Kennedy at The Ranch and then the most recent one was just Daly. Pretty much everything we’ve said to him “we want to do this, this and this” he’s just gone “yep, yep, yep” and he just gets it.
A: He literally does everything, he mic’s everything up himself, he tells us what to do, he’s got production input and then he goes and mixes everything as well. So it’s literally one dude from start to finish.
L: So he’s done all of it this time and he’s nailed it. But I think the songs we’ve done have leant themselves better to the sound.
A: One didn’t come without the other and I’m not sure which one came first. Cause we’re talking everything from specific guitar tones and the effects that we wanted on the vocals and even now on this tour we’ve tried to get those elements live. We don’t just turn up and go “sound man, you happy? Cause we happy”. It’s more like “please can we have this and this and this” because that’s what we like to do and we never did before. Now that we do it I don’t know why we didn’t do it before.
Interesting that you say you’ve found your identity now. Do you think that was something you were missing before? Even the artwork this time round seems much more considered.
L: Yeah, that was a conscious choice. The first EPs have both got illustrations. It was deliberate “let’s not do that again, let’s do something new” cause we can’t keep doing the same thing. If we’re bored of it, other people will be bored of it.
A: “Grownup” is a dirty word when you’re talking about music. You mature your sound and people say “ah you’re selling out and becoming a pop band”. I don’t think we have done that, we don’t sound like Bieber or All Time Low. My Mum loves the new EP and she’s hated everything we’ve ever done and I love the new EP and I didn’t realise those two things could co-exist. We never thought that making something expansive could still sound exactly how we wanted it to sound. We essentially found something that we didn’t know what it was to start with and until we found it and thought “fuck that’s great let’s hammer down that road”…
L: I think as well, we’re always very critical of whatever we’re doing because we want it to be the best that it can be but this time we were less harsh with ideas. Not in the sense that we let everything through the net but with the first EP in particular I remember criticising everything too much. This time I’ve been thinking that if it serves the song then I don’t mind it being just three chords, cause it works.
Is that because as a younger band you may feel the need to impress people with technical ability at the detriment to serving the song, like you say?
A: Our second EP we really wanted to be dark and I’m going to let everything out and we did that but I’m not sure it communicated itself properly.
L: I almost feel like we went that little bit too far down the road.
A: Whereas, I want to make emotionally charged music but that doesn’t mean it has to be aggressive or fast or even loud. I think in terms of songwriting and lyrically there’s stuff on this EP that I never would have dreamed of writing before. Because I’d be like “hmmmm yeah it’s not quite dark and eloquent enough” and now it’s like “fuck that man it sounds good, it communicates exactly what I want to say and it serves the song really nicely, so let’s just do it”.
With our second EP I basically went through a fucking medical dictionary and thought “what’s wrong with me? Right that’s wrong with me, that’ll do, let’s take this horrendously long word that nobody understands and let’s put it in a song”. This time it was like “nah man”. Just keep it simple and that doesn’t mean you have to dilute it. I always thought, that I hated it when guys sung about girls and just because a songs about a relationship about two humans it doesn’t just have to be about “I love you”, “Why’d you leave?” or one of those tired re-treads. It can be your thing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t exist anywhere else. Which is so simple and so obvious.
‘The Lovers’ is based on a true story and that seems a very classic love story.
A: Yeah, I kind of read the story and I didn’t necessarily write a song about that story but it sent my mind fucking racing. Not just about those two specific people but about people in general and things I’ve been through and want to go through. Cause we’re not that young, loads of my friends are getting married, they’ve got great jobs and buying nice houses and cars and I’m like “I really want a new Gibson”. It’s pathetic, certainly in my mind a lot of the time I’m thinking “come on, what am I doing?”. In that way I looked at this beautiful love story and applied it to me. Again, this sounds lame, kind of tried to teach myself a lesson from it. You know trying to keep the purity of it, like all that shit people say when they’re drunk and then forget it when they’re sober and all that weird stuff.
Jack Donnelly, Lawrie, Alex, Owain Mainwaring
You found inspiration in that story, do you find inspiration in most things around you or are you inspired more by the music you hear day to day?
A: I’m really autobiographical. Chances are if somethings in a song, I wrote it because it’s something that came from something that happened to me. Something I did do or didn’t do. I’ve always made the mistake of thinking “this is who I want to be so I’m only going to this kind of music” whereas as I’m getting older I want to branch out.
I listened to a shit load of Elvis Costello, I went out and bought every single record Johnny Cash did at Sun Recordings in Memphis and I was listening to a lot of Rolling Stones and all this different kinds of music. Listening to all this kind of blew my mind, instead of thinking I’m a punk kid and I’m angry and I’m going to do this, that and the other it was more applying different kinds of songwriting and experience into a song that I was writing. Which often takes it out of my comfort zone and all of a sudden I was writing words on paper thinking “this is cool”.
Southampton, seems to have a thriving punk/metal/rock scene at the moment. What do you think it is about the area that seen such a surge in artists recently?
L: It helps that The Joiners is there, just because it’s a great venue that’s easy for bands to play. The main promoter there, Ricky, he’s not about how many Facebook likes you have and it doesn’t matter if you’ve never played a show before. If he likes your band and there’s a suitable show coming up that’s it. It’s not just The Joiners, there’s lots of venues there and for whatever reason there’s been a great scene there. Ricky is massively responsible for that cause he’s been working there such a long time. Working really hard to bring bands through. I don’t know if it’s just a bit of luck or the hard work of bands.
You can’t talk about the scene without mentioning Creeper, they’ve kind of put it on the map but there’s still great bands coming out of Southampton as well. It’s a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work from people in the scene.
A: I think it’s a culmination of years of hard work mostly from Ricky. Certainly in our direct experience. I remember going to The Joiners ten years ago and I’ve never lived in Southampton. The reason we say we’re from Southampton is because Lawrie and Owain live there and that’s where we feel most at home as a band.
L: Yeah to us that is the bands hometown.
A: Yeah I remember going to The Joiners and it was this mystical place. It’s got a scene that’s pushing bands up now because they’ve had ten years of having an environment that they can do that. People have had an environment where they can express themselves for a long time. So now we’re getting people in bands that are getting big.
After this EP cycle, what are you thinking about doing next?
A: Oh God I don’t know.
L: There’s some demos. Obviously after three EPs the next goal has to be the album, cause you only get one debut album. It has to be something! So that’s the plan.
A: More touring, then the album. Which is a bit daunting. I can’t wait, but there’s a lot of variables we need to take into consideration.
L: I almost wish we had an album this time round. But based on how the record turned out I was happy with that. More just on the industry side of things. Having an album is an easier sell at times. But we’ve managed to release this with Uncle M and everyday that passes I’m happier and happier to be apart of them. They’re great. I think it’s album time now. Five tracks every two years…
A: Doing everything yourself just takes forever.
L: It has to be an album next and I’m hoping that will do us some favours, in the sense that, in the past the songs have fallen by the side cause we can only put five or six songs on a record. Where now there’s things that potentially might fit on an album. I’m hoping that will do us some favours.
A: Yeah, there’s a bunch of songs we can go back to now because we’re doing a longer form release. So yeah, short answer: album. Longer answer is: lots and lots of work on songs and probably many, many demos… and then an album.