At the end of Mew’s tour for their last album, +-, something unusual occurred. Instead of packing their guitars away after returning to their native Denmark, the band headed back into the studio to get started on their next album. Within a year they’d made Visuals (released last Friday), signalling their continuation as a trio, after guitarist Bo Madsen’s departure in 2015.
Speaking from Japan as the trio geared up to play an acoustic show, frontman Jonas Bjerre told Young Post about their seventh album’s unusually fast recording process. Instead of, as with previous releases, taking at least three years to create the record, Visuals came together in just a year and reflects a process that felt more “intuitive and spontaneous”, Bjerre says. The band also chose to produce their own music for the first time, letting them put the tips and techniques they’d learned over the years into practice.
“It’s been the curse of the band to spend forever on everything. We had a really fun tour on the last record, and we wanted to keep that energy going. Usually, after an album, we’ll go away and not do anything for a few months as we’re exhausted. But this time, we felt excited about new ideas we had, and wanted to keep to momentum going,” he explained.
The band has many fans in Asia, and the love is very much reciprocated. Mew will kick off their new album tour next week in Bangkok, and visit Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu – hopefully packing in some sightseeing on the mainland – before European fans get a taste of the new live show. “Our first time in Japan was all my dreams come true,” Bjerre says. “I also really enjoyed our first show in Hong Kong [at The Vine in 2013], hopefully we’ll come back there. I just really love touring Asia in general.”
The singer says he’s most looking forward to taking new track Ay Ay Ay on the road due to its’ “wild energy”, as well as Carry Me To Safety. “[The song is] a reflection on life and being in a band, what it means to be in a band, dedicating so many years of your life to this thing,” he says.
One of the album’s more intriguing titles is Candy Pieces All Smeared Out, which Bjerre says has a “weird structure” that might surprise fans. “It has a very heavy intro and twists on you and turns into something completely different ... it’s a strange song with lots of different elements.” The track also uses “programmed 8-bit synthesiser stuff” from an Amiga 500, a computer Bjerre owned as a child.
Of the three videos uploaded to YouTube before release day, Twist Quest is the most attention-grabbing. Colourful, kaleidoscopic birds dance to a quirky, sax-inflected jazz-pop melody that the band agreed sounds a lot like ’80s art rock group Talking Heads. “It was born out of a long jam session where we played a bunch of stuff and recorded it, before editing together a few pieces we liked,” Bjerre explains. “It’s kind of a radical sound for us, but, from reading forums, people seem really happy with it.”
The songs on Visuals are deliberately succinct and each represents its own story, the opposite of 2005’s And The Glass Handed Kites, which was designed to be listened to as one long song. “[Writing short songs] has always been a challenge for us,” Bjerre says. “That’s something we’ve looked up to in other bands, but have never really been able to do.”
The age of streaming has brought a lot of debate about whether the album format is still necessary, but the frontman says he’s still a fan: “When I find an album I love, I enjoy having it on vinyl and the physical act of putting it on my record player to experience it.”
He continues, “It’s a different world today, people are used to getting the news in sound bites. All they need is the headlines. Sometimes I wonder what is it you need to save your time for? To me, listening to music and investing myself in the experience is my great joy in life.”
Mew will play at Strawberry Music Festival in Chengdu on May 13 For tickets, see here. Visuals is out now.
Edited by Ginny Wong