Scottish band Mogwai brings their beautiful, instrumental music to Hong Kong

Scottish band Mogwai brings their beautiful, instrumental music to Hong Kong

The lads of Mogwai says you don't need a great singer to make moving music

If you're looking for some good music to listen to while you study, you might want to check out Mogwai.

Named after a fluffy monster in the movie Gremlins, the five-piece Scottish band's music is largely instrumental, and consists of ominously beautiful melodies. Songs often begin with soft piano chimes and a fuzzed-out guitar riff, alongside a grinding bass that builds up to fast drums and intense, sometimes howling synths.

Such a journey requires time. While songs from Mogwai's latest album, Rave Tapes, average around five minutes, others run on for much longer, such as the 23-minute Music for a Forgotten Future.

Barry Burns joined the band in 1998, three years after it formed, and plays guitar, bass, keyboards and synthesizer. He summarises Mogwai's sound as "instrumental music, but with a normal sort of rock band set up.

"We just don't have a singer … and it's not very happy music," a slightly strange statement given that Burns describes the band as "quite happy people".

Asked why the band doesn't really sing, he's upfront about the answer: they can't.

"I think we used to sing more, but we're not very good at it so we just don't bother," he says in his thick Scottish accent.

Speaking to Young Post by phone, Burns has the air of a veteran musician completely comfortable with his current place in life - which, on Friday, was set to be performing in Hong Kong at the Clockenflap music festival.

What he, and the other band member aren't happy about, though, is the "post-rock" label that is often attached to them. "[Post rock's] almost orchestral music but just with guitars and normal instruments, a lot of distortion ... seems a little bit pointless to me," he says. "We don't sit around the table and discuss the music, we just kind of make the music."

All the members except drummer Martin Bulloch - Burn, Stuart Braithwaite, Dominic Aitchison and John Cummings - write for the band. They do so separately, swapping demos before writing their own parts to each song and rehearsing together in Glasgow, Scotland, and finally recording. The band also writes music for films and dramas, such as the gentle score to French TV series Les Revenants.

While writing may be tough, performing is a breeze. "It puts your brain on a lower gear, because you're just in the music. You play it for a long time, so you're not really thinking about anything," says Burns. "It's quite a nice relaxing journey."

Mogwai's new EP, Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1, is out now.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Lowering their voice


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