March into the archives : Mighty Few

In the late '90s I penned a number of articles about The Mighty Few and took a heap of pics at their shows. The following piece appeared in The Canberra Times on 2 June 2000.

For a band who describe themselves as new metal and whose live shows revel in guitar feedback and anguished vocals, it’s bizarre to hear the Mightyfew talk about how their new CD is filled with “music from the heart.” Take the title track Cinema for example, ask vocalist Chris what inspired his lyrics and he’ll say that “for something to be cinematic is just so grand and wide and spaced out and gigantic” before explaining that it’s a love song written to express the loneliness he felt while his girlfriend was overseas.

According to bassist Rhys the album is “more about what’s inside us because we have a sense of ourselves.” This ability to share themselves was developed through two years undergoing intensive group therapy. “We sat down and had critical discussions and analysed our music. It sounds strange but when you’re playing live you never really have a good idea what you sound like. When you put out a record you rediscover your own music.” Through this self-probing process they gained a new perspective. One which allowed the band to pose intimate questions and resolve the issues revealed.

“You could put the last album down to teenage angst,” observes Rhys. “A lot of stuff was about playing hard. This album is more emotional. It’s more from where we’re at rather than where we want to be. As a result we’re not in such a hurry for the songs to get where they’re going. The track Cinema goes for five minutes. Previously we’d have needed seven or eight riffs to do that. I think our last album ripped people off by substituting music from the heart with big riffs.”

The band have learned that it was pain which expressed itself in angry songs like Public Service and God Fearing. Is it a cliché to suggest that the Mightyfew have matured? At the launch of the last CD drummer Mudge was only just old enough to play licensed venues. In comparison the launch of Cinema sees most of the band in their 20s. “I think there’s a giant step that’s been taken between the two albums,” agrees Chris. “We used to write music that intended to physically move the crowd. Two years ago I said that we knew when a song worked because we’d all be jumping around at the jam. Now I know it’s working if I feel sad and sick and really want to lie down. That’s the main difference for me.”

So while growing older has allowed them to share their feelings, the music had taken its toll on their bodies. To compensate for their strenuous performances the Mightyfew have needed to adjust their approach. In order to continue playing gigs without intermissions for Chris to lie down backstage the band have had to write more invigorating material. “On the last album we’d be going flat out and then we’d be stopping and starting, stopping and starting. That’s the main thing we tried to fix. There’s one song on this album called Unrest which is very much in the vein of the last album but it’s got a driving rhythm. We can’t wait to see to moshpit explode to that song,” enthuses Rhys.

“For me the title Cinema explains how we want to be seen. It’s like, this is us. This is our performance. We’re visual and our performance is an experience that demands an audience focus on it. You’re left with no choice but to take it in. That’s what Cinema means to me, it’s more than a show, it’s an experience. This is not an album to have in the background,” declares Rhys.

Chris describes how the CD is literally overflowing with music when he reminices about recording the last track in Newcastle during March. “We’d finished our tape and wanted to record this song that we’d written six or seven months ago. Because the secret track at the end of the last CD didn’t really reflect us we wanted to use an instrumental that we’d written about six or seven months ago. Mark (Tinson, sound engineer) pulled out this weird tape that had been left behind and found two and half minutes on the end and said he’d give us a signal when it was about to run out. When we listened to it later we decided the way the track ends with the tape finishing sounded cool, like it had just run off the end. It’s like we’re too big for the CD.”

The album is a luscious production. Bigger than Ben Hur in widescreen and that’s fucking huge. It’s also a beautiful package which displays Chris’ talent as a graphic designer. More recently his work for BMA Magazine has shown a sense of space which borders on minimalism but he’s quick to belittle any comparison between the two. “Lyrically I’ve never fancied myself as a good writer. My minimal approach to graphic design is not the same as my approach to writing lyrics. I often confuse it for laziness because I like to get a feeling across in the bare minimum number of words. I like bands where you can’t totally understand the lyrics but it’s not alienating. A stranger who doesn’t know anything about me will have a sense of what I’m singing about. That leaves space for interpretation because people don’t have to assume that I’m talking about myself.”

You can see the Mightyfew launch Cinema tonight at the Woden Youth Centre or Saturday 10 June at the ANU Bar. Listeners who are interested in what Chris is singing can read his lyrics at the band's website.