Minor Victories 2016

Bands come, bands go and bands get back together. But MINOR VICTORIES are trying something different. When Rachel Goswell from SLOWDIVE met with MOGWAI’s Stuart Braithwaite, EDITORS’ James Lockey and his brother James, a completely new project, set apart from their previous work, was born.

MINOR VICTORIES have been drip-feeding details of their first LP, to the eagerly awaiting Internet, through single tracks and teaser trailers. Now, on June 3rd, this so-called ‘supergroup’ will launch their first album, which pulls together aspects of each of their former groups, rendering it as multifaceted as the musicians that wrote it.

NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION met with Rachel and Stuart to talk about their hopes for the project, working with new people and starting a new band after years in the music industry.

What was it like to meet and develop a band, having been in your own projects for so long?

Stuart: It was really easy, to be honest. Rachel asked me; Rachel had already been doing some music with Justin [Lockey]. She asked me if I wanted to do some guitar and Justin asked his brother if he wanted to do some bass. It was pretty painless!

In the process that you met each other, was any of that a leap of faith?

Rachel: You only heard one song and you said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’
Stuart: Yeah, I liked the song I heard, and said, ‘I’ll do some guitar on that.’ And, maybe this goes back to when we started MOGWAI, I presumed it was just going to be a seven-inch, just what was in my head. And then more songs started coming, and then I saw that this isn’t a seven-inch, there are too many songs! Then it just kept going and going, the songs got better, and as more things went on them it became obvious we had a proper record.

Me and Rachel knew each other – not really well – but well enough that I didn’t think she’d start a band with someone that was a nightmare! James came up to play bass; he stayed at my house and recorded with me. I never met him, but he’s a really nice guy so it was totally fine.

That would’ve probably been the acid test, if he’d come up to the house and was horrible to the cat or something! That wouldn’t have been good, but he was very nice to the cat!

Rachel: You can measure a person on how they are with cats. And if they like Star Wars.
Stuart: Yeah, I’m pretty sure he likes Star Wars – or, at least, I’d be surprised if he didn’t!

How do you feel about the term Supergroup?

Stuart: It was only when the first song got released that I considered anyone would even say that.
Rachel: I was quite horrified when I heard that.
Stuart: I just thought it was funny. When I think of ‘Supergroup’, I always think of ‘The Traveling Wilburys’, or something like that. So I don’t know if it’s that apt.
Rachel: It’s a bit weird isn’t it?
Stuart: It’s a bit weird but, then again, the fact that we have got history with our own bands has undoubtedly got us more attention than if it was a completely brand new band. So you take the rough with the smooth.

Have you got response from your respective MOGWAI and SLOWDIVE fans? Have they wanted to join you with this or are they cautious?

Stuart: I think the response has been universally pretty good. So I have to presume that quite a lot of those people are people who like our normal bands as well.
Rachel: With SLOWDIVE, a lot of people are excited that it’s emerging; that it’s me and you. Just because of the two bands. I haven’t read anything negative yet, but I’m sure there will be at some point, but who cares? It’s been positive, I think.

‘I don’t think there are any big egos’

What was it like setting up a band over a long distance, with Skype communication instead of jamming in the same room?

Stuart: It’s just different. The Skype stuff was more just about sorting the boring stuff out once we made the record. There weren’t any big pow-wows about the record itself. That was all through email. There really wasn’t any discussions or anything; we all just got on with it. And everyone was pretty cool. I don’t think there are any big egos.

I always hear that about other bands – thankfully no band I’ve ever been in – where people want their part to be louder. That’s when you know you’re fucked because that’s not how you make music. You have to listen to it as a whole.

Is there anything really different about bringing in new music now, in 2016, as opposed to when you were starting out?

Rachel: There’s a whole lot different!
Stuart: Rachel’s probably the right person to ask about this, because it’s been a long time since you’ve put a record out, isn’t it?
Rachel: Yes, well, the last one I did was in 2007. The technology is different now.
Stuart: Yeah, it’s wholly different. Its almost as if you got someone in a time machine – MOGWAI started in 1995 – if you got someone in a time machine and just moved them to now.
Rachel: Well the Internet wasn’t really around. Well it was kind of starting in the ‘80s slowly – as I remember it. My dad had a computer business, so I remember the beginnings of all that stuff. But, well, technology is completely different isn’t it?

We certainly wouldn’t be sending audio files around 20 odd years ago and making a record that way.

Stuart: Even music recording has changed. The way people listen to music has changed; the way people promote music has changed. Live music has become much more of an industry. It used to be that people went on tour to promote a record, now people put out a record so that they can go on tour. It’s totally switched around.
Rachel: Yeah, and now people ask, ‘How can you make money from doing records anymore?’ You just go out on tour, that’s how you make your money. And then you’ve got shit about Spotify.

Do you think, because of the differences, you approached the record in a different way?

Rachel: Well, this was completely different. I’ve never done a record like this.
Stuart: Yeah, maybe some of the ways MOGWAI write music is like this, but not really. That’s just getting it together before we go into the studio. I mean, all the other stuff, the ‘Industry’ stuff, we weren’t even thinking about that. We were just making songs. As it became more developed, maybe we were thinking, once it’s done it will be something more of a proper record. But the other stuff is just superfluous.
Rachel: The start of it was just, let’s just do some stuff and see what comes out of it. With know expectation. Just to see what came out. We just carried on and ended up with an album’s worth of material! But, I guess, initially, there was no kind of set goal for it. I just asked Stuart to send me some stuff, to get involved and it was an organic process – in an electronic world. It’s a weird juxtaposition, I suppose.

Photo by Sally Lockey

Photo by Sally Lockey

The first two films were great teaser trailers. With the relationship with Hand Held Cine Club, have you aimed for something that is compatible with visual mediums as well?

Rachel: James is HAND HELD CINE CLUB, that’s what he does. That’s the Lockey brothers. They’re into all the film stuff. And I think Justin has had some of the ideas, that are coming out in MINOR VICTORIES, I think he’s had them in his head for years! And it’s all coming out. In many ways they bear no relation to the songs at all, on a meaning level.
Stuart: I like things that are totally random.
Rachel: I like the simplicity of what they do. The fact that they’ll get a ghetto blaster up, press play and that’s it. It’s fair play, because you get so distracted by visuals. Videos are a weird thing anyway, aren’t they? A lot of the time it’ll be a visual interpretation of the music, or not! And, I guess, in a lot of ways, it’s not with MINOR VICTORIES.
Stuart: It’s part of bigger ideas.
Rachel: It’s the simplicity of film and visuals.
Stuart: Videos are kind of silly at the end of the day. They’re kind of silly but I’m glad I don’t have to think too much about them.
Rachel: We’re glad we don’t have to be in them!

‘It’s kind of nice to have little subtle elements’

Is that going to remain a theme then? You not being in the videos.

Stuart: I kind of want to mime a guitar solo on a cliff top at one point. With no hair. (laughs) I mean; I hope so. I hate being in videos and I hate miming; I feel really stupid.
Rachel: Well the skateboarding element is a nod towards you, and to James and Justin – because they all skateboard. It’s kind of nice to have little subtle elements.
Stuart: Not as well as the guys in the video! Did you know you used to be a samurai?
Rachel: Who me? Yeah, that’s what I do on an evening! Charge through fields, in Doncaster! (laughs)

Did you already know Mark Kozelek before you started the duet on ‘For You Always’?

Rachel: I’ve known Mark for over 20 years, and it was just thinking about having other people involved in the record. And, I mean, there are other singers that I know but I thought it would be interesting having Mark on it. It’s a bit different, and he was up for it. I sent him the music and two days later he sent his version back, with him singing everything, and he wrote all the lyrics on that song – highlighting the lyrics he wanted me to sing.

The sound is quite diverse on the album. Is there any track that you expect people to latch onto as MINOR VICTORIES sound?

Stuart: I don’t know, because people have only heard those two songs. So people have heard those two songs and have really liked them. And those two songs are pretty different to be honest; they’re probably the two sides to the record – not literally the sides of the record – but there’s the more synthy and then there’s more guitar. I hope people just like it as a whole. The song with Mark Kozelek is pretty different.
Rachel: As you say, it is a diverse record so I’m not sure you can pinpoint it.
Stuart: I kind of hope people like it all.

Was it a case of different members of the group coming to the table with fully-fledged pieces?

Stuart: I don’t know. I’m really lazy; my demos are pretty basic. And Justin’s more of a studio guy, so they were more finished. Everyone put their own thing in. I said this in an earlier interview, but we’re all from a similar background of independent music, so there was nothing too… I mean, no one suggested any Jazz!
Rachel: Thank God.

Not Jazz fans then?

Stuart: I’m a fair-weather Jazz fan, but I don’t think I could play it.
Rachel: I wouldn’t want to play it!
Stuart: Yeah, I wouldn’t want to play it. It’s too hard.
Rachel: Too technically challenging, I certainly wouldn’t want to sing it.

‘All our bands have been alright about it.’

When your doing marketing material or trying to push you work forward, do you or your record label define it as ‘Stuart from MOGWAI’ and ‘Rachel from SLOWDIVE’ or are you presented as a whole new group?

Stuart: A bit of both, really. On our label, we once put out a record from another group and they wouldn’t let us mention it, and I remember it being a pain in the arse! So I’m happy for them to mention that, because, at the end of the day, we’ve put in a lot of hours into being from MOGWAI or SLOWDIVE.
Rachel: And it introduces who’s in the band, and you can identify with MOGWAI, SLOWDIVE and EDITORS. So I think it’s fair that this is mentioned; that there’s one member each – from each band.
Stuart: And nobody’s done anything without checking with us. It’s all been very straight up.
Rachel: All our bands have been alright about it.

Has there been a lot of compromise and negotiation with starting a new band?

Stuart: Not majorly. Everybody’s pretty easygoing. Some people may be more into some things than other people, but not to the point that it’s an argument. We just let people get on with it. No one’s ever suggested anything where I’ve said, ‘Oh my God! I’m never doing that!’
Rachel: So far, it has been really easy and felt really natural. I think the first rehearsal we did in February, I sat down and thought, shit! This is a bit weird. Looking around at all these people, and I’m used to being with the same people, some people I went to school with. I was thinking: I’m in bloody Scotland; not in Devon. And I’m not in Reading, where I usually rehearse. I don’t know these guys that well but it’s really good fun and quite exciting to do it.

What are you hopeful for from the new album? And how do you see passion coming into your work?

Stuart: I’m hopeful for massive global success! (laughs) And I’m passionate about getting a random free upgrade on a flight to America.
Rachel: I’ve had a couple of upgrades on flights.
Stuart: Apparently the secret for it is to dress up. You’ll never get it if you’re wearing trainers.
Rachel: I definitely wasn’t dressed up. It’s a while ago now, but a couple of business upgrades on long haul flights, they’re amazing. Yeah, I’m really passionate about First Class on a plane! I always walk past that section going, ‘I’m never going to be able to afford to sit in that seat!’ I’m hopeful that the record will be received really well everywhere. I’m excited about people hearing it. And I’m passionate… about gin and tonic! And doing good gigs, and, in the words of SPINAL TAP, ‘Have a good time, all the time!’