Misty’s Big Adventure are a Birmingham-based eight-piece band who play what you might describe as novelty music. You’d probably be wrong to do so, however, as bandleader Grandmaster Gareth (not his real name) explained to Pennyblack Music during the band’s October tour.

PB : Can you tell us how the tour is going ?

Gareth : Well, basically we’ve been doing about two and a half weeks of touring but we’ve had a couple of sporadic ones the last week. So we’ve got a break, and we’ve got a few more at the end of October. It’s been really good, man. Yeah, we did a couple of tours last year, but this year we’ve been able to do it with the full band – all eight of us. This year, it’s been good. We’ve been up to Scotland, as far north as Aberdeen, and we’ve played in Brighton, so we’ve done a good stretch.

PB : You’ve had quite a good critical reaction, from the press, Radio 1, XFM, and others.

Gareth : Yeah, we’ve got this XFM session that’s being broadcast in a couple of weeks, but the single’s been getting really good airplay as well.

PB : Is that ‘Cool with a capital C’?

Gareth : No, that was our first single . This is ‘Night-time Better than the Daytime’. It’s the second single. That came out, end of September… no, wait, I’m rubbish with dates…

PB : You've also just released an album, 'Misty's Big Adventure....And Their Place in the Universe'. Was it fun to put together or was it harder work than it sounds?

Gareth : Yeah, totally, ‘cos it was done, on, like, a shoestring, and transferred to CD. It took me about a year of tinkering with in our studio – we’ve got a little studio. But no, I was glad when it was all finished and done. That was a good day. That was January, I think. SL Records, the label that put it out got it in about March. We didn’t definitely know who we were going to put it out with at first.

PB : So it was all your own work?

Gareth : Yeah, totally, it was all off our own bat. But it’s kind of good ‘cos we own, like, the recordings and that’s what I wanted.

PB : And this is the first Misty’s album? Pennyblack Music reviewed your solo 'One Minute Melodies' album last year.

Gareth : Yeah, that was a solo album that I put out with a Birmingham label, last year. Yeah, I’ve got another Minute Melody album coming out in February.

PB : It sounds like a busy kind of year.

Gareth : Yeah, well, I’ve actually just finished writing all the songs for the second Misty’s album. So, yeah, I’ve kind of got a backlog now, so that’s good. That’s coming out next year.

PB : Are the songs all your compositions?

Gareth : Yeah, I arrange all of them as well. It’s like, um, a friendly dictatorship [Laughs].

PB : You’ve been playing for a while.

Gareth : Yeah, me and my drummer Sam started when we were 15. Then we were just a three piece, with another guy, and then we just started adding people. So, yeah, we’ve been going since ‘96, I think. It’s only been the last couple of years that we’ve started playing out of Birmingham. We put out 'Cool with a Capital C' a couple of years ago – we took a while to be happy with what we were doing. I had a, sort of, thing that I wanted to be doing, and it took a while to get to that point. I didn’t want to put out anything that I wasn’t happy with.

PB : How long has the band been together as an eight-piece?

Gareth : We’ve probably been going since ’98. It took us a couple of years to get there but we’ve been together a long time. It’s cool, though, ‘cos we’re all really close friends.

It really comes through on the album. It’s a bit of a quirky concept, but there are some really professional sounds on there.

I think the next Misty’s album’s gonna be a bit darker, ‘cos I don’t want us to be seen as a novelty band. There’s elements of humour in what I do, but there’s also a lot of tongue-in-cheek cynicism. If you listened to the lyrics, you’d just be depressed by Misty’s, but the music tries to lift it.

PB : So why is it that you went in that direction?

Gareth : I always really liked happy music. When I was a teenager I could never really get into noisy, angry music. I don’t know, I think you’re depressed enough when you’re a teenager, so I listen to a lot of silly jazz, and just a lot of silly music in general.

PB : But you’ve always kept a kind of dark edge.

Gareth : Lyrically, yeah.

PB : Have you started recording the new stuff?

Gareth : Yeah, we started this month. And I’m hoping to do… the solo album’s got a lot of looping and stereo effects, but the next album’s going to be a bit more raw and have more of a live feel. Not live, but in the studio, sort of thing.

PB : Have you found you’ve been pigeonholed as a novelty act?

Gareth : Possibly, but I think people struggle to kind of… ‘cos I mix a lot of genres and I listen to a lot of records, so I think some people get it. It kind of depends on whether you can detect what influences are at play. It’s funny, ‘cos someone will say, “Oh, you must be into this band,” or, “you must like that band,” and I’ve never heard of ‘em [laughs]. I don’t really listen to a lot of modern stuff – it tends to be a lot of 60's stuff and 30's jazz… I like a lot of electronica as well, kind of underground stuff. I like bands like Pram and Broadcast. Matthew from Pram helped produce our album with me. Total genius.

PB : Is there anyone else that you’ve worked with?

Gareth : Yeah, I was lucky, actually, ‘cos Bentley Rhythm Ace are also from Birmingham. Richard Masrh , who used to be in Pop Will Eat Itself, helped produce ‘I am Cool…’, and he also got me a computer and showed me what to do, which meant I could do my Minute Melodies. So I owe a lot to the Bentleys, really. But we’ve kind of done a good trade. I did some strings for them, and some arrangements. I did some for Broadcast and Pram as well.

PB : Is there much of a scene in Birmingham?

Gareth : Yeah, there is a scene. It’s kind of, pretty healthy at the moment – there’s a good few bands starting up. I was pretty lucky, when I was 16-17 you had all the post-rock bands like Broadcast and Pram, and Novak as well. They were all around the same time so I used to go to a lot of gigs and get a lot of inspiration. But no, we’ve been around so long in Birmingham…

[We were talking before the sad death of John Peel at the end of October. Peel played Gareth’s music many times, both Minute Melodies and Misty’s]

PB : John Peel seemed to enjoy the Minute Melodies. Are you a Peel fan?

Gareth : Yeah, he played, like, I think 17 tracks. I did a Peel session for him. I think he’s played Misty’s a couple of times as well. I don’t listen to a lot of radio, but I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy.

PB : How did the XFM session go?

Gareth : Good, it was interesting. We had the drums in one room and our trumpet player had to stand in the hallway ‘cos she was so loud. But it was really good.

PB : Have you had any trouble fitting everyone on the stage at any venues?

Gareth : No, but we’ve played some tiny, tiny venues. The 12-Bar in London’s quite small – we’ve played there quite a few times. The keyboardist was half-off the stage. I actually prefer the smaller stages – it’s quite cosy when you’ve got everyone so close in. I might have the bass drum right behind my leg, or something.

PB : Is there a Misty’s tourbus?

Gareth : We’ve just got one. In fact, we’re here today in cars – we’re a two car band. But we’ve got an old rusty scout minibus that we got for £250. We’ve got to do a bit of work to it but gradually it’ll be converted… It’s a time warp machine, it’s like from 1983 and it’s a lovely shade of green.

PB : Did you ever expect to progress to the almost mainstream levels you’re at?

Gareth : No… I’ve got this theory, though, that if you just keep doing something long enough. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Harvey Pekar? He’s a comic book writer, and he’s like, “If you do something for 30 years, someone’ll make a film about you eventually.” I reckon if Misty’s keep going another 20 years, we might break even [laughs]…

I like the fact that we’re hard-working. What we’ve built up we’ve done ourselves. And making friends with the people at gigs – I know people in Newcastle and Scotland, that’s really good.

PB : There’s no plan, then?

Gareth : No plan. There’s never been a plan [Laughs]. When we first started and I had, like, eight people, everyone went, “You’ll never make any money.” Ah, it doesn’t matter. Then at 24 you start going, “oh!”.

PB : How did it get to be eight people?

Gareth : It just happened. When we were playing in Birmingham you didn’t need to worry about how to get people to gigs, so the logistics were a lot easier. But it hasn’t been that hard, really, it’s not as tricky as you think. Yeah, but no plans.

Gareth : Was it a case of needing a particular instrument at a certain time?

No, it was just, friends who played instruments. We’d just ask them whether they wanted to come and play at ours, and it just worked. Yeah, we could have ended up with a totally different sound, had I met different people, basically. Yeah, the line-up we have now is, like, totally fixed. This is what we’re doing. A lot of the people play different instruments as well, so over the next couple of years we’ll start bringing in more things, I hope.

PB : It sounds like quite a disciplined thing for such a playful album. The mood of the album is lighthearted and you don’t imagine people having to work at it.

Gareth : Yeah, a lot of though goes into this. A lot of early hours of the morning… But I still enjoy it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. Yeah, it’s not as painstaking as you might think.

PB : Are the band still working outside Misty’s?

Gareth : I’m not, personally, not outside Misty’s. My gradual plan, I do have one plan, is if we can get the album licensed in different countries, we can all have a country each. “All the money from France can go to you, you can have all the money from Germany…” Then we don’t need to worry.

PB : Have you had much interest from other countries?

Yeah, I mean, thanks to the internet we’ve been getting loads of airplay on all these different little stations in Sweden and Germany… Yeah, it’s mad, you find out you’ve been played in the Czech Republic, and it’s like, “How the hell do you end up being heard there?” I hope next year we’re going to do a couple of months touring, and go to as many places as we can.

PB : You haven’t had any interest from Japan? They seem to like the quirky side of British music.

Gareth : No, I think we’ve sold some records over there, but we’ve not made any inroads yet. This tour’s been really good, because we’ve played some places we’ve never played as a full band before. The turnout’s been really good. The word-of-mouth thing seems to be really working for us.

PB : Thank you














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