“I’ve got myself a big hot rocket, I can’t stop it flying …”
That catchy, cheeky little chorus is what drew my ear to Bradford, England band The Mexanines.
The video caught my eye with its simplicity — vocalist James Brander, with a tumble of curls over one eye and a half-smirk on his lips — sings by himself in a room. There’s something about his laid back smooth style that is captivating.
Repeated listens to all of The Mexanines’ songs shows clearly how brilliant the songwriting is.
“I Wanna Be Insane” is the perfect blend of keyboards and guitars and syncopated drums. The song builds sweetly to a full on shimmery chorus. If only it could go on forever …
“Shimmer” leads off with a cracking blues inspired guitar riff, punctuated by James’ velvety vocals poured on top. The starts and stops add to the aggressive nature of the song.
Guitars and keyboards lead off “Sins,” with James’ falsetto blending in seamlessly. The blues again sneak in and merge with the crunchiness of the guitar and bass.
With tunes like this, there was no question I wanted to know more about this band and James was happy to talk. Here is how the conversation went:
Who do I have for the chat?
James Brander, singer and strummer.
So, let’s start way back … When did the band form?
We formed back in high school, 2008-ish. Known each other about 13 years.
I thought you all looked pretty young in the earlier videos I found, from 2011 … you had great sound and songs even then …
What’s your songwriting process like? Is it a group effort?
It varies quite a lot. Some of them are written all together. Some of them might be written by me at home and recently we have started writing a few in the studio, which is a lot different.
Normally, you might have a song for months before its recorded, maybe even played it out live a few times, so writing things as you are recording them is a whole different process.
Is it easier writing them on the fly as inspiration strikes?
It’s always easier writing when you have something. The hardest thing is trying to write when you have nothing starting you off, but that’s the reality most of the time unfortunately. If you only ever wrote songs when inspiration strikes you could sit around all year and do very little.
So just noodling around with the band will sometimes spark it?
Sometimes … or sometimes not, haha. It really just depends on the day. There’s a lot of songs that just never make it out or never get finished, so the more you have to pick from the better.
How would you define your style of music, if you had to label it?
Hopefully it’s just good songs. There a heavy guitar influence, rock music, pop music … but there’s also a lot of synths and old keyboard, ect. I suppose other people will eventually decide what it is.
I hear tinges of blues too … I’m a big fan of electronica … that definitely grabs my ear too.
Aye, there’s a lot in there. Blues have always been a large part of it, but I don’t think it’s old sounding, as blues often can be. I mean we love old music, but it’s not like a revival band.
We’re certainly here to try make something new from it.
No, it’s a modern blues sound for sure … and your voice … I love the mellow laid back delivery you have with the songs. Very velvety …
Have you always sang the same way? Never tried anything different?
I’ve done a few different things, but your voice just kinda sounds how it does. Used to be in a choir when I was a kid and have done some session work in varies styles.
Well, don’t change it — I think it’s perfect for your music.
It looks like you found yourselves, really, as a band in 2014-15 … do you agree?
Yeah I think so. We had a few lineup changes and things, but it’s constantly changing and growing. We will be different again in a year. I think it has to be like that, otherwise, you dry up.
So who are the current band members ( first and last names) and their instruments?
Elliot Roper on bass, Rory Senior on drums and myself (vocals and guitar).
Only three at the moment?
Ok … Now, I know I’m asking for trouble, but I’ve got to ask you about “Rocket” — it’s so cheeky, but crazy clever and lush! Tell me about it …
Haha … I guess “Rocket” is just about control … Sometimes you just can’t help yourself or stop yourself doing something. It could be a happy or a sad song depending on which way you look at it.
I know there a million puns here …
Well, it’s very frankly about sex, but it could be about anything really. Whatever it is that you shouldn’t do that you do anyway.
No … You don’t say? … I love your performance in the video, the half smirk and glint in your eye are selling points …
I don’t know what you’re talking about …
My one complaint? (I see more puns coming) … The song is too short, just like most of your tunes. They leave me wanting more.
Well, that’s got to be a good thing. Just play it again. Short and sweet. I think saying what you have to say in the simplest way possible and then getting out of there is a good way to go about songs.
We not trying to impress anyone with 7 minute prog sections or weird time signatures. That how many words I wrote, so that’s how long it is.
True, leave them wanting more … Speaking of … Is there anything new coming soon?
There’s a lot in the pipeline. We have more material recorded, just waiting for the right time, and we are always writing. In fact, the iPad is on the piano right now as I’m talking to you.
Working on something new?
Well, working on something. This one’s been kicking around nearly a year and the words still aren’t done, but it will be new when/if it’s finished.
What’s the idea of it?
That would be telling.
Hmmm … Guess we will have to wait and see.
I noticed several songs have been renamed. “I Wanna be Insane” was “Lose My Mind” … and “Sins” was “Money” …
Yeah, that happens. It’s more that they never really have a name. “Lose My Mind” was just the stand out lyric, but we thought “I Wanna Be Insane” better summed up the song.
That makes sense … Always a work in progress … Are you playing any summer festivals you can tell me about?
We have a few We are in talks with still, but Kendal Calling (July 28-31) is confirmed.
Find The Mexanines on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/themexanines, on Twitter as @themexanines, at their website http://themexanines.com/ on YouTube at www.youtube.com/themexanines and on Bandcamp at www.themexanines.bandcamp.com .