A name like Mysteries, ironically, doesn’t leave much to the imagination. While the group have masked everything they’ve done to date - from their origins, to their hometown, right down to their genders – in an attempt to stimulate the creative minds of their listeners, it’s a moniker that comes laced with its own expectations of facelessness and the pretention that provokes. Such shyness extends through everything they do, so it’s hardly a surprise that they’re not especially forthcoming when it comes to interviews. This, their first ever chat with the press, is conducted solely over Skype’s text chat, as the group are worried their voices might give the game away – perhaps a hint that current rumours of their famous backgrounds in Wild Beasts and TV On The Radio might not be so outlandish. They describe the technique as “kind of detached, but immediate.” It’s hard to imagine a better description for Mysteries themselves.
‘New Age Music Is Here’, the group’s debut album, is a glorious slice of regal electronic pop. The Wild Beasts comparisons are grounded in more than just the rumour mill – there’s a comparable richness to Mysteries’ sound, though with a slightly more retrospective slant. 80s-aping synth-work mixes with a noir, almost post-punk sensibility - and yet behind all the electronics and robot-esque press shots, there’s a distinctly humanist and emotional side to the record. “It’s not hugely optimistic at an outside glance, I guess” they start with a laugh (or rather, a typed “hahaha”).
“The period in which we wrote this stuff was a weird one,” explains the faceless spokesman for the group. “I know I was feeling pretty disconnected at the time, especially from my own music making - what it meant to me, what my role or context was in the world. Strangely I didn't really see the purpose or meaning in a lot of these songs until we had finished the album and had some distance from it. It was two-and-a-half years between when we made the very first demos and mastered the album, which is a fair bit of time.
“I started seeing the album as a strange kind of personal self-help manual, a means to process a lot of thoughts. In a weird way it was the making of this album which pushed me through a difficult time mentally, and kind of resolved some things and reinvigorated me moving forward.”
"We're far from oblivious to the fact that there's a contradiction in taking a stance on making the music first and foremost, and then presenting ourselves as rubbish tip time lords in a band photo."
Of course, anonymity in music is nothing new, but to present such a highly personal and at times emotionally raw record without a face to assign these feelings to certainly makes for an interesting take on the musician-fan dynamic. “Honestly, I think we just went about making a record that was the net result of our collective experience,” they continue. “Whatever felt timely and exciting musically. It did occur to us that the listener's imagination would have to in some way develop a frame in which to place the music without having a face to associate as being the storyteller as such. The idea of that moment of inception, I find exciting. It stems a bit from thinking about how people's musical experience shifting to online platforms affects their senses. You start to feel that people have become accustomed to seeing music as much as listening. I guess we wanted to push the needle back towards listening and imagination, rather than always needed a visual context for music.”
The irony inherent in taking a socio-political stance on people’s online engagements with music, whilst existing almost solely through social media platforms (even the band’s label and team are unaware of such basic things as the band’s hometown) is not lost on the group. As such, the rumour mill doesn’t bother them “at all”.
“We're far from oblivious to the fact that there's a contradiction in taking a stance on making the music first and foremost, and then presenting ourselves as rubbish tip time lords in a band photo. There's an element of play in it, but at the end of the day, when you push past anything that might be perceived as an initial gimmick, all that's left is the content of record. Happily a lot of people seem to have discovered that; a lot of reviews for the album so far seem to focus on the actual music and discuss it, far more than a lot of music writing at the moment. The comment that seems to keep reoccurring is that 'these guys don't need the costumes, the music is strong enough to stand on it it's own’. I wonder if some of them would have come to that conclusion had they not gone on that journey towards the music though?”
There seems to be numerous layers to Mysteries’ intentions – they openly admit to the project being an exploration of “perception of music, personal and social experience of music,” and yet there’s a palpable excitement around tackling the simple practicalities of being in a band.
“Man, we've got all sorts of ideas for how we'd like to present a live show anonymously. I won't share them now, that'd just be no fun. It would take staging it at a certain level obviously to pull that off effectively, part of the reason we've been hesitant just to start playing just anywhere. We've rehearsed the record, and I think it sounds pretty incredible actually, far exceeded my expectations! I really hope we can present it live in the new year.“
“I'm open to the band developing however it does,” they state when quizzed on the possibility of ever unmasking. “Keeping our faces and names out of it is what we're doing right now, but ultimately it's all just a vehicle to make music. It's not that we're so self-important that we think anyone actually cares who we are anyway.”
That is perhaps overly modest, though - that aforementioned rumour mill whirring away right from the off. A tongue-in-cheek question of how the reaction to ‘New Age Music Is Here’ stacks up to that to Wild Beasts’ ‘Present Tense’ or TV On The Radio’s ‘Seeds’ is too much to resist. Two minutes go by, with the indicator that ‘Myst Eries’ is typing’ flickering like a broken streetlamp. Finally, a response appears. “You'll have to tell me,” it states, “I don't read my own reviews...” Lacking in a marketable personality Mysteries may currently be, but whoever’s behind that keyboard is clearly not lacking a sense of humour.
Mysteries' 'New Age Music Is Here' is out now via Felte.