The Mysterines talk lessons learned and looking forwards on second album 'Afraid Of Tomorrows'

Interview The Mysterines: Facing The Future

While The Mysterines’ debut saw the Liverpool quartet stand out as one of guitar music’s brightest new stars, on follow-up ‘Afraid Of Tomorrows’ they’re embarking on a foreboding but startling new chapter.

It may be just a little over two years since The Mysterines released their debut album ‘Reeling’, but already, they’re primed for new beginnings. It’s a sentiment that, from the outside, might seem a little unexpected given their gathering momentum and support so far. But look hard enough, and the writing’s been on the wall for a while.

“[Working on the new record] felt like a fresh start in a way,” nods drummer Paul Crilly as the quartet gather around a table in a Camden pub after our photoshoot over on nearby Primrose Hill. “I think after the first record, we just wanted to work the mechanics of the band better,” chips in frontwoman Lia Metcalfe. “I feel like, when we did that [album], we all didn’t know each other as well as we do now. It was kind of naive – not just in a musical way but in a lot of senses, personally. It was really early days and we were super young.”

It’s no secret that the making of ‘Reeling’ wasn’t the smoothest of processes for the Liverpudlian band, completed by guitarist Callum Thompson and bassist George Favager. Split into a series of fragmented recording sessions due to Covid restrictions, Lia has been open about her personal frustrations with how it came together, admitting to DIY at the time that “I had some resentment towards the album at times that made me not enjoy it”.

And while the resulting release would go on to solidify the group as one of guitar music’s most impressive new outfits, earning them a Top 10 spot in the UK Charts, and a slot opening up on Arctic Monkeys’ huge stadium tour last summer, the contrasting experiences that the band have had so far – going from being cooped up during lockdowns to thrust into relentless bouts of touring – would soon take their toll.

“We came out of lockdown and just toured for eighteen months flat out,” Callum explains. “It was a crazy amount of shows. The thing we learned with that first record was, in touring it that much and playing those songs that many times, you just end up hating what you did and losing track of where you were. Sometimes it’s quite hard to listen to [the debut] because we played it that many times.”

The Mysterines talk lessons learned and looking forwards on second album 'Afraid Of Tomorrows' The Mysterines talk lessons learned and looking forwards on second album 'Afraid Of Tomorrows'

“The whole record has got really severe themes of extreme paranoia and fear throughout.” – Lia Metcalfe

And so, The Mysterines set about embarking upon their next chapter. Returning with their first new release since their debut – the aptly-titled ‘Begin Again’ – last summer, the band sounded both more confident and perhaps surprisingly restrained, offering a big hint of what would come next.

Soon, the wheels began to turn: after initially penning a few tracks, it was during a session before they hit the road with Alex Turner and co that they struck gold, writing pivotal album tracks ‘The Last Dance’, ‘Stray’, and ‘Goodbye Sunshine’ in quick succession. “They just made everything else that we’d done before that make so much more sense,” Paul confirms. “I think when we wrote ‘The Last Dance’, that glued everything together.”

Moving away from the more frenzied delivery of their debut, the opening track lays a foreboding foundation for their second record to unfurl upon; its intensity amped up even further by Lia’s chillingly whispered outro, which would feel more at home in a horror movie than a chart-bothering album (“Unholy kind of accidents / Happen when / The puppet cuts the string”). An altogether darker, grittier affair, ‘Afraid of Tomorrows’ is not just the band at their most menacing, but their most creative. “It was fun unravelling the album,” Lia notes, “adding things to the jigsaw, and realising what complements it.”

Decamping to Los Angeles to record with John Congleton – who’s worked with everyone from St Vincent to The Killers, Clairo to The Murder Capital – was another key piece of the puzzle, with the producer assuring them that he was the man for the job. “He was amazing. I remember him saying that if we wanted to make anything like the first record, then he wasn’t our guy, which was a big thing for us,” Callum explains. “That was exactly what we wanted. We wanted to completely rip it all up, and the fact he said that [proved] he was seeing the same sky.”

While LA might currently conjure up images of Selling Sunset and wellness trends, the city’s seedier underbelly offered the perfect backdrop for their month-long recording stint at the producer’s newly-built studio. “I think I’ve always felt quite at home in a weird way in LA,” Lia nods, in spite of its sometimes glitzy reputation. “We didn’t want to, and I think we were in denial for a long time, but every time we go there we do really love it a lot. A lot of our favourite musicians have been based there at a certain point in time – or still are. We were staying in Echo Park, and Tom Waits and Elliott Smith are both from there, in that arena, and both of those people are huge influences on us.” “It’s a crazy place,” Callum adds. “You can feel the weirdness and the history in there.”

“In touring [the first record] that much, you just end up hating what you did.” – Callum Thompson

Much like the work of those aforementioned Echo Park residents, ‘Afraid Of Tomorrows’ is evocative to the last drop; a record that truly wears its heart on its sleeve. Named after the album’s closing track – an admittedly more spritely, folk-indebted finale that comes juxtaposed by its dark-hued lyrics, it’s an album that traverses the depths of fear, addiction and self-doubt, while boasting some of Lia’s most personal lyrics so far.

“I’m talking about substance abuse quite a lot and what it’s made me become, and I’m scared of tomorrow now because it’s going to run into my life, and I don’t want to keep doing that,” she notes. “I think the title just summarises the record up lyrically, and where it’s coming from emotionally for me. The whole record has got really severe themes of extreme paranoia and fear throughout; not really knowing what’s going to happen, and being afraid of it, I suppose. That’s how I felt.”

Whether in the intensely personal or the wider political sense, it feels like, right now, few lives are untouched by a similar kind of dread. “There is a lot of fear, now more than ever, instilled in the world,” Lia nods. “Maybe that did seep in, in a lot of ways. There’s a huge theme of loss throughout the record, and not a lot of gain. I think emotions just are more intense nowadays. We talk about it more, it’s more open, but even though we converse about it more, there still isn’t enough education around how to handle it.”

On an album that so often lurks in the shadows – whether in the gnarled howl of ‘Stray’, or the sinister imagery of ‘Junkyard Angel’ – it’s easy to wonder if there’s any light to be found here. Lia ponders. “I’d say there’s a lot of admission,” she settles on in answer. “I suppose there’s power in admission and I guess that, in a sense, became a resolution to things.” A powerful first step on a wholly new journey for the quartet, one thing’s for sure: this one’s not for the faint-hearted.

‘Afraid Of Tomorrows’ is out 21st June via Fiction.

The Mysterines play Brighten The Corners (14th-15th June) where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/festivals for more information.

Tags: The Mysterines, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the May 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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