Modern Rituals Interview: “You need to make the music you most want to hear”

modern rituals

Split single with Brunch coming soon via Sonic Anhedonic.

I wonder what are our modern rituals in 2017? Checking our phones? Duck face Instagram selfies? Who knows? I’m only 32 (nearly) and I feel like an archaic alien. No matter. What does matter, is that on thing that Modern Rituals definitely is, is a noisy/melodic alternative rock band from Bristol/London. They ride roughshod through a sound that is kind of like slacker sludge I reckon. It’s loud, filthy, and somewhat lethargic.

Last year they released their debut EP Stranger Culture. It’s a humdinger. Next up is a split 7 inch with guitar pop folks Brunch and a bit of a tour of England. We had a sit down with the group to discuss their new songs, the Stranger Culture EP, and Lent.

modern rituals

Overblown: On recent track ‘Muttering’, it seems to me that you are more actively utilising dissonance and unusual rhythms and timings. Was that a conscious change? Or am I just completely wide of the mark entirely?

Modern Rituals: It was definitely a conscious change to write something more complex. Weirdly, ‘Muttering’ began as an attempt to restructure a song I wrote ages ago, way before Modern Rituals was a thing. I think having an old part to rework, coupled with the intention of writing something quite detached from anything I listen to, led to it coming out a little more unusual.

O: ‘Muttering’ and another new track ‘Protrusion’ will appear on a split with Brunch. How did you get to know those lads?

MR: In January last year I put on a show (which a very primitive version of Modern Rituals opened up) with Brunch on the bill. We then went on a really fun tour with them the following May, and cemented our friendship through that. We’ve had plans to do a split since around then, and now that we’ve all got the tracks sorted and an amazing label (Sonic Anhedonic) to release it, we’ve booked another tour to go with it this May.

O: After the release of your ‘Stranger Culture’ EP last May, are there any plans for an LP?

MR: We’re going to record what I hope will end up as an LP in September with Lewis Johns, who did Stranger Culture.

O: Can you elaborate on what kind of direction it is taking?

MR: The sound we’re going for on ‘Muttering’ and ‘Protrusion’ will be pretty key to the route we take with the album. That said, we’ve written some quite fast-paced stuff too.

The drop B tuning we use will remain for the bulk of it, which is quite integral to the mood. I want to add as much weight as I can to the tone, I love how much depth you can get from, for example, a Cult of Luna album. I’ve done a lot of heavy music in the past too, and I feel like it would be dishonest to remove that from this band. This, twinned with the complex chords and melodies that you might find in Elliott Smith or Neil Young, would be an ideal listen for me. I think you need to make the music you most want to hear.

Lyrically I’m looking at many similar things to Stranger Culture though – abnormal experiences in perception, familiarising oneself with absurd meanings and the powerful impacts of random epiphanies. Not to normalise proliferating strange ideas but at least to have them to turn to when you need them. I think in that respect it’s an attempt at escaping from the banal.

O: I’m curious about your song ‘One-Eyed Jimmy’. Is that a real person? When I was growing up there was a traveller who lived by himself in a caravan near the motorway called ‘Red Jimmy’. I think that’s why this song title interests me.

MR: I think One-Eyed Jimmy is just a way of describing a lost character, someone detached who sees things really in their own way. I like the idea of your imagination running away with your senses – so you actually see things as you are in all of your individuation. The idea of literally living in your own world is kind of intriguing and as an exercise is a good way to remove yourself from what’s often quite a monotonous daily routine.

O: Am I correct in saying that you have added a number of band members over the last six months? How has that affected writing and performance?

MR: Even our core membership has always been quite loose, but I think that Jake, Rob and I have always been in Modern Rituals as we see it now. We borrowed Adrian from Brunch some time ago, and following a tour last December that he couldn’t play all of (where our sound was noticeably lacking as a three-piece), we asked Tom if he’d like to join on guitar as well. So we’ve now always got at least two – sometimes three – guitarists.

There’s much more input to writing now too, unlike Stranger Culture which was basically just songs I wrote. I think the depth in the layering of parts and the overall weight of it has increased. Tom is an amazing songwriter and I’m looking forward to hearing what he contributes to a recording. I think he’ll add a lot to melodies and song structure while I intend to make things more jarring and sludgy. I’m really interested to see how it’s going to pan out.

modern rituals

O: Who did the artwork for the ‘Stranger Culture’ EP? It disturbs me. What is the concept behind it?

MR: My friend Archie Fitzgerald, who I met in Bristol a few years ago. I feel an affinity with the way he sees art. I wanted him to do all the Modern Rituals art when we started, but I couldn’t keep asking him cos he’s busy. Archie makes some pretty provocative stuff, and I really wanted his interest in things like Outsider Art influencing the EP’s cover. I think the Stranger Culture cover is my favourite thing he’s done for us, because I gave him a concept but he made something much more interesting. I like that his interpretation always adds layers to what I suggest.

O: Finally, what did you give up for Lent? Do you have Lent? I’m babbling.

MR: Umm I don’t really know when Lent is. The guy who sits next to me at work gave up fizzy drinks for Lent but now eats a massive wodge of chocolate fudge every day instead.

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