Dundee band, The Mirror Trap, create brooding indie-rock anthems with political undertones and, most importantly, relentless passion. Gary Moore, Ben Doherty, Paul Markie and Mikey McFarlane have been writing and releasing records for the last couple of years and now it seems their hard work has finally paid off: having played live at T In The Park and a BBC Introducing session last year, The Mirror Trap are currently supporting Placebo on their UK tour and are set to release a new EP next month. Most definitely ones to watch, and listen out for, in the near future.
We caught up with front-man, Gary, to talk about everything from showers and shopping trolleys, to teenage confusion and politics…
Hi Gary, how are you and what have you been up to this week?
Hello! I am very well, I have not long woken up, in Manchester, and I am playing a show at the Apollo tonight. I have certainly had worse mornings! We are in the middle of our UK tour supporting Placebo, so the last week has been spent playing shows around the north of England, which has been pretty awesome. Lots of friendly and welcoming people.
We have also spent some time this week comparing the very subtle differences between the Family Rooms at Travelodge hotels. When we arrive in a new city we start guessing as to whether there will be a picture on the wall, or whether the shower will be operated by the twisty bits on the taps, or by those large round wall-mounted devices. Often there is no differences at all, but its these occasional little tweaks are keeping us on our toes. Rock ‘n’ Roll lives!
First thing’s first, let’s clear this up – why is your nickname the Panther?
There are certain little things in life which should never be cleared up, for the safety of the those involved, for reasons of national security, and for the sake of the children. I could tell you the Panther story right now, but neither of us would ever work again. It’s best to keep some things locked away forever.
You’re currently on tour in the U.K supporting Placebo, what’s that been like as an experience?
This tour has been incredible. It is the longest tour we have ever done, and we are doing it with one of our favourite bands. The reaction we have been getting from the crowds every night has been glorious and humbling. I’ve been to enough rock gigs to know that the support band can often be viewed as a nuisance that you just have to endure, so to see people actively taking an interest in us has been amazing. Getting to watch rock legends like Placebo from the side of the stage every night is only going to help us get better as a band.
We are a naturally friendly and talkative bunch, so being in amongst loads of people every night suits us very well – if we can’t convert you to the ways of The Mirror Trap during our half hour set, then we are going to track you down in the audience after the show and break you down with some hyperactive and perverse conversation.
Being from Dundee, how do you find playing in England?
It has been great. The whole time we’ve been in this band we’ve all had full time jobs, so generally we could only play in places that we could drive to, and from, in the same night. We’ve done the Dundee-Aberdeen-Glasgow-Edinburgh circuit quite a few times now, so being down in this here England feels a bit romantic and exciting. The very fact that the venues serve things other than Tennants at the bar is rather exotic.
I get the fear that all forms of local culture will be smothered and destroyed in the coming years, until the country is one massive high street, with the same chain of coffee shops and clothing retailers repeated in a loop from Lands’ End to John O’ Groats; all accents will fade away, all local charm will be eradicated and replaced with a palatable iPersonality. It feels good to visit all of these cities now while there is still a little bit of individual spark left in them.
What inspired you to play music in the first place?
I guess I am another in a long line of people that have floated through their young life without any lust for anything. As a teenager I felt like I was living under water, things just sort of passed me by. I quite liked football, and discovered that being drunk was pretty fun, but never got a thrill from anything.
I got pretty average grades and left school with no clue what to do, so I enrolled in a random course at college and spent a year on my own. It was at this point I stumbled into the seedy world of indie discos, the NME, eye-liner and The Smiths, and I knew pretty much straight away that I had to be involved in this forever. I had no musical talent at all but decided it was a good idea to spend my student loan on a guitar, a keyboard and a 4 track recorder. So I guess what inspired me to play music was just being a great big confused and lonely weirdo.
Having formed back in 2009, what would you mark as the most important moment of your career so far?
In a strange twist, our most important musical moment came on stage in an ice hockey arena in the middle of Siberia. We had been working so hard at this music lark for a few years and had gotten nowhere at all. I guess we didn’t enjoy the taste of dick enough to really influence the people in Scotland that you need to influence to get anywhere.
We could have compromised a few times, changed our sound, begged at certain doors, but we have always been a bit too awkward and independent for that. Then we became friends with Dave McLean, one of Placebo’s managers, he liked us and we somehow ended up being invited to play some shows in Russia with Placebo. I don’t really think much was expected of us really, but everything just seemed to click into place during those shows, the crowds went wild for us, we played the best we ever had, and people started to notice. From that point things have kind of snowballed.
Being quite political yourself, I have to ask – did you vote Yes in the Independence campaign?
As far as I know we are a band full of Yes voters. I am not patriotic in the slightest, nationalism in general turns my stomach. I think if the referendum had been a purely nationalist campaign then the Yes side would have gotten about 5% of the vote, but it became so much more than that. The six months leading up to the vote was incredible, it seemed that people started to realise the enormity of the question and started to give it serious thought, and the more people considered it, the more people turned to the Yes side. City centres became like carnivals, there was a general feeling of positivity and excitement.
The days of the Great British empire are long gone, and we are left with a minority of wealthy pricks running the whole country, wealthy pricks that no one in Scotland votes for, but always end up ruled by; the chance was there to take actual power and create a better nation. Sadly the establishment machine moved into full on defence mode and scared the over 50s into a frenzy, so instead of planning for a new nation we are left counting our loose change to see if we can afford a comfortable pillow to sit on once the Tories have given us a brutal revenge shagging.
The lyrics throughout the ‘Silent Men’ EP are definitely quite powerful to say the least, what inspired you to write the songs?
Thank you very much. It sounds really lame to say it but I think everything in life inspires the songs. A couple of the tunes on the EP are quite political, one is a bit of a love song and at least one is just a bit of a rant. I am not quite intelligent enough to write an album of deep political satire, and don’t have an exciting enough life to write a bunch of tales about late night debauchery, I kind of just stagger around shouting about what makes me feel any strong emotion.
Obviously your music has quite a lot of pace and charisma about it. Who would you say influences you as a band?
I think there are too many influences to mention, we all get kicks from different things then throw it all together, as long as it excites us then it stays in. I have a bit of a Nick Cave obsession, and go through intense Morrissey phases, our drummer is a Dave Grohl enthusiast, bass player Ben is Mr Garage, and the two guitarists are just a bit odd. We agree on certain things, like Queens of The Stone Age, The Hives, Radiohead, Tears For Fears, Nine Inch Nails and Madonna.
What do you think you’d be doing right now if you weren’t involved with the band?
We only quit our jobs recently, so that’s a pretty easy one to answer! We would be a green-keeper, a fish monger, a trolley boy at Tesco, a sales assistant in a clothes shop and a wandering bum. And, more importantly, we would be five unhappy young men with great big holes in our hearts. We are unskilled, uneducated young men with stacks of debt and no future prospects – without the band, we would be five more numbers in some package of government statistics.
Are there any other current bands that are catching your eye at the minute?
I don’t think there is much this year that has excited me, but I guess it is still early days. Last year I really loved the Alvvays album, and think the latest Iceage album is one of the best things I’ve heard in years. Mogwai put an EP out at the end of the year, that was pretty phenomenal, but I suppose that is almost expected. And the St Vincent album was pretty flawless. There are a couple of Dundee bands kicking about just now that have been getting me a little bit horny: Scary People and Vladimir – hopefully 2015 will be massive years for them both.
What else can we expect from The Mirror Trap throughout the year?
When we get back from this current tour we are going to start recording an album, which is rather exciting – we have about sixteen songs in different states, we need to finish them off then whittle them down to a fizzy little ten or eleven track album.
I have no idea when it will come out, but we figure we should probably record it now so we are free to head out to the festival circuit without having to worry about it. So far we have a couple of European festivals confirmed, with a few more in the pipeline. The general aim for us is just to play to as many people as humanly possible in the next few months, and hope some of them like us.