John Clay had a chat with NEVER NEVER MAN about their imminent debut LP release. Candid tales of sex, drugs and less societal division were topics the band were keen to discuss. Read on …
Thanks for the interview guys.
Let’s get into the heavy stuff: What song was the hardest to write about subject wise?
Gavin (lead vox/guitar): I think subject wise ‘Lips‘ was tough. No one wants to write a song about borrowing money from your parents in your thirties. I think money’s still a huge taboo even though we need to be having these conversations about the generational divide and wealth inequality.
How was the band doing at the time of that event? Do you think the pressure of ‘making it’ can make asking for help an even tougher issue?
Gavin: Asking for help is never easy, but we all have each other’s backs. I think rather than ‘making it’ the band has always been more about creating something and getting together to put our ideas out into the world, which is therapeutic in itself. But that can’t exist in a bubble. Making music and making videos as you know isn’t cheap.
Mahyar (Drums/vox): Yeah like Gavin said the film was a show of our collective efforts and that we were never alone even in the loneliest of times
You describe ‘Ever Be’ as an anti-heroin song. I would have thought touching that subject would have been the hardest to broach, surely?
GAVIN: I thought you might ask that. It wasn’t a hard thing for me to write about heroin, I know how I feel about it. I guess it was more of an observational thing and something I feel I needed to get off my chest. Not everyone’s going to agree with me in this one and that’s fine.
MAHYAR: It’s not easy subject matter to stomach. There is just a notable point that it’s a problem we noticed and it’s among musicians that London is a host to.
What is it that you think people will disagree with you about here? Fill us in.
MAHYAR: People want to make their own choices and being unapologetic about our views might be disagreeable with some people, but that’s ok
Can you be more specific?
GAVIN: Yes, we acknowledge that this goes on, but the song also acknowledges that it’s not what we’re about. On a personal level it’s ruined many a good night out (/in) and friendship, I guess it’s about navigating those social interactions.
Understood. By the way, let me get this straight – 18 vocal tracks on ‘Someone Else’s Bed’? Wow. must have been hard to mix, right?
GAVIN: Yeah, we went for a real wall of sound on that one. I’d been listening to Pet Sounds a lot around the time of mixing it and ‘Because’ by The Beatles. It’s a shame that one didn’t make it into the film actually, it’s a great album track.
You use a lot of reverb on your vocals. Is that a way of making subjects such as bedhopping easier to sing about?
GAVIN: I think the heroin song shows we’re not afraid of tackling difficult subjects but we try and wrap it up in something that sounds nice. It’s not about throwing our subjects down the well, we’re shouting from the bottom about them.
Noted. And so, about the reverb … is it a sort of shield?
GAVIN: Anybody who knows me as an artist or a producer knows I’m in love with reverb. Been told by many people before who just don’t get it that I’m using too much, but it’s 100% part of our sound, a very deliberate thing, certainly not a shield. I’m a big fan of a lot of 80s post punk music, and I’ve always been in love with that vocal sound.
‘This song is about when chasing a feeling gets in the way of your actual life and stepping back and getting some perspective on things and what’s really important when the party is over.’ You said this in regards to ‘More Than A Feeling’. Can you be more specific about what feeling you were chasing that lent itself to the song?
GAVIN: I guess it’s a classic coming of age tale, like Mahyar says in the video we’ve all been through some pretty big personal changes during the course of writing the album. The feeling I’m talking about is that feeling of missing out if you’re not at the party or the pub, but then the realisation that you didn’t miss anything and you’re better off where you were. If the whole situation with lockdown has taught us anything it’s that we all value our time at home with our families a lot more now.
Despite its obvious negative, it’s amazing how much lockdown worked out to be a global introspective moment. Did the band keep in touch over phone/Zoom regarding current events?
MAHYAR: Yes we all kept in touch with each other, even though as a band we were fragmented we actually found we could send song ideas and work on mixes together with Splice. Technology has been a major help and really come into its own. Obviously the music industry has been hit really hard so it’s been great to see so much adaptability with stuff like virtual gigs. Never replace the real thing though.
With Amazon, Waterstones and other book suppliers being emptied of books of race, how did Never Never Man react to the domino effect of George Floyd’s death?
GAVIN: I think as a band it’s too easy to post a black square and move on, we’ve not been using our social media much of late but we have spoken about this with our record company and they’ve been posting anti racism resources on theirs. As individuals, all of us are of course anti racist, but there’s a lot of unpacking to do. I’m reluctant to use the lived experiences of an entire group of people as a learning curve, it shouldn’t ever be a point of personal growth more than it is about striving for real change. That said, personally as a father, I feel my duty and the place where I can have the biggest impact is in raising my kids to be actively anti racist.
MAHYAR: so personally growing up in this country I have been racially attacked for being from Iran growing up in the North East and moving to London it’s been a great demographic change, so much more diversity and I feel at home. But there is a lot of positive changing even in my home town of Newcastle and for the better. Recent reactions in solidarity in the country have been very impactful and personally I feel young people are driving the message forward.
‘I’m reluctant to use the lived experiences of an entire group of people as a learning curve … ‘ Interesting perspective. Some might argue that since we live and interact with these people that a learning curve would benefit future interactives, no?
GAVIN: Absolutely, of course as a white person I alongside every other white person should be digging deep and really examining (and trying to dismantle) the systems and structures we benefit from, however it feels self-serving to make recent events about becoming a “better person”. So I think as long as the soul searching results in action and support, and isn’t just about paying lip service or assuaging guilt it’s of course a good thing.
Good points there.
Mahyar, tell us more about the changes in Newcastle?
Mahyar: I was at the BLM protest in Newcastle and the amount of people that turned up despite Covid or the government’s advice to not attend was huge. Hearing other peoples stories was truly moving and painful. But there’s a lot more to be done as the EDL and far right in the North East are sure to do a lot of push back.
These world events will no doubt distill themselves via artistic as well as reportage media. Is there a particular song from the album that you feel speaks to fans about current ruminations on identity?
GAVIN: I feel like ‘Lemon’ taps into that. Lyrically it’s about the labels we attach to ourselves and whether religion can fit into a modern day context, the benefits and pitfalls of seeking your own identity versus the idea of every human being the same.
What would be the pitfalls to seeking one’s own identity?
GAVIN: I guess if the pursuit of that identity causes you to latch onto false gods.
Care to tell us of any false gods you’ve come across in your own pursuit gentleman?
GAVIN: Far too many to mention, I guess what I’m saying by that is be careful who you idolise, who you spend your time with, and why you choose to spend your time with them.
Noted. I must say, I’m quite taken with the video about the album. Any further thoughts on its creation and what you want people to take away from the experience?
GAVIN: Thanks a lot John, we really appreciate that you like it, it means a lot coming from a filmmaker like yourself who we’ve had the pleasure of working with several times. Ultimately I think what the band takes away from this is how lucky we are to work with such great people, to have been able to make this film and this record it’s been an absolute privilege.
I guess what I hope people take from it is that it gives the album a bit more context and a little glimpse into what it actually took for us to make this record and to use a hackneyed phrase “the journey” we went on to do so, we’ve put a lot of heart and soul into this and it will be nice if someone else gets something out of it.
Fantastic stuff guys. I look forward to chatting about more songs off the album with perhaps more of the band soon x
Good stuff thanks john appreciate it x