EXCLUSIVE: John MOuse announces name change and singles for 2022 1

EXCLUSIVE: John MOuse announces name change and singles for 2022

NEWS: Welsh national treasure John MOuse announces name change and run of singles for 2022, starting with ‘Hot Car’.

So it’s farewell, for the time being, to John MOuse. The new single, ‘Hot Car’, available via Bandcamp on 24 February, heralds the formal transition of John MOuse (a.k.a. John Davies) from anthemic indie chansonnier of the Welsh absurd, into a souped-up, fuel-injected, synth-pop dynamo. God is in the TV can exclusively reveal that three completely new tracks will follow later this year under the name of The Fashion Weak, complete with a guest appearance from Miki Berenyi (Piroshka, Lush).

Davies has been active on the UK indie circuit for over twenty years under the name John MOuse. Noted for acerbic chronicles of everyday micro-drama and for his occasionally boisterous live act, Davies has made occasional attempts to kill the character off before, even entitling an LP The Death of John MOuse. But this latest stylistic shift feels more profound, having its roots in 2020’s outstanding release, The Goat. Hunkered down in Cardiff during the pandemic, Davies and his long-time collaborator Philip Pearce challenged themselves to produce a song a week. The resulting album, without explicitly referring to current events, perfectly captured the weird, frazzled atmosphere of those days–its tales of Anne Summers parties, tacky landlords, unsuccessful barbeques and uncanny pigeons take on a dream-like intensity against pounding disco beats and wonky, synthesised devilry.

Davies and Pearce have previous form in setting themselves these kinds of creative dares. New track, ‘Hot Car’, was first released in a different guise in February 2019. For The Fen Sessions, team John MOuse, then a full band, spent a weekend in a cottage in a remote part of Lincolnshire. Here, they wrote, recorded, mixed, and released an album’s worth of songs over two days, before cantankerously deleting the entire project from Bandcamp on the Monday morning.

The newly re-jigged and re-released track is a banging jalopy of Italo-disco mayhem which rear-ends the laconic automobile fixations of Gary Numan and Kraftwerk, and goes out in a gear-crunching, ‘Leader of the Pack’ style blaze of teenage glory.

We’ve been chatting to Davies via email to find out if it’s really curtains for John MOuse.

GiitTV: Your new single, ‘Hot Car’, is the last survivor of The Fen Sessions. What do you think made it stand out?

JD: I did a post-Fen Sessions evaluation survey and through the qualitative data, people who downloaded the album or listened to the tracks over the weekend voted ‘Hot Car’ as their favorite song of the sessions. It has a fun energy about it, but it’s been tweaked a little and now has a darker ending.

John MOuse on a sofa with a man in a pigeon head
John MOuse and friend

People who listened to it during The Fen Sessions engaged with it instantly. Maybe something to do with the two simple words ‘Hot Car‘. It probably doesn’t need verses–you can add your own teenage delinquency story around it. Some people will be in XR2s, some in a Capri. I was in a Citroën, it was Silver.

What possessed you to write, record, release and then delete an album’s worth of material over a single weekend?

At the time I was disillusioned with the entire recording and releasing process and how it equated to the value of the final product. I saw the limited time to download the album as the digital version of a physical limited number release. It was also to see if it could be done, a track written, recorded and released every two hours both days was a creative challenge.

I understand that you’re doing a Ziggy Stardust. Can you tell us about your new alter ego?

I have tried to kill off John MOuse before but it never felt quite right. However with the output and process of The Fen Sessions there was a definite creative shift, something that was realised with The Goat. The new synth-driven tracks just no longer felt like John MOuse songs and when I finally got the chance to promote them live I had to approach that in a very different way, basically by losing the entire band.

And are you in a position to reveal to us the name of this new project?

Yeah, as it’s you, it’ll go under the name of The Fashion Weak.

And is there an ethos behind the new band name or does it just speak for itself?

We hashed about lots of different names. We didn’t want to be left with another John MOuse/John Maus situation. There were lots floated, but we all agreed on The Fashion Weak. You’re right, it does speak for itself.

For me personally it gives a positive spin on those who are not in fashion for whatever reason. The Fashion Weak still exist and still offer something, even if only to the other Fashion Weak. It was also the least worst name we came up with.

Is John MOuse dead forever?

Definitely not. John MOuse will still play as the full band and will be the home of the guitar indie stuff.

If the opportunity arises to play shows with the full band or if I write some songs that suits John MOuse then I’ll do that. It is really hard though to organise band stuff, just logistically, it’s a big band and everyone has their own commitments.

Can you tell us about the other half of your nascent synth-pop duo?

I’ve written with Phil for the majority of the John MOuse songs, and he was part of the first incarnation of the live show with his band Prince Edward Island. That’s how we met, through Myspace. I liked his band and Faye (Davies), who was also in Prince Edward Island and has been part of the live band and does all the graphic design, liked some John MOuse demos that were on there.

It was very much a collaborative process with the writing of the tracks. Sometimes I’d have a complete song, sometimes he would, sometimes we would share ideas. The new arrangement is much different, he does all the music and I do the words.

When you were making The Fen Sessions, what were you most disillusioned by, and have you grown more, or less gloomy about the music biz in the three years since?

Just the effort that you would put into writing and recording an album, the time, the money and then it would be released and over really quickly. So I wanted to give as little time to the process as what I felt I was getting back.

I don’t think I was gloomy, just realistic. I am aware that being an independent artist without any representation my reach is limited, but I suppose I have accepted that, and I am just proud that I get radio play that I do–6 Music have been huge supporters–and support from blogs like you.

Are you concerned that adding new lyrics might spoil whatever it was that people loved at first?

For ‘Hot Car’? Nah, there were just a couple of tweaks, modifications. We pimped the ride. It was a chance to improve and work up the lyrics that were written off-the-cuff during the two-hour slot I had for the first time around.

I like the idea of setting time limits and forcing yourself to do something / anything, even if it’s imperfect, just to rise to the challenge. How happy are you with the results?

For The Fen Sessions we had two hours per track and five tracks a day. The results were, as expected, mixed, and that’s why I think the plan was to make the release time-limited too. The Goat sessions had time limits too, we decided in the first lockdown that we would write and release a song a week this time. Phil didn’t use any real instruments on The Goat, and he found that process easier. I also liked the time limit as I know Phil has a higher quality threshold than me. I’m happy to release everything straight away. I get a bit excited, so creating deadlines forced songs to be created and set free, and I think the results on The Goat were some of the best songs we have written.

All your songs seem to have some kind of story at their heart. How do you approach writing?

Lyrically, for me, I carve out stories from big chunks of writing. The majority of the time, I write without the song in mind, then when I get the track, I think which story would work with it and then edit it so that it works.

Do you ever meet someone and think, yup, that’s a chorus right there.

No, though ‘I was a goalkeeper’ was something I said and Phil picked up and said that’s a song there.

Were you a teenage delinquent? If so, I’m shocked. You seem like such a sensible fellow these days.

Not too bad, you know, just normal stuff teenagers got up to. The Fen Sessions really delved into the stupid things that teenagers got up to and some of this narrative leaked into The Goat such as ‘The Raven Argonette’ or ‘A Well-Planned Party’.

Might we see new versions of any of the other Fen Sessions tracks?

No, that’s it. We just wanted to release ‘Hot Car’, and it seemed like a nice bridge to the new material.

Can you tell us anything about the forthcoming singles?

Yup, sonically they are very much like the tracks from The Goat. We’ve written them in the same way, but we have allowed ourselves time to really polish them and get them right before releasing them. We did want to release an album, we have the material there, but I’m hoping that these singles will build some interest first and ideally get a label to release it.

The songs will be tales about a mystery book entitled 18% of Swansea Have Never Worked in the DVLA, a fly-fishing obsessive (with guest vocals from Miki Berenyi from Piroshka, formerly of Lush), a critique of how to get an album onto the Welsh Music Prize and perhaps a fourth about Penscynor Wildlife Gardens.

What can we expect at your upcoming live shows?

Me dancing around singing to backing tracks with a paper mache pigeon head, until I sort out how to do this electronic stuff live properly.

‘Hot Car’ by John MOuse is released via Bandcamp (https://johnmouse.bandcamp.com/) from 25 February. The Goat is also available as a download, CD, and limited edition Cherry Cola Opaque 180g vinyl. You can see him live at Zed Alley Bristol, 18 March and Le Pub Newport, 19 March.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.