Hi Micky great to speak to you. We’ve recently been fortunate enough to discover your debut single “I Wonder” and are absolutely loving it! First of all, we’d love to know a bit more about you and the Micky Blouse project?
Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the single. I’m both surprised and flattered by the response so far. The Micky Blouse project was created quite a few years ago. After sixth form I dabbled in a few different things and music/song-writing was the thing that peaked my interest. The notion of seeing something through from conception to completion was fascinating and writing tunes allowed me to do this with massively satisfying results.
During that time I was briefly in a band with some good friends called Grace. We played some shows and recorded a few demos but were ultimately destined to do our own things. I never really saw myself as a solo act but circumstance demanded that I embraced it. I made demos all the time after Grace and started to use my voice more and more but never thought it was any good or that I would go anywhere with it. It was honestly 50% fun and 50% catharsis. I moved up to Sheffield at the end of 2017 to study English Literature. I was still making these demos in my room but I was quite insecure about it all truthfully.
I met Paolo, my drummer, through the course and around December time showed him the raw demo of ‘I Wonder’. He was massively encouraging in those early days and suggested that I should pursue it properly. If not for him and my dad I don’t think the project would even exist. I slowly started to reveal bits and pieces I had been working on in my spare time and people seemed to connect with it. I guess formally that was when the project was born. Fast-forward to now and we’ve got a single out and a few more people have joined the line-up. Greg (who plays bass) and Finn (who plays guitar and stops me from changing the key of the song every two minutes) are also studying English and contribute to the live set.
For the time being the bulk of the song writing is still done how it always has been; alone tucked away in my room. The guys have started to contribute more and more in a live context though so who knows- perhaps we’ll ditch the name and make it a collaborative effort at some point. As long as I can keep making music and connecting with people I’ll be a happy man.
I don’t suppose the name Micky Blouse is a twist on a certain well-known cartoon mouse?
It’s funny that this question has popped up. A few months back, prior to the release of the single, I was in the car with my old man. We were chatting about the project and he turned to me and said ‘I like the name too. The whole play on Micky Mouse thing; very clever’.
I honestly hadn’t thought of it until that point and a blog recently picked up on it too. What I have always tried to do is convey a sense of vulnerability in my song writing. Writing lyrics especially, for me, is an opportunity to be honest with myself and reflect on situations that I either have personal experience with or have dealt with indirectly. Sometimes they’re jolly and sometimes they’re pretty dark. It’s quite a cathartic process to be honest and it has certainly functioned as a means to get my head straight in the past. I think the idea of being overtly self-reflective and creating an honest dialogue about how you feel still, unfortunately, is written off as pretty effeminate.
I guess what I was going for with ‘Blouse’ then was a huge twos up to that (aha). An unwillingness to bottle everything up or feel embarrassed about how I feel. Micky, on the other hand, is just a fantastic name. Nothing to do with the cartoon mouse though it does sound very similar and I’m not sure how that escaped me.
One thing I love about your music is your unique almost 60s pop throwback vocals. When did you develop this sound?
It’s interesting that you can hear that in the single. I love speaking to people and getting their interpretations of the songs as everyone’s responses are so vastly different. The whole ‘60’s throwback’ vibe definitely wasn’t something I was trying to capitalize on and there was no conscious development of that. I was listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson when I wrote ‘I Wonder’ so perhaps those two are responsible. My voice has always been a source of huge insecurity. It’s quite different.
I think it’s that age-old marmite situation- you either get it or absolutely hate it. In the early days of the project it was what kept me from taking my ideas further or showing any one what I was creating. As time has gone on though and I have gotten older I have learnt to love it. I can’t change it so why not embrace it and make it my own. I have definitely become better at taking criticism too. If people like it fantastic, if not that’s totally fine. I just have to remind myself on a daily basis that John Lennon hated his voice too, apparently.
And what would you say have been the biggest musical influences that have helped shape your sound?
There is a brilliant Joe Rogan podcast episode featuring Henry Rollins. In the podcast he differentiates between protein listening (music that he hasn’t heard yet that requires a lot of concentration) and carbohydrate listening (music that he is familiar with and enjoys). I have tried to live by that philosophy for the past half a year. When I wrote I Wonder, as I mentioned previously, I was listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. I think that is where it’s at melodically.
The instrumentation and guitar was inspired by Lou Reed and he continues to be a massive inspiration on everything I write. He was a pretty odd guy, if the biography Transformer is anything to go off, but his music is fantastic. I run quite a lot up in Sheffield and allocate albums everyday to listen to. I consciously take so much music in that it’s actually quite hard to place where I am at day to day. At the moment it’s anything from The Magic Gang to Ray Charles. I don’t think we can neglect Mac DeMarco historically either. ‘2’ was like a musical awakening.
What’s also really interesting about “I Wonder” is the contrast between the bright and super catchy pop melodies and the more poignant and almost dark subject matter. What’s the story behind these lyrics?
I still find it quite confusing that such a jovial melody came from such a dark chapter. Maybe the melody was subconsciously hopeful, who knows. Quite plainly I was really depressed and anxious when I wrote this song. I was working full time in a supermarket, had just gotten out of a serious long-term relationship and didn’t know what I wanted from my life or myself. My family and friends were worried sick and I was really difficult to be around for a long time. This song was a means to get everything out of my head and the most satisfying way of doing that at the time was through music. It is reflection on what was going on in my life at that point. A lot of the questions that are presented in the lyrics are genuinely questions I would ask myself all the time.
As time passed by I spoke up more and gained a bit more perspective about myself and life in general. It really helped to reach out to family members and throw myself into creative ventures.
It has been a few years since ‘I Wonder’ was initially mapped out and I am doing a lot better. I was speaking to a friend recently and suggested that it is more a case of becoming familiar with your feelings so that they don’t knock you off your feet. I drink a lot less, try and keep fit and put a lot of time into music. As a result I have a far better relationship with my family and friends and view myself in a more positive light. I would never claim that is the formula though- that just works for me. For any one struggling with mental health I think it is just hugely important to speak up and reach out. I think being given a platform to speak on such issues is great too, and is something we should continue to strive for. It can be really encouraging for people who find it incredibly difficult to speak out or articulate their feelings to see or hear other people airing their experiences. Not imperative though, people have ways of dealing with things that suit them.
How did you go about creating the video and give it that vintage feel?
It was a Daniel Caesar video that inspired the video for ‘I Wonder’. I remember watching the video for ‘Get You’ and thinking that both the aesthetic and content were incredible. We actually shot the video on an old Braun Nizo Super 8 camera that I got off Depop. It’s a really cool bit of kit and very rare. I was quite lucky really. A lot of the old Super 8 cameras are in varied conditions.
You have no way to test out a reel of film before shooting one because it costs £70 to develop and scan 2 and a half minutes of film. It was very much a case of ‘Christ almighty I hope this come out looking useable’. In the end it all worked out and, at least I think, it looks really great. Quick shout out to the most handsome barman in Coventry as well (Cameron Wye). We invited a bunch of people round my house, filled the front room with equipment and basically performed the song. I don’t think Cameron had used a Super 8 camera before and he was quite nervous but he smashed it. Cheers mate.
Starting this project whilst still being at university how did you manage to find the right balance between uni and the music?
I’m not entirely sure I do. I am sure my lecturers will be thrilled to hear that I spend a lot of my time in my room writing and recording whilst I should be doing work. I have enjoyed studying English though and found it mostly rewarding. I have met some fantastic people and the course, at times, can be really interesting. I think I can safely say I am happiest when I am writing and recording music though. Sorry Hamish.
How would you say the music and creative scenes in Sheffield and Coventry compare?
I wouldn’t necessarily say one is better than the other, if that’s what you’re asking. They’re quite different really. When I was coming up and starting to go out in Coventry there really wasn’t an awful lot going on. Maybe there was and I just didn’t know about it.
Coventry has come an awful long way in recent years though and there seems to be more and more development and buzz. George Winters and his team are doing amazing things with the Ghost Town event. I was at one of the first events George put on and the growth from then to now has been unreal. Having not lived in Coventry for the past two years I don’t think I can comment an awful lot but there is a huge creative scene in Sheffield. I still don’t think I have scratched the surface and not for lack of trying. I have been to a few gigs at Delicious Clam which is a crazy intimate venue in town (and loud as shit). I should probably grab a copy of Exposed and get more informed truthfully.
And finally what’s next on the horizon for Micky Blouse? We can’t wait to hear more music soon and hopefully catch you live at some point?
We have all been quite busy (and stressed) with wrapping up second year. I have quite a lot of time over summer to commit myself to the project thankfully. We’re actually off to record another single on the 4th of June in Leeds and then we’re back to Sheffield to play our first show at The Washington on the 5th. We’re in a competition to play Tramlines Fringe in July so pray that we don’t mess up too severely! I am hoping to have an EP recorded by September and in the mean time I am just going to stay busy and creative. Sincerest thanks for taking the time to have a chat. It means the world. Big love.
Written by Tom Godwin and photographed by Adam Goss.