SXSW Day 3: Mew // Q&A With Jonas Bjerre

We sit down with Mew’s Jonas Bjerre to talk about their first new album since 2009, +-.

Danish band Mew recently announced their new album, +-. This is the follow-up to their 2009 album No More Stories Are Told Today… 

Mew will be performing their first American show in 6 years here in Austin, TX, including a multitude of other performances throughout the week for SXSW. +- is out on April 28th via Play It Again Sam, and you can pre-order it on heavyweight 2xLP here.

We were lucky enough to catch singer Jonas Bjerre for a Q&A, during SXSW. Read it below!

Q: What can you tell us about your new upcoming album, +-? Any “Fun Facts” you can share?

 The album sees the return of our long lost brother, Johan Wohlert, who rejoined the band midway through the writing process. Not sure if that’s a fun fact, but it is a good fact. We did a little touring in the midst of everything, which we never did before, and I think that was a really good idea, because if you ever lose objectivity during a long process, listening to the songs through the ears of an audience brings objectivity back in merciless quantities, and you really know what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes when you’ve been working on a song for ages, you become delusional, and feeling the reaction of your audience is a well-needed wake-up call. We kind of usually disappear into our own little world when we write together, but this time we tried to at least keep the door open to reality.

Q: +- is your first new album in five years. What have you guys been up to during that time?

 We toured a lot on NMS, and at the end of the last tour we needed a little breather before going into a writing cycle again. We tend to do things in those three steps, writing, recording, touring. I know bands that write while they’re on tour, but that’s always been really hard for us, it’s like we’re just in a different headspace. During our break we each did different things, Bo was working on a couple of short films, directing, Silas was doing his art, and I did a soundtrack for a movie and worked with another project called Apparatjik, who mostly do performances in places that are a little different, like art spaces and museums.

So we took a while getting back to it, and I think it was great, sometimes you need to get away from things a little to appreciate them fully. And then we had a plan to turn our rehearsal space into a studio, which we spent a good amount of time on. We did not fully succeed though, the room sounded good for guitars, but too many standing waves for bass, and drums are just a tricky science, if you find a great drum room, hold on to it. So there was that. But apart from these things, we’re just a meticulous bunch of people, and we tend to get caught up in the details a lot. This is part of what makes us sound the way we do, though, so it doesn’t bother me too much. And I think we’re kinda blessed that we have people following what we do, who have patience and stay with us.

 Q: Bloc Party’s Russell Lissack guests on the song “My Complications”. How did that come about?

 Russell is awesome. We were invited along for a tour with Bloc Party in the States a few years ago, and got to know Russell, and we’ve always really liked his playing. On this album we had talked about opening up the writing process a bit, which is something we’ve been very reserved about in the past – and so we invited Russell over to write with us for a few days, which was a great experience. We did a bunch of stuff, but only one song got completed. But I think we might do something with the remaining ideas at a later point.

 Q: How would you compare +- with your last album No More Stories Are Told Today…?

 It’s pretty different. First thing that comes to mind is the fact that we wrote and recorded NMS as a 3-piece after our bassist Johan Wohlert left the band. Back then it took some getting used to, writing it just the 3 of us, and that album had a different feel to it, more like a cloud of ideas. Some of them still feel pretty band-like, but not as much as when we write the 4 of us. So Johans return to the band during the writing of this one made a big impact on the songs. Apart from that, I think we kind of try to evolve in a zig-zag pattern, and not repeat ourselves. We keep making things kind of tricky for ourselves, because if it stops being a challenge it just becomes repetitious and uninspiring. So I think each album really has its own soul, its own feeling, even if they do all sound like us.

Q: Are there any artists you guys are excited to check out during SXSW?

Really looking forward to it!

I wanna try and catch the Earl Sweatshirt show, Lust For Youth, and Icky Blossoms. Probably a bunch of other stuff too, but gonna have to wait and see how much time we’ll have. I remember when we played there the last time, I wandered around a lot when we had time, and caught some amazing things, things that I would probably never have heard about.

Q: What are your thoughts on the resurgence of vinyl?

I love it. I like that putting on music is an act, something you decide to do, something you invest yourself in. I often think about how convenience can take away some of the rewards you receive from doing things. I don’t really know if vinyl sounds better or not, but I love the physicality of it. And I like how putting on an album invites you to listen to it as a body of work, rather than skimming through songs on devices.

Q: What have you been spinning lately?

I’m really digging this album by Luzmila Carpio called Yuyay Jap’ina Tapes. I don’t have the vinyl, not even sure if it exists on vinyl, but if it does I hope to get my hands on it. It’s been a real discovery for me, like when you kind of fall in love with an album, you know? And it makes you feel high… It’s not something that happens to me so often. Also listening a lot to the new Kimbra album, it’s a beautiful body of work, so many layers and ideas in those songs.

 Q: If there was a fire in your house and you only had time to grab your three most favorite LP’s, what would they be?

Cure “lovecats” 7” (the first music I ever owned)

Pixies “Dolittle”

Swirlies: “They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days In The Glittering World Of The Salons”

Q: Do you visit record stores while on tour? If so, what are some of your favorite record stores that you’ve visited (outside of your local favorites)?

I do, but I usually don’t go crazy on tours because we already have overweight on the flights with equipment, so I mostly buy something if it’s a rarity I’ve been looking for, something really special. We used to go to Amoeba a lot, in LA, and pick up all kinds of stuff for inspiration. Other stores that come to mind are Bleecker Bob’s in New York, and Newbury Comics in Portland.

The last two vinyl I bought was the E.T. soundtrack and Francis Lai’s soundtrack for Bilitis, that was in a little shop in Berlin but I don’t remember its name. There’s a nice one in Copenhagen called Sound Station that’s kind of in my area.

Q: What are some LP’s that are currently on your wantlist?

These New Puritans – ‘Field Of Reeds’

Death Grips – ‘The Powers That B’ + ‘Government Plates’

And I want to complete my Kate Bush collection.

Q: What is your most prized vinyl?

Hard to tell… I guess it’s kinda nostalgic, but I still have a lot of the albums I listened to as a kid, and I really like having them, you know, even if I don’t listen to them so often. Like the Muppet Show Album, with songs like ‘halfway down the stairs’ and ‘bein green’. Those kinds of albums. To be honest, that’s probably the one.

Mew will be playing a handful of shows during SXSW this week. Check out their schedule and listen to their most recent single “Water Slides” below:

Thursday 3/19/15

  • Under the Radar @ Flamingo Cantina – 4pm
  • Stubhub Showcase @ Clive Bar – 11pm

Friday 3/20/15

  • Culture Collide @ Container Bar – 5pm

Saturday 3/21/15

  • Brooklyn Vegan Day Party @ Red 7 – 4:30pm


Author Description

Carah is a 20-something dreamer that has a way with adjectives. Mentally, she is stuck in the 90’s. She enjoys a good double tall latte and rewatching seasons of 30Rock. Her favorite artists include Counting Crows, Sarah Jaffe and Ben Kweller. Carah's holy grail is Ryan Adam’s Easy Tiger on bright orange vinyl. Oh, she also happens to be Claudio's wife. What a power couple.

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