Merrymouth are currently out on the road touring their albums Simon Fowler’s Merrymouth and Wenlock Hill. We managed to grab a few minutes with front man Simon Fowler to ask about how things are going.
BL: Hi, thank you for taking some time out to speak to us.
SF: No problem.
BL: So, you have the tour coming up. I was at the mac last year when you played there, I was just wondering what we can expect this time around, will there be any new material?
SF: Erm… No, in a word [laughs] we have the two albums, so we’ll do that but hopefully we’ll have another look at last year’s setlist and do something a bit different, that’s pretty much where we are.
BL: When I was at the gig last year I noticed how close you guys seem, with the banter that was going and the stories you were telling, like the story about your ex-manager.
SF: That’s one of the nice things about being in this band, you just sit down and we treat it like ‘an evening with’ really, I guess you can kind of sound like a bit of a dick head saying that, but do you know what I mean? I can’t imagine doing that with anyone else; it’s a bit of a different dynamic.
BL: I was going to ask about that, you’ve just done the OCS 25th anniversary tour and I was there for that too, but it seems you’re enjoying yourself more with the Merrymouth stuff at the moment.
SF: Which one were you at?
BL: It was the one where you had to tell them to turn the smoke machine off because it was choking you!
SF: [laughs] Was that the Saturday?
BL: Yes, that was the one.
SF: That one just didn’t click, it was really strange, of all the gigs we did on that tour we just came off and said “what happened then?” I guess sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t.
BL: Having seen you a lot over the years, you didn’t seem to be telling as many stories as you usually do, which I’ve always found is part of your charm.
SF: Maybe it was just nerves that got us a bit, you always get slightly more nervous when you do your hometown than when you do London for example. Maybe it just got in the way and it didn’t quite work, whereas the Tuesday was lovely.
BL: One of the nice things for me is hearing songs that you don’t always play. Like on that night you played Drive Away which has always been one of my favourites, and the way you used the string quartet was brilliant.
SF: They were great weren’t they, the girls on the strings. We really enjoyed having them.
BL: I notice on the upcoming Merrymouth tour that you’re doing a few dates up in Scotland, you seem to have a special bond with your Scottish fans?
SF: Yeah we do, we always have done. I’m not really sure how it came about really, they just took to us, it’s like our second home. I think I know the M74 and the A9 better than I know the M6! When I drive into Birmingham now I get completely lost, I’ve hardly driven in since they reorganised it. When I lived there Selfridges wasn’t even there, I remember driving round the other week and I though fucking hell this is my home city and I don’t even know my way round it! [laughs]
BL: So, has that special bond reached out to Merrymouth too?
SF: Yeah it has. Actually, when we were up in Scotland on that string quartet tour that we did just, it wasn’t like playing the Barrowlands but it was still noisy, you’ve got to accept it’s Saturday night and it’s Glasgow but…
BL: I read that you had to tell a few of them off because they were talking through a few of the songs?
SF: Yeah [laughs] which is just really like taking your life in your hands!
BL: I’ve also read that after this tour you’ll be taking off the rest of the year to do some writing?
SF: Yeah, trying to do some writing at the moment. Also going on an ‘Oscar and I’ only tour, doing some gigs, I don’t know whether we’re playing Birmingham or not, I think we’re playing Warwick Arts Centre. Yeah so, Oscar and I are doing that in the Autumn [Friday 23rd October]. Oscar’s out with The Beat at the moment. In fact he went today to Amsterdam, so I wonder what they’ll be up to!? [laughs]
BL: I bet that’ll be interesting! [laughs] So, if you’re going to be writing, will that be for OCS or Merrymouth?
SF: I don’t really write for anyone, I just write and see what happens really. Sometimes I’ll think “well I can’t imagine Ocean Colour Scene doing that song”, but on that whole it doesn’t matter to me, Ocean Colour Scene have always had a strong acoustic side anyway, so I’ve always just written and seen what happens.
BL: I would say the acoustic more chilled songs are probably my favourite.
SF: Like the B-sides and Seasides album? That’s my favourite Ocean Colour Scene album.
BL: Do you think we can expect any more albums from OCS?
SF: I’ve got no idea to be honest, at the minute I’m not particularly ambitious to do anything. You know, we’ve done quite a lot in the last three or four years and sometimes I think it’s a good idea to hold back a little bit. I know Steve [Cradock] is planning to do a solo album next year. So I don’t know, we’ll see.
BL: You said that Seasides is probably your favourite album, I think I would say mine is Live At The Jamhouse, again another acoustic type album. I also saw you in Stratford last year, do you think you’ll be doing another one of those this year?
SF: I think I am actually, yeah. I suspect that it will be probably be December, because I’ll be doing gigs in Birmingham with Merrymouth and then Warwick with Oscar, you simply can’t do it with promoters, so yeah I think I’ll probably be doing The Chapel in December.
BL: It was a great gig last year it was so intimate.
SF: …and it’s also just down the road from where I live.
BL: Always handy!
SF: Yeah [laughs]
BL: With the current Merrymouth tour you’re doing two dates in Birmingham, was that intentional is a bit of a homecoming to finish the tour?
SF: I think so yeah, I didn’t notice we were doing two dates at first and I wasn’t sure whether it was a good idea or not. I’m not sure what the tickets are doing. I actually like the Glee Club which is a slightly larger venue, we did that on the first Merrymouth tour and the sound and everything was fantastic. Having said that the mac is good and it’s easy to get to and it’s also kind of Moseley way. The Glee Club is a great venue though, every time I walk past there when I’m in Birmingham the schedule is completely full, getting a gig there is about as rare as rocking horse shit!
BL: I noticed that Andy has left recently, do you think you’ll be replacing him if you do any more stuff?
SF: I think so yeah, we’re only playing one or two and I think we’re going to be playing with the bass player from The Beat who Oscar has become friends with. Andy has gone out on his own now, about fucking time as well [laughs] I still think of him as a child, we’ve know him since he was eight! [laughs]
BL: [laughs]Thanks a lot for your time, it was good to speak to you.
SF: No problem at all, make sure you come say hello at one of the gigs!
Interview by James Wood
You can catch Merrymouth at the mac Birmingham on Sunday May 24th.