Meeting Mojo Fury

Frontman Mike Mormecha looks forward to launching second album The Difference Between during Belfast Music Week, writes Chris Jones

Mojo Fury's home fans haven't seen too much of the band lately. After touring like demons to support their 2010 debut album Visiting Hours Of The Travelling Circus, the Lisburn band took nine months out to record the follow-up in their very own studio, Millbank, producing themselves for the first time.

Meanwhile, they joined the massed ranks of musicians launching crowd-funding campaigns in order to fund the marketing and promotion of the record. When I speak to frontman Mike Mormecha, he's in a buoyant mood, as, earlier in the afternoon, the band reached their funding target on the Pledge Music site.

Entitled The Difference Between, the album was released on October 20, and is available to download now from iTunes. However, the band will officially launch the album at Mandela Hall on November 16, during Belfast Music Week 2013.

Between now and then there's a UK and European tour to rehearse for, plus some unusual cover versions to get their collective head around. Mojo Fury are clearly very busy men these days. So after offering our congratulations on reaching their target, it’s down to business.

This being your second album, how did you approach it and what makes it different?

Well, we toured the first album for pretty much two years, so there was a whole bunch of demos, 20 songs to choose from to whittle it down to the 12 we went for. It was a complete change self-producing this time and being able to take the time over it. We spent nine months getting it to sound exactly how we wanted.

Was self-producing out of necessity and budget, or was it something you particularly wanted to do?

I guess it was a bit of both. We decided to make an investment in the studio and upgrade gear instead of paying for studio time. And we had the confidence from doing the first album with Rocky [O'Reilly]. But having done one album, we were like, 'Right okay, so that's how you record an album'.

We knew how to tackle it. And because we have Millbank, our own studio, to work out of, it has a different vibe. Not watching the clock was a definite incentive to do it ourselves. But yeah, we wouldn't have had the money to do the record that we ended up making, because we couldn't have spent nine months in any studio.

You said you learned a lot from working with Rocky on the first album. You must have been quite scholarly about it in order to be able to do it yourself the next time round.

Yeah, we've always been into recording and we've always liked bands that self-produce like Nine Inch Nails and Soulwax. And even going back to the Beatles' later stuff where you can hear where they went, 'Right, we're in charge now'. Or Prince – I think you can hear when the artist is in control of everything.

Nothing is played safe. If it's rough around the edges, it's like that for a reason. We've always been into that, and getting to experiment. 'To paint with the colours,' as Jimi Hendrix said.

Did you have a mission statement at the outset?

With regards to the sound of it, there was an edginess that we wanted to capture, to get the synths and guitars so tied in together that it was a new, fresh, jagged sound. There were a couple of references, like Gary Numan, how to mix the synths and guitars in the perfect way. There was a lot of experimenting with that. But not really a mission statement.

You mentioned Nine Inch Nails – would I be right in saying that they are a big influence, and that your electronic side is coming through more?

Yeah, I think we were always heading that way and even more so now. We're a more versatile-sounding band and we're not afraid to put more electronics into it. That stuff got buried under a load of guitars on the first album, but now the electronic side is the prominent thing.

What is it about that sound that appeals?

It's the clarity of electronic instruments meeting dirty guitars, and the difference in those textures. That's the sort of music we all love and we strive to get out of our own band.

Was there ever a possibility of any labels putting The Difference Between out?

We actually did shop it around quite a bit. We talked to Xtra Mile, Frank Turner's label, and labels that we thought would suit the sound, but nothing came of it. Pledge was always in the back of our minds. We ended up going with it and it's worked out.

It's good because we've pretty much become our own label. With the money we've raised through Pledge, we're choosing who to do our marketing, and who our plugger is. It's a much more customised campaign for the whole album, instead of having to go with a particular label's whole team.

How did you find managing the Pledge campaign?

It was hard keeping the campaign alive and it was a lot of work putting out videos all the time, to not let it ever go stale, keeping it fresh in people's minds. But yeah, we got there. But it's definitely not a cop out, it's a lot of work. But that's part of the attraction, you're right there, talking to fans and sending them videos. That's kind of cool.

Did it have any effect on your relationship with your fans or your perception of them? Do you feel you learned anything in that sense?

Yeah, definitely. One of the pledge incentives was that we would cover any song, and we've had such a bizarre range of songs, from the Transformers theme tune to 'Sledgehammer' by Peter Gabriel, which is a dream. I can wait to start working on that cover. The most bizarre one is the theme tune from Arthur, the kids' TV show. Somebody paid a lot of money for that.

What's your view on crowd-funding in general? Is it a symptom of the music industry being in trouble?

It's a result of where the industry is at, and I know it's used in business and has been for a while. I think it's great that it's come into music. It's opened doors and opportunities for bands who can't get signed. Like us. We'd shopped our record around and nobody was biting. But I think it's the kind of thing that each band can only do once in their career. I would feel weird about doing it again next year.

You're just about to go on tour in the UK and Europe. How important do you think it is to get out on the road, and especially outside of Northern Ireland, in order to try and win some fans elsewhere? Not everyone does it.

It's really important, or at least it has been for us. We've realised from touring that our sound belongs far from here. We go down better in certain spots in the UK, but even more so in Europe, so we want to concentrate a lot more on there in the New Year, and even further afield.

It was essential for us to step it up, fan-wise, because there are only so many people who would be in to what we do in Northern Ireland, because it's not straightforward. Plus, it's nice to go further afield and play to new faces. Touring is definitely essential for us. Especially the way we self-release, it's the number one way that people get to hear us at the minute. If you're not on the radio, you need to go on tour.

Your album launch on November 16th is also an ambitious undertaking, because you're playing the Mandela Hall.

Yeah, we're trying to drown ourselves this year!

Where did that idea come from, and was it initially 'yes, let's do it', or a bit more circumspect than that?

There was talk of doing it because it's during Belfast Music Week, and I think there's always a good buzz. And we don't play Belfast that often, so we hoped we'd have saved up a bit of anticipation. Mandela's massive and we've not even played it at all. It's class that it's going to be our first time.

It's a great line-up for the night and I'm confident that it will be a great night and a great show. And it's good that it's tied into Belfast Music Week. Hopefully that will bring out a few people who don't normally go to the gigs. Those are the ones you want to play to. Often when you play Belfast you know everyone in the crowd, so it's nice to play to the faces you don't know.

Doing a gig of that size, and headlining it, you have so much scope for everything around the music with lights, visuals and stage...

Yeah, definitely. It will be like a festival performance, a bit more epic than just a gig. And especially with it being an album launch, we're going to put more effort in to make it a really amazing show. With having done one album launch already, you learn from those things, too. I can't wait to do it.

Mojo Fury launched The Difference Between at Mandela Hall, Queen's University Student's Union on November 16. Belfast Music Week runs from November 11 – 17.