We enjoyed Simulations, the latest effort from The Mirror Trap – our review of which can be read here. Wanting to find out more, we caught up with vocalist Gary for a chat!
Can you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about the band?
Hello! My name is Gary and I am one fifth of The Mirror Trap – I’m the one that stands in the middle dancing and shouting. My friends Mike, Paul, Paul and Ben make up the rest of band. The five of us have been playing together since 2013, we have known each other and played in various bands together since around 2009. We are based in Scotland’s sunniest city – Dundee.
You recently released your new album Simulations. Can you describe the writing and recording process for it?
Simulations is an angry, noisy little bugger of an album. We wanted to make something that acted as a short, sharp punch to the face of the modern world. So many of the albums these days are a tad self-indulgent. Not in a noodling prog kind of way, more a reverb soaked “lets hope we get into The Guardian Guide and pray for a Mercury nomination” kind of way. A lot of bands I love could be accused of this, and I have greatly enjoyed the albums they have made, but I didn’t want us to repeat it. I’ve wanted to hear an album with a bit of immediacy for a while now, but no one seems to want to make it. So alas we opted to have a go ourselves.
The writing process was a little fractured really. When we started it we were all working full time day jobs, so we would get together for a few snatched hours most nights to try and piece together what we could. Then we quit those jobs and went on tour for nine months, which meant that writing was limited to random days at home and the occasional sound check.
When we arrived at Karma Sound Studios in Thailand to start recording the album we had tons of music, and books full of lyrics but not much in the way of 100% completed songs. We spent a month with producer Shane Edwards going through all the bits and pieces we had, editing, chopping, discarding and rebuilding. We recorded the majority of the album live. Those months of touring before heading into the studio helped to firm up our desire to make an album that we could do real justice to at live shows and that would be filled with the frantic energy of five hyperactive young men.
What would you say fans can expect from the album?
We wanted to make something brash and emotional, full of volume and choruses that people could scream along with and dance to. I really hope this comes across. We also wanted to make an album that actually said something. Simulations is full of random musings and stories, its an album made by human beings and is meant to sound like it. It is occasionally ill-informed and often flawed but we hope people can see from this that it is simply the blood, sweat and tears of real people committed to tape.
Were there any songs that were more of a challenge to get right?
There were few songs that we went into the studio with that we all knew had something good in them, but which we couldn’t figure out how to get right. Joyride is the track that springs to mind straight away. The day we wrote it we knew it would be one of our best songs, but over time it started to take on the flavour of a U2 b-side. The basics of the song were still great, but it all got a bit middle of the road. If we recorded in the format it was demoed then it would never have made the album.
When we got to the studio we made the decision to strip it down to its most basic parts, just my vocal and our guitarist Mike playing a little sparse piano. It instantly worked; we then spent a few days building it back up again until we had the song we all knew Joyride could be. Under The Glass Towers was a physical challenge to get right, purely because it is played so hard and fast. Fingers were ripped to shreds, and our drummer needed a sick bucket by his side at all times.
Which one are you most proud of?
Joyride is probably the one we are all most proud of, just because it is so far removed from what I would say is our comfort zone. It is easy just to hide behind distortion pedals and heavy cymbals, but you really only know for sure if you have a good song or not when you take it right down to the minimum. Playing that track live makes me feel a little naked. The more we play it though I am slowly beginning to be happier and happier just letting everything hang free and embracing the breeze. Something About Forever is also a source of pride as it was so heavily reworked in the studio; it became a song none of us expected it to be.
Any interesting tales from the studio?
That is a difficult one to answer. The most interesting tales are the ones that have to be strictly filed in the “NEVER TO BE SPOKEN OF AGAIN” folder, ha ha! Everything was pretty interesting for us to be honest. Five pale Scottish goths being let loose in the searing heat of South East Asia was always going to have its peaks and troughs! One of our guitarists had a run in with a giant jellyfish that landed him in hospital. Our Drummer Paul adopted a family of stray dogs for the month, and on our very first night in Thailand one of us went missing for twelve hours. I shall say no more.
You also chose to release your track Piranhas as a single ahead of Simulations‘ release. What made you choose that song over the others?
Piranhas was a song we had being playing live for a few months before we went to the studio. We loved it, but always thought it was maybe a bit too dark and odd for most audiences, and certainly never had it earmarked as a single. Then after a few shows we started to notice people really getting into it. When we supported Placebo on their UK tour last year we met a bunch of fans who were attending every show and found that Piranhas was the song they would shout for each night. I think that experience gave the song a bit of a swagger, so when we went in to recorded it things just clicked.
What’s the response been like for it so far?
The response has been great as far as I can see. It is more of a complete and full sounding song than anything we have released in the past. I think people have heard Piranhas and recognized that we have upped our game. The video for the track also suits it perfectly, I think the combination of the menacing visuals and the dark audio have gotten some people quite excited.
How did filming the video go?
The filming was great fun, but rather physically taxing. The director Stuart Breadner was a hard taskmaster. We would perform the song at full throttle, be met with praise, then told to do it again. And then again from a different angle. Then again but with a little more energy. Then a little more. Anyone that has seen us live will know we are not exactly shy when it comes to jumping around so playing our most energetic track forty times in a row was never going to be easy. I think all five of us woke up the next day with aching limbs. We left the venue before all of the actors began work on the “fight scenes” which meant that seeing the final cut of the video was really exciting, I don’t think any of us could have expected it to work so well.
Where did the idea for it come from?
The main idea for the video came from Stuart. I spoke with him at length about what the song meant to us, where the lyrics came from and how far we were willing to go with certain ideas. For me the content of the video sums up the song perfectly, and sits well with so many of the themes in other tracks. Using young actors in pretty violent fight scenes was always going to offend some people, but it really drives the point home. Competition is everywhere in our lives.
In this fucked up neo-liberal system we live in competition is hailed as the only way to progress. There is no time allowed for friendship, empathy or compassion. We fight our workmates for promotion, we fight our fellow students to be top of the class, we are led to believe that our neighbours are watching us and that our best friends want to fuck our wives. Divide and conquer. Those at the top of the ladder know that if we stopped for a second and cooperated with each other we could tear their world apart. The image of the well-to-do families in the Piranhas video making their youngest sons fight to the death is an exaggerated way of displaying this.
And finally what’s in store for the rest of the year for you, following the release of Simulations?
We just want to get out and play these songs live for people now. We just played at what is basically our hometown festival T in The Park on July 9th, and will be playing the Y NOT Festival in Derbyshire on July 30th. We recently visited Japan on a brief promotional trip and will be going back there in August to play at Summer Sonic and to play a sweaty little club show in Tokyo. We had an absolute blast when we were there and can’t wait to get back.
In October we head off around Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Germany with Placebo on the first leg of their European tour, which is something we are all buzzing for. We will be visiting a whole heap of countries we have never played before, as well as doing a couple of shows in Russia, which has become something of a second home for us.