While preparing to our interview with Mew, we really wanted to talk with Johan Wohlert – bassist, founder member and a guy who left the band for 7 years. We thought that would make our talk more interesting. We weren’t disappointed. In fact, we’re sure that if we had more time, we would still talk about his time in and outside of the band, to this day.
How is the tour going?
This one little week, we did a show in Holland, Berlin, Prague and two in Poland, so it’s a short run, but the past six months have been really crazy. We’ve done around eighty shows around the world, so it’s been busy.
So, do you still enjoy it?
I do. We’ve been doing it for a long time as a band and I actually enjoy it more at my age now than I did when I was 25. I just think it’s great to get the chance to travel and to experience different cultures, meet a lot of very interesting people and get to eat some exotic food. I think the traveling part is definitely the best part of the job.
Are those tours different than those you had 15 – 20 years ago?
Yeah, it’s less about being really drunk (laughs). I can’t take the hangovers anymore. Otherwise it’s pretty similiar, but I think we’re better as persons now to make sure that we experience the cities that we come to. We take a long walk during the days. We use our time, because who knows when we’re going to be back in Warsaw. So it’s about seeing as much as we can. Sometimes we go for a run, sometimes we walk or whatever. I like it more now than I did 15 years ago.
We have to ask about the new album. It’s called „Visuals”. Do you see your music as a part of visual experience?
It’s very closely linked. Music and images usually go together quite well. People have always told us that when they hear our records, they would always imagine… you know, the music sort of transport them to different places. When we play live, we usually play with a big backdrop with all these psychodelic, trippy videos. Doing that also helps taking your mind and just letting it flow and kinda transport you to something different. Personally we always loved music that is capable of evoking images in your head, making you forget that you sit in your room and sort of take you somewhere else. It’s a great thing when music does that.
So, when you start making an album, do you have any idea about the visuals accompanying it as well?
Not a 100%, but as soon as we start getting an idea about what the record will sound like and what it will feel like… You know, music dictates some kind of mood and some kind of vibe and usually is nice to reflect that in the images. The two things go hand in hand quite a long way.
In one of the interviews, you said that you’re music is kinda soundtrack-y. If you could write a soundtrack to any movie, which one would it be?
Good question, but also difficult, because it would be a movie that’s not been made yet. (laughs)
Maybe there’s a certain director, that you would like to work with?
If we could bring Stanley Kubrick back, that would be great. Maybe we could score like a Christopher Nolan film – something like really spaced out, where we could go really crazy. That would be really cool, because I think it would have to be something really grandiose, so it should not be something like a small indie film. I think it should be something quite trippy and surreal. That’s where our music would work the best, I think.
Also, you said that when you were younger, you’ve listened to a lot of My Bloody Valentine, but you don’t do it that much anymore.
Yeah! I mean, I still love „Loveless” and „Isn’t Anything”. They were obviously a huge inspiration for us, but you know how it is with all „childhood bands”. You still love them, but it’s not necessarily the same as it was then.
It’s more like a sentiment.
Yeah, but you put those records on and it’s still „WOW!”. So I think it’s more like you can still listen to it every other year and just go like „oh yeah”. And there’s a reason that I fell in love with that band, because it’s just fantastic.
And is there any band, that you particularly love right now? Maybe some young bands?
Not really. Unfortunately. You have a time in your life, when you still develop your musical DNA and you’re still open to musical influences. Mine was when I listened to My Bloody Valentine, Pixies, Afghan Whigs, all of the american indie bands and stuff like that. Those are still my „go-to bands” when I want inspiration or when I want to listen to what I consider a great music. I think the last really nice record that I heard and I thought that it was great as a whole, was a record by Beach House called „Bloom”. It’s an older record of theirs, it’s a little shoegazey, but I thought… her voice sounds amazing and the soundwriting is really good. Usually with newer bands I think it’s either they don’t have a great voice or they don’t have great songs. There’s a lot of interesting production ideas floating around, because you can do pretty much everything these days with production, but actually writing really good tunes is not something that that many people can do, it seems. At least not, when it’s also supposed to be interesting and arranged in a new and sort of challenging way. But I love that „Bloom” record.
You’re celebrating 20 years of being a band. You started when you were really young. Is there any advice that you would give to you younger self?
Honestly, even though it’s a boring answer, I think we’re very sensible people and always have been, so there’s not anything that I really regret. We never really fucked up big time, nobody had a big drug habit or anything like that. I would maybe say to my younger self: „Enjoy it”. When you are young, you tend to take life and things for granted. And even though I’m not old, I’m a bit older than I was back when we started, I would say about that whole big experience when we’ve got a pretty serious record deal in the UK and we moved there. We did a lot of very interesting things when we were like 25 or something. I would say to my younger self like: „Hey. Take notice. Remember to enjoy this and take some memories with you.” I still have a lot of good memories, but you know how it is when you are young and you think: „Yeah, yeah. It’s gonna last forever, so whatever”.
You left the band for a while. Do you think there’s any difference between the band that you left, and the band that you came back to?
Yeah. There’s a big difference. I left and I was gone for like 6 – 7 years. Came back, did a record and then the guitar player leaves. Great! (laughs) So obviously today we are three again and it’s a very different vibe from when we were four. In many ways it’s easier. I would characterize the vibe in the band these days as very laid back, quite easy going and very nice to be in. Very undramatic. And that would be probably the biggest difference. When I left it was pretty dramatic and it was partly one of the reasons that I left. I was just fed up with all the drama, discussions about everything. I was probably a big part of this myself, but you know, when you’re young, you’re also more stubborn and naive. It was good for me back then to just step away from it and have a long break. It’s a nice place to be these days.
But wasn’t it hard to come back and create this chemistry in band once again?
No, coming back was really easy, actually. It took maybe a week of being in a rehearsal space together and then it felt so natural. Playing together was almost like it was seven months, not seven years. We sounded like we always did and all, so that part was very easy. But on human level, it took a while to get sort of used to each other once again, but we had some good times when I just came back. It was quite emotional, you know: „Hey, you can come back after seven years, we can still be friends and we can make a really beautiful record together”. And I came back when we were working on a „+-” album, which is the previous one. It felt a bit like coming home. We know each other since forever. We went to school together – me and Jonas (vocalist) – so we know each other since we were six years old. It’s been a couple years.
Any plans for 2018?
We did a record 15 years ago called „Frengers”. Next year is the 15th anniversary actually, so we’ll do some shows to celebrate that. It’s gonna be quite exciting to play the whole record. We’ve never done anything like that. As a fan, you really want to see something like that. When it’s a record that meant something to you, it’s fantastic to see it live. If My Bloody Valentine came and play „Loveless”, I would be like: „I’m there!”. For sure.
Agata Hudomięt & Krzysztof Sarosiek
Picture: Jonas Persson