In Conversation: Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are a band existing in the vacuum between different styles, so deliberately that it seems unfair to describe their sound. For the benefit of the uninitiated though if you enjoy kind of music that the myriad labels they have appeared on, including the Cafe Oto affiliated Otoroku imprint, Swedish stable I Dischi Del Barone and New York’s Ever/Never put out, you are likely to enjoy what Mosquitoes do. Simultaneously impaired and driven onwards by the pandemic, the band are eyeing a busy few months of releases, including a reissue of the second, self-distributed and highly limited EP from their discography. It felt like the perfect time to find out more about their background and their process.
Semtek: Mosquitoes are regularly listed as a London band but my understanding is that the members are dispersed around the South East somewhat. Do you just meet to record in London or did the band start here?
Mosquitoes: The band began in London in 2013 and from that time we met regularly to play, record and hang-out over evening drinks. The records up to and including Vortex Veering Back to Venus were made in the city whereas subsequent recordings were made outside London in the South East of England.
S: You have recorded for labels in the UK like Otoroku, Café Oto’s label, and also for US imprints like Ever/Never and Feeding Tube, and Sweden’s I Dischi Del Barone. How did the music find its way to labels so far afield?
M: After sending out our records here and there we found interest from overseas. It is something that still amazes us to this day, the manner in which our music has travelled and we are eternally grateful to all the labels including Knotwilg, Ever/Never, I Dischi Del Barone and Feeding Tube for supporting us. Although Cafe Oto kindly made available for download the live recording of our first show, it is World of Echo whom in reissuing our second record, becomes the first UK label to release a physical Mosquitoes record.
S: The first two releases you put out were self-released and pressed in highly limited quantities. At the time were you nervous about how they might fare in the stores?
M: Between 2016 and 2017 we pressed up about a 100 each of our first 7” record followed by a single-sided 12”. Apart from taking a handful of the debut to Rough Trade in Talbot Road, we distributed those records ourselves, mostly through Discogs, dealing directly with the people who bought from us.
S: One of the most striking elements of the releases is the signature Mosquitoes artwork, a scrawling of the name that almost resembles a tag or a sigil. Is the iconic simplicity of the artwork on your releases deliberate?
M: The artwork is perhaps one of the most deliberate aspect of Mosquitoes. We like the stripped-down aesthetic countered with a hand-made edge. The design is a fairly-involved process that usual begins as the audio is near completion and we often drive each other crazy deciding on colours, text and positioning. We also very often like to include images or references we have created that hold a particular personal resonance. For example, the insert for Emergences included a mountainous view taken on a walking trip in the Lake District. The image used for Drip Water was taken in a relative’s back garden on an overseas trip, whereas the image taken of a disused brewery was a good fit on Minus Objects. There is also an added personal touch through the use of hand-writing our band name. The writing becomes a means of visually-reinforcing tactile aspect of our music within the manufactured product of the record themselves.
S: In previous interviews you have spoken repeatedly about the band’s recording process as quite patient and drawn out, but also of the limited bursts of time in the studio. How do you think that duality affects the sound?
M: When we recorded Minus Objects we decided to completely change the recording setup and that became our last single Emergences/Resurgences. Our latest record was made in the summer when restrictions in the UK were temporarily-relaxed and we seized the moment. Although it would be good to have more time to play and record together, it does mean that in each instance after time-out, we are compelled to try something different and maybe this is why our records sound (to us at least) different from one another.
S: Take me through what the three members of the band do and their origins musically. Do you all deal equally with artistic and commercial decisions or is the labour more divided?
M: Although we have roles that we share and fall-into, Mosquitoes is a collaborative project with all decisions made ultimately as a unit. Our basic setup is Peter (bass, voice), Dom (guitar/electronics) and Clive (drums). Whereas Clive and Dom hadn’t played in bands regularly before, Peter formed one half of Temperatures with James Dunn in the previous eight years.
S: One of the most striking features of the forthcoming material for the Knotwilg label is the (relatively) fresh appearance of vocals, deconstructed into fragments of glossolalia. Why depart from pure instrumentals?
M: The majority of tracks on our records have vocals on them. On our last record, Minus Objects apart from two or three shorter instrumental pieces, vocals were evident throughout often adding texture against the sparse but shifting backgrounds. On our new record for Knotwilg, the voice appears broken in fragments before evolving over the duration into a driving force of the composition.
S: Alongside Mosquitoes you also record as Komare with one of the other members of the band. How do you define the lines between the two projects, is it a question of vision, process or logistics?
M: Komare is Peter and Dominic formed when Clive was unable to attend a recording session. Right from the start we were drawn to more abstract and electronic sounds and although it is natural for people to connect the two projects, Komare has followed a path of its own, the only connection between the two is the personnel. Last year we made our first album The Sense of Hearing for Penultimate Press and currently we’re working on new recordings that have been made remotely.
S: London’s World of Echo record shop is soon to reissue your 2nd, previously self released, effort. It leads me to wonder whether there’s a shared interest in echo and dub-wise studio technique, and what role that plays for you?
M: The approach to the recording of our second release was unique in terms of our other releases. The basic rhythm tracks were recorded live on a Nakamichi cassette deck before being transferred to digital where they were cut to pieces over as many months adding guitar and vocal overdubs along the way. We setup in a small studio with a few microphones held in position with duct-tape and running through a chain of reverb and delay. Although the method was crude we sought to overcome the limits of the medium, eschewing noise reduction and in the process, expand our use of the studio as an instrument.
S: You rarely perform live as a trio, especially so during the current pandemic, but for the benefit of those who haven’t or won’t see a show can you describe how it might unfold?
M: Our recordings are composed in the moment and made with one or two takes. For our live shows when they occur, we tease out the core structure of our recorded tracks enough to identify their shape in order to rework for performance. It is an interesting process for us, giving us another perspective on our sound that can, in-turn generate ideas for new material. Recreating our recordings in a live-setting is a challenge, but rewarding to do and presents another way for us to connect with the music.
Mosquitoes – Reverse Drift / Reverse Charge 12″ is available next month from Knotwilg and all good stockists