‘Obsessive love’ can be defined as the overwhelming all-consuming desire to be with another person, with an absolute inability to accept rejection. Whilst many of us will experience unrequited love or heartbreak, it’s fairly unusual to experience obsessive love beyond the teenage crushes that seem life-or-death critical at the time. There are many classic literary examples of this phenomenon, such as Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nackabov’s ‘Lolita’, or Jay Gatsby from F Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal work ‘The Great Gatsby‘. However, few come close in terms of raw emotional power to the character of Helga Pataki, that’s right, Helga from Hey Arnold!, who nineties children will remember as our main character Arnold’s aggressor, tormentor, and secret devotee, keeping a private shrine dedicated to him in her bedroom. With her trademark pigtails and bold brow look, Helga has ascended to the upper echelons of tragic literary heroines. A true icon. Helga is all of us. We are all Helga. Speaking of obsession, the brand new track ‘Vaseline’ from Nottingham pop-rock band Mowbeck, taken from their debut EP ‘Talkabout‘, explores this theme with a mixture of gritty realism, a DIY ethic, and a banging new video to boot. I spoke to singer and lyricist Andrew Thomas:
KM: Tell me about how you formed the band.
A: We had all been in projects previously and I bumped into Phil (bass) on a drunken night out and we decided there and then to start a new project. There’s always a really exciting feeling you get when you start working with new people and once we met our drummer Finn that feeling was made even more obvious. We started writing and demoing loads of songs in the first few months and started gigging as Mowbeck shortly after. It literally feels like yesterday that I first went to Phil’s and showed him a really early version of ‘Talkabout’ even though it was now two years back.
KM: What’s the significance behind your name?
A: There’s a stream in the town I grew up in, Grantham, called the Mow Beck. We were toying with so many names that we thought would sum up the sound we were making but it was the one that seemed to stick.
KM: Nottingham has a reputation for having some great live music venues. What has your experience of the music scene been like?
A: It’s such a cool thing to be involved in a thriving local music scene. You can honestly go out any night of the week in Nottingham and hear great live music. BBC Introducing in Nottingham are so supportive of the unsigned and homegrown talent here and it’s been great to have that kind of higher support. Our favourite venue is the Bodega which we’re playing a headline show at in November so we’re pretty pumped for that.
KM: You’ve just released your debut EP ‘Talkabout”, and something I really like about it is how it plays as a real cohesive statement, rather than a collection of separate singles. What was your inspiration behind this EP?
A: I think when I was writing the songs I was at a period of my life where I was pretty angry with the situations I was in with people around me; the only way I could really release that frustration was to write about it. Musically, we’d been listening to a lot rockier music than our earlier tracks as well so there was a certain energy created in the practice studio which paired with the melodies and lyrics I was bringing to the table and created what you hear in the EP. It all came together pretty quickly.
KM: I heard that you recorded it on an industrial estate. Do you think that contributed to its grittier sound world as opposed to your previous releases?
A: We didn’t really have the budget to head to a big studio and spend a week tracking so we set up our recording gear where we practice and Phil produced the record over the course of a couple of weeks. We were trying to create something really honest and grittier than our previous music and sometimes it’s difficult to do that in a lavish studio space.
KM: You’ve just debuted a brand new video for one of the tracks, “Vaseline”. Can you tell us about the songwriting process for this song?
A: Like most of our songs, the bare bones of the track were written on an acoustic guitar and we just expanded on it in the practice space once all the ideas were formed. Vaseline had a darker feel to it than the other tracks we were playing at the time and it felt right to push it as much as possible when we released
KM: What inspired you to write this track and what kind of mood were you trying to achieve?
A: Vaseline is about the feeling of obsession you get for a situation or a person that you can’t have. It’s something that I think a lot of people can relate to but also that people don’t touch on in many songs. The soaring melodies in the song is there to represent the longing and desperation that a situation like that can make you feel.
KM: The new video is certainly striking. What was the creative vision behind it?
A: We met an awesome director/videographer called George Maguire (Ritchie Films) a few months ago who instantly took a liking to Vaseline and had some great visual ideas for it. For the video in general, we wanted to produce something that linked with the lyrics in the song but built on them and grew as it went on.
KM: There’s a lot of dark and at times violent imagery in the video. How does that relate to the narrative in the song, and was this intensity something you wanted to capture from the start?
A: We wanted to present the idea of an individual fighting between their head and heart in a situation that they had no control over and George did a great job at bringing that to life. It had to be interesting – we wanted something that would shock people and keep them hooked to the end.
KM: As a band, who do you look to for inspiration?
A: There are so many bands and artists that are pushing the boundaries nowadays, both with the live show and in the recording studio. Bands like Radiohead and Arcade Fire have provided us with a lot of inspiration over the past year; it’s music that appeals to the masses but still has its own sound and identity. Sometimes it’s a great idea to just put your music collection on shuffle and listen to all those b-sides and album tracks that you used to ignore. It’s crazy what clicks together in your head.
KM: Are there any artists that particularly excite you right now?
A: I find emerging bands like Sundara Karma and VANT really exciting. The music industry has changed so much over the past few years and it’s great to see indie rock music still breaking through into the mainstream.
KM: What do you think the future holds for Mowbeck?
A: We’re in the middle of a big writing period and in the past two months alone we’ve already written a whole album’s worth of material so expect some new tracks to drop early next year. In general we just love playing music. It sounds clichéd but this is all we all collectively want to do so as long as we can play our music to people and keep growing as a band we’ll be happy.
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