Mantras and Of Empires Interview

At SOURCE we’re made up to be flying the flag for Brighton bands at the final festival of the the summer, Party at the Races. We’re hosting the Best of Brighton stage, and caught up with two of our favourite local bands who are playing, Of Empires and Mantras.

From playing Isle of White to debut airtime on Radio 1, it’s been a busy 2016 for Brighton rock’n’roll starlets Mantras and Of Empires. We caught up with the boys to see why they fled the channel islands, how to tear up a pub using glowsticks, the death of NME and the best of the rest (Brighton bands, that is).

So lads, what have been the highlights of 2016?
Jack (Mantras) Isle of White, first proper big festie. We played to a packed out tent on the Thursday which was great. Stew Supporting The View [at The Haunt in April]. Jack We should probably add that Party At The Races will be in there! We also got Adam in the band, finally a drummer that carries gear, fuck. We walked out of rehearsal last night and Adam was like ‘can I take home the sample pad home and sort out the click tracks?’ It’s the first time I’ve heard that since we fucking bought it.

And Of Empires?
Jack (OE) We’ve had a few. George Finishing the record, finally getting it mixed and mastered. Christmas we went in right? Jack Yeah, we finished the record. The new stage, the new beginning, begins. We’ve played some really amazing shows this summer, This Feeling has been very good. And our new song ‘Baby Darling Sugar’ got debuted on Radio 1! Liam: Aston Villa getting relegated.

Who are you looking forward to seeing at Party at the Races?
Jack (Mantras) Youngr, this one man band who’s absolutely rammed out every festival tent he’s played this year. Basement Jaxx, even though it’s just a DJ set it should be banging.
George (OE) Youngr’s actually on as our stage finishes, so we’ll run over and watch that.
Jack (OE) I’m looking forward to White Room, they’ve got a lot of buzz about them. We’re lucky to have them on the line up really, as they’ve got loads on at the moment. And Joe Corbin, he’s the greatest blues singer in the world at the moment. George (OE) It’s a big statement. Jack (OE) Everyones’ gonna find out some day. Everyone will know who he is. Jack (Mantras) We saw him at Glastonbury, he tore the place apart. No-one in there at the start of the gig knew who he was.

This one’s really clever, haha; You’re both playing Party at the Races – what will you bring to the party?
Stewy (Mantras) My bass.
Jack (Mantras) And a can hat [think quick and stylish dispensing of beer]. That’s how we’ll bring the party.
George (OE). A positive mental attitude. Jack (OE) Get rid of that, you’re not saying that. George What’s wrong with a PMA? Fine, we’re gonna bring drugs and hookers. Jack (OE) It’s predominantly a dance festival so we’ll bring some sexy rock and roll for people to dance to. We’ve been described as slow motion riff rock. Mantras cross over into dance more.
Mitch (Mantras) We’re definitely influenced by Happy Mondays, the Charlatans.

How do you plan to get the dance crowd over to your stage?
Stewy (Mantras) Free sweets.

Mantras and Of Empires - Ashley Laurence - Time for Heroes Photography

Half of Mantras are from Jersey, and Of Empires are from Guernsey. What bought you over from the channel islands?
Liam (OE) The need to water down the gene pool a bit.
Of Empires Music. Women. Consciousness expansion. Electricity and running water. The Internet. And music again.
Jack (Mantras) Escaping the small town mentality. Jersey is 9 by 5 miles and we’ve got the same size population as Brighton. You can get a beer past 10 here.
Stewy (Mantras) Not getting called out for wearing skinny Jeans. Apart from on West Street.

Jersey vs Guernsey; who’s best?
Jack (OE) Can we not?!
Jack (Mantras) Well, if it’s down to football, Mitch absolutely schooled it.
George (OE) Video evidence clearly shows it was over the fuckin’ bar.

So I believe the outcome of that game (‘mini Muratti’) was that the loser would have to play one of the other band’s songs? [Mantras (Jersey) beat Of Empires (Guernsey) 3-1, including a wonder strike from Mitch that everyone agrees was definitely a goal]
Jack (OE) Yeah OK, we still haven’t done it, but we will.
Matt (OE) Still trying to learn the guitar [the room cracks up]. There’s three chords.
Jack (Mantras) So when we gonna hear it – at Party at the Races?
Jack (OE) Watch this space…

And Mantras, if you had to cover an Of Empires track?
Stewy (Mantras) ‘Baby Sugar Darling’ or ‘Confidence Man’. ‘Confidence Man’ has got a beast chorus [cue an indescribable kind of scream/guitar sound that sets the room to giggles]. Jack (Mantras) Yeah maybe not on the vocals, eh Stewy?!

And the other way round?
Jack (OE) Either ‘What’s Your Story’ or ‘Boulevard’. Boulevard has got a sick chorus. We could OfEmpire’ise it.

of-empires-josh-fletcher

Best thing about being a band in Brighton?
Jack (Mantras) Partying. You don’t get the police after you. I’m from Jersey and they’d stop you before you even got to the party. It’s nice and liberal.
George (OE) And the networking, chances are if you say you’re from Brighton and in a band one of us will have a connection with you. Great for sorting out support acts!
Jack (OE) You can go out any night and see an amazing band. Jack (Mantras) Yeah, Brighton is a big touchpoint for bands on the touring circuit.

Worst thing?
Jack (Mantras) There’s too many of us! But it makes you up your game, you’ve got to be good to play the best venues.

What was the first venue you played that made you think ‘I’m not going back to playing in the back of a pub’?
All Concorde 2! The Haunt is good too.
George (OE) The Hope is great fun to play. Jack (Mantras) Especially when your’e chucking glowstick hoops over stranger’s pints. Collectively we got the whole pub rocking haha.

Mantras – What was the journey like getting a new drummer?
Jack The first two tryouts were pretty painful Mitch it was third time lucky.
Adam (Mantras’ new drummer) It’s been an easy process joining, had a few small gigs which have gone fairly alright. I had a week to learn all the tracks before my first gig, so it was tight! The recordings are guitar heavy, so I’ve been feeling my way into them with input from the guys, to try and get the real feel and sound the band needs.

[Stewy then proceeds to quote Ronan Keating at us, which is derided unceremoniously by all. Something about life and a rollercoaster.]

Mantras - Ashley Laurence - Time for Heroes Photography

Best all dayer event in Brighton?
George (OE) Great Escape, hands down. The Komedia was rammed.

Are Brighton bands well represented at TGE?
Jack (OE) No, not at all. Used to be. The festival is cool but it’s gone in a different direction, a bit away from rock and roll. Slaves played four times last year, they could have put some local acts on.
George (OE) There are so many local bands I could name that I wanted to see. You can pretty much just put a night on and say it’s the alternative escape right?
Jack (Mantras) We just had a night we put on and labelled it as the alternative escape. I’m not paying to be part of the alternative escape.

Jack (OE) There’s a problem at the moment, where only This Feeling are pushing up and coming guitar bands. NME is dead to us. It’s become a weird corporate magazine given out on trains, there are so many bands out there that are not getting the media coverage.
Jack (Mantras) When you’ve got Bieber on the front cover you’ve got a problem.
Mitch (Mantras) It’s not even a front cover, it’s just adverts. It’s a fucking joke.
George (OE) Back to This Feeling, in 20 years time people will look back and say that was their scene. They’re the only ones repping.
Jack (OE) They’ve taken over what BBC Introducing should be doing.

What bands have you seen playing This Feeling?
All Catfish and the Bottlemen, Blossoms, The Shimmer Band, Broken Wit Rebels (last week, they’ll be huge), White Room, Trampoline, Cabbage…

Both bands have been playing a lot of nights hosted by This Feeling, how did that come about?
Jack (Mantras) We sent them ‘Boulevard’, he liked it and gave us a few gig. Now we DJ every other time we play too.

If you could invite one band to one of your (in)famous ‘Easy Street’ house parties?
The RPMs.

So what can we look forward to next?
Mantras We’re putting out an EP on 4th November, and then a single in Feb which is going more down the dance route.
Of Empires We’ve got a a new EP, ‘See You With the Angels Kid’. It’s psychedelic in parts, very catchy, a very British sounding record. It’s about rising above fear.
George (OE) So, about having a positive mental attitude right?!

Words and photos by Ashley Luke Laurence
Of Empires photo courtesy of Josh Fletcher
Thanks to the Brunswick for kindly hosting

Features 11 months old

Ashley Laurence

Love taking photos that capture energy and passion and rock n roll messiness. Writer of the odd review, lover of music, football and partying. Time for Heroes Photography.

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