Mogwai has spent over 15 years crafting evocative and influential rock music. Since this particular strand of rock is primarily instrumental and makes use of dramatic shifts in both volume and intensity, the band is often identified as falling into the category of “post rock,” a genre descriptor that pretty much everyone hates. To imply that the band has somehow moved beyond the basic tenets of rock music is entirely ridiculous. At its core, Mogwai is rock band—and a great one, at that.
While the band’s recorded work has been remarkably consistent throughout its career, it really shines in a live setting. As evidenced in 2010’s Special Moves, a live CD bundled with a concert film shot by Vincent Moon, live Mogwai shows are not to be missed. They’re intensely physical experiences, not because of overeager fanboys or psyched-up mosh warriors, but due to the band’s profound volume. While the sheer volume of a Mogwai concert is a force unto itself, it doesn’t hurt that the music that’s being played at the aforementioned high volume is uniformly killer.
The band has been touring the globe in support of its most recent LP, the excellent Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, since February, trekking through most of Europe before jetting over to the states. Mogwai will shake the ground at Stubb’s on Monday, May 16, and The A.V. Club caught up with lead guitarist Stuart Braithwaite to chat about the new record and the evolution of the band’s live show.
The A.V. Club: Mogwai’s last two releases were Special Moves and Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. After heading into the studio so soon after putting together the live album, did you come to any sort of realization that you might be setting out to accomplish different goals onstage than when you’re recording?
Stuart Braithwaite: I don’t really know about specific goals, but there was definitely a good juxtaposition between the two; they’re pretty different. Working with the old songs might have made us want to try harder to do something a bit different. I think it worked out pretty well, the way it happened.
AVC: You mentioned in a recent interview that you’d be including some projected video accompaniment on your European tour, can we expect that here in the U.S. as well?
SB: Yes, we’re gonna take that everywhere.
AVC: Do you have someone working with the videos live, or is it just queued up with the setlist?
SB: It’s not live, necessarily, but we’ve got the guy doing the lights controlling the visuals for the different songs, as well.
AVC: Errors will be opening for you for most of your U.S. dates, and they’re signed to Mogwai’s record label, Rock Action. What attracted you to their sound?
SB: I guess it’s that they were just making good music. When we first started working with them, they were really young, so we were very impressed that there were these young guys making really interesting music. They’ve got better and better over the years; it’s a good time for people all over America to see them.
AVC: How do you balance being a full-time band that records and tours with the normal day-to-day sort of stuff that goes into running a record label?
SB: We’ve got a label manager who’s there all the time at home, so he does the vast majority of the actual work. We’re on email all the time; it’s much easier these days than it would’ve been had we started it years ago.
AVC: Mogwai has existed for over 15 years with a negligible member turnover rate. What do you attribute that to?
SB: I don’t really know… not firing anyone? [Laughs.] I don’t know! We all get along fine, and we all enjoy going out and playing and making new music. It’s all fine.
AVC: The album features collaborations with Scottish musician Luke Sutherland. Can we expect him to appear at any of the shows on this tour?
SB: No, Luke’s got some other stuff he’s got to do, so no. Today was actually our last day with him; he’s got to go back to France.
AVC: On the new album, the song “Mexican Grand Prix” stands out as a song that’s quite unlike your previous work. Does a track like that go through the same evolution during the songwriting process as any other, or did you set out to write something with a pretty strong krautrock influence?
SB: It definitely did change a lot during the studio process. Luke did the vocals on that; originally there were no vocals, it was just a vocoder-type computer effect. But after Luke’s part and the drums came along, it definitely grew quite a lot during the process. It was fun to make it and see that it ended up the way it did.
AVC: So this current tour has you on the road until May. What are your plans for the rest of 2011?
SB: As soon as we get back, we’ll be doing festivals in Europe, Australia, and Japan. We’ll be back in America in the autumn to play ATP. It’s a lot of shows, but we’ve still got some more music, too. We’ve got another EP of songs which I think we’ll release in the autumn, as well. That’s the plan so far.