ICON: Congratulations on your third studio album MORAL PANIC. It’s been two years since your last body of music. What was the mood like in the lead up to its release?
Conor Mason: “When you’ve worked so hard and created a body of work it’s like our little baby you’re releasing into the world. The feedback so far has been really good, thing singles. So I feel confident in it and I guess it’s something that you really love, so you feel comfortable and happy with it. So, I’d say I’m very excited, everyone else is too.”
What has that two-year break allowed you? Particularly after a few crazy years of big releases and touring?
CM: “It was nice to just do nothing and not any writing or touring. But I feel like it’s been a good thing, at first it was difficult to get back into the song of things. It’s like a muscle you have to rework creatively and then because we had more time and it was more freeing, I found myself not under pressure of being more creative in general. It just felt really good to write again and I felt like I had lots to write about and lots of creative ideas.”
How are you coping with being in lockdown and not being able to travel the world like you have been for so long?
CM: “The first few weeks I was a bit confused and there was a lot of tension in the air and it was really foggy, so I felt it too. Then I settled into it and I really actually enjoyed it in a way, and it was really healthy for me and the planet as well, I think a lot of people slowed down and reassessed things and lived life in more of a slower pace.
I do think now, all these months it’s been poorly handled here especially, it’s starting to piss me off because our government has handled it poorly. It’s tough and I’m just really hoping that the opportunity for people and up-and-coming bands and music don’t get squandered. They talk about the arts being a luxury in the UK and they’re not subsidising it and it freaks me out a bit.”
As the name suggests, MORAL PANIC is a conversation on the world’s current state. Was this cathartic for you to write and produce?
CM: “Yeah, definitely, the funny thing about this album is it feels like today, everything that was going on, the craziness of exactly what we’re going through now, it relates massively to now. But it was written a year and a half ago, about Brexit and leaving the EU and Cambridge Analytica and denial of climate change and everything back then. We sat on it and delayed the release a little due to things coming up and we were just worried that it wouldn’t feel relevant. I think it felt even more relevant not because it’s the same problems, but it’s even worse now. Things have gotten more frantic and lunacy is going on. The album is like a conversation, like reading all the threads of everything and a conversation about people and how they’ve reacted to it.”
There has obviously been so much to speak about and explore and discuss. How do you narrow an album down to just 11 tracks?
CM: “We definitely are one of those bands who write a lot so we probably had about 50 ideas before we narrowed it down and I think it becomes quite obvious what songs we will make on the album. There is a lot to discuss and explore for us. We are always pushing ourselves musically, it was interesting to see what we took in and what we didn’t, but I’m really loving the 11 tracks.”
If you were to write a song on the recent debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, what would be the track name?
CM: “Maybe we can make it Australian – it can be like ‘Kangaroo Fight’, because it was non-stop jabbing at each other. The absolutely non stop, it’s horrible isn’t it. I liked the part where Joe Biden told him to shut up, I thought that was great. I hate that man so much and I can’t believe when he took his mask off the other week and he’s free of coronavirus, like what an asshole.”
You’re said to take inspiration from the ‘greats’. Who is that to you?
CM: “When it comes to that question, the greats, for me it’s the classic songwriters, it’s the Joni Mitchell’s, the Nick Caves, people like Nick Drake. It’s the songwriters, the ones who know how to write beautiful, simple songs. There is so much you can learn from those people and how they can find the right words in a really small sentence and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do and they’ve mastered that. I am massively inspired by RnB and always have been. I grew up on it. I definitely try and find the most interesting rhythm and melody and something that, as well as being interesting rhythmically, they always pull on your heart strings and I think that comes from growing up on rhythm and blues.”
How does MORAL PANIC differ from your past two albums? In not only the subject matter but your overall sound?
CM: “Well, the first album honestly was us just not knowing what we were doing and not expecting anything and just having fun and writing songs. It was great and we didn’t think it would do anything and we didn’t know what we were as musicians. Then the second album, I think, it was almost a reflection of the first album and we were like well this makes it easier, it ebbs and flows and we had the rocky side. We pushed them a little further and experimented with those shades in way and the second album was about inner reflection, it was definitely the struggles the band went through and I went through and it was definitely about soul searching and a redesign of yourself.
The third album was great, it went back to first album territory where we were like, let’s just do what we want. I think we have the creative licensing now to do what we want because we got so far with the first and second album and no one was going “We can’t figure you out.” The third album is definitely pushing it even further. One of the first where we had to reign back in. The track ‘Moral Panic’ is like a pessimistic disco song, it’s mad. It’s like a disco at the end of the world and it’s outward reflective, that’s the difference from the second album. It’s completely seeing everything around you and how it reflects and reacts to you and then the detriment to that really. That’s how the third album is different to the second.”
Nothing But Thieves is without a doubt a hit when it comes to live music in Australia. How does our crowd differ from that of overseas?
CM: “I love Aussie people in general, I think you are so fun and relaxed. You’re like the middle ground between English and American people. English are trying to be overly too cool and too showing of their emotions and then American’s can be really full on which is obviously lovely, but Aussie’s have this middle ground where you like to party and have a good time but you’re also really grounded so it’s great. But I love Aussie crowds, you’re so appreciative, you’re honest and you know how to have a good time.
Australia and Japan are my favourite places to tour and I’m gutted I don’t know when we’ll be back.”
What is the first country you’ll visit once travel restrictions lift?
CM: “Australia and Japan 100 percent. I want to stay around that area of the world. The food is better, and the people are better. Japanese people are very different, they’re very reserved and relaxed. Everyone is so nice there all the time.”
MORAL PANIC from Nothing But Thieves is out now. For more from the band, visit their website here.