The raw chemistry of DIY garage band Mopes is captured through the lens of Cherlan Chan
From post pint nerves to slagging off Alex Turner, DIY garage band Mopes lead vocalist and primary lyricist, Connor Powell, bassist and backing vocalist Evie Dickson, lead guitarist, Max Walker, and drummer Finn Hellier, tell a plain-spoken depiction of the life of yet to be signed, bedroom produced artists while on an outing in Kew Gardens with _shift.
Having been gigging the quaint seaside towns of Cornwall to now planning their first UK tour, the evolution of the band name Mopes was not so plain sailing. Powell says: “The name Mopes was never meant to be for this. I was in a band called Bruise Cruise and it was a sort of a psych punk thing. We found out there was another band with the name Bruise Cruise, and it was also the name of a festival. It was just not looking very good for us.”
Connor continues, “I must have thought [Mopes] fitting because the first tunes I ever put out on Bandcamp were really slow, melancholic, weird folk tunes – a bit mopey, I guess.”
Meeting his bandmates at college on the recommendation of their tutor Johnny, Mopes met Helier, an electronic dance musician with years of experience on the drums, which meant he made the cut. A small world indeed, Helier says: “How weird is this, Evie and I went to the same secondary school, and I didn’t even know.”
From a separate sphere of friends to the rest of his band mates, Hellier describes the difference between making drum and bass tracks to playing garage rock to mosh pitting Doc wearers as: “Two opposite worlds that I flip between, yet both come natural to me.” Yet, the genre is not at all foreign to him. Hellier explains that he has always played the drums, and like his bandmates, he also has diverse music tastes.
Gone are the days of sticking to the status quo. Drugs, sex, and money are old references in the characteristics of sleaze tunes. The lyrical inspirations of Mopes consist of a more wholesome realm. Powell says: “I went to go see an exhibition by Magdalena Abakanowicz, where I went to see the Abakan’s, which I’ve wanted to see for a really long time. I saw that they had them at an exhibition at Tate immediately I was thinking, how can I translate this.”
In terms of musical inspirations, the band has an array of colourful recommendations for _shift readers. On repeat for the last month, Dickson says Strange Brew by Cream is among her favourites while Hellier mentions the new Ezra Collective album as a must listen.
Whether it is the hip-hop beats of Ezra Miller, or the psychedelic rock rifts of Cream, expect more diverse musical influences in future tracks from Mopes. The band is ticking off their musical bucket list with “a tour and a debut album in the works”, Powell says. Their debut album will be the first time all members merge their creative artistry into fresh material.
Having written and recorded previous Mopes tracks independently, Powell says: “I’m so fucking done. I just want to record with three other musicians [looking at his bandmates] and have multiple inputs.” Despite Connor’s humble reference towards his musical creations, Hellier says: “We all resonate with Connor’s music a lot anyway. We are all invested in it.”
Mopes are by no means industry-forced bandmates as it is clear that there is creative and personal chemistry between them. Dickson adds: “Connor’s pretty good at giving us a lot of creative freedom. He allows us to add our flourishes, giving a root note he then says, ‘go ahead and have fun with it’.”
While having fun performing at their jam packed mosh pit gigs, this can take a physical toll. Dickson says: “I never fail to get the pre-gig sweats.” Powell adds: “I shake uncontrollably but give it a couple of songs, you forget that you are onstage half the time.”
Yet Hellier says: “It’s strange because I don’t feel nerves, but I get a big adrenaline rush.” In agreement, Max says: “I’m the same as you, Finn. I don’t realise I’m that nervous.” To combat pre-show nerves, Max says: “One pint before and one pint on stage – that’s my ritual.” Dickson nods and says: “My go-to is two, maybe three [pints]. But two is the safer bet. Playing drunk is a silly silly idea.”
Powell says: “One week, we played like five gigs in a row. By the last day, I had zero vocal technique, and I had to drink the warm tap water from behind the bar and then I got the nervous shits.” Among the laughter of Powell’s overshared memory, Finn reassures _shift: “Connor hasn’t been PR trained. So, know that we are working on that.”
Moving on with a future self-booked tour in the works, Mopes agreed they would love to go on tour with Big Thief or Pavement.
Powell exclaims: “Oh yeah, we met Pavement once, but they were all really w…” Finn interrupted: “This is going in print, Connor!”. Connor continues: “No. No. No. I am sure Pavement are proud that they’re weird.”
With each band to their own, with Mopes music comes before lyrics. “Sometimes it can take me a long time to write lyrics.” Connor says. “The song Strange was lyric-less for about five months, so I just made guttural noises into the mic and hoped they’ d pass off as lyrics,” he continues.
Although too underground for TikTok, Mopes’ most streamed song to date ironically was used by a close friend in a TikTok video. “It wasn’t like a viral moment or anything, but it made a considerable dent. The streams went up by 200% overnight, which was surreal,” Powell says.
While playing with _shift, Mopes put their musical career on a plank, when asked if they would rather date Kurt Cobain or Alex Turner. The responses were uncanny:
Walker says: “Kurt Cobain easy.”
Powell says: “Kurt Cobain.”
Walker says: “I don’t like Alex Turner.”
Powell says: “I don’t like Alex Turner either.”
Dickson says: “I’d choose Alex Turner because I feel like Kurt Cobain is probably a bit of a wanker.”
“But an interesting wanker,” Walker adds.
Hellier says: “Alex Turner. I reckon he’s got some wicked stories.”
With an outburst of laughter again, Hellier says: “Mopes play would you rather and slag off every big artist.”
Powell agrees: “You need to change the title to ‘Mopes the bigots.'”