Quite literally, it started with a mix…
Micachu made their first impression upon these ears when a grime mix compiled by band leader Mica Levi landed on my desk. Soon after, the band’s ‘Golden Phone’ single seemed to muddle every ounce of pop brilliance beamed into radios nationwide over the past 20 years into a two-minute dizzy-spin of a should-be hit.
‘Golden Phone’, released in August 2008, came on like Lily Allen tackling The Specials via immersion in the glitch-tronica of Prefuse 73 and Flying Lotus, immediately after a swift dash around the cosmic supermarket where Flaming Lips and the Super Furries do their weekly shop. It was deadpan with its delivery, but rich in soul too; scattershot of beat but cohesive of construction.
The bases the track touched upon were many and varied, but not for one second did it sound like a misguided shackling of styles too diverse to co-exist. Here was evidence, early on, that a new pop group was emerging with the ability to play the chameleon without once being caught cold and red-faced when trying to blend blues with greens. Micachu were now Micachu and the Shapes, Mica’s backing provided by Raisa Khan (keys/electronics) and Marc Pell (drums). The pieces were all in place; time for an album.
And that album’s time is now. Near enough. It’s called ‘Jewellery’ and is released on February 2.
“The record’s finished, and now we need to get it out,” says Mica when we meet at Rough Trade East, London; her band mates sit with us, chipping in, sipping tea. “We’ll have to talk about it, but realistically we’ll probably try to talk about something else.”
You’re a little intimidated by the promotional duties expected of you around the album’s release?
“I dunno, it’s scary,” says the chirpy singer, hoodie pulled tight around her head, flashes of a wayward fringe making their bids for freedom. “I’ve only just started to get what I’m doing, as it’s hard to know that when you start. I guess like most things it’s best not to think about it too much.”
Marc chips in: “As a musician, it’s best not to worry about interviews and stuff like that.” “Yeah,” agrees Mica. “The more you think, the more there is to think about. It’s best to be stupid, and play the music.”
Such comments seem to undersell ‘Jewellery’, as stupid the record certainly isn’t. With the industry still gripped by the buzz around a handful of tipped-for-2009 sorts – the same names popping up from publication to publication – it’s not plain sailing for Micachu right now in terms of having their voice heard. But their debut’s the kind of album that will impress whatever time of year you hear it, and even if you don’t click with ‘Jewellery’ first time around, it has that come-back factor that’s so rare in first albums. You can put it on again and again and hear something new each time.
The album’s unique sound – broken down to basics, somewhere between ramshackle folk and experimental hip-hop, Moldy Peaches do cLOUDDEAD – is the product of three very different individuals. Mica openly admits they’re not into the same sort of music, at all.
“Lots of bands get together because of common musical interests, but we really weren’t like that,” she says. “It’s true. Marc – and I’m talking for him now – he really likes metal. You know Tool?”
“He really likes Tool.”
“If you’ve not got any Tool records, get ‘Lateralus’,” says the drummer. “That’s their best.” Raisa meanwhile remarks that she’s not quite as taken with rap as the vocalist sat beside her: “We try to like each other’s music. I try to like Mica’s but some of it is too ‘rappy’. I just don’t get it, although I like the loops.”
Although the band leader through being the vocalist and inspiring the band’s name through a combination of her own and the instrument she’s created, The Chu, Mica is happy to sit back and let her colleagues talk up the merits of ‘Jewellery’. Truth is though that the album was coming together long before the three were firmly established as they are today.
“The album was around before this band, really,” says Marc, before Mica steps in: “We’ve not had long periods to work on it; it’s been quite difficult to make the record when we’ve been in many different mindsets. Some of the songs are done with the band, some not. I think next time we do a record we’ll try to do it in one go.”
That’s the nature of debuts often, though, that they’re an assembling of songs written over a fair spread of time. Do you think you’ve said what you needed to with this debut?
“I feel like it’s too much pressure to look at it like your first impression,” says Mica. “And by that I mean mentally – if you’ve not said everything you want to say then that’s good for the future. But people’s first impressions of us will mostly come from this album. People’s first albums are sometimes their best… We’re trying to keep in mind that everything that needed to be said right now has been said.”
So you’re looking at yourselves as an ‘album band’, perhaps one that won’t find a ‘definitive’ sound until a few records down the line?
Mica: “I think so. I hope so. I think that’s a healthy way to look at things. It’s a good feeling to have a collection, a set of songs. If I write a piece with five movements in it, that’s comfortable… It’s a collection, and there’s something lovely about a collection like that.”
But things are already happening for you now, which must feel great?
Mica: “We’ve had some really good stuff written about us. We’re hoping to enjoy this year – we get regular gigs and stuff. We’re happy, man, but there is a difference between what journalists and A&R people like and what people actually buy.
“We’re so new to this, we don’t know whether things are gonna turn out good or bad,” continues the singer. “If people wanna write about us, great, but if they don’t that’s okay too.”
Right now Micachu are unsure of their place within an industry forever in a state of flux, where trends change in days and this week’s hottest property is next week’s lamest ducks. But what the trio should be proud of is their complete ignorance of these movements – ‘Jewellery’ sounds as if t was recorded in isolation, without stacked magazines telling it makers who to follow, or where to attempt to lead to. It’s one of the most wonderfully original albums to be released by a British act for quite some time, and is sure to attract admirers in a slow and steady fashion as 2009 plays out.
“Landfill indie, you heard that expression?” asks Mica as we touch upon the year’s tipped-elsewhere sorts. She names no names, and later admits to not hearing many of this year’s most-hyped acts, but still her sharp point stands: come December, many of the January tips will be on just that, tips. Stinking, forgotten, what-was-I-thinking? tips full of broken dreams and broken promises. But Micachu…?
Where they end is likely to be as unpredictable as how they arrived, while getting there promises to be a lot of fun.
Micachu’s debut album ‘Jewellery’ is released via Accidental on February 2; find them on MySpace HERE. The trio tour with Late Of The Pier as follows, ahead of playing at South By Southwest…
3 Bath Burdalls Yard
4 Exeter Phoenix
5 Wolverhampton Civic
7 Sheffield Leadmill
8 Glasgow Oran Mor
9 Aberdeen Moshulu
11 Middlesbrough Empire
12 Leeds Metro
13 Derby The Royal
16 Oxford Zodiac
17 London Forum
18 Brighton C2 (no LOTP)
20 Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
21 Hitchin Remix
22 Cambridge Junction
Get tickets to Late Of The Pier and Micachu HERE.