Minor Victories have crafted one of 2016's finest albums in the shape of their self-titled debut. Released last month on Fat Possum Records, it contains an impressive collection of songs worthy of the "supergroup" status afforded the band who include members of Mogwai, Slowdive, and Editors within their ranks.
DiS caught up with two of the band - vocalist Rachel Goswell and guitarist Stuart Braithwaite - after their recent set at Latitude and discovered among other things that Minor Victories are around for the long haul.
DiS: You played your first ever UK festival show at Latitude earlier. How did it go?
Stuart Braithwaite: I really enjoyed it. We were slightly apprehensive about being the first band on, but once we got going it was great.
Rachel Goswell: We had to drop one song off the setlist today ('For You Always') because of time constraints but it still worked out pretty fine. Also, Latitude is one of those festivals where people seem to mainly be there for the music, so that made it a little easier too.
SB: We've been a bit choosy about which festivals to play. When Mogwai and Slowdive first started, most of the audience came to watch bands, but now for a lot of people it's more of about getting away for the weekend with the music being an aside.
RG: I only ever went to Reading.
SB Reading is a good example. When it started it was a serious music festival whereas now it's just a mainstream rock and pop festival.
The response to Minor Victories has been overwhelmingly positive so far, both with the record and the live shows. Was there a weight of expectation based on the critical acclaim your other bands have received?
RG: Generally it's been good. I haven't thought about it too much to be honest.
SB I was waiting for people to have a go at us, but maybe we deserve it?
RG No we don't! What did we ever do to them?
SB You're right!
Has it been difficult to organize the live shows with you all being based in various parts of the UK?
SB Sometimes. The experience of us being able to get together and play with one another has been amazing, especially when we did our own tour. I like playing festivals but it's difficult to have the same amount of time and space there as we do our own live shows.
RG The Glasgow show in May was really good. Probably my favourite so far. Whereas our first show in London was very difficult.
How did Minor Victories first come together?
RG: It was Justin that started it. He sent me some music in September 2014. 'Out To Sea' was the first song I wrote after being sent that piece of music. We were all quite busy with our respective bands as well, so not a lot else happened for the rest of that year. Then in the early part of 2015 we started sending each other bits and bobs of ideas we had and decided we needed another guitarist. Which is where Stuart came in. It was actually a much easier process than I thought, bearing in mind we were all very active with our other bands. Luckily we weren't as busy last year so managed to get the album finished.
SB: The time out from Mogwai was really cool. I was also working on the Atomic soundtrack, which is so different. But even then it didn't seem weird doing both projects side by side. It was great.
I can hear elements of all three bands in Minor Victories songs. Where did the ideas for the songs come from, both lyrically and with the musical arrangements?
SB: We just made them up! I didn't really think about them that much. We just wrote some songs on our own terms. There was no conscious effort to have elements of our other bands in them.
RG: It was literally just a case of sending files round to each other. We all added bits at various times. There was never any discussion about how they were going to sound. Justin (Lockey) had some ideas about putting strings on parts of the album. Stuart did the music for 'Scattered Ashes (Song For Richard)'. What has been funny is reading reviews that have said it's quite obvious who did what when they've got it completely wrong! All of the songs have personal meanings for me or Stuart. Some of them are about other people.
Have you used any parts for Minor Victories that were originally intended for your other bands?
SB: All the music I wrote for the Minor Victories record was the music I was writing that summer. It's good to have another outlet. It's good to have a song that sounds better with Rachel singing on it.
How many songs were demoed for the album? Are there any left over that might be revisited in the future?
SB: All of the ones that got finished made the record. There's a couple of bits and bobs lying around, but nothing that made it into songs.
RG: We have a few unfinished ideas. One in particular that we might go back to for the next record called 'Fortune'. We will probably revisit that at some point.
Rachel's vocal style is very different with Minor Victories to what it is with Slowdive. Is that deliberate?
RG: Yeah totally. For me, Minor Victories is very enjoyable on a singing level. The vocal melodies are very different to Slowdive.
Do you write all the vocal parts for Minor Victories?
RG: I do, which again is very different to what I've done with Slowdive. 'Souvlaki Space Station' was one of mine, 'Shine' as well, but apart from those and one or two more I've done very little writing for Slowdive. Most of the vocal melodies were constructed by Neil (Halstead). The writing style for Minor Victories is very different to how it is in Slowdive. They're both very different projects in the way they work.
Mark Kozelek from Sun Kil Moon and The Twilight Sad's James Graham both appear on the record. How did they become involved with Minor Victories? Will there be any more collaborations in the future?
RG: They weren't planned per se, but there were a couple of bits written that needed to have a male vocalist. Stuart suggested James.
SB: First I thought I'd have a try but it sounded shit!
RG: And I knew Kozelek from back in the day, so I asked him and when it came about his contribution proved to very interesting. I'm sure there'll be one or two guests on the next record. I think it's nice.
Martin Bulloch from Mogwai has been playing drums for the live shows, although he didn't play on the album. Is he also in the band now?
SB: James (Lockey) and Justin did most of the drums on the record. I guess a lot depends on how we make the next record. Essentially, Minor Victories is just the four of us but Martin adds a different dimension to the live shows.
RG: Martin makes a big difference to our live sound. He's been great to have around so we'll see what happens.
So there is a second Minor Victories album already in the pipeline? How many songs do you have so far? Will any feature in the live set this summer?
SB: Yeah, there'll definitely be another record. We're quite enjoying working with each other so there's no reason to not make one. We haven't got any songs ready for the next album yet, just a few ideas. But I do see this being a long-term project going forwards.
Will there be another tour this year?
RG: There are some dates scheduled for Europe later in the year - Spain and Germany in October I believe - and there'll be some UK dates towards the back end of the year as well.
SB: I've got a Mogwai record to finish and Rachel's got a Slowdive record to finish in the meantime.
RG: It's just a case of trying to fit everything in.
What advice would you give to new bands just starting out?
SB: Be a plumber! But seriously, stick with it, don't listen to other people's ideas about what you should do, and don't be afraid to sleep on a few people's floors.
*Are there any new bands you'd recommend to Drowned In Sound and its readers?**
RG: We played this festival in Switzerland recently, and I saw a band called Silver Firs who were great. They've definitely got one album on iTunes so check them out.
SB: We've got a few records coming out on Rock Action. There are new releases from Xander Harris and Sacred Paws, and there's lots of good stuff happening in Glasgow at the minute.
For more information on Minor Victories including forthcoming tour dates visit their official website.