The Mysterines Find Growth from Life at Home to Touring on the Road
PHOTOGRAPHY by STEVE GULLICK
The Mysterines have just woken up in Houston, midway through their US supporting tour before joining Zoom to catch up on their whirlwind and prolific year. “Judging by our video we look quite tired,” laughs drummer Paul Crilly from backstage at the city’s Bayou Music Center, where the band will open for AWOLNATION later in the evening.
Paul is joined on our video call—quite literally via a pair of shared Apple EarPods– by the band’s powerhouse frontwoman, lead vocalist and guitarist Lia Metcalfe. Together with bassist George Favager and guitarist Callum Thompson, the four-piece Liverpudlian rock outfit have been on the road for most of 2022, after their debut album Reeling was number 2 on UK Rock & Metal Albums Chart and 9 on the UK Official Albums Chart.
“I don’t think we expected that at all, to be honest,” says Lia. “I completely forgot about the charts. I’ve never known what they are really. By the time I was old enough to comprehend pop culture, the charts had already been forgotten about, other than those NOW 50: [Now That’s What I Call Music mail order] CDs. Do you know what I mean? I got confused and I thought that was the charts. Is that the charts? Will we get on a NOW 50 CD?”
The bandmates crack up laughing, never stopping to pat themselves on the back over their well-earned Top 10 debut, released via Fiction Records. Growing up in a musical family—Lia’s father, Andrew Metcalfe, fronted late 00s alt rock band Sounds of Guns—she credits her dad with introducing her to influential artists at a young age. “I remember him playing me ‘Twist and Shout’ [by The Beatles] when I was like seven, and showing me John Lennon’s vocal and telling me how John Lennon blew his vocal chords out from that specific recording,” she recalls. “He just really pushed me to sing that song, and then he showed me soul music. I didn’t see him for a long time then, and when he came back I started learning Bob Dylan covers and he would tell me what sounded good…I think I’ve always been bloody singing.”
After meeting at a Home Bargains store in 2014, Lia and bassist George started playing together, eventually forming a band with former drummer Zak McDonnell. “We should do an in-store [event] at Home Bargains. It’s a quality shop,” jokes Lia. “They have everything. Face masks, Vaseline, Carmex. The list is endless.”
“They’re the only place that sells the Milky Way Crispy Rolls in the big packets,” adds Paul, who joined The Mysterines after both Zak and Chrissy Moore departed as drummers, having met Lia at a Psychedelic Porn Crumpets gig alongside now-guitarist Callum. He counts Nirvana, Arcade Fire and The Strokes among his biggest influences, while Lia cites Pixies and PJ Harvey – the latter of whom she isn’t dissimilar to, in both visual and vocal stylings. Catherine Marks, who produced Reeling, has also worked with The Foals, Wolf Alice, The Killers and Manchester Orchestra to name a few of her credit
Largely recorded during covid lockdowns, Reeling came together over years of line-up changes, and found its final form with all four band members in place. “We’ve been talking about it today and George was 18 when we first started recording the album. I was 19 and obviously it came out this year and I’m 22 now,” says Lia. “A lot happens in those years. It was a weird process obviously, because it was in lockdown, so you didn’t really have anywhere to go or anything to do other than record the album. I can’t really remember it anymore, it feels a lot longer ago than it actually was.”
It might feel like a lifetime since the band worked on Reeling, but the album has a timeless, grungy quality that feels as at home in 2022 as it would’ve in the late 80s and early 90s. There are tracks like “Hung Up” and “On the Run” where you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to Courtney Love on a Hole album, while the likes of “All These Things”, which was playlisted by BBC Radio 1, is rockier and will no doubt have festival crowds chanting along in the very near future.
“All These Things” formed the basis for The Mysterines’ recently released four-track EP [Reelin’] and was recorded during a performance at Rough Trade EAST in London, early 2022. “We loved that tour,” says Paul. “We started the year with that tour, before we did the full-on UK tour, so we enjoyed doing the stripped back ones. It was weird going from that to the actual full set-up.”
“It changed the way we play the songs slightly, as well,” adds Lia. “If we went into the headline or full band without the acoustic tour beforehand, I think we would’ve played the songs a bit heavier and we don’t want that.” Paul admits he likes playing the slower songs live. “I’m lazy,” he laughs, while Lia confesses, “I like performing the ones that I don’t play guitar on, ‘The Confession Song’ is good and ‘Under Your Skin’ too.”
They are reaching a state of delirium traveling (mostly) by van over the course of a year. “As the drives have become longer, we’re now in something called a bandwagon. It’s sort of a caravan like you’re at Pontins or Butlin’s [amusement parks],” says Lia. The Mysterines are certainly having a fun ride. Near-daily Instagram updates show them sampling the local cuisine in Nashville, dancing up a storm at their merch stands and celebrating Lia’s 22nd birthday in Pittsburgh with hotel room banners and $8 noise blowers. “We hadn’t been to Nashville before,” she recalls. “We had some time to explore. We went to Badflower guitar player Joey [Morrow’s] house. His place was boss, it was kind of surreal. He’s a funny guy.”
“I think it’s always an aim for you to at least tour America, even if not to the extent of full-on pop stars,” says Paul. “With our sound too, it caters well to an American audience. I quite like my bunk in the van. It’s a bumpy ride, but I quite like it,” he says, before Lia quips: “Is that an innuendo?” They’re heading back to the UK at the end of November for some much-needed rest before headlining a show at London’s O2 Forum in Kentish Town on December 9th.
As for what’s next, 2023 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for the band because they’ll be playing their first stadium shows as one of two support acts on Arctic Monkeys’ UK and Ireland tour. “Those will be our biggest venues by some distance I think,” says Paul. “It’s a bit mad and I keep forgetting about it but then people mention it and I’m like, ‘oh shit, yeah, that’s actually happening.’”
They also have ambitions to play Glastonbury, after turning down a slot at the iconic British festival this year because their set would have clashed with Diana Ross’ legends slot on the Sunday. “Hopefully next year we get to play and that would be a nice way to top off the first record,” says Paul. “Or we can get on the NOW 50 CD!” laughs Lia.
By the time Glasto regular attendees make the pilgrimage to Worthy Farm site in June, there’s a strong chance The Mysterines could have a whole new album – or two – ready to perform. “We’re quite impatient with new music and we get bored very easily,” says Paul. “We’ve got loads of time off at the start of the year, so we’ll try and get it all done and dusted.”
“We’ll probably get bored of that record as well,” says Lia, and with that, they’re off to the next sound check. @themysterines