Thursday, May 30 2024

Welcome to today’s interview with MothBreath, a dreamy shoegaze-esque musical duo hailing from the scenic landscapes of Somerset, United Kingdom. Since their debut single ‘Drift Away’ in 2021, MothBreath, comprised of Kirsty Dougall and John Libert, have been writing and producing a blend of ethereal melodies and almost ambient atmospheres. Now, with the release of their self-titled album, ‘mothbreath,’ on the Cupboard Under the Stairs label, they have kindly offered to spare a few minutes and chat with us about the process, plans for the future and more. So, let’s start digging…

Thanks for joining us and congratulations on the release of the new album, ‘mothbreath.’ How did you combine your diverse musical influences to create MothBreath’s unique sound on the new album?

John: Thanks Matt, it has taken us some time to get the album to where we wanted, but now we’re very excited for it to be out there in the wild. 

Yes, we certainly have an array of influences! That could possibly lead to a muddled identity, but when we first decided to try out some music together, we came up with a kind of mission statement or checklist for where we could direct ourselves – ‘Space, Dreamy, Layered Vocals, Guitars Drenched in Echo and Reverb, Slow to Mid-Tempo Beats’

Kirsty: Very simple really, but it has helped focus us. We’d like to think the vocal and guitar sound unify the tracks. Another element is allowing ourselves not to be constrained by a typical song structure but let the tracks develop and move organically. Our biggest joint influence is David Bowie. We love the way he could absorb the zeitgeist but still only sound like Bowie!

What are some of the experiences or themes that have inspired the songs on your debut album?

Kirsty: Many of the tracks are love songs, though to nature; a love of being in awe of the natural world and the joy of moving through it, often on my bike! And experiencing new places through travel – ‘Closer’ was inspired by hiking to Everest base camp, while ‘Millions of You’ is about feeling small beneath the expansive star-filled night sky. ‘Here It Comes’ is inspired by a story I came across about women prophets, but I also see it as looking for a wave of optimism and action against climate breakdown. 

John: I was travelling in Canada just before the COVID lockdown and got caught in some of the forest fires. Driving through that burning landscape was the inspiration for ‘Wildfire Haze’. A surreal and disorientating experience with the hanging smoke and constant sound of helicopters. Everything seemed to move in slow-motion. The throb of the helicopter blades inspired the bass on that song. I had my laptop and an old acoustic guitar with me, so was able to get some musical sketches down. The main guitar riff is in a backwards reverb, trying to give that sense of uncertainty and disorientation. 

The initial idea for ‘Turning Sky’ was done at the same time. Nothing like being in a different environment for inspiration. Usually, I’m trying to convey an atmosphere or emotion that we can build on rather than a specific narrative.

Can you share a bit about your creative process between both of you? How do you typically approach writing and composing new music?

John: Again, this is a varied process and has developed over the time we’ve been working together. At the start, I would come up with some musical ideas, often complete instrumental pieces that Kirsty would then add to. I would always be mindful to leave space in the track for Kirsty, with just enough melodic themes to feed and inspire her. We would then both mould the track to suit the way the vocals influenced it. I see Kirsty’s voice very much as an instrument. Hopefully we create a conversation between the vocals and guitar, where neither is talking over the other, just weaving in and out. It goes back to our checklist – Space – leaving space and creating space; not trying to overly fill everything with sound.

Kirsty: I like to work out ideas using the piano as I find it the most intuitive instrument for singing with. John would then translate it into a track. ‘Waiting For Me’ is a perfect example. Lyrics are usually distilled down to a few lines or motifs that are repeated rather than forming a narrative.

John: More recently, we invested in some new equipment that allows us to move away from the laptop and actually sit and write together, which is immensely fun and fruitful. At the start, we were quite limited in the time we could spend working in the same room. We now live very close to each other, so it’s liberating having more time to craft our music.

Kirsty: I have been enjoying experimenting with a loop pedal. Its great to use my voice as a layered instrument and even building songs up with only my voice before bringing in other instruments.

What do you hope listeners take away from listening to the new album?

John: It’s thrilling but also quite scary to think of the tracks being out there to be listened to. We’ve been nurturing them for some time now! We’d hope any listeners can be immersed in the sound we create and connect with the atmospheres we’re trying to evoke. To get taken away from the chore of the day to day and dream a while. If you can take the time, try and experience the album as a whole.

With the addition of drummer Paco Valerio Trujillo, how do you plan to enhance MothBreath’s live performances, and what can people expect from your upcoming shows?

John: Well, the whole live thing is still very new for us. Paco only joined us a couple of months ago. We have been refining the songs so that we can play as a three piece hopefully, though we may need to recruit another member, we’ll see how it goes. It’s quite a challenge for us, but a rewarding one. Having a live drummer is so much more dynamic – the music can breathe. Paco is a great guy and a great drummer and slotted right in. He is also one of those rare musicians that listens as much as he plays. Hopefully we can retain the essence of the recorded material but we will have the ability to let go and get a bit wild! Kirsty’s a great dancer, so we need to make sure she can get out from behind the keyboard sometimes. 

Looking ahead, what’s next for MothBreath as a band? More music? Any exciting collaborations? Give us the goss…

Kirsty: Definitely more music as we have another album worth of songs in development. It’s bit more stripped back. And of course we’d love to get our music out live. Once the band is fully rehearsed, we’ll do some live videos / YouTubes and then gigs. We have already made three videos of the songs ourselves which was great fun, so there will definitely be some more of those to come. We’re also working on a dark, brooding cover version of ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain’ for the live set which is sounding immense! 


And, finally, a fun question… If MothBreath’s music were the soundtrack to a movie, what kind of movie would it be, and what would the plot be like?

This would have to be a David Lynch remake of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ TV series! Dark, surrealistic and dream-like with his weird, twisted humour. We’d be the resident band at The Bronze nightclub. Kirsty would discover she has slayer powers while John becomes a vampire and Paco a werewolf! ‘Wolf Eyes’ would be the theme tune. 

Hey, we might just get in touch with Mr Lynch…..

As we wrap up our conversation with MothBreath, it’s evident that their musical journey has been, and continues to be, as rich and diverse as the landscapes that inspire them. With their debut album now available and an exciting future potentially ahead, we’re eager to see how things unfold. One thing we can say with some certainty for now: stay tuned and check out the new album – it’s well worth it. Thank you, Kirsty and John, for sharing your insights with us. Keep up to date with MothBreath via their socials below.

Facebook / Soundcloud / Bandcamp / YouTube / Instagram / Spotify


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About Author

Matt Warren

Matt Warren is a Cheshire based musician who studied contemporary music and composition. When not writing for The Indie Grid he enjoys watching 'Breaking Bad' on continuous loop and going to gigs. Since a youngster his fave band have been 'The Beatles' (with 'Cardiacs' in at a close second)... and this still applies to this day.

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