It’s not often that I hear a band that evokes memories of The Wedding Present or Billy Bragg in their heydey. MJ Hibbett wears his influences on his sleeve and brings the jangle to a new generation. We thought we’d start the year with a few bands that perhaps aren’t gracing the cover of NME, but deserve your attention. Amy does the honors for us and introduces you to the lovely MJ Hibbett.
TDOA: Stylistically, I can’t decide where I would even put you guys. So I won’t. What do you guys think where you fit into the music world?
MJ: I don’t think we really fit in anywhere in particular – I know this is what ALL bands always say, just before claiming that they write all their songs for themselves and that if anybody else likes it, that’s a bonus, but for us it’s true,honest!
The fact that we have the occasional bit of humour in our lyrics has always turned some people off, but our estrangement from The Indie/Pop/Rock mainstream has only increased as we’ve gone along – there really aren’t that many other indie bands who sound a bit like Half Man Half Biscuit, and a bit like The Fall, who are STILL GOING at
our age and still releasing new albums. Most other people, I guess, see sense and pack it in!
TDOA: I love that you guys maintain an almost-daily blog – what made you choose blogging as the best way to connect with your fans?
MJ: I was inspired by the comedian Richard Herring, who’s maintained a daily blog for about seven years now, which is always a good read. I thought that if I could provide people with a reason to come back to our webpage, rather than it just being a fairly dull list of gig dates, then it might encourage them to come to gigs too. I don’t know
if it’s worked particularly well, but as I’m also an inveterate show-off who really enjoys talking about himself, I don’t really mind!
TDOA: Lots and lots and lots of great music comes from the UK – who are you listening to, and what UK bands are you typically compared to?
MJ: At the moment I’m mildly obsessed with two UK bands – Standard Fare and Allo Darlin, who’ve released FANTASTIC albums and who I’ve seen playing some pretty amazing gigs. I’ve not been as over-excited about bands doing MY sort of music since I bought “If You’re Feeling Sinister”, which is a LOT of being excited!
As for who we’re usually compared to – Half Man Half Biscuit, The Fall, Billy Bragg and The Wedding Present. All of which is more than fair enough!
TDOA: Talk about the new album a little, please. What in the world does Forest Moon of Enderby mean?
The album’s our attempt to HOOVER UP everything we’ve released, and some that we haven’t, that isn’t currently available on CD. So the main disc is all of the b-sides that we’ve recorded as a full band over the past five years or so. There’s some of my favourite EVER Validator songs on there, so I’m extremely happy that it’s available! We’ve also got a second album on the CD-R extras section, which is all the songs I recorded alone (including b-sides, compilation tracks and so on) along with some unreleased material. It’s a double album pretending to be a single!
Our last “even more rarities” (all our stuff is rare!) album was called “Warriors Of Nanpantan” – Nanpantan is a village in Leicestershire near where Tim and Emma live, and we’d often remark how it sounds like somewhere in Star Wars. The title “Warriors Of Nanpantan” got bandied about for years before we used it, and when that came out I said “What shall we call the next one though?” Frankie IMMEDIATELY said “Forest Moon Of Enderby” (Enderby is another village in Leicestershire, which sounds a bit like Endor) and so we’ve had that ready for years too!
Goodness knows what the next one’ll be called though…
TDOA: Nerd alert: PLEASE tell me about your rock opera! (I may or may not be a bit of a musicals/rock opera enthusiast)
MJ: With PLEASURE! It’s called “Dinosaur Planet” – 65 million years ago the Dinosaurs disappeared and now THEY’RE BACK! I’ve been performing it with my friend Steve as a (two man) full cast Rock Opera, featuring Dinosaurs, Giant Robots, massive battles and A Family Coming Together To Save The World, but we’ve also been recording a full band version for release next year. The general idea is to do something like “War Of The Worlds”, so amongst all the songs there’s dialogue, sound effects and all sorts. It’s taking quite a long time to put together, but it’s going to be well worth it, so far it sounds AMAZING!
TDOA: Everyone should really check out the “About Us” section of your website – I’m sure I’ll still be reading long after this e-mail. How did you all come up with all these crazy questions?
MJ: Thanks! It took us ages to do all those, so it’s lovely to know someone’s read them!! The first batch were for our last album, “Regardez Ecoutez et Repetez” and so are vaguely themed around the songs, with one question tenuously linked to each one. The questions after that were thought up mostly in the pub whilst on tour… as you
can probably tell!
TDOA: Emma, what is the largely-male dominated dynamic of MJ Hibbett and the Validators like? Is it difficult/enjoyable/awesome, or a mix of all three?
Emma: Right…. before I saw the crude, shocking banter that occurred today, I was going to say, enjoyable, with a hint of ace. But now I would say ‘How rude!’ encouraging my dear sweet innocent husband to think about breasts and the like whilst at work! So, it’s very much like growing up with my 3 brothers. A mix of lots of fun and total annoyance.”
MJ: The rest of us had been having an animated discussion on email that day about possible misunderstandings of our album titles, mostly to do with “Milk & Baubles”…
TDOA: I can’t help but love your “chin up, emo kid” stuff. The emo craze has sort of died down in the US (and replaced itself with vampires? Good grief). Is it still frustratingly big in the UK?
MJ: That’s a good point actually, I hadn’t really noticed but yes, there does seem to be a lot less of it about. Goodness knows what the young people are into these days – I think it might be something to do with showing everybody your underpants as you walk down the street, but that can’t be right, can it?
TDOA: I’m sure you’ve been asked this question, but I like to ask it. Why do you make music?
MJ: It’s fun! Er… that’s it really – it’s also a good excuse to hang around with some of your mates, travel the world having stupid adventures, meet loads of nice people and generally show off… but that’s all included in “it’s fun” really isn’t it?
TDOA: Can you explain your aversion to music labels? I’ve interviewed several bands with similar feelings – is the industry that bad?
MJ: The Music Industry is like Soviet Capitalism – it’s like somebody read a lot about how awful it is, and then tried their best to copy it. The sooner the current model, of massive corporations dictating what sort of music is available and then ripping off both the consumer AND the creator, collapses completely the better it will be for everybody.
So yes – every time we come anywhere near The Music Industry I’m stunned by it being even more awful than I thought. Although I should say – we haven’t exactly been harassed by them trying to make us join in!
TDOA: Congrats on the new release! I adore the album art – where did that come from?
MJ: Thanks very much – that was taken by Tim, in the forests of Mauritius where he and Emma are temporarily living. We spent ages arguing about a variety of rubbish ideas until they went out one weekend with some cuddly toys and took that picture. “Oh yes”, I thought, “That’s the cover isn’t it?”
Learn more about the band by checking out their website: http://www.mjhibbett.co.uk/