Interview masses.

I’d like to take the time to introduce you all to the music from a band called masses. (spelt with small m and full stop at the end). I received an email with a link to their Soundcloud page and was asked to give them a listen. So I clicked the link and found a good amount of songs to choose from of which I randomly choose the track ‘Fear’. As soon as the song began I was introduced to some great sounding vocals that shared some solid lyrical skills which continued throughout. It also shared a subtle alternative pop sound that allowed for the vocals and harmonies to really shine on this song. I was really impressed so I started to listening to more of their work and I was hooked.

Formed in 2014, this Leeds band are made up by Cain Cookson (Vocals/Guitar), Jacob Corr (Guitar/Vocals), James Grover (Bass/Vocals) and George Van Renselar (Synths/Vocals). These guys are all professional music producers who decided to create a sound that they describe as a combination of ‘British alternative rock with elements of trip-hop and electronica’. To let you know more about masses. I enlisted their help by getting them to answer some questions that I had. This is what we talked about:

How did masses. get together and is there a story behind the name?

Cain: When we started the band in September 2014, we were all full time music producers working at the same recording studio…. We spent so much time making music for other bands and decided it was time we made something for ourselves. It started out in back rooms at the studio and built from there really.

George: I literally got told (not asked) that I was now in a band by Cain, and that I would be playing keyboard (which I didn’t play at the time)!

Cain: The name was a long and protracted affair. After about 2 weeks of back and forth, with each suggestion worse than the last, we were having a fairly heated argument in the car about it, and the Depeche Mode album Music for the Masses came on… bingo!

James: Note it’s not ” The Masses” though, we thought that sounded too hipster! But the little “m” and the full stop… yolo…(?!)

Are there any musicians/bands who help influence your music and its sound?

Cain: I think our main areas of influence come from where guitars meet synths. We all listen to a lot of Radiohead, Death Cab For Cutie, Brand New and Bon Iver, so tonally we’re going for something along those lines. Then also we draw songwriting influence from a lot of classic stuff like Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and even some Motown records.

James: We like the element of surprise as well, crazy stuff coming out of nowhere, like the fat sub-bass synth on our song Cold Shoulder… that’s probably some James Blake influence, and there’s a lot of vibey Sigur Rós type sections too. We really try to push the boat wherever possible, or some might call it “make things hard for ourselves”. At the studio we actually ended up working on a lot of country music for a repeat client, so that made us super excited to cram a load of 4-part vocal harmonies into every track. I think we secretly wish we were an English version of Zac Brown Band!

George: For synths specifically, people like Bonobo, Portishead, Lapalux, Boards Of Canada. Often try to go for organic sounding synthetic sounds as I’m not a fan of the “Killers” type synth sound.

James: George loves to talk about synths… He’s basically Synthesizer Patel from Look Around You.

When you write new music, what is the important part of your process and what helps you get past writers block?

Cain: We’re lucky that since we all write and produce, if someone is hitting a dry spell, invariably someone else steps up with something to work on; generally from that seed of an idea, we’ll all start to collaborate to make it into a masses. song.

George: By the time songs get to me they’re usually pretty fully formed, I just add the extra 10% on to it.

James: We always have a bunch of rough ideas lying round anyway, so writer’s block has never come up so far. Maybe a chorus idea here and a riff idea there, sometimes just an iPhone clip, sometimes a ProTools demo… depends where we were when the idea happened I guess. We’re about to write 4 more songs over the next 4 months, so we’ll be digging through our idea pile and piecing together things we love.

For new fans out there, what singles/EP’s/Albums has you released so far?

James: Last year we put out a 3-track EP in February then a Single + B-side in August, and we probably spent far too long working on those… like probably a solid month of actual studio time for just 5 tracks! Then we figured, since that clearly wasn’t sustainable, we’d force ourselves to move much quicker in the future… enter our #twelvetwelve project. Basically the idea is that we’re writing, recording and releasing 12 tracks in 12 months… a new one on the 1st of each month throughout this year. The track due out 1st August is called No Right Hand; we normally record the parts bit by bit through the month in our spare time, then mix and master the track in the last 2-3 days… I’d say it’s about 400% more efficient than our previous workflow!

Cain: At the end of the year, we’re hoping to re-release the whole album as a limited-edition vinyl run. Which will be nice. And for now all our stuff is available at thisismasses.bandcamp.com  as well as Spotify, iTunes etc…

From these releases, which are your favourite songs and why?

James: Man, that’s a tough question. We’ve put so much thought and work/love into each one. I’m just gunna list a few moments that really stand out in my mind…

– The pre-chorus in Better You Know just makes me light up every time. I didn’t write it so I can say that! And the bounciness of the chorus is such fun to play live. Actually the same is true for Cold Shoulder and In Circles as well.

– The vocal arrangement in Quiet F is the most technically complex thing I ever wrote myself, so I’m sure that’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

– I’m particularly fond of Fear, we tried that song so many different ways before we finally got it to work just right… it’s got such a nice atmosphere.

George: Quiet F and I’ll Lie. I’m a big fan of slow burners.

Cain: I’m pretty excited about the new one, No Right Hand . Been trying to get this one together for a long time. It’s the most Beatles-esque we’ve gone to date, but with a weird intro to keep it masses.

What can people expect from your shows?

Cain: We hope they can expect us to sound just like the record, only loads louder and more sweaty. But also you get an up-to-date knowledge of the state of our ever-changing collective facial hair.

George: A man with no knowledge of his instrument singing baritone whilst actual musicians perform around him.

James: Hah, nah George is our rock! That’s just the curse of the laptop guy on stage, trying to make pressing buttons look as exciting as playing a guitar or drums!

Are there any crazy facts about each band member you care to share?

George: Cain’s a l33t Final Fantasy VII master. And after 2 beers Jacob [lead guitarist] becomes the loudest man in the world.

James: In a very real way, George is a professional rapper. In that he gets paid monthly to rap on cover songs for a corporate client. Not full time though, that’d be the dream! Haha.

If you guys were headlining a world tour, which two musicians/bands would you choose as support and why?

George:Portishead so I can fan boy, and Slipknot for the lulz.

James: I’d love to tour with a great modern mainstream band who’s sound sits nicely alongside ours, London Grammar maybe, or Everything Everything, or Alt-J… though I’ll continue to dream of the day any of those would be our support!

What are your future plans and goals for your music?

James: Well once we’ve finished the next 4 songs for the next 4 months, I think we’ll probably just keep doing more. It’s hard, we’re always so eager to write new songs, we can’t get them recorded and released quick enough really! And then we feel like we have too many to play live, so we have to be brutal and only pick 7 out of the 20 we wanna do or whatever!

Cain: U.S. tour! Calling it now. Then that world tour we talked about!

James: Getting a Radio 1 “BBC Introducing” slot would be the next big goal I guess, seems to be the standard trajectory nowadays. Also we’re the sort of band that if some big brand used us as the soundtrack to their next big TV ad buy… everyone would be all over it. Would probably have to be a Gin brand… even Gordon’s would do! Or McDonalds. FFS, come on McDonalds, use our songs. We’ll write one about really crap but far-too-convenient burgers, see if they’re interested…

Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to any new listeners out there, or maybe to any of your fans who are reading this?

George: New listeners: “There’s at least like two songs you’ll probably like”

James: There’s a lot of bands that write good songs but do them in a safe boring way, and a lot of bands who are interesting and daring musically but if you stripped the songs down to bare bones, they don’t really have those nicely crafted hooks and singalong melodies. We try to bridge the gap, which I think is rare. If you like things that are slightly outside the norm, check us out at thisismasses.com (and please follow us on Spotify or Apple Music or any other weird streaming service you use)

So let’s quickly talk a little more about their music. Their debut EP ‘I Couldn’t Be Happier’ is a solid 3 track release that shows off the potential that this band has to offer. They deliver some great lyrics which is wrapped around a catchy indie pop sound that has a great depth thanks to their production skills. Check out my favourite track ‘Two Hands in the Dark’ which shows why they caught a lot of peoples attention with this release.

As they discussed in the interview, masses. are working on their #twelvetwelve project and from the songs they have released so far, it looks like this is going to be a great album that I WILL be purchasing. When you listen to the songs ‘Better you Know’ and ‘Fear’ you can understand why I am excited about the album. If you need a little more convincing then listen to my favourite song ‘Quiet F’ which seems to to impress me more and more with each listen. The music has this beautiful atmospheric feel which is just right to show off some wonderful vocals/harmonies. The way the guys blend their voices together never fails to grab my attention and I would love to hear how this transfers to their live shows. You can listen (and purchase) all of the tracks they have released so far from their Bandcamp site (click HERE), so take a trip and click play!

If you want to find out more about masses. including future releases and upcoming shows, then you can find this information at their website thisismasses.com. You can also visit their social media sites at Facebook and Twitter. This is a band that will have my support and if you like what you hear then you should do the same. Use whatever social media tool is at your disposal and tell the world that masses. are HERE!