THE MOCKING JAYS (from l-r): George Ramplin (rhythm guitar/vocals), Lewis Hammond (lead guitar/vocals), Jacob Smith (lead vocals), Sam Dorrington (drums/vocals), Alex Hather (bass/vocals)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
PHOTO by OSCROFT CREATIVE
With a unique sound that is described as “sexy, funky, dirty pop“, and full of huge riffs and infectious grooves, indie five-piece The Mocking Jays have firmly established themselves on the music scene of their home city of Nottingham.
In addition to this, the band have been championed by their local BBC Introducing programme and BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Tom Robinson, performed at such festivals as YNot, and supported such outfits as Scouting For Girls.
However, the quintet are not contented with just this, as they are determined to progress further with their music, play more venues, and attract a larger following.
The recent release of new single, ‘Edge Of Your Knife’, seemed like the perfect time for me to have an in-depth chat with the band about how they plan to accomplish this and more, and the following is what they had to say:
How did the band get together?
Jacob, Alex and Sam all went to the same primary and secondary schools together, and they have been mates for years, even though they didn’t get on too well when they were younger.
There were a lot of bands in their school, and the three of them decided to start playing and writing music together whilst at college in 2013.
Jacob then met Lewis at his first part-time job at the local Co-op, and they bonded over their mutual interest in music whilst stacking the shelves together. Lewis then joined the band in 2014, and he offered a different approach, allowing us to explore our sound.
Having played on the Nottingham/Derby circuit with George for years, we asked him to join the band last year. It was Jacob’s idea actually, as at the time, he was playing guitar whilst singing, and the material we were writing at the time was quite rhythmically complicated (for us).
George entering the band as an extra guitarist and backing vocalist meant that Jacob was able to concentrate solely on vocals and really explore being a frontman and the ringleader of the band. We were also able to experiment with the guitar section and really find what we feel is a new, exciting and unique sound.
Where did the name The Mocking Jays originate?
A few years ago, we were making a name for ourselves under a different name, and all was going well until one day we discovered we had been locked out of our social media.
It turned out that a band with a similar and copyrighted name had reported us and had our social media taken down… (they were a wedding band, as well)…so we had to start again from scratch, it was annoying at the time, but worth it!
We had a few shows booked, but because we didn’t have a new and solid name decided on, it would change every show, which was quite funny at times seeing what we could come up with.
One day, a promoter asked us for our name, and Jacob gave him The Mocking Jays. It was a spontaneous move, but it had stuck in his head from the Hunger Games film he’d watched the night before.
To be honest, none of us were particularly blown away by the name, but it just stuck! Luckily, we’re verified on social media now, so no-one can take it away from us!
What would you say is your songwriting approach?
That’s a difficult question, because it can change quite a lot! Sometimes, it’s completely spontaneous and comes to us in the moment…everything literally falls into place without any communication, which at times just feels crazy!
However, the most typical songwriting approach for us would be this: Someone will normally have a progression or melody in their head which they’ll present at a rehearsal.
Depending on the feel of that progression or melody, Sam and Alex will lay down the rhythm, George or Lewis will lay down some chords and guitar melodies, and then Jacob will normally vocalise a melody line on top of that until he’s free-styled some lyrics that he’s happy with.
Sometimes, it just falls into place and none of us have to vocalise our thoughts, but if we don’t have that idea down within an hour, it normally gets thrown out the window or put on the fridge for a later date. We tend to usually connect with something with an alternative rhythm that we, and our audience, can dance to.
We’ll then rehearse the track a few times, and then, we’ll debut the track live to see how it goes down, it’s our version of market research! Once we see or feel the results from that initial debut performance, we’ll go away and either polish the song or re-work it, depending on how it was received.
What inspires you lyrically?
As Jacob is the only talented lyricists in the band, we’ll go with his answer:
“My personal life, past experiences, the environment around me and fantasies that I like to exaggerate.“
Recently, you’ve released a new single entitled ‘Edge of your Knife’. How was the recording process for that?
It was a really cool experience, recording always is! We spent three really cold days down at our manager’s gaff in London called The Animal Farm.
Over the three days, we recorded ‘Edge’ and two other tracks, one that’s planned to be released later on in the year, and another early next year. It was a very cool experience hearing your track layered up and coming to life on tape for the first time.
We were heavily involved in the production of the record too, and we always like to be spontaneous and open to ideas in that environment.
It’s funny, because you often forget the individual talents of the band until you hear the parts soloed from the rest, but it makes you realise just how integral everyone is to the band’s sound.
And how has the reaction been to the track so far?
The reactions and initial feedback have been really positive. In this day and age, so many things have already been done that it’s hard to create something that’s perceived as new and unique, but the reaction from our friends, fans and critics say that we’ve achieved that with ‘Edge of Your Knife’, which is great.
It’s a song that doesn’t knock on the door, before entering the room and that’s why we chose that to be the song that would lay down our new musical direction, as we’re not here to mess about.
Dean Jackson, who presents our local BBC Introducing, recently said that we always surprise him, which for us is exactly what we want to achieve, because we would hate to be that band that is pigeonholed into a certain category and you know exactly what you’re going to get.
The band have played at festivals such as YNot and Bearded Theory, and opened for the likes of The Hoosiers and Scouting For Girls. How were they as experiences?
We’re always humbled to get opportunities such as the ones you have just mentioned, because four years ago, we were playing open mics around Nottingham/Derby, so to be given those opportunities is like a jockey whipping a horse.
It’s great to having the opportunity to showcase our work on a big stage like those listed above, as it gives us the drive to keep going and it’s also the sort of stage where we feel we belong.
Each gig for us is exciting, and a new challenge, as we want to experience every single person in that room and make them feel different to when they came in. Our live show is our opportunity to properly convey the attitude of our songs.
Also, you have firmly established yourselves on Nottingham’s music scene. How is it overall, for you all, performing live?
The plan is to build ourselves up to the point where we are in the top 10 Nottingham-based bands. Although our name is known to most of the people on the city’s music scene, there is still a lot we wish to achieve in Nottingham, and our next step is to get into the big venues such as Rock City, and the Rescue Rooms.
Actually, we are supporting Cassia at the Rescue Rooms in October. They’re a great band who are really gaining momentum, and we are dead excited for this as it’s what we’ve been waiting for. Hopefully, this will lead to more opportunities.
Performing live though, for us, is where it’s at! We don’t play to click tracks; we don’t use backing tracks like every other band out there seem to at the minute, we are all-out energy.
What you hear and what you see from us is what you get, and we will go as far to say that we are one of the best live bands out there, certainly at our level.
We know that might sound cocky, but live performance is something we take as seriously as recording our songs, again, we want to change people in some way or another, otherwise, it’s not worth it for us.
Now that ‘Edge Of Your Knife’ has come out, what are the band’s plans?
Some very exciting adventures that’ll involve plenty of big shows, a possible tour, and single releases. We may even put out an EP too…but who knows?
At the moment, there’s lots of things happening behind the scenes, and we can’t wait to unleash it onto you all. Just keep checking our social media to find out, because unfortunately, we can’t say too much right now…
And finally, what is your long-term aim?
The end goal is to make a living from doing what we are creating and performing right now; that’s every band’s goal, isn’t it? Mass acceptance would be nice.
At our level, it’s difficult being a band, because at times, you feel like you have to be a businessmen as much as a musician, however, we know we have to play the game.
The market is saturated, but we’re on a path, we have a plan, and most importantly, we believe in ourselves and in our songs. We are aiming for the top, whether people like it or not.
‘EDGE OF YOUR KNIFE’, THE LATEST SINGLE FROM THE MOCKING JAYS, IS OUT NOW.
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: