Mogwai bandleader Stuart Braithwaite is a man sworn to secrecy, it would seem.
Twice in conversation, as topics drift to future live shows and projects, he pauses before revealing he can divulge no further with a wry laugh. “We’ve got a gig confirmed that we can’t announce yet that is really exciting,” he confesses at one point, following the disclosure that the group will be playing a cruise festival with fellow Scots rockers Belle and Sebastian. What could surely be more fun than playing on a boat? “Wait and see,” he chuckles.
The 42-year-old South Lanarkshire native is otherwise a thoroughly engaging conversationalist, even as he juggles the act of making himself soup in the course of a chat about the band’s upcoming shows. Following a clutch of festival appearances over the last two years, bracketed by a few shows of their own including a huge homecoming performance at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro, the band are set to embark on a UK run proper behind 2017’s rapturously received outing Every Country’s Sun.
Braithwaite observes the band have some unfinished business in Leeds, having been forced to cut short a self-described “fun” gig to open the Brudenell Social Club’s Community Room last autumn when drummer Martin Bulloch injured himself midway through the show. “That was the start of Martin’s medical year of hell,” he notes. “He’ll be hoping he can actually play the whole gig this time!”
The band will visit the O2 Academy Leeds on their jaunt, a significant step up in venue size from their last visit. Braithwaite admits that touring as such becomes a balancing act to not only meet demand but to satisfy the group’s personal enjoyment of performing. “It’s a bit of a difficult one because you don’t want to play places where people can’t come. But then you sometimes end up in venues that maybe aren’t as atmospheric as the type of places that are your favourites. I think the kind of gigs we’re doing this month, between one and two thousand capacity are probably my favourite size though. You can make it a bit of a spectacle without being so far away from people.”
Every Country’s Sun not only gave the band their biggest album yet across their storied career – “It’s not something we expected so it’s absolutely brilliant,” the frontman proclaims happily – but perhaps firmly established them as elder statesmen of the post-rock movement. “It’s weird, I suppose,” Braithwaite muses. “We were all really young when we started to the band. It’s something you grow into, I think, it just happens. You get a little bit older and you learn not to act like a teenager anymore.”
I feel immensely lucky and I think we do have a real bond. It’s quite comforting being around the same people all the time and I think we all enjoy it.Stuart Braithwaite
How does it feel still being around the same people he knew when he was half his age? “I feel immensely lucky and I think we do have a real bond. I’m really fond of Martin and Dominic (Aitchison, bass player) and Barry (Burns, guitarist). It’s quite comforting being around the same people all the time and I think we all enjoy it.”
He expands on it further after some thought. “I’m still really good friends with a lot of the guys and bands that emerged around the same time as us. I’m really proud about how many of our friends are still making music together and that people are still coming out for us and them. That’s a thought that crosses my mind a lot, actually.”
The group followed Every Country’s Sun this year with a soundtrack album to the science-fiction film Kin. How exactly does they approach such projects in comparison to their own studio oeuvre? “An album is effectively our own vision as a piece of music; it’s just the four of us. Whereas with a soundtrack, you’re working with producers and directors and it’s more of a collaborative experience. When you’re doing it for a television programme or a movie, it’s more of a collaboration because there’s got to be other people who are happy with the music apart from the band.”
Aside from their mystery project, there’s nothing else in the pipeline for Mogwai over the next few months. With the Black Friday edition of Record Store Day fast approaching though, Braithwaite knows that he’ll be making a visit to his local vinyl emporium soon enough. “They mean a lot to me. I would probably say that 90 per cent of music I discover comes through my friends that work in record shops. They act as a sort of hub, they get to know you and what you like. It’s better than online; if you ever play an album in Spotify, it will just follow that up with something very much the same. I think people have more interests that that. People – real people – have definitely got more diverse tastes across the spectrum.”
Mogwai play at O2 Academy Leeds on November 24. www.mogwai.co.uk