Ellie Kemp chats to The Mocking Jay's all about their new single 'Edge of Your Knife', rediscovering their image and Arctic Monkeys. 

The past five years have seen The Mocking Jays play opening spots for the likes of Scouting For Girls and The Hoosiers, whilst garnering an impressive fan-base and gaining support from BBC Introducing and BBC 6 Music. After a period of re-invention, the East Midlands five piece The Mocking Jays are set to release their new single, Edge of Your Knife, on Friday 13 July.

Ellie Kemp chats to vocalist Jacob ‘Jay’ Smith and lead guitarist Lewis Hammond all about The Mocking Jays’ latest single.

How did your latest single Edge of Your Knife come about?

Jacob: Originally, we were up at the airport when we wrote it – that seems to be the place where the songs happen. So we were up there, we were looking to do something a bit more in-your-face, really. With some of our other music, we really focused on more of the pop element, but with this one we wanted it to have more of a – excuse the pun – ‘raw edge’ about it. The lyrics just fell into place with the music; the music was written first. We wanted the lyrics to have that same sort of punch.

The Mocking Jay’s single cover – Taken from The Mocking Jay’s Instagram: @mockingjaysband

Lewis: We were playing at a gig, and Jacob beatboxed this melody to me – the actual melody of the guitar at the very start of the track – and we transposed that onto guitar, and that’s where it came from. We just thought that it sounded like it could be really edgy and in your face, and I think having ‘edge’ in the title kind of sets the tone for the rest of the song.

How are your songs usually created – do you tend to come up with the melody first, and then the lyrics?

Jacob: We describe it as a conveyer belt process. The majority of the time it will start with a catchy guitar melody or some chords, then we’ll get everyone else to layer their parts over it. I think the lyrics normally come last.

Lewis: As Jacob said, if it comes from a guitar part, we’ll build it from there. Jacob will make suggestions, like ‘do this here, try that there’ and we’ll run the song through a few times. He’ll be quite quiet and will be jotting lyrics down – if he’s organised! So the lyrics will usually come last.

In your music video teaser you can be seen walking around Nottingham holding placards – that must’ve attracted quite a bit of attention from onlookers!

Lewis: Yeah, it did on the day, we got a few looks from people.

Jacob: Some people were really supportive of it and would look and go, ‘oh that’s cool, that’s interesting.’

As the song is quite rowdy and in-your-face – maybe not compared to some genres, but within our landscape of genre it is – the first thing that came to mind for us for a music video was like a protest, hence the placards. In the bridge of the song, that’s when it really starts to build up, kick in, so we thought a protest would sum that up really well.

Lewis: With the idea of a protest, we didn’t want to involve politics, so the signs ended up being sort of…

Jacob: Memes!

Lewis: Yeah, I suppose! Little strange messages, and a lot of them are music-related as well, so it all fit in together in the end.

You’ve previously played Y Not Festival and had support slots for Scouting For Girls and The Hoosiers – have playing these kind of gigs helped you to develop into the band you are now?

Jacob: Definitely, yeah. We’ve been doing this since we were about 17, so it seems like we’ve been doing it for a long time, and when we got those opportunities that massively put us in the scope of BBC Introducing and things like that, which really helped raise awareness of us.

However, we sort of took a step back and re-evaluated how we wanted to approach releasing music and re-discovering our image as a band as well. I think that sort of happened the back end of last year, beginning of this year, really. Since we’ve done that, we’ve been a lot more organised, knowing what’s happening before it’s coming, that sort of thing. Before we were kind of winging it – which is great because that was so much fun! But now we’re re-approaching it.

Lewis: It reflected how old we were, too – when we got those opportunities, we were fairly young and had only been going for a couple of years. Our sound has always been moving and changing.

Taken from The Mocking Jays Instagram: @mockingjaysband

With Edge of Your Knife – we had a backlog of songs, and we chose Edge of Your Knife to be the first one that we release of this new sort of image. It just sort of smashes through the glass, in a way, and makes way for what is to follow.

Talking of festivals – what have you got planned for this year?

Jacob: We’re returning to Y Not Festival this year! If you’re at Y Not this year, Friday, eight o’clock, Saloon stage, we’ll be back! We’re also playing Osfest in Derbyshire.

Lewis: We’ve got a gig at Rescue Rooms coming up too – we’re supporting our friends Don’t Forget Rupert on 11th August, which is a Saturday. That’ll be a really good show.

We’ve got some gigs lined up at the big venues in Nottingham towards the end of the year, and we’re looking at a tour early next year too – hopefully!

Jacob: Again, I think the fact that we took some time out, re-evaluated where we were at and took a new approach, we sort of missed the boat with festivals this year. But for us, it’s all about going forward after these releases, and going from there really.

You guys have a great social media presence – do you think that social media makes it easier for emerging bands to put themselves out there, or more difficult?

Jacob: Both – I think it makes the market more saturated, because every time you go on social media you’ll scroll down and see ‘the next band that you should like,’ kind of thing. We like to portray ourselves in a human sort of way, and I think that that hopefully makes us stand out a bit from the rest.

When we took our break to re-evaluate, we also did some research and considered how to re-approach our social media as well, and that’s really paid off. Our drummer Sam [Dorrington] did most of that to be fair, and it’s incredible, the change and interaction we’ve had since going forward with this new approach.

Shooting the music video. Taken from @mockingjaysband

Lewis: I think everyone has mixed opinions – I think it it’s upsetting in a way that bands have to become businessmen at a very sort of early stage, and that’s when you should enjoy what you do – you always should. But in actual fact, because we do pretty much manage ourselves, it’s been really therapeutic and almost refreshing to do things for ourselves like that.

Which artists do you listen to for inspiration?

Jacob: It’s funny really, because we do have a lot of common links in music – Lewis and I do love Arctic Monkeys, and their new album is just incredible. It’s my favourite album they’ve done. I love that they’ve gone experimental with it. I think, whereas perhaps two years ago we would’ve taken influence from the vibe and the guitars and that ‘indie’ style, now we’re really trying to almost separate ourselves from that, and really we want to do something different.

It’s challenging because there are so many people doing so many different things, but now that we’ve got to a place we want to be, it’s sort of going down this funky, pop sort of route. A lot of the new stuff we’re planning on bringing out is totally different – I don’t want to spoil it or anything, but I’d say they’re definitely worth checking out.

Lewis: I feel the songs we’ve got out at the minute – Sex on the Beach and Take You Home – they were our first singles in experimenting a new sound.

There are common musical interests within the band, like Arctic Monkeys, even Oasis and old school bands like Led Zepplin, to modern bands like The 1975. But then we do have our separate interests – our drummer Sam always says, ‘from ABBA to Anthrax.’ Individually it’s very different, and that adds to the melting pot of what we are.

There have been a lot of mixed opinions on Arctic Monkey’s latest album – what’s your verdict?

Jacob: When it first came out I remember we stayed up so we could listen to it as soon as it came out. I played it through and my initial thoughts were, ‘I’m really worried I’m not going to get it,’ and I had to give it chance. I think after the third time, it did make me think of that statement [that a lot of people have said that the album is ‘elevator music’] and yeah, it is. But that’s not a bad thing! Who else is doing that right now? That’s so cool.

Lewis: We’ve always liked the way Arctic Monkeys reinvent themselves every album. We support any artist who tries to progress – and I think that whatever that progression is, if you follow an artist, and you ‘get’ what it is that they’re doing, you’ll support them in whatever they do, and you’ll be interested in the change.

The Mocking Jay’s next gig will be ‘Don’t Forget Rupert’ @ Rescue Room in Nottingham on August 11th. You can buy tickets through the event’s Page on Facebook.

Follow the band on social media to keep updated with everything they get up to: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter