Tobias Hayes Paul and I had played together in our previous band Push to Fire. He also used to be in a band with Benny called Escanna. They were fucking awesome. Stef (Shield Your Eyes) and I used to go and watch Escanna pretty much just to watch Paul drum. He played so creatively, and then usually jumped through his kit at the end of each show. Man, they were rad.
Anyways, the idea for MMISL originally was to be a bit like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a 3 piece, Benny on guitar, Paul on drums, and me on vocals. We soon realised this wasn’t gonna work. Paul knew Oli from around Guildford, and asked him to come in for a jam. He was rad from the start, so we began writing. I guess that was around February 2005?
We had ads out on Myspace and wherever looking for bassists, and found Lewis quite quickly. We had our first show with him in June in Folkestone, thanks to Jairus. They were a BSM band, and asked us to come down and play. By the end of that night, we had agreed to go on tour with them over in Eastern Europe.
‘Didn’t We Meet Somewhere Like This in ’98?’
Paul Phillips I’ll always look back at St Louis with a tremendous feeling of achievement and I will always treasure the relationship I had with those lads. Luckily I still get to play with them regularly in my other band, the only person I don’t see is Ben, but we had a reconciliation just last month and are back in contact so all is well in the world.
Tobias Hayes I remember most of the recording for the first ep. Alexander Ross Petersen (Vincent Vocodoer Voice, Love Among The Mannequins, Amatuers) recorded us at our rehearsal space under the railway bridge next to Guildford station.
“I guess that was the first time I had sung without the din of the band drowning me out. All my previous bands were just noise, it didn’t matter how good/bad my voice was, but all of a sudden, I was in a band that needed me to actually sing. I remember feeling pretty disheartened. Everyone else was so talented, but my singing was real wonky. But after I came to terms with the recording, got a bit of distance, I sort of didn’t give a shit.”
– Tobias Hayes
Tobias Hayes We did it in one session. We just smashed them out as far as i can remember. Maybe first or second take for each one. Then we chose the takes I was going to sing to, packed down, and set up the mic for vocals. They were hard.
I guess that was the first time i had sung without the din of the band drowning me out. All my previous bands were just noise, it didn’t matter how good/bad my voice was, but all of a sudden, I was in a band that needed me to actually sing. I remember feeling pretty disheartened. Everyone else was so talented, but my singing was real wonky. But after I came to terms with the recording, got a bit of distance, I sort of didn’t give a shit.
Paul Phillips It was a very remedial recording, we just booked a four hour slot at our rehearsal space Backline in G-town. We set up some mic’s in the room and just blasted through the songs as tight as we could. It was pretty slapdash and listening to the recordings now it’s pretty dreadful. In fact I don’t think I’ve been particularly happy with any of our recordings.
I think there were a few overdubs but my memory is pretty hazy. As far as being pleased and it sounding like what we were after, I think we just wanted to hear the songs in some capacity where we could hear all the instruments, so in that respect I remember being pretty excited. The recording itself is flat and the kick sounds baggy as fuck. But I think for a lot of us it was a little taste of what we were hoping to achieve.
Oli Knowles I remember doing my backing vocals track on Corey Feldman; Paul and our buddy Stef (Shield Your Eyes) started pissing themselves laughing cos I screwed up my whole body when I sang. It was pretty funny to be honest.
“We weren’t overly precious as I think we were all aware that the purpose of the recording was to get it as far and wide as possible. It was more a means of promotion than a self-release. Now you’d probably just put it on Soundcloud but then we made a shitload of CD’s and would leave them in record shops, clothing stores and hand them out at gigs. I think showing our faces made a difference – it felt more personal.” – Oli Knowles
Tobias Hayes As far as writing goes, it was pretty organic. Songs would start with a riff, and they would get jammed on, and developed. Then we would make another section that was based on someone’s part for the previous section. This could be anything; a series of notes, a rhythm, anything, so long as there was a relationship between the sections. Other times, we would slam in a section we had written at a previous session that just ‘worked’.
I would sit and listen, and come up with melodies, offer suggestions, say if things weren’t working etc. I needed to be there. Coming up with vocals to that music would have been so hard if I didn’t know all the twists and turns off by heart. It was real important to know how the song came about, what ideas it came from, and where it was going. Knowing this stuff helps to write vocals that sound like they’re leading a song. That’s what I always aimed for anyways. When people listen to music, in my opinion, they’re drawn to the human side of it; the drums, the beats, the rhythms, or the vocals. There were so many rhythms going on, I wanted to make the vocals really good. I’m not sure I was a good enough singer to pull of the ideas I had, but I guess it was the five of us that made it what it was.
Paul Phillips The tracks themselves were written pretty quick I think, we were good at knocking material out quickly, hence the silly amount of riffs and changes in each song. We just seem to have great chemistry together and an almost unsaid understanding of each other and the music. We are also all extremely creative people with buzzy minds all constantly thinking of what could work here, or if that doesn’t work would it perhaps work at a different tempo etc. Those were the first three tracks we wrote and as soon as they were written we set about recording them. I was on a mission to get this band going as soon as possible as I had bad experiences in the past of working for months on bands only for them to split up before we even got gigging so I was determined to hit the ground running. We did.
Tobias Hayes We sort of had a plan. Paul was good at planning stuff like that. First three songs we wrote, recorded them, gave away a thousand CDs and put the tracks up on Myspace. Ta da!
Oli Knowles We weren’t overly precious as I think we were all aware that the purpose of the recording was to get it as far and wide as possible. It was more a means of promotion than a self-release. Now you’d probably just put it on Soundcloud but then we made a shitload of CD’s and would leave them in record shops, clothing stores and hand them out at gigs. I think showing our faces made a difference – it felt more personal.
Tobias Hayes We worked hard to get gigs, gave out a LOT of free CDs, maintained a busy internet presence, but after a while we didn’t have to try anymore. It just fell into place. Paul worked hard balancing a job and the band, then he left his job and we nailed the tours. I was homeless with part-time jobs which I would leave any time a tour came up, the others all worked part time. It was pretty full on.
At the start we were a four-piece. I wrote the bass and vocals. That first show at the Star in Guildford, there’s no vocals as I literally couldn’t play the bass lines whilst singing. We knew we needed a bassist, but didn’t wanna hold off until we got one. We figured that if we started gigging, it’d be the best way to meet the right dude for the job.
I loved playing bass anyways, and I wasn’t in the slightest bit precious about my parts, so I could just play what ever was needed for the song. It all came together so easy.
Paul Phillips At first it was a massive ballache getting shows, in hindsight we should have shelled out on a proper studio recording and pushed it around, but we were all very poor and couldn’t afford it. Myspace had just started to become popular and so we started messaging likely promoters and other bands seeing if there was anything going slot wise for a young band that nobody had heard of. I would literally get home from work and started messaging people, I’d do this every day until about eleven at night. We got few replies.
One of the replies was Dan Lucas from Jairus, he was really into the songs and said he could get us on the bill supporting them in their home town of Folkstone. Lewis joined and learned the five songs (we had written two during the period of recording and sorting it all out), and that became our first proper show with a full line-up. Anyhoo, that show went ok, we were very static and nervous, but we seemed to go down ok, and off the back of it Dan asked if we wanted to come on tour with them and Secondsmile to Eastern Europe. So we did, and it was awesome.
Oli Knowles Playing live was up there as the most important thing next to creating the songs in the first place. We played as often as we could. Our first ever tour was in Eastern Europe with Jairus and Second Smile before we’d even put out ‘And With The Right Kind of Eyes…’. That tour was like nothing I’d ever experienced or most likely will experience in my life. It was incredible.
I was fortunate to have a flexible job so could tour and come back but getting the hours to make rent and put money back into the band became increasingly stressful. That’s when we convinced Kev to put our album out.
Tobias Hayes Eastern Europe was something else. I mean, I had never been to any of those places. I was totally swept up in how quickly we had landed our first tour. I just remember feeling very lucky, really.
It was the best feeling. Our band was new. We were just starting out, and things were just falling into place. That was where I first met Kev BSM. He came in the van with us (the van… it was a big hire thing.. rad as heck, with a trailer. And a driver, whom we called Baz. He didn’t speak a word of English and we didn’t speak any Latvian, plus he didn’t really like us. He was a kinda sports dude, always in tracksuits. Double hard fitness man. I have no idea how he landed the job of driving us around…).
I mean, don’t get me wrong. Some of the tour was a slog… I think there was a 14 hour drive at one point.. but the overall feeling I get when I think back was how rad it was. How random and rad. Booze was dangerously cheap. Vodka. It was 2 weeks of vodka. A bottle was cheaper than a pint of beer is in the UK, most of that tour is a blur, but there are a lot of real good memories too.
We seemed to go down well… its hard to remember.. Poland was bleak.. but I don’t remember playing that night.. I mainly remember the rad shows, Budapest and Riga stand out.
Paul Phillips Kev from Big Scary Monsters was along for the ride and it was on that tour he signed us. Actually on the night he signed us we had just played a club in Riga, we were on such a high. Playing a sold out show in a club in a foreign country and had just been signed, we’d only been a band for about two months at this point. So I bought some champagne to celebrate at the bar, the guy put the bottle in front of me and turned around to get the rest of the drinks order and all of a sudden I felt a blow to the face. Right in my nose, my eyes began to water and I looked around the room to see where it had come from and to see if anyone saw. But there was nobody looking in my direction or particularly close to me. Confused I looked down to see the champagne bottle no longer had the cork in it.
Tobias Hayes I knew the boys from Function before the release, they were in a rad band called Lebatol. I had played with Lebatol in my old, old band, Strobe 45. I remember a show in Aldershot; us, them, and Escanna, who Function were already involved with.
Paul Phillips Function had put out the Escanna record and when Ben and I started working with Toby, Shane from the label became interested, and after hearing our demo we agreed that the first St.Louis release would come out on Function. FUNC010. As far as ‘getting it’… Shane’s a good guy with great taste and a true work ethic, of course he got it.
Tobias Hayes I don’t think the bands on Function were very busy at that point, and he knew we would tour, so he was happy with it all it think.
‘From twinkling fragility to straight-up indie rock to bone-snapping hardcore at a second’s notice. Their schizophrenic versatility is a wake up call!’ – Function Records
Oli Knowles We wrote ‘You Need to Act…’ around the same time as the tracks from the previous EP. We pretty much went straight into writing it and didn’t really stop. In fact, I can’t recall a time when we weren’t writing. It was only really until the album was released that we took a step back on it and tried to tour harder.
Tobias Hayes The songs on the EP are just the first songs we wrote. I mean, we had that demo CD we were giving out, but we wanted to release something properly. We just recorded where we were at and it was mixed by OZ at Hidden Track in Deal, Kent.
Paul Phillips Oz was recommended to us by Jairus whilst we were on tour together, we all dug the sound of their ep that he had just done so it made sense, it was a great experience and I think we can all count Oz as a friend now.
Tobias Hayes I think Lewis joined when we were half way through recording… I seem to remember, and I could be wrong, we were half way through ‘…Dylan…’ when he joined. You can hear it in the songs. The whole start of that song the bass parts are simple, but then towards the end, all the tapping starts.. that’s the start of Lewis.
Paul Phillips We weren’t present for the mastering, and to be honest, I couldn’t really tell the difference at the time between the mastered and unmastered versions. I think I put it down to an under developed ear for production, but I think about it now and I’m convinced it just wasn’t a particularly great master. But at the time we were very happy with it, we were actually staying with Jairus in Kent at the time and I remember us all listening back to the finished product and getting drunk in their kitchen. Good times.
Tobias Hayes At that point, all I knew is that I wanted everything to sound like Albini had recorded it. But I didn’t know how to achieve this. I kinda took a back seat with all that. I’m not into the production on the EP, but at that point, I was sort of used to coming away with recordings I didn’t like. Nowadays I know what I have to do to get the kinda vibe I like, but back then, I just didn’t know what was what. I remember the drive back, listening to the CD over and over in the car. I really hated my singing, and I didn’t like how the whole thing sounded. But, everyone else seemed happy, and I just focused on the good points. I just didn’t know enough about recording to have any valuable input. I think the main thing was that we had an EP and it sounded like a vast improvement to our demo CD. Guess I was just riding the wave of progress.
Oli Knowles I think given the time we had to do it, it came out pretty well. I personally was happy with the outcome. In hindsight there are little things here and there but if you have all the time in the world to make a record there’s a danger of over thinking every detail. I don’t think it’s those details that make record special. There were definitely shivers for me. I think ‘Druggist’ is the best song we’ve ever written.
Tobias Hayes The strings on the record, that’s all Oli. Talented dude! I played guitar for ‘You Said Your Finger Was A Gun’.
Paul Phillips I figured Suzi was a good single, it had the best responses fan wise and it was single length and probably the most palatable track on the ep so we chatted and agreed on it.
Tobias Hayes Suzi just seemed to be popular, always went down well live. We had a friend called Jarvis… he used to shout out during our set ‘PLAY THE HIT!’.
Paul Phillips So when we decided to make a video, we asked Kev from BSM if he had any swap and he suggested Sitcom Soldiers. It was such a fun (but knackering) day. We filmed it at the place that our friend Stef (who played guitar with Toby and I in Push to Fire and went on to form Shield Your Eyes) was living in at the time, for a pound a month I seem to remember.
Oli Knowles The landlord let it to them cheap to keep squatters out. We got a bunch of other people up and we all drank together and shot the video. I remember being a bit annoyed that I didn’t have more space to bounce around! It was a lot of fun though.
Tobias Hayes That place was crazy. I went to visit Stef after he moved in, it was just full of stuff. Just full. I found a neat pair of yellow sneakers in there that I kept for ages. Big place. It was right next to Manor House tube station in London. Now its a building site.
Paul Phillips We put a plea out for people to come down and have a party and look as uninterested in us as possible. It was kind of an anti video to all the narcissistic videos full of sycophantic fans creaming their knickers over the posturing band.
Tobias Hayes I think the ideas for that video were all kinda vague… and by the end of the day, most of us were drunk, and [Sitcom Soldiers] were just trying to get as many shots as they could. Paul decided to bring a load of his favourite t-shirts, and change his shirt between every take. The whole scissors, paper, stone thing, I’m pretty sure it was all their idea. By that point I was just hanging with the dudes partying… was a pretty full on night that one.
Paul Phillips We drank the whole day and by the time we had finished I’d drank myself sober, we then slept there and left the next day.
Paul Phillips I think we just saw the EP as the single itself, sort of a bumper single – after all that is essentially what an ep is (extended play) – and we just wanted to move on and get on with the record.
Tobias Hayes Yeah, I don’t think there was ever any talk about a single.. I think it just seemed pointless… the EP was always just a stepping stone to the album, which we started writing straight away.
Oli Knowles Alex [Newport] was one of a few producers that Paul had reached out to about doing a record with. I think out of all of them he responded really positively about the idea.
“‘Well You Damn Well Should’; I think that’s what sums up MMISL for me, yeah we could shred but never to the detriment of the melodic and emotional depth. Post-emo innit.” – Lewis Reynolds
Lewis Reynolds I’m pretty sure Paul had a few people he wanted to ask to produce it, and obviously Alex had worked on several records that we all enjoyed… He replied saying he was up for it and the rest is history!
Oli Knowles I think we ended up raising 2-3k which was pretty amazing. The overall cost was far greater but I couldn’t believe that we’d even raised as much as we did. It was incredibly heart warming.
Tobias Hayes Yeah we had to raise a whole bunch. Way too much. Think it was around 10k. I think we managed to raise a few hundred, which was amazing. At the time it seemed like a great idea, and while I don’t regret a thing, the idea is a bit cringe now. But it was cool to involve people in it, and we needed all the help we could get.
We had been writing flat out since the EP with the album in mind. We had some intensive sessions before Alex arrived, and even after he arrived. He had us slow down the tracks and tighten parts that didn’t make sense to him.
Lewis Reynolds We were very well rehearsed and had played hundreds of shows before we recorded, most of the songs had been finished for a while I think, perhaps with the exception of the reworked Champagne. We also did some preproduction rehearsals with Alex where he got us to slow down and adjust some parts which was definitely useful. I would say we were as ready as we could have been.
Tobias Hayes One song got left out. We re-worked Corey Feldman, but we were running out of time so we had to ditch something.
Lewis Reynolds It was a mad rush to get everything recorded and mixed in the time we had!
Oli Knowles Yeah, we had to ditch a re-work of Corey Feldman, but I’m kind of glad as I really like the original demo.
Tobias Hayes I used to live and work at a venue in Guildford. That situation came to an abrupt end right as we went into the studio to record Variations. So I was homeless and unemployed. I slept on the floor of the studio for the two weeks. Sometimes Alex would join me and we’d stay up drinking Irish coffees and chatting. My mate Deano happened to be engineering our sessions, he slept there too sometimes. I found him face down against the mixing desk one night, with his eyes open. He sleeps with his eyes open! I thought he was dead. He worked so hard he got ill. Then I got ill. Really ill. I couldn’t breathe in without coughing. I was gonna bail on the vocals but Newport forced me (in a totally friendly way).
“To be honest I don’t listen to the album, I heard those songs enough back then! Obviously I had to rinse them lately though… It’s funny listening again – takes me back to how the world felt back then.” – Tobias Hayes
Lewis Reynolds Alex was great in my recollection, very deadpan and really funny. I was real young at the time (19 I guess?) and he made me feel confident in my abilities as a musician. He was definitely a constructive and positive influence. Also he had some great stories, one I particularly enjoyed about Cedric and Omar of At The Drive-in/Mars Volta fame which involved a hotel room and a suitcase of drugs.
Tobias Hayes Alex was super dry and dead pan. I love being around dry people so I enjoyed it. He would have me cracked up and he’d be totally straight faced just looking at me like ‘what?’. Yea,h good cynical chats we had at night.
I got into coffee while recording there. Never looked back. Also got introduced to Autolux through Newport. Again, never looked back.
Oli Knowles Alex was cool. He was really calm throughout despite the fact there was no green room outside of the control room when we were tracking, so we were in there with him the whole time, probably being extremely irritating.
The recording part was fine, but everything else was testing. I was getting up early and driving everyone from Guildford to London every day and not getting home til early hours of the morning. A lot of waiting around and trying not to spend money. In hindsight we probably should have given the logistics a bit more consideration! But there you go.
Lewis Reynolds My main memories are my ridiculous hair (and clothes), napping in the studio, the magic unicorn, getting super ill towards the end, Benny the enigma, and pretending I could play bass(!).
Tobias Hayes These days I’m getting really into production for doing my own stuff, so I guess when I hear those songs now, I’m amazed at things like the separation on the drums and how well Alex managed to make everything sit together. You can listen to that record on your mobile phone and hear the bass guitar perfectly. Mental.
Lewis Reynolds I think that opening section of Well you damn well should is a favourite part of mine and a good reflection of what the band was really about at that point. Oli’s riff is crazy and I’m playing some quite hectic stuff as well but then you’ve got Benny’s lovely chords and Toby’s beautiful vocal line and, despite it being quite an intense piece of music, is still super emotive. To me anyway. I think that’s what sums up MMISL for me as well, yeah we could shred but never to the detriment of the melodic and emotional depth. Post-emo innit.
“My main memories are my ridiculous hair (and clothes), napping in the studio, the magic unicorn, getting super ill towards the end, Benny the enigma, and pretending I could play bass(!).”
– Lewis Reynolds
Oli Knowles It’s always cool to hear peoples favourite bits… I always really enjoyed playing …Druggist, I think that was the first track we wrote with Lewis in the band. The second half of What happened to you Dylan… is always really satisfying. I love being really locked in with everyone on the big power chords then exploding into polyrhythms and intricacy. The melodic picking part at the end of Come to New York is always a fave, and pretty much all of I’ve got Knives in my Eyes… was always super fun for me.
Lewis Reynolds I’ve listened to the record a whole bunch of times over the last few months to relearn all my parts. But before that I would probably only listen to it a few times a year if that. Sometimes for a bit of nostalgia and sometimes if I was showing someone else what I spent my formative years getting up to. I’m proud of it for sure.
Tobias Hayes To be honest I don’t listen to it, I heard those songs enough back then! Obviously I had to rinse them lately though… It’s funny listening again – takes me back to how the world felt back then.
Oli Knowles Toby left after the Hell is for Heroes tour. The Blakfish tour was a couple of months after and had been in place for a while. We were good friends with those guys and didn’t want to let the down, but also wanted to see how it went down instrumentally. We split up just before the end of that tour.
Lewis Reynolds We’d originally planned to recruit someone else on vocals once we’d got all our upcoming touring schedule out the way. We definitely never thought about cancelling any shows although we did end up not making it to a few on one tour due to illness, kind of a funny story goes with that actually. Wasn’t funny at the time though! Who knows what we were thinking when we did the shows without Toby just instrumentally. It was a crazy, emotional time for everyone I think.
Nine years later…
“The second half of ‘What happened to you Dylan…’ is always really satisfying. I love being really locked in with everyone on the big power chords then exploding into polyrhythms and intricacy. The melodic picking part at the end of ‘Come to New York…’ is always a fave, and pretty much all of ‘I’ve got Knives in my Eyes…’ was always super fun for me.”
– Oli Knowles
Lewis Reynolds Our friend Matt Pickering-Copley put together the plan for the shows and made us an offer. For the first time everyone was available and up for it.
Tobias Hayes My only condition was that all 5 of us do it, didn’t expect that everyone would be keen, but they were!
Oli Knowles There have been offers [to play new shows] for the past three or four years I think, but none of them seemed right at the time. This time everyone was available and up for it so it felt like it was probably a good time to do it.
We’ve fallen into a similar routine as before, practicing several times a week, except we all live in different places and are a lot busier! It’s been pretty good overall. The hardest part for me was remembering weird chord shapes.
Tobias Hayes We’re just back from 48 hour intensive rehearsal. We played so much yesterday that I thought I was gonna cry by the end of it! Exhausted. Was good though. Yesterday I started to feel like ‘We got this’. I was looking around at everyone mid song and feeling like everyone’s really starting to nail it. Muscle memory certainly plays a part, took me a while for it to kick in though!
Lewis Reynolds At this point we’ve rehearsed sooooo much for the shows as the first one is this week! Wasn’t much muscle memory left tbh and I certainly have to count some parts now that I never did before, but I guess that was to be expected after not playing the songs for nearly a decade!
Tobias Hayes Ha! Yeah it’s only just starting to feel real for me now.
James McDonald Would you consider writing new material?
Oli Knowles Nope! Sorry. haha. Everyone has new projects, musical or otherwise, that are taking priority. The idea was to do something where we round it all off together. We never played a proper outdoor festival, for example, so that feels like a good way to go out.
Tobias Hayes I think we’ve probably all got different answers for this question and for different reasons. everyone’s pretty busy doing other stuff these days. I’m proud of what we’ve done, but it was a long time ago and we’ve all probably moved on a fair bit artistically.
Lewis Reynolds We just wanted to put it to bed because we never did the first time around which is kinda sad. And now the people that never saw us before or got into the band after we split up can check us out! But never say never.
Oli Knowles Overall, I’m proud of what we did and I’m glad we’re giving it a proper send off.
Lewis Reynolds I joined MMISL when I was 17, I spent some of the most important, formative years of my life living, playing and touring with these guys. I don’t know if i can epitomise the feeling but I certainly learned a whole lot about music, myself and life in general while playing these songs and hanging out with these guys, I definitely wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t been a part of it.
I’m really proud of what we did and love the music we wrote and I guess that’s the main thing. We poured our hearts and souls into the band, music and live shows and despite there being some tough times and pushing ourselves to the limit in terms of song writing and touring, I have mostly only great memories of playing in St. Louis.
Positive vibes only yo!!!
Tobias Hayes I guess it helped me to know what I really want to do and what I really don’t want to do. Being a part an art project, that involves a few people, well it’s a great feeling. I want to always do that, as well as making my own stuff.
As you get older, you get a better idea of what you’re about. Also, I understand the value of doing this shit at all. It’s amazing to get 5 people together and work hard to get something done, especially something that other people appreciate. Nowadays it’s hard enough just to get 5 people in a room for one day!
The five original members of Meet Me in St.Louis will get together, for the last time, on the following days in the following places: