Sometimes, the best things take time. So given that Berwick 4-piece Won Mississippi had a five-year hiatus between debut Sleeping Spoons and the eventual follow-up Welcomes Careful Drivers, fans of the band realised that a third album wasn’t exactly imminent. And given a major lineup change – Patrick Baird replacing original vocalist Martin McCleary – some might have feared they had heard the last of a band who garnered rave reviews for their previous releases (4K from Kerrang! as well as the inevitable wibbling from itm? itself).
However all was well in Berwick and 2009 saw We Are, Are We Not, Natives, eventually appear. And ever-present guitarist and lyricist Rob Wilkinson broke cover to talk to us…
itm?: Why so long between the last album and this?
RW: You noticed that, too? Well, there was a lot of good telly on. In truth I had nothing to say in those intervening years between “Drivers” and “Natives” and was looking for a way to make something that wasn’t a “sequel” to the album that went before. We decided that it had to be more “up.” It would have been easy to make another “Drivers” with all the claustrophobic sex and death imagery and we really needed a challenge. Eventually we decided not to force it and just wait. It would be ready when it was ready. Obviously losing Martin exacerbated the hiatus. We had to get used to writing for a new narrator.
Had you realised that with Patrick being Scottish you will sneak across the border, what with the Scottish accent being heard rather more these days?
That was never really an issue for us. We’d all performed in a band together before (albeit at different times in that band’s [Esme] history) and was an obvious choice for us. It has also re-invented a lot of the older songs. They seemed new again, which was a relief, and it’s a pleasure rather than a chore to play them again.
Are you still isolated way down there from the Scots scene, or is the north of England any more fertile a scene for you?
We’ve played a few gigs in Edinburgh, Newcastle and Glasgow recently. But we’ve never been a “touring” band. We prefer to do one-offs or a handful of dates here and there. Keeps folks on their toes. Also, I get really home sick.
The Won Mississippi sound has changed and developed over the years, but to me it seems that the likes of Biffy Clyro have come round to sounding a wee bit more like yourselves. Have you been listening to different stuff since you started out, or are you aware of your sound changing?
There is a different feel to this album. I think simply having Pat’s voice front and centre as such an obvious departure from Marty’s conversational/confessional style has given the songs a more traditional melodic drive. We have grown up a bit. I suppose our musical tastes have changed and broadened a bit. Things like Sun Kil Moon, Sona Di (Berwick avant-guard instrumentalists) and Men Diamler have shown up on our radar recently.
Would you say there’s still an emo element to your sound or would you keep quiet about it now emo’s not ’emo’ any more?
Ah, the great “emo” debate. I believe the term for what we do is now “post-hardcore” and emo is now basically goths with Get Up Kids records and bullet-proof fringes. I think we’re of an age where, were we to adopt that style, we’d look a really silly. Maybe when we have our collective mid-life crisis that might happen. The early signs are all there.
We Are, Are We Not Natives is out now – more at