In the MMODE: Thom Gaffney on Belfast sibling duo's debut album
Rising from the ashes of their previous band Southern, MMODE is the new project from Belfast-bred siblings Thom and Lucy Gaffney. David Roy quizzed Thom about the indiepop duo's newly released self-titled debut album and starting again following his brush with illness
HI THOMAS, congratulations on the new album. How does it feel to finally have a full-length debut out there for people to get to grips with?
Thanks a lot. We've been so busy lately that the days leading up to the album being released went flying by – which was probably for the best or we would have been thinking about it too much.
The response has been amazing so far and very fulfilling considering we finished the album back in February. It's been really interesting to hear which songs are standing out for people, especially some tracks we never considered being peoples' favourites like [album closer] Sometimes In Life which is the most stripped-back, acoustic song on the album.
For the most part, the MMODE sound is quite different to Southern – apart from the more stripped-back songs, perhaps. Was there a conscious decision to 'reset' things in this way while also exploring new sounds?
Yeah, you're right – in fact a few of the songs on our album were originally written for our debut Southern album which was never released.
We used some recordings' stems from our studio sessions a couple of years ago with Mark Rankin (Queens of The Stone, Iggy Pop, Adele) and a lot of those recorded instruments created a basis to build from for MMODE.
It was almost like collaborating with ourselves in the past, making the process quite nostalgic, which also enhanced the general theme of our lyrics at the time.
Beginning a new project wasn't something that entered our minds for quite a while after returning home but, when the time was right and we set ourselves up in a home studio, the urge to get back into it all again came quite quickly.
You were forced to put the London-based Southern on hold and return home to the north due to illness. However, without that break and subsequent downtime, MMODE might never have happened. Are you able to be philosophical about such a painful period at this point?
Returning home in 2015 definitely felt like the end of an era and having to put everything on hold as we were set to release an album etc was pretty frustrating, but over the next several months we saw the 'curve ball' in a different light.
We embraced our lives being a bit slower paced in Belfast, giving me a chance to recover properly and also allowing to us be able to reflect on the past few years of our work as musicians.
Eventually, I guess we did start to be philosophical about it all and saw it as a blessing in disguise as MMODE is really what we want to be doing and we love how this project doesn't necessarily pigeon hole us into a genre.
We're able to blend our love of alt-rock, jazz, folk, hip-hop and trip-hop into one big dreamy sound and who knows where we'll go next. That's the exciting thing for us so, in hindsight, we can say to ourselves this all needed to happen to get to this point.
All we know is we're making the music we always wanted to make.
What is your favourite song on the new record and why?
For both of us we have a personal attachment to Sunrise In Belfast as we finished the majority of it in a few hours one day late into the morning and turned to each other and said, “This is cool!”
This was the song that gave us the confidence to start our new project and left us thinking that we could even do the whole thing in our home studio. It had all the textures and tones that we carried through into the other songs that ended up on the album and outlined the general vibe and vision.
It also has a great name that sums up how Belfast, in a way, saved everything for us and made us want to continue being musicians again.
On top of that, it was also a lot of fun recording Belfast jazz musicians Linley Hamilton (trumpet) and Lewis Smith (saxophone).
Lucy seems to be singing lead more with MMODE – has that been a natural evolution for the pair of you?
I've always liked Lucy's voice when she leads a track. I'd actually be a fan of Lucy's voice if I didn't know her! At times she did take lead with our previous band so there was always a hint of her potential back then.
My ill health specifically affected my throat and I found it very hard to sing for a long time so Lucy said, “Why don't we try something new, set up a studio and I'll do all the singing?”
You'd think that a singer having to give up and pass the torch to someone else would be kind of depressing, but it wasn't at all. I was able to sit back from it and take on the producer role and also take my guitar playing in a totally new direction.
Have you missed playing live this past while and what's your gig diary for the end of the year and 2018 looking like?
Yeah, it was crazy how long we stopped gigging for! It must have been about two years. Considering we were on tour all the time previously it was a big change and I think the lack of it in our lives was a real buzzkill.
We've been gigging a good bit since we launched MMODE in August. Our debut show was supporting The Psychedelic Furs and a couple of weeks later we also played with Badly Drawn Boy. We also got to play a couple of great shows at Belfast Culture Night which was a lot of fun to be a part of.
On December 20 we're supporting [Derry punks] Touts at the Top of The Town in Omagh. They're doing very well at the moment, gigging with Liam Gallagher and The Amazons, so it's going be a great night and our first in Omagh.
2018 is looking very exciting with a show at Output Festival in Belfast already booked for February 8. We're planning our tours at the moment so we'll be announcing shows really soon. We can't wait to get back on the road
Finally, what do you want for Christmas?
A nice long holiday somewhere hot and to actually completely skip Christmas and the cold weather this year.
:: MMODE's debut album is out now, find them online at MMODEband.com