It’s been almost a year since we sat down with Johan Wohlert of Danish band Mew at The Fillmore–a fact that gives me an ironic laugh considering this album, Visuals, was their fastest in production yet. Amazing album, organic production time, and an incredibly long space of time until this writer was able to find time to sit down and put it down.
We met Johan inside their tour bus parked right outside of the Fillmore. This was the last leg of their North American tour, but you wouldn’t know it by the energy of the show that would follow the interview–in the true spirit of live performance, the last few shows are always the most magical, most synergistic. Johan is easygoing, measured, and welcoming to us.
I have pages of questions prepared, but somehow we end up talking about a long trip to California he took in his teens, couch surfing and skate park hopping. (The main lesson from my first interview ever? Don’t assume Ray can talk California skateparks indefinitely, but what a rad tangent we went down with Johan!). Chuckling, he reminisces calling his Mom from a pay phone from his various stops. If you didn’t know better, you’d place him as having grown up on the boardwalks of Venice beach.
As I touched on, Mew’s newest offering, Visuals, had a vastly different production process than their previous works. Whereas they’d traditionally take a year or so to produce, this album was put together in a matter of months largely because most of the material came from lead vocalist and principal lyricist Jonas Bjerre while on tour. The resulting pieces and show come off as a creative explosion. Jonas has written that he saw the visuals themselves before the music, and thus the album is a sort of atmospheric, experimental soundtrack. I was new to Mew, whereas Ray had come into it as a big fan. For a first time experience, I was incredibly impressed with the production value and overwhelming, transporting energy. You don’t need to be a long time fan of theirs to be swept away by their live show.
One of the most powerful themes from this album that the band has discussed involved the exploration of light in overwhelming darkness. The visuals from this album materialize like meditations on energy, being, and life. The video for “In a Better Place,” one of the defining tracks off the album, principally features a nebulous giant with glowing, radiant eyes–one of the recurring images from Visuals as a whole–dancing throughout psychedelic space with other beings. If the text description isn’t enough of an idea, fall down the video rabbit hole; you’ll get the picture. The video for “Carry Me to Safety,” with its accompanying visuals of kaleidoscope eyes set ablaze against a dark backgrop is a perfect example of this. This recurring theme of weird, celestial radiance in the face of velvety darkness brings to mind hope for this often dark, shadowy, and all together cookie cutter world we live in now. These small, gorgeous, cinematic and conceptual experiences are transformed by the band into an all-encompassing stage event that defies definition as just a live show.
The point is, Mew has created a stunning new album in Visuals with a timely energy–without sacrificing fan favorites when it comes to the live show. If you have the chance to catch this truly unique band as they continue to promote Visuals, take it! Trust me, you’ll be treated to a transportive, all-senses-engaged experience that will leave you as hooked as I am.