Ahead of their Arctic Monkeys support slot, Exposed meets Mabel Love.
All 10,000 tickets for the hometown show that Mabel Love have booked for the summer sold out instantly. It’s pretty good going for a band that’s played less than ten gigs in Sheffield.
Okay, so that’s not quite the full picture. There’s another band called Arctic Monkeys on the bill, which might explain the demand. Even so, you don’t get to play Don Valley without doing something right.
For someone to think your band is worth including in such a prestigious line-up as the Arctic Monkeys’ homecoming shows, you’ve got to be pretty good.
Bassist George Moran explains, it was Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders who saw Mabel Love play in London, and was impressed. “We got it on merit,” insists frontman Richard Rice, as the pair sit upstairs in The Bowery and consider what it means to be performing with Arctic Monkeys.
Rice elaborates: “They wouldn’t put us into a situation if they didn’t think we were ready for it. It’s nice for fellow musicians to say we’re good enough to play in front of 10,000 people, because if we’re not up to scratch, it puts a bit of a sour taste on their gig.”
Fortunately, Mabel Love have had a while to prepare. The band, completed by guitarist Dan Whitehouse and drummer David Mitchell, formed just under two years ago, after they’d played gigs together in different bands. Since then, they’ve only managed to play around half a dozen gigs in Sheffield, juggling the music with jobs in vintage fashion and private sector health insurance.
It’s been a slow process when compared to the story of, say, The Vaccines, who’ll play the first leg of the Arctic Monkeys’ Don Valley shows, a day earlier than Mabel Love. So why the hold-up?
Rice: “The fact of the matter is they write great songs.”
Moran: “And we’ve spent two years because it needed two years.”
Rice: “If we didn’t have jobs we could have crammed into six months what’s taken us two years.”
The sound that Mabel Love have developed over those two years is one that’s indebted to the 1980s. Echo & The Bunnymen and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are key reference points, casting a gloomy shadow over their music. There’s a rumbling despair in the reverb-drenched guitars, as frustration builds and the drums lash out.
The force of it is sure to give the rafters of the Queens Social Club a good shake when the band play the venue on St George’s Day this month. As a gig venue, it’s still new, but it’ll suit Mabel Love just fine – you’ll find Rice at the bar of the Queens Road boozer before most Sheffield United matches. (Mitchell, as it happens is an Owls fan, but as Rice puts it: “We both know they’re rubbish so none of us can brag about it”.)
In some ways, there’ll be more pressure on Mabel Love when they play the Queens Social Club than when the play Don Valley. It’ll be their biggest ever headline show, albeit one that’s off the beaten track of the local circuit. “I feel proud to be doing a social centre, just because of my heritage,” says Rice, looking back on the working men’s clubs and community centres he’s played over the years. “If we could go back to that circuit, that’d be reyt good, because they’re proper venues.”
Recently though, the band have made do with a couple of quick tours of Scotland, travelling from show-to-show in a Bongo Friendee. You know, those people carriers that have a sort of two-man tent that lifts out of the roof? No, I didn’t understand it either, but it sounds like fun.
Rice: “We had an afternoon off and went to this beach and there were a reyt posh golf course and we rode straight through it. We slowed down until we saw this kid, and just as he were about to tee off, we tooted the horn and he screwed up. And when he looked up we were all giving him the peace sign.”
Pranks aside, apparently a summer night spent sleeping in a Bongo Friendee can be life-threateningly humid. “We felt like we’d been dug up,” says Rice. “Brushing our teeth in a car park while people are going to work”.
It’s a lifestyle Mabel Love would happily adjust to though. “We do kind of crave doing it properly,” says Moran. “Playing before a large audience every night. I think it would suit us just fine.”
If Mabel Love build on the momentum of the Queens Social Club gig, the Don Valley show and their debut single due out around the same time, they surely won’t be waiting too much longer for this to become a reality. “As a band, we feel like we’re pretty much ready now,” says Moran. “Everything is sort of coming together.”
If nothing else, Mabel Love will have their local knowledge of the volatile Sheffield crowds to rely on in June. It’s more than can be said for some, as Rice can testify: “I was speaking to the other lads that are coming up, The Vaccines, and they’re cacking themselves.”
Mabel Love play the Queens Social Club on April 23. They support Arctic Monkeys at Don Valley Bowl on June 11 with Anna Calvi and Miles Kane. Head to www.mabellove.co.uk for more.