Mew frontman Jonas Bjerre has worked on the projections for the band’s live shows since their early days. Usually, the Danish trio finish an album and Bjerre gets to work on the visuals. For their seventh record, though, the singer decided to turn things upside down, working on the visuals first and seeing if they informed the music. The resultant record feels like a culmination for one of rock’s most ambitious and inventive groups: Visuals is where Bjerre and his bandmates, bassist Johan Wohlert and drummer Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen, join the dots of a career that has spanned over two decades.
“We do everything on this album ourselves,” says Bjerre. “We produced it ourselves, I did the artwork, I’m doing the visuals. Visuals felt like a fitting title. I like the idea that each song has a visual aspect to it somehow.”
Mew have a tradition of, as Bjerre puts it, hiding away in a cave for three or four years between albums. The tour that accompanied 2015’s +- album found the band reaching a creative peak that they felt was too exhilarating to be dampened by a period of extended cave-dwelling. They arrived home with demos that had been written on the road and the spark was lit. They wanted to break the cycle and make an album quickly. “We just felt like, “if we do it the normal way, it’s gonna be another three or four years before we get to do it again’,” says Bjerre. “If you keep doing it like that, ultimately you make a handful of albums and then you’re ready for retirement.” The trio wanted to make an album spontaneously, keeping the energy they’d generated on the road going.
They set to work in Copenhagen and started knocking the demos they’d written on tourbuses and in hotel rooms into shape. At the same time, new songs were emerging in reaction to what was going on around them. Mew aren’t a political band but couldn’t help but be affected by rolling news and the death of an icon. “It was pretty dark last year, so some of the darkness in the lyrics comes from that. You definitely get the feeling that things don’t last forever when someone like David Bowie dies.” Visuals was completed in just under a year – what Bjerre describes as an “incredible” feat for a band used to periods of prolonged tinkering. “Spending less time on it, you can still maintain the feeling you had when you first wrote it,” says Bjerre.
MONAKR is an ethereal deep-pop group formed by Grammy-nominated artist Matthew Santos (featured vocalist on Lupe Fiasco’s Superstar) and Saam Hagshenas and Jonathan Marks, formerly of indie band Hey Champ. Having tried to collaborate for years, the timing and music came together in 2015 with Diamond, a song written by Hagshenas after he lost a family member. Santos added his incredible vocals to the track, and the result led the two to decide this collaboration should live beyond a single song.