With new single 'Apocalypso' breaking into the lower reaches of the charts and with a hotly anticipated new album out in September, R13 caught Jonas (JS) and Johan (JN) of Danish indie progsters Mew in relaxed mood before the Manchester gig of their July UK tour.

R13:For the benefit of those not familiar with Mew, how would you describe your music?
JN: Well I was actually thinking about that today, I'm going to jump in at the deep end so I guess you could call it melodic progressive rock.
JS: It's so difficult, there's an ambivelence towards the expression 'progressive rock'.
JN: It's not pop and it's not really rock.
JS: I think it has pop sentiments.
JN: Yes but it's not what you would call pop! (to R13) What would you call it?
R13:I think that's probably as close as you're going to get!
JN:Without saying something really long! haha

R13:You've just finished a tour with REM, that must have been pretty amazing?
JS: Yeah it was great.
R13:How did that come about?
JS: Well over the past couple of years we have had the pleasure of befriending Michael Stipe, we met through mutual friends. He came down and saw us when we played in New York and he liked it a lot, we kept in touch and went to see them play when we were recording in LA and afterwards we were just talking and he asked us if we wanted to tour with them.
R13:What sort of reaction did you get from the fans on that tour?
JS: I think decent you know, pretty good.
JN: From decent to quite good, it's always difficult being the support act and when you're playing to 20,000 people it's 20,000 times as hard! Of course they're there to see REM but I think that the music we play kind of demands your attention so it's hard to nod off! Once we start playing you either have to leave or stay pretty focused on what's going on on stage. I think it went down quite well actually.

R13:Your new single (Apocalypso) was released in the UK last week, what's the reaction been to it?
JS: Pretty well, it's always a shock because the last record came out in 2003 and people who listen to our music have had a lot of expectation and I think they all make their separate idea of what it's going to be like. So the first time they heard something new they were really split up, there were some saying 'Oh this doesn't sound like Mew' and others really liked it. I think after they heard another song, then another they really started to be positive.

R13:You have a pretty unique sound, so in terms of the new album is it more of the same or have you moved things on since 'Frengers'?
JN: Sound wise I think we're still in the same region as we were before, we tried to make it a bit more raw, a bit more edgy, which actually suits it quite well. In terms of songwriting and arrangements it's quite a leap forward, it's hard to talk about it if you haven't heard it.
R13:I've heard a sampler
JN: It's kind of an album though where it's a shame just to play fragments of it, it's a body of work, all the songs flow together. The idea was to write it as one long song basically, which is kind of an old school thing to do.
JS: Daring!
JN: We wanted to bring out what we thought were the strong elements of the band, we'd always had that dream of creating that classic album body of work where everything just fits together and to a certain extent we've succeeded with that. It was sort of a need that the band had to get that out of the way, so you can cross that off the list, concept album done! Haha
JS:We took what we think is unique about our band and took it more to extremes this time. I think it's a challenging record to listen to but it's very rewarding. We try and make songs that the first time you hear it something speaks to you, but also layers that will keep you coming back.

R13:You set up your own label (Evil Office) to release your material in the early days, was it hard to give that up when you signed to a major or did you see it as a means to an end?
JN: Actually we still have it running, we still release our records in Denmark on Evil Office. I think there's a little bit of a kid in there somewhere still fighting to be independent. It feels good to have that little kid in there still, even though it's not on a major scale but we're so torn because we also want to sell a lot of records and we want to have the push that a major label can give you in order to go on tour and just to get released, to go the indie route is very difficult. It wasn't really a choice but looking back we're just happy that we got to keep Denmark out of the deal and I think that gives us some kind of street cred with the kids, it provides us with something to fall back on one day or if we decide to release other peoples' records.
JS: It's kind of a cool little hobby to have.

R13:Did you manage to retain creative control?
JS: That wasn't really part of the contract, we haven't received any pressure from the label to do certain things.
JN: I think they got the idea that we're a very self made band, we'd been going for five or seven years before we got signed so we knew what we were and what we were good at and what we weren't so good at. We just bought into the 'well let's go and have that package' which meant that there wasn't a big need to change stuff around.

R13:You're touring the UK at the moment and you're back in the UK in September, what's been your experience of the UK?
JS: The last record we played here a lot.
JN: We did two stretches of about 30 gigs.
JS: Our fan base here is very loyal.
JN: Very loyal and very enthusiastic and it's just been growing ever since we started, kind of the old story about the hard working touring band, which we never thought we were going to be but the amount of success we've had here so far is definitely due to the fact that we've been touring and nothing else really. We didn't get a lot of press on the last record or a lot of airplay because times were different but those fans are still sticking around and have been since the last record. As this is the country we've been touring most, even more so than Denmark nearly, it feels a bit like a homecoming when you come back here. I think the audience can sense that we're happy to be here and that it's a cool for us.

R13:You use quite a lot of projections and films during your live set, do you see that as an integral part of the Mew experience?
JS: Well with REM we played in daylight so we couldn't use it, it's not really necessary but it is an extra bombardment of the senses, an extra emphasis on the emotions of the songs. I think our film show is quite unique, there are lots of bands doing that now but they usually just rip off films from something else but this is like really made from the ground.

R13:Considering the glowing reviews you received for the last record is it surprising that you haven't had more success?
JN: No, I think we really got an inside look on how it works in Britain last time round, it's hype, it's about certain magazines writing about you and you can be quite shitty but if they want to write about you people will grow to accept that they have to like you or whatever. It's quite shocking as it's different from where we come from but it's a game and it's a game that we've kind of had to play. We were sad because we thought the record deserved a lot more attention and deserved to reach a lot more people but having said that we're not naive and we can see how it's working here. We were just at the wrong time in the wrong place I would say. This time around it seems that there's more emphasis on being yourself and sticking out doing your own thing and that's we've always believed in and I think is a characteristic of all great bands, they aren't just trying to rip off their parents record collection! It has to grow out of somewhere special and that somewhere special is within, of course you are influenced by other stuff but that core of the band sound has to come from within the four or five guys, it's not something you can pluck off the shelf or steal from another band.

R13:So when you were starting out how did you decide what direction the band was going to take?
JS: I think when we started out we were more influenced by other bands, I think you always are when you start a band.
JN: Yeah, we were lousy players to be honest when we started so playing other people's tunes was harder than just coming up with our own. We were just lucky in the beginning that what came out didn't sound like what our friends were listening to, it got us excited because it just sounded like something weird coming from somewhere that we couldn't put our finger on. It's not something you can calculate, you've either got it or you don't got it within the group and you can ask U2 and they'll probably tell you something similar that it comes from somewhere within.

R13:Have you kept the same line up from the start?
JS: Yeah
R13:In terms of where you are now with your sound do you think that's helped?
JS: The fact that we grew up together, I've known these guys since I was six years old, many of the things we've been through would have broken us if we hadn't known each other for so long.
JN: Oh yeah of course, I think that's a crucial part of making it in a struggling band, if you're going to make it to the other side you either have to be quite lucky or you've got to be really good friends.

R13:Ok, who wrote that damn game on your website?! Don't get me wrong it's very good but it's also very annoying!
JS: haha did you make it through the levels?
R13:I couldn't get past the bloody maze, even when I got the gun!
JS: I'm making a new level actually.
JN: oooh upgrade!

R13:Is there a long term plan for Mew?
JS: Just to keep making music that we like to keep us interested and if we can sell more records than we have so far and get more people listening to it then great.
JN: We know that if we really want to sell lots of records then we're making the wrong kind of music so it's not really about that, it's more about just being able to continue doing what we do, which requires a certain amount of record sales if we want to go to the studio or do tours. We also have an ambition of our band growing all the time though, the last record sold 150,000 copies worldwide, which is decent and this time around I would be lying if I said 150,000 would be fine. It should be doubled! You have to set yourself goals being in a band otherwise you stagnate and I think it helps the creativity to have something to work toward, whether it be career wise or musically.
JS: It's weird because it's so hard to measure your own success, is it by record sales? Because we can never be as successful as say 'Aqua' so how do we define it?
JN: We used to say one million records and we've made it! Haha It's also just some weird thing inside you that just feels like your satisfied, I don't know if we'll ever be.
JS: Once you're satisfied you lose it.
JN: At this point it's about different things, it's not about outselling the last one, it's that we have to do something different. It would be great for this kind of music to sell a million records.
JS: When you're used to selling limited editions of records and then you sell 150,000, then you start thinking we can do better etc etc. To me it's not the most important thing.
JN: That's part of success as well though, that ambition.
JS: We just want to be able to make a living!

R13:Are you at the stage where you can do this full time now?
JN:Yeah, which is really what matters, it doesn't matter about the mansion it's just that you can have a life and concentrate on doing what you love.
JS:It's a huge privilege.
JN:Yeah, you would wish that for everyone.

Mew release their next single in September accompanied by the album and a full length UK tour. The infuriating but rather cool Frengers game can be found here.