Mykket Morton had their breakout hit EP Traveller back in 2019, getting a quarter million plays on Spotify and appearances at a range of festivals including Dockville. They could have taken the money they made from this and moved from their hometown Kassel to a capital city – like most bands would – to make the follow-up release. But Mykket Morton decided instead to stay in Kassel, and invest their money into setting up a venue / recording studio / cultural centre in their hometown, FRANZulrich. You gotta respect that. Now they’re releasing a new album and what better time, we thought, than to ask them to explain the ideas behind their new release, Upside Down…
Noel Maurice for indieRepublik: Where does the name Mykket Morton come from?
Mykket Morton: The name is a fictional word that can loosely be translated to the german term „Viel mehr Ton“, which might be something like „Much more sound (or tone)“ in English. ‚Mykket‘ comes from the swedish word ‚mycket‘ which would be ‚viel‘ or ‚much‘ and ‚Morton‘ comes from the English word ‚more‘ and combination with the German word ,Ton’ (= ‚tone‘ or ‚sound‘)- ‚Mor(e)-Ton(e)‚=Morton .
Noel Maurice: You’ve experienced a deal of success with your earlier EP and decided instead of moving to the big city, you’d stay in Kassel and invest money in setting up a live venue, creative location and studio…where you not only recorded your music, but also record other bands. That sounds like the true indie ideal. Are you happy with your decision to stay in Kassel?
Mykket Morton:Even though Kassel is more of a small town compared to the creative melting pots like for example Berlin, it always had a vivid and inspiring music scene. In terms of motivation we are pretty sure that it definitely played a role to see Milky Chance, who are from Kassel, go through the roof out of nowhere.That gave a lot of young bands hope that nowadays good music can find its audience from anywhere. That is why you can find plenty of inspiration in Kassel but you still don’t have all the noise and hysteria and distraction like in the big cities which might be obstacles for the creative process and might even keep you from finding your own musical voice since I imagine that it can be very hard not to constantly compare yourself to others and not to compete with others if you live in a big city.
We are pretty confident to say that, comparing our latest release with the two older records, we are constantly moving towards our own musical voice which means that for me our music becomes more and more pure and real expression instead of an attempt of setting ourselves apart from other music. I feel like we are getting better in listening to what is inside ourself and expressing that musically and I think you need a certain quiet to be able to do that and Kassel definitely plays a part in that.
But staying in Kassel is definitely more than just focussing on finding our own creative voice. It is indeed also the conviction that life is way more fun if you invest in the community because culture is a phenomenon that cannot thrive in solitude. The ‚FRANZulrich‘ was initially born out of the desire to have a space where we could be creative 24/7. Since probably most artist dream of a place like that we got the idea to partner up with others and started to build this place that now has two practice rooms, a recording studio, a workshop, a bureau and most importantly the event room that can accommodate up to 120 people.
We did not know what to expect building ‚FRANZulrich‘ over the last two years but within a very short amount of time, long before we were close to finishing it, it became very clear that there is such a great need for cultural events afar from the big cities that we really made it our agenda to make Kassel a cultural hotspot. We were able to squeeze in a few test events just before the pandemic and were even able to make international contacts and get artists from the U.S. and the U.K. to play at ‚FRANZulrich‘ which was insane and really motivated us to build this thing further as soon as the situation allows it again.
As musicians we like the idea of not only being in a band and hoping for the best but instead really taking fate into your own hands and become a vital part of the culture by not only using existing cultural infrastructure but by building it yourself. This whole idea that culture is a collaborative effort became very rewarding to us and since we also benefited a lot from Kassels creative network already, as far as collaborations with filmmakers, event technicians and of course other musicians are concerned, we hope that ‚FRANZulrich‘ can become a place where we can give back to the community and where creatives gather and mingle and new cultural projects are being born.
Noel Maurice: Do you feel that living outside of bigger capital cities, with so much background noise, more conducive to being creative? Is it just small towns you like, or does Kassel have something special?
Mykket Morton: The one thing that can be said with absolute certainty about creativity is that there are as many ways to organize the creative process as there are people on earth which leads to the conclusion that there is no better or worse way when it comes to being creative. For us in this exact point of our development, a smaller town like Kassel is the right place to find our voice for the exact reasons you gave in your question.
But I am sure that for many people the stimulation that can be provided by the buzz of the big city is the key for their creative process which is just as legit, of course. The good thing about Kassel in general is that it is located almost exactly in the middle of Germany so you have reasonable traveling distances to any other part of Germany. But living in Kassel one major advantage is that the town is surrounded by green – in no time you are out in the woods to enjoy nature and recharge your batteries.
Noel Maurice: Do you feel that music would be less homogeneous if bands took your route more often?
Mykket Morton: Maybe that is true. If you believe that as a band you have to move to the big city in order to be successful you probably already have a distinct vision of what success means to you and of what you have to do to achieve that kind of success. But we think that these are presumptions that can be questioned and that need to be questioned because they tend to influence the creative process for sure.
That does not mean that being open to influences and searching for inspiration and feedback is a negative thing – not at all – but it means that if you go to the big city trying to get people to discover and promote you, there can be the temptation of instead of expressing your own voice artistically you tend to create art only to please a customer. Art like that is then shallow and not much more than a product which is boring from an artistic point of view.
But if you were to just define success differently you might end up with a plan of making a living as a musician that does not rely on being discovered as a band which probably helps to keep the creative process – the artistic side of things – free from decisions that are only motivated by the need to increase your reach.
If you don’t feel the urge to please in order to increase your reach you are probably more free to create art that is an authentic artistic expression. And i hope that in the long run this kind of authenticity and originality will attract the right people. People who value art and not just products.
Noel Maurice: What bands would you list as your biggest influences?
Mykket Morton: We are not sure if we are able trace back our musical influences by ourself but we can definitely tell you about the music we have been listening to a lot within the last year. Whether these musicians have found their way into our own music might not be up for us to decide but we would love to hear some thoughts on that for sure! We have been listening to Bonaparte, Half Moon Run, Mine, AB Syndrom, Van Holzen, Kind Kaputt, Fullax, Yukno, Alabama Shakes, Warpaint, Men I trust and many more. We made a Spotify playlist called ‚Lieblingsottos‘ – maybe some of you are interested in checking that out and letting us know if you can hear something of these artists in our music.
Noel Maurice: How does the songwriting process work for you? One person writes the songs and brings it to the band, or everyone chips in, or…?
Mykket Morton: It really is different from song to song. The only thing that has been the same for all songs, is that it takes the whole band to really finish a song. We always try to find the one true individual form for each song which can be very different from one sing to the next. It is kind of our mantra to say: ‚Just listen and let the song tell you what it wants to be.‘ But to really do that it takes the four of us. The idea is to not force a song into a shape or a sound that reproduces a certain image you might have of your band but instead really let go of all presumptions and make it the only goal of your songwriting to get the musical and emotional idea across as clearly and as unfiltered as possible, without having your head or your ego getting in the way. And to prevent having egos get in the way, you need to have the whole band participating in the writing.
For ‚Upside Down‘ all the early sketches came from our leadsinger Julian, which gives the record a certain thematic density and a coherent vibe, but these sketches inspired our songwriting as a band dramatically, because they resonated with all of us on an emotional level and you could already hear how Julian got way more experimental with his ideas, trusting that the band would be able to make something out of it.
And honestly this kind of trust within the band made the following songwriting steps almost easy, because we were confident that we would be able to transfer this feeling to the listener if we just dared to let go. That is when our mantra evolved to the solid standpoint that we would not make any musical decision out of a negative impulse, like being afraid of how sounds or musical choices could be perceived, but instead all musical choices would be made with the pure determination that if it suits the song and if we like it we will do it.
Noel Maurice: A lot of newer German indie bands sing in German these days, why would you say that you rather express yourself in English? Or do you also write / plan to write in German too?
Mykket Morton: Since we like to think of the voice as another instrument just like a guitar or a piano, singing in English helps us to develop melodies. We like the flow and the tenderness of the english language and that definitely helps the creative process. For now we are very happy with singing in English but we don’t exclude the possibility to sing some songs in German some day since we hope to be constantly evolving.
Noel Maurice: What do you see for the future for yourselves?
Mykket Morton: We are determined to make a living as creative people and as working musicians. We plan to have our band being the creative center of our lives, some kind of gravitation-point around which other creative and cultural endeavors orbit: Promoting cultural events at ‚Franz Ulrich‘ , recording other artists in the studio, teaching, doing session work – all of that could be part of our future and we are looking forward to that.
Mykket Morton: That is really hard to anticipate to be honest. We are afraid that it will be very hard for bands like us to get gigs in 2022 because many of the small venues might have disappeared by then if the cultural live cannot be reanimated anytime soon. On the other hand we hope that indie bands and indie venues can profit from the immense hunger for cultural events when the lockdowns are over, if the people involved have enough resources left to pull something off D.I.Y. – we really, really hope people still have the strength to do that.
Noel Maurice: Your actions in investing in setting up a cultural centre says to me that you also have a social aspect to your attitude to doing things…do you think that this is something that’s been missing in the music business – or in society generally – and do you think that the lockdown might increase its importance / acceptance?
Mykket Morton: Yes, the social aspect is missing in society in general, and whenever there is (quick) money involved, the social aspect is also missing in the music business. We feel that if you develop cultural projects like venues and bands from scratch you might have a more realistic approach to what is a sustainable and reasonable way of growing things – not only from an idealistic point of view but also from a business point of view – in comparison to third-party-investors who try to hop on board at a certain point in the development and who try to steer the ship into the direction of quick profit because they see ‚the potential‘. Since quick profit is not compatible with a social attitude and sustainability, whoever promises to provide both can basically not be trusted. As the lockdown has forced us all to slow down and reconsider certain ways of doing things, we can only hope that the acceptance for a slower but more social and sustainable way of doing business might increase in the future.
Noel Maurice: What was the biggest stage fuck-up the band has had?
Mykket Morton: Maybe the biggest fuck-up so far was in 2019 when we had a show in Berlin. Since the stage was really small we had troubles to fit on there but we were dedicated to mosh our asses off. So there was this drop in one of our songs, when the whole band comes in and that is when Philipp, our bass player, tripped over his cable so hard that he completely ripped it to shreds. So not only was the drop ruined but also the bass was gone because obviously you couldn’t just plug the cable back in. It needed the complete rest of the song with Philipp just dancing awkwardly until we realized that we fortunately had a spare cable from Julians second guitar to get the bass going again. Live and learn 🙂
Noel Maurice: Do you get more of a kick from playing festivals like Dockville or rather small clubs?
Mykket Morton: We do love the intimacy of small and sweaty club gigs, that is for sure. But at the same time we always dream of this moment when you play open air shows with a big PA and lots of subwoofers because it is such an awesome feeling to play your music so loud that it just kicks everybody’s asses. That moment when you soundcheck the drum on a Festival stage and the Bassdrum sound goes from a little, almost not audible „Puck, puck“ to a mighty ‚Boom, boom“ that shakes the earth, that is just magic.
Noel Maurice: What plans do you have for 2022?
Mykket Morton: The plan for 2022 is to get back on the road and play as many shows as we possibly can. We spent this whole year 2020 crafting our new record ‚Upside Down‘ and we are more than sad that we cannot take it on the road while it is still fresh. Of course we are also going to spend time writing new music in 2021 and 2022 but our main wish is to play live again.
So, everybody who reads this: Get in touch – let’s do a show! For booking requests mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and for any other request and if you just want to chat mail to email@example.com
Noel Maurice: Where/when can we hear more music?
Mykket Morton: All of our music is available on all streaming platforms and physical copies of all of our music are available in our bandshop via mykketmorton.com . If you would like to check out music videos and live performances subscribe to our YouTube Channel ‚Mykket Morton‘ and check out our instagram or Facebook via @mykketmorton for more behind the scenes stuff.
Thanks so much for having us here on Indie Republik! We appreciate your interest in our music and hope to keep in touch. All the best for you! <3
Main photo copyright Nick Mitmanski