Interview: Never Never Man talk religion and relationships, monarchy and politics ahead of the release of new album ‘Division’

Psych-pop Londoners Never Never Man are set to release their new album Division on 20th July.  Following their track by track guide to the album on Joyzine last month, John Clay caught up with the band to probe some of the record’s themes a little more deeply.

Hey there guys and thanks for agreeing to more chat about next Monday’s release. How are you doing in this period of ‘kinda lockdown, but seemingly not’?

Mahyar: Hey John! Good man still working remotely and occasionally seeing some people for a spell in the park but not a huge amount has changed for me up here. Not going to all the pubs, tbh I am not there yet so sitting it out for now.

Gavin: Hey John, all good here, managing to pick up where I left off with recording work, losing the will to homeschool the kids, laying pretty low and haven’t been out out yet.

Same here in regards to the remote work, and crikey, Gavin, don’t lose that will power mate! Keep those children on point with rewards of ice-cream for maths answers! Anyway, record chit chat. In your last Joyzine article you mentioned being inspired by Netflix show, The Crown in regards to ‘Big Guy’, a tune off your upcoming Division album. You said it’s about ‘what it would be like to have absolute power and minimal knowledge.’ I can’t help but read a political swipe here, but do expand on the theme within the song fellas.

Gavin: Undeniably the monarchy is an outdated institution but this song isn’t a critique of that so much. It’s more that in The Crown, the Queen was very keen to educate herself beyond the strictures imposed by her role, so it’s more a commentary on learning and thinking beyond the path defined for you. Having said that, I better not give up on the homeschooling!

Never Never Man_interview

Do you think that given recent world events not to mention the consistent erasure of religion and politics as a vanguard of personal account that musicians are required to educate themselves beyond the strictures imposed on their roles?

Gavin: Absolutely I do, however I believe it’s the job of everyone to educate themselves beyond their imposed societal roles. Imagine how much more of an enlightened world this would be if everyone took the time to learn just that little bit more.

Further to this, do you guys think there’s less pressure on some genres to have political ideals and values? Electronic dance music as we know it has less of a societal pressure to whip out the soap box than say – oh I dunno – punk rock, right?

Gavin: Absolutely, I think that punk and rock by their very nature are more aggressive and derived from social commentary and the need for change within society. I think genres like EDM potentially could still grow into a type of music that channels that vibe more but it’s just not quite yet.

In regards to EDM that’s due to the expectations of the audience? When you go out for a dance in a club you may not be necessarily keen to receive a mini treatise on how the government’s handled social distancing, for example? Can we chat about ‘Lemon’? You’ve gone on record stating ‘if Jesus was an easy London playboy would his message be more palatable?’ I don’t think so, but I’m keen to hear the argument in favour of that wtf image!

Gavin: For sure that would kill the vibe! I think it’s all about context isn’t it.

‘Lemon’ is in part a cautionary tale about chasing false gods and at first listen it skewers the idea of playboy prophets but actually the chorus is all about positivity, coming together as one. Overall it’s asking if we can take that positivity without the seedy side of organised religion.

Whenever people talk about the seedy side of organised religion, I want to press them for examples as to what that side is. This is coming from an agnostic by the way! Expand on the seedy side, if you will.

Gavin: I reckon you can look at any news report any day of the week and you’ll find an example but it’s the power structures not the spirituality that causes issues.

Is the original question in ‘Lemon’ a hopeful one? How do we erase the power structures of religion? I guess if you knew that you’d perhaps have a different line of work. I guess the question is, where do we best begin?

Gavin: Yes it is. I think the best any of us can do is be personally accountable for being a decent human being. Easier said than done, I understand.

And perhaps your song ‘Date Night’ should be discussed here? A tune about relationships out of convenience (surely the sign of modernity?) is at least partially asking people to be more accountable and thus a further pursuit of the album’s quest for authenticity in a plastic world?

Gavin: Sometimes things that are inauthentic can be good for us and have value, the purest form isn’t always the best. ‘Date Night’ is an observation on inauthenticity, and that thread runs through the whole album, although it’s definitely more hopeful than judgemental.

No doubt a song written from experience, hence the non-judgement?

Gavin: Actually this one’s from a purely observational point of view, I like my relationships inconvenient! Either way, I’m not going to judge the inner workings of someone else’s situation.

Have you always been so non-judgemental? I know many a musician that might envy your position, particularly in regards to those we elect to govern the country.

Gavin: I think you can be non-judgemental on an interpersonal level but still criticise and hold accountable systems of government and power. Non-judegment is great as long as it doesn’t become apathy.

So you blame the system rather than those that manage it for its failures? Never considered sharing an angry – at – Boris – Johnson meme?

Gavin: I think the system and those that manage it are the same thing because those that manage it, uphold it. So yes, plenty of anger for Boris but also for the political structures that allow him to be where he is.

Hear you loud and clear. Some more questions for the rest of your album to follow in impending future articles, but for now, let’s find out where next Monday’s release of Division is going to be? Spotify? Bandcamp?

Gavin: Thanks John, looking forward to it. It’ll be available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and all the usual online retailers and we’ll be dropping a new video for the song ‘More Than A Feeling’ on the same day so watch this space.

Ooooh…I do like me a good music video. May Monday’s album launch bode well.

Interview by John Clay

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