Hailing from America, Italy and the UK, the three members of indie trio Mighty Oaks connected at a musical festival in Hamburg before finally making music together when the three settled in Berlin. Having just finished a tour for their All Things Go album in March 2020, their momentum almost ground to a halt as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. With their touring campaign cut short, the band immediately set about working on a new album, Mexico, which dropped last month. Following its release, and our premiere of their recent single “Forever,” we spoke with bassist Craig Saunders about their journey.
Thanks for your time. How is life treating you at the moment?
Craig Saunders: “Well, the same as many people in the creative industry. We’ve seen a huge part of our jobs come to a complete standstill and have been unable to really perform for over a year now, so from that aspect it’s been pretty tough. That said, we’ve had more time than ever before to spend with our families, and to record and release a new album, so it ain’t been all bad!”
You’re from America, Italy, and England. How did you all come together as one group?
“We all met in Hamburg, actually, at a little singer-songwriter event called Melodica Festival. We were all individual singer-songwriters back then and on the bill at that festival. At that time, we were all in Germany for different reasons and wanted to stick to Germany for a while. We struck up a friendship first, before we even had any notions of starting a band together.”
And from that collaboration, how did you end up in Berlin?
“Also for different reasons. Ian (Hooper) went there for a job, Claudio (Donzelli) was there studying for his PhD. After they both realized they were in the same city, the two of them reconnected and started meeting up on weekends to make music together, which was how Mighty Oaks was born.”
Three different cultures, all now based within another culture, what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from each other?
“We’ve been together for a good few years now, and have been living in Germany for over a decade. The German culture, and the quirks that go with it, is definitely something that, as foreigners, we’re always able to laugh, or moan about together. What we’ve learned from each other over the years, is a deeper understanding of us as individual people, and knowing how and when to give each other space is a valuable asset… especially when you’re on a tour bus together for months!”
So let’s start with your new album, Mexico. Could you tell us the inspiration behind the title?
“The album was born out of a time of great uncertainty, where we forced to take stock of what we had, and what we’d lost. People were going crazy, and it brought out the best and the worst in some, which is what the song ‘Mexico’ talks about. It sums up the situation we found ourselves in well, which is why we felt it was also a good fit for the album title.”
The single “Land of Broken Dreams” was written about the state of chaos and the selfishness and the Me First Attitude. Is this a theme running through the album?
“For sure. Songs like ‘Land of Broken Dreams,’ ‘Mexico,’ ‘What You Fighting For,’ ‘Bad Blood,’ ‘Heavy,’ these songs tap into the mood and feeling of what we’ve all been experiencing this past year and more.”
Was it inspired by the lockdown or any particular events/incidents?
“This album is a direct result of the pandemic. It afforded us the time to really work on new music without any of the usual interruptions and outside distractions. We had time to really explore the sound we wanted the album to have, and as such we were able to complete it in a much shorter time than our previous follow up albums. Lyrically, there are several songs that deal with the feelings of how the last year has been. People going crazy over toilet paper, this sense of heaviness over the pandemic, the ups and downs of the whole situation.”
All Things Go was released just over a year ago. How frustrating was it having an album and not being able to tour it? Was that the reason behind the quick turnaround for Mexico?
“Actually, we did manage to finish our All Things Go tour. We spent February and March 2020 on tour through Europe. Then almost as soon as we returned home, we went into lockdown. It felt a bit like coronavirus was on our heels the whole time! And yeah, as such we were able to completely focus on new music, because there was nothing else we could do.”
It must have been easier to record the new record with Ian having his own studio? Is this something you will use again for future work, as it must have a lot of benefits, especially during these challenging times?
“Absolutely! There was something about recording at Ian’s home that brought us back to the very beginning. It took the pressure off, our time was our time, we didn’t have to hire a big studio, nobody was expecting anything from us, because we were in a pandemic. We just had time for us. And it turned out better than we could have hoped. So yeah, we’ll definitely be doing that again in the future.”
What other challenges did you face trying to record a record during lockdown?
“It was an unusual situation for us all, and one we’d never experienced. For the most part, we managed to cope with it really well, and get the album done in the time we wanted. But there were definitely moments of doubt. We weren’t yet at the stage of quick tests, so any time anyone felt slightly unwell, they would quarantine at home, which meant we had to reschedule and move things around a few times during the whole production.”
You’ve talked about selfishness/me first attitude. How do you hope the world will have changed post pandemic?
“Having been restricted and unable to do so much for so long, I hope that people will come back with another level of appreciation for things once everything opens up and starts to return to normal. Not taking everything for granted, especially one another. We’ve proven that we’re able to adapt and can still make things work when we really need to. It’d be nice to think that we can hold onto that and use it in positive ways that take us away from only thinking of ourselves.”
You’ve just announced a tour for 2022, prior to that though, what are your plans for the rest of 2021?
“We’re hoping to be able to play a run of shows over the summer. At the moment it’s only a handful, but fingers crossed we could have up to 20 open air events. After that, we’ll go back to working on new songs. Then in 2022 we have a tour planned for spring, followed by more festivals in the summer, keeping the ball rolling!”
Thanks for your time and good luck with the album. Over to you for the final words…
“Travelling’s not so easy at the moment, but if you still feel like going on a journey: go grab a copy of the album, pour yourself a drink, find a comfy chair, stick on a pair of headphones, and go get lost in ‘Mexico.’”