Conversation with the Mekons

We chat with country-folk group the Mekons about their first new project in five years.


 

Chicagoans Sally Timms (standing) and Jon Langford (seated, far right)


Natural, out in August, marks the Mekons’ first new project in five years. Begun in 2004 in a farmhouse in rural England and finished two years later in Sussex, down the road from A. A. Milne’s home, the collection of acoustic country-folk reveries and chants suggests a postapocalyptic campfire sing-along. Chicago spoke to singer-guitarist Jon Langford and singer Sally Timms, who call Chicago home.

What sent you overseas?
Langford:
John Gill, who was a member of the band for a very long time, died, and we wanted to play a memorial for him in Manchester where he lived. We got a gig a bit after that in Edinburgh. So we rented a farmhouse in between and took loads of instruments just to reacquaint ourselves. Most of the record was done at night after being out on long walks to various pubs and stone circles, Wordsworth’s grave.

Stone circles?
Langford:
The English countryside is littered with ancient monuments, so we wanted to actually go and sit and write a song in a stone circle, because they were places where people met, and try to have a transcendent moment.

The Mekons are known for their societal insights. What are some ideas you explore in song?
Timms:
Some of it is about nature being benign, but a lot of it is about people not being able to get through. [Singer-guitarist Tom Greenlaugh] was very interested in that idea of communities and societies breaking down. What would you do if there suddenly is no electricity and no water supply.

What sound did you set out to create?
Timms: There wasn’t a great plan except we’d mostly be using acoustic instruments because we’d be in this rural location.
Langford: It was very stripped down, people sitting in a living room picking up instruments they didn’t know how to play. I played a lot of harmonica very enthusiastically, usually after 11 o’clock at night.

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