Jamie Lockhart has a simple maxim for the recording studio he and Lee Smith run in Armley, Leeds.
“We went to a lecture by Steve Albini from Shellac, who’s based in Chicago. He said this amazing thing that the only thing the music industry couldn’t touch was punk rock because it doesn’t really matter so if you run your studio as if you were a punk rock band then you’ll always be OK regardless of whatever happens in the industry. I always thought that was a really interesting idea. He didn’t say ‘Make punk rock records or do this or do that’, he was just like ‘If you are an outsider in that sense then you’ll keep going’.”
Such a principle has made Greenmount Studios the recording space of choice for artists from New Model Army to The Cribs, The Vaccines, !Forward Russia! and Pulled Apart By Horses. I Like Trains are currently working on their new record at Greenmount too.
In between production duties, Lockhart has this year released a fourth album with his own band, Mi Mye. Called The Sympathy Sigh, it’s described as a ‘lush collection of snapshots from the north of Scotland, where principal songwriter and lyricist Lockhart grew up, and Wakefield, the place he now calls home’.
Having expanded from a solo project – that Lockhart launched after studying at Bretton Hall – Mi Mye are now a five-piece, with the addition of Rob Slater, Daniel Charlesworth, Morgan Evans and Emily Ingham.
“Suddenly being able to have five people that were all up for playing on it and all up for writing we could expand our sound a little and be a bit more adventurous,” says Lockhart.
There’s definitely something about Christmas that I really like, just the fact that it’s time that lots of people get incredibly busy then there’s that little spell around Christmas when you suddenly can’t do anything at all.Jamie Lockhart
“Unlike a lot of bands we write with the two producers, even though they don’t play anything on the record. They are there when the whole writing process happens, so there’s seven of us there writing from the core principles. Adam Killip, the other producer that doesn’t work at Greenmount, is an amazing lyricist, he gets really involved in what the lyrics are about and me and him between us, with the rest of the band, will take apart the lyrics and move them around and change them and find lines that might be better here than there.
“Adam’s very good at spotting that I will write a song mostly about one thing then something jumps into my head and I write about something else and put it in the song because it’s just happening at the same time. He’s very good at spotting that one little thing shouldn’t be in the song and he’ll be like, Are you going to write another song about that?’ He doesn’t discard it. He’ll just say ‘That’s an idea, go and write another song about that – but this song can’t have a little bit of something else that happened on the same day as you were writing this song’.”
Lockhart says his own writing has developed over time. “When I first started writing songs I was really interested in the unsuccessful love song. I was really into bands like Hefner that always wrote those kind of songs, about things going wrong in love and not being able to find it. More recently I’ve been interested in writing about much smaller things – a small event I witness or find out about. I find writing about smaller things means you can write more directly. It’ll be about seeing somebody on a train or spotting something that happens. The newest song I’ve written is about me accidentally falling over, it’s a song that’s basically almost about nothing but when you actually get into the depths of it you can end up writing lots.”
The band’s new track, I’m Dreaming Of A, is a Christmas single. It fulfils a long-held ambition of Lockhart’s. “Even before I wrote all the original demos [for Mi Mye] I had the idea of always writing a Christmas EP. There’s definitely something about Christmas that I really like, just the fact that it’s a time that lots of people get incredibly busy then there’s that little spell around Christmas when you suddenly can’t do anything at all. I really like that part of the year. It just forces lots of people to have a little bit of time; it does also force loads of other people to work exceptionally hard, which is a real shame, but in my romantic idea of Christmas everyone stops working a week before and doesn’t start work again until the week after New Year.”
On Sunday Mi Mye will be playing at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. The unconventional gig, which will be preceded from 2pm with Christmas pies and festive films, will finish at 8pm. Having done straightforward Christmas party-type shows on Friday or Saturday evenings in the past, Lockhart realises: “Mi Mye is more suited to a more relaxed, slower vibe. A gig where we’re all home and in bed by half past eight, it’s going to be lovely.”
For details visit www.facebook.com/mimyeband or www.brudenellsocialclub.co.uk/whats-on/mi-mye-christmas-party