Mild Orange are a truly national band, with an international focus. The dream pop/indie rock quartet are based in different locales around Aotearoa, but come together regularly to write, record and play shows. Recently one Friday evening they reconvened at Flying Nun in Wellington to play some tunes. Check out below the performance and our chat with Merht [Josh Mehrtens] about what they've been up to.
Can you please tell us the story of how you went from all studying together in Dunedin and forming as a band together, to now living in different parts of the country (and where is that?) - but continuing to play shows and record together. Can you elaborate on that story? How does that work now, living in different parts of the country?
Mehrt: Jah [Josh Reid] and I were flatting together in a flat occupied by 10 people, 2 lizards and a chicken. We wrote the bones of Foreplay in that flat. We’d played a couple gigs together just us two, and knew we were lacking drum and bass. I’d been in a band with Barry [Tom Kelk] briefly in our first year of uni, so I asked if he’d like to drum. He said no, but he said yes to playing bass and getting Jack [Ferguson] to play drums too. The two of them were already tight as from playing in Albion Place together. Once we all graduated we moved back to our respective hometowns with the focus to be on music (Me - Arrowtown, Jah – Carterton, Barry – Dunedin/Wellington, Jack – Westport). Jah and I now live in New Plymouth with a studio in the middle of town. Day-to-day lately in MO HQ is writing, recording, polishing new music and running the administrative side of Mild Orange. But yeah, we’re pretty good at working by correspondence and all coming together often to meet, play and create.
Mild Orange seem like a band that has become very popular - both in New Zealand and overseas - but you’ve done that outside of the usual local musical industry system.. Can you explain how and possibly why that happened?
Mehrt: I think being far away from Auckland when we started in Dunedin both advantaged and disadvantaged us. We weren’t caught up on impressing anyone in NZ (or really anyone in particular for that matter). Our goals have always been worldly ambitions. I sent our music to a Ukrainian-based YouTuber who shared a couple of our debut songs that got global viral attention; we keep in touch which is cool. It wasn’t until our second album though that the NZ industry really started noticing us; yet despite that, we’ve sold out multiple tours at home and have appeared on most of the major festivals in NZ. We have our epic fanbase, friends and team around us to thank for our organic and independent growth. Cheers everyone who has supported us! Also, massive shoutout to NZ Music Commission, they rock and have helped us tour globally. We didn’t know anyone who was really in the industry when we started, so from an outside Auckland perspective (where I think the ‘usual local musical industry system,’ as you put it, lives) it appeared pretty unresponsive until we started going there and actually meeting people; and that wasn’t until recently in the scheme of things. You don’t have to be in the music industry system to make noise.
There is a lot of subtlety in tone and composition in the your music - is that a deliberate thing? How do you do that?
Mehrt: We’re just making what feels right, not really forcing things, yet a lot of thought goes into it all.
You mentioned you were all set with big overseas plans, then Covid hit - can you tell us what happened there?
Mehrt: We had overseas tour plans in the pipeline to support our second album, which released just after lockdown. It’s all worked out fine for MO though. There’s a great big world out there, pretty keen to move overseas for a change of scene and a challenge too.
What are your future plans, now that (hopefully) things are returning to some sort of normal?
Mehrt: Planning more overseas tours with new releases and if all else fails, will just keep on groovin’.