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February 2021

Mealtime: "We're never ever gonna keep it safe and samey"

Not really indie, not really pop, Manchester upstarts Mealtime are a gang happy to play in the experimental places in-between.
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Published: 10:50 am, June 04, 2020Words: Jamie Muir.
Mealtime: "We're never ever gonna keep it safe and samey"

"I think we realised that it's okay for us to have different tastes…"

Sam from Mealtime is thinking hard about what opened the doors for the band they've become. In one line, he nails exactly what makes the Manchester upstarts so unique in a field of bands all looking to create and morph in an age of Spotify playlists and non-stop musical detours. Mealtime can be described as 'a band', but it's worth thinking about them as something different than that. "We love alternative pop music," adds in Georgia. "We didn't want to make something really indie or make something really pop. We just wanted to make something experimental."

It's something Mealtime have delivered on. With a handful of releases so far, their musical jukebox of sounds have formed into something that even the hardest of anti-party protestors would have to put their placards down for. Four singles in, Sam admits, "it's almost like we didn't know what Mealtime sounded like until we gained a bit of a back catalogue. We'd rather.. we can put together a pretty generic sellable indie-pop tune that we know would do really well, but we have a lot of fun in being curious. It wouldn't be half as fun without that."

To describe Mealtime and the sounds they create can be a tricky one. We're talking glorious dance music, indietronica, hip-hop beats, electronic flourishes and razor-sharp indie all brought together. Picture a pick'n'mix bag with scoops of all of your favourite sweets dropped in there. There's some that shouldn't go together with the rest, but the taste says otherwise. It'll have you coming back for more every time.

"We're still a band in a traditional sense, but we're putting elements into it that are different to each other and just fit," notes Sam. "It's almost like sometimes when we get into the studio it's just like: this is a stupid idea, who would think of putting a folk track with a dancehall beat? Thinking that sounds like a horrible idea but let's do it! We see if we can make it work and that's exciting for us!"

Sam and Georgia burst out laughing - "We're taking the piss, really, when you think about it," he cracks between smiles.

Forming together naturally through university and regular gigs around Manchester, the six-piece today now flow like an unstoppable creative unit. Each constantly creating, bringing their ideas to the wider group and building those up from there, it's lead to glorious results that usually sound nothing like the idea that first came into the room. It's an insatiable thirst to push boundaries as far as they can, with a wealth of ideas sitting in one room.

"It's definitely evolved as our songwriting has progressed," reflects Georgia. "Especially with me and Sam together, we're really passionate about creating like concepts and a brand kinda, having this big thing called 'Mealtime'. It's not just the music, it's the visual aspect too. We're really into art and fashion too, and that means so much to us, having all that together. From the get-go, that's been really important, and going to be something that runs through all of our releases and what we do".

"Sometimes when we get into the studio it's just like, this is a stupid idea" 

To date, that overarching Mealtime theme has shone bright. The propulsive 'Rain Like This', their latest number to date is born for sweaty clubs - a jumping electronic smash with hypnotic spoken words and euphoric bursts throughout. 'Sublime', a mid-90s nightclub ringer that struts with its own confidence from the first note. 'Denim', an effortlessly cool gleam of early-00s Y2K pop that could sit pretty on video games and soundtracks all over the place. 'Teef', an 80s Stranger Things nod that hits like a smooth cocktail on a summer day. Each release has switched lane, whilst all living in the Mealtime world - it's exactly what they want to create. As Sam puts it, "we can do whatever we want genre-wise, and it will still sound like Mealtime."

"We're definitely working towards finding our audience that just totally get us and love what we do," Georgia explains. "I think we're never ever gonna keep it safe and samey. With every release we put out, the visuals and the videos and what-not, we want to create a new Mealtime. We want it to be its own era every single time."

"Sonically obviously it sounds like us, but with every release, I think people are going to be a bit like: woah, what is this. That's what we want. We want people to be refreshed by what we have to offer and if anything that's the exciting thing. To have this new thing that's so, we believe, different and putting that out is really exciting."

That freedom is captured perfectly in their debut EP, 'Aperitif', bringing together the tracks they've released to date with more eye-opening new paths too. "It's our first little baby or body of work, and it's funny because all the songs that we're using are songs that we've had lying around for ages!" says Georgia. "When I'm looking at that tracklist I'm like, there's so much more that we have recorded and so much more to come. They're like the first songs that we were really happy with and felt like: this is really us."

"Hopefully it's a nice little time capsule that a few records down the like we can look back on and see where we were at the time," continues Sam. "It's built up of tracks that we didn't really know where they'd go or end up. We're really proud of it and excited now for what comes next. What we could do with an album - we're talking about an album now, haha!"

"We're really proud of it and excited now for what comes next. What we could do with an album"

With the sounds and beats ready to make a splash, it's in the live world that Mealtime have started to pinpoint what they're all about too. With the sort of flashing cuts in their back-pocket, the party begins… and will return. Getting in front of people, seeing the looks that come from their unabashed celebratory disco, it feeds into everything they are.

"It's almost encouraging on the live side of things when you're playing to an audience that doesn't quite get it yet," smiles Sam. "Obviously the best gigs are the ones where everyone's going for it, and everyone's dancing, but there's sometimes we come back through after a show, and we're like: right the crowd didn't get it at all. That's fine, we're not playing to that audience - we almost want to freak people out a bit."

"Honestly," laughs Georgia, "trying to produce a show with everything that goes into what we record… We're so horribly self-critical that we think in our heads we can just go on stage and recreate the recording perfectly and it's so hard. Putting on a show though, that's the main thing". There's a pause. "That sounds shit, doesn't it?!" she cracks, "but that's it. Put on a show and dance, it's hard, but we're getting better, and we're just going to get better from here."

Through a whirlwind year, Mealtime have found themselves ready to crack open that door and throw sun-soaked dance into everyone's faces. Underneath the glorious mix of sounds and eras that make up their standing, is a band throwing everything they have into a band that not only is set on creating their own playing field - but feels like home to each of them.

"We've worked our arses off for this," lays out Sam, "working full-time as well as working on everything as a band which can be hard at times."

"Yeah!" jumps in Georgia, "like we'll play a gig in London and then we'll have to travel back right away because we'll all have work at like 9am in the morning. It's a six-hour drive back, and I'll end up going into work on one hour's sleep, but it's worth it. That's the schedule we have, and we love it."

"We just want to get better and better," says Sam. "If we know someone is coming home from work or they're having a day off it's like right - let's go! We're just thinking all the time about how we can get better. That's the drive. We'd so much rather be tired than be complacent."

Taken from the June issue of Dork. Mealtime's EP 'Aperitif' is out later this month.

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