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This Is How Of Mice & Men Perfectly Embodied The Intricacies Of The Human Experience

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 2 December 2021 at 17.54

"There are a lot of parallels drawn between the best things in life and the hardest things in life to deal with"

Of Mice & Men
are bringing one of their most fascinating and fulfilling years to date to a close with the release of their new album 'Echo' via SharpTone Records.

A combination of three EPs that have been released as and when throughout 2021, when merged together their power takes on a completely different form, taking you on a journey through the purest and most personal parts of what it means to be human. Encased in a bludgeoning metalcore shell, it's an absolute triumph from a band that even this deep into their story are only getting started.

We sat down with vocalist Aaron Pauley and drummer Valentino Arteaga to talk through it and the lessons that it has taught them along the way...

After a year of drip-feeding this release, how does it feel to be at a point where it will be out in its complete form?
Aaron: "It was something that we have wanted to do for a long time, and because of that, it was a real labour of love. With everything shutting down and us deciding to self-produce it, it was always going to be whatever we allowed it to be. But the garden grows where you water it, and we spent so much time on this because there wasn’t much else for us to focus on."

So where did it change from being an idea into a genuine thing you were doing, especially as the last album was still so fresh in your minds and hearts?
Aaron: “Our year was already looking a little shaky from the get-go just because what we were supposed to be doing in Spring had already fallen through before anything else changed. So we knew that we were always going to have some time to work on music.”

Tino: “I think that the long and short though is that we are always writing. We realised that we like to write more than anything, and when it comes time to get into studio mode, we all bring our collective jams together. When the shutdown happened, it amplified that feeling even more so. So we focused on what we love, making music. With us talking, teaming up with and signing to SharpTone, that had been a long time coming. Maybe a year before we announced and dropped new music, these discussions had been going on for so long. But it was with the shutdown. We were able to figure all of these things out. Self-record, self-produce, having Aaron mixing it as well. Everything was a whole new way of doing things, but it felt natural because it was all we knew how to do. It was scary, of course, but once we had the first batch of songs for the first EP done, we knew we were capable of it.”

When you’re forced to change, those are the moments where you realise how big your toolbelt is. It’s a natural collection that you’ve got, but when things shift is when you realise how prepared you are to do your thing…
Aaron: "The idea is that if we don’t have the means to express ourselves through shows, we do have the means to get on Zoom and exercise our skills and decision making. It was the logical thing. It untethers your creativity as well when you know you’re working on smaller bodies of work. You can blur the edges without scaring your fans. It’s a weird concept as a musician, but it’s something that I get as a fan. I’ve been the same with bands I love going, ‘Why did they change into this thing?’ But I know as that musician that you didn’t change into anything. It’s just a different menu item. But I think that the fun of having the task at hand took away any trepidation of what we were doing as well. It was a fun thing where the worst-case scenario is that what you make is not up to snuff, and you have some excellent pre-production when you go and make the record for real if it gets to that. But we knew we had the tools, and the label was entirely behind us in doing this. They are a big part of why what we have been able to do is as cool as it is."

Tino: "It allowed us to do things we have always wanted to try. We were able to create this stream of consciousness body of work. As we are experiencing life, we can release music in line with and about those experiences. We wanted to make sure that we were releasing new music all of this year, and we were preparing that music up to the end of 2020 so that it could feel authentic within this constantly evolving story that we were all still going through. That’s how we have reached this point with this whole body of work, curated to take you on this journey in a way that we have never done before. It feels like an elevated and important sound that we have never been able to tap into, just because of how deep we have been able to dive."

Because of how each EP represents a different period of time in terms of when it was created, how would you sum each of them up?
Aaron: "To me, ‘Timeless’ is the introduction and the stage. It explains and presents the emotional aspects of this whole thing. You see things as timeless despite them being fragile, regarding black and white films as timeless art when the physical objects they were made on and exist are fragile and will eventually deteriorate. Everything will ultimately turn to dust. As you get older, you start to feel the impermanence of things, which has its sadness.

"‘Bloom’ was all about loss. How dealing with loss in that emotional universe of not being sure where you will fit into anything and how it merges into something more significant. Both me and Tino lost our mothers whilst we were working on this EP. It is drenched in grief because of that.

"And then the last EP 'Ad Infinitum' is about taking steps after that and knowing that you don’t need to know exactly where you are going. How useful it is to spend time speculating and understanding how our lives are echoes of those that have come before us. There are a lot of parallels drawn between the best things in life and the hardest things in life to deal with. They are deeply intertwined. Like love. To have known great love is to know great loss. There’s a lot to be gained from how our human experiences aren’t that different between us here and now and who was here in the past."

The most important things in life have been important for centuries and will be important for centuries in the future. And for you to create that feeling as part of the band’s bigger story is a really special thing...
Aaron: "The thing is that I can only say these things now just because we have made it and been able to take a step away from it. Many of these things have only revealed themselves in the time after it is finished. There is a lot of clarity to be found in the aftermath. An abyss can be the perfect place to create Heaven, it can also be a scary and dark pit. And it’s funny how the ethos and the method of making all of this got so unironically pure throughout. We didn’t know that anything was certain, so we were creating for the sake of creating. And because of that, we were able to learn these things from it."

Tino: "It’s also helped us reset our brains on how and why we do this. How important it can be and how important the attention we pay to it can be. It’s so easy to get flustered within what it is to be a band, but when you boil things down to the basic ingredients and are asked if you can do this, well, hell yeah, we can. This is all we know. So it helped to get us back in touch with ourselves as much as anything. It’s been difficult to listen to some of these songs since finishing them, just because it takes you right back into the place you were when you wrote it, but knowing that everybody loves it and it’s coming from a good place makes it all worth it."

The thing is that it makes the album bigger than just the four of you. It makes it something genuinely human…
Aaron: "It goes towards refocusing your perspective to help make the place that you are that little bit better than how you found it. It’s about making someone feel that little bit happier because you have provided somewhere that they can escape for an hour of their life. It becomes a full-circle moment when your entire purpose is to write songs again. And what better and efficient way of showing that the human experience exists. It’s a perfect way of showing your human experience in a way that someone else can relate to it. Music is a super powerful thing, and creating music feels like a perfect way for me to communicate with others because that’s what it has done for me in the past. The primal need to create is still there, bringing us together every single time. It makes the idea of being self-sufficient all the more exciting."

And to still feel that excitement this deep into your journey is something you will never take for granted…
Aaron: "Everything is about refining this more and more. If you spend your time worrying about how you’re going to say something or how someone will receive it, you’re not spending time on what you’re going to say. But I think if you spend all of your time focusing on what you’re going to say, you’re going to say it effectively enough that the people will understand and want to reciprocate that communication. It’s our way of communicating with the world and the most effective way that we know, so it’s what we will keep on doing."

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