We are really excited to announce that Sleepover, the second album by Mildred Maude, will be released on vinyl, CD, tape and all digital platforms on October 22. It was produced by the band with Tom Joyce and Seamus Constance and recorded at Sawmills Studio in Cornwall and has been mastered by Simon Scott from Slowdive.
The vinyl has a locked groove and comes in three versions: standard translucent red, a Rough Trade exclusive translucent green and a white and green splatter, only available from Bandcamp.
Way back in the pre-lockdown days of 2019, Mildred Maude were the most exciting live band we had seen in a long time. Three seemingly disparate characters from Cornwall – Matt Ashdown (guitar), Lee Wade (bass) and Louie Newlands (drums) – they were named after one of their grandmas and played an improvised noise that always seemed to be teetering on the edge of chaos, but also something incredibly beautiful at the same time, like a cross between Sonic Youth and Slowdive. It was utterly thrilling.
The new album bears the influence of Stereolab, Can, Butthole Surfers, Yo La Tengo and Sun Ra, among others, with three of its four tracks being over 10 minutes in length. ‘Trevena’ is the loping opener (“It was just a warm up, really,” says Louie, “but it turned out good so we kept it”); ‘Elliott’s Floor’ initially turned into My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Only Shallow’ by mistake and on the vinyl version it never ends, thanks to a locked groove; ‘Glen Plays Moses’ is just epic in every way, crossing a Red Sea of sound, with half of Matt’s guitar parts played with a screwdriver. Innerstrings’ incredible video for the edited version premiered recently on Brooklyn Vegan and you can watch it below.
The odd one out is ‘Chemo Brain’ – just under three minutes of Fugazi-esque frenzy, named after a side-effect of Lee’s cancer treatment that makes him have sudden mental blocks, and explains his constructive, repetitive basslines that underpin the band. The album artwork is also inspired by his treatment – it’s a molecular model of cyclophosphamide, one of the drugs Lee was given, that Matt made after looking through old scientific journals.
The band’s DIY approach has been the only way for them to get anywhere in Cornwall, where they say they feel more in tune with Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert and the Rephlex Records crowd from the 1990s than any current scene. They do, however, unintentionally have something in common with the medieval Miracle Plays that would take place in a plen an gwari (Cornish for ‘playing place’). “They were notoriously noisy to attract people to them,” explains Matt, “but were also events that brought communities together, and we like our live shows to have a sense of togetherness.”
Matt says he is also inspired by historic places of worship. “There are some great places in Cornwall such as St Just Church and the open air Gwennap Pit in Redruth where John Wesley preached in the 18th century and where John Peel once interviewed Aphex Twin. It’s these beautiful spaces that I try to imagine we’re in when we’re playing live – so it’s fitting that we’re releasing this new album on Sonic Cathedral.”
Who is Mildred Maude?
“We formed after Lee (Wade, bass) was booed offstage at a John Peel Day gig, almost died from cancer, and spent remission finding new musicians in shipping containers,” explains guitarist Matt Ashdown of Mildred Maude’s somewhat unusual origins. “We found ourselves gelling over needing outlets for unconstrained musical expression, almost like a support group in a way.”
Naming themselves after drummer Louie Newlands’ grandmother – Josephine Mildred Maude Gulliver – they set about offering something radically new to the Cornish music scene. “We all wanted to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously,” says Lee. “We found we shared a kind of DIY ethic in that we knew our music didn’t quite fit in and we just had to put ourselves forwards for things – that’s how after just three gigs we had already played with The Fall and Lorelle Meets The Obsolete.”
Their debut album, 2017’s cult classic CPA I-III, was an extension of their live shows, which are all one never-ending song called ‘Cosmic Pink Alignment’. On the new album, Sleepover, the songs have proper titles. “We thought continuing to name album tracks as parts of CPA would lose the simplicity of the concept,” explains Matt. “Our shows always consist of motifs and ideas that have come out of previous gigs or recordings, so even though we perhaps won’t directly be playing the songs, parts of them will emerge during our live shows, which is quite an organic approach to touring an album like this.”
Sleepover also differs from its predecessor through its use of space and, at times, its overwhelming beauty.
“It’s always our approach to offset noise with beauty,” claims Matt. “When I was at art college I read Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, and I always seem to think back to that balance of Dionysian and Apollonian elements when we make music. Maybe for this album the balance swings towards beauty because we had a little more time to be still, and moments of chaotic ecstasy kind of just naturally unravelled with the dynamics of bass and drums.”
“The space stemmed from the fact we were conscious we were making an album,” adds Louie. “We were perhaps a little more relaxed and comfortable with what we were doing and we seemed to start some of the tracks gently, which set the dynamic. The surrounding environment at Sawmills Studio helped with this, too.”
One thing that didn’t help, however, was the pandemic. Sleepover was almost finished prior to the first lockdown of March 2020, but Matt ended up recording additional overdubs in his bathroom while throwing himself into freeform parenting with his newly-expanded family and running online experimental music projects for disadvantaged and neurodiverse kids; Lee got a job working with people with autism and challenging behaviour; and Louie retreated into a world of music and movies. They didn’t all see each other for over a year.
Now they have finally been reunited, the new album is scheduled for release and they are once again planning live shows, what happens next? Do they plan to expand their sound, or even incorporate vocals?
“We never know how our music will evolve, but it’s likely none of us will add vocals in the traditional sense,” says Matt. “We have had vocals before when Damo Suzuki improvised with us for a show. We also have some plans to collaborate with some musicians to provide vocals or spoken word on a couple of tracks that came out of the same session as this album, but we’ll see what happens. There aren’t really any rules other than that our core is guitar, bass and drums.”
Mildred Maude: simple, but devastatingly effective.