Gothic AC/DC & a Cold Chisel Bass Guitar! The Midnight Mares..

Welcome to the dark, brooding world of Adelaide quartet 'The Midnight Mares'. With a rich pedigree of musicians from a variety of backgrounds the 'Mares have been plugging away the last couple of years on stellar recordings and a live show you just have to see. Was lucky to be passing their way of late and thought I'd throw a few Q & A's at 'em! Enjoy! 

 Tell us more about the latest recording process for ‘Anastasia’ and ‘Boneyard Matinee’ – Why did you choose to record the way you do and also please update us with the new approach regarding different instrumentation – e.g That beautiful distortion!

 For these singles engineer/producer Matt Hills set up his studio – he’s running a mobile one these days – at the Grace Emily Hotel and we recorded over a couple of days when the pub was shut. We don’t record live as a band all together at once but rather build up the songs layer by layer and instrument by instrument, replacing guide tracks as we go. We also do it backward to most bands with the drums getting recorded last. Matt Hills has recorded all of The Midnight Mares’ material and almost all of our previous band Brillig’s albums as well, so we’re really comfortable working with him, although recording in a space that’s not usually a studio added some different energy and challenges to keep it exciting. 


Our previous singles Sparks! (Then The Rain Came Down) and Empires Always End are pop songs with a jangly, chimey Smiths/R.E.M. thing going, so we wanted to make new songs different have a more pronounced low end and altered instrumentation.


Anastasia doesn’t have any piano or organ, which is a first for us, as is Elizabeth Reid playing guitar. She plays the big overdriven electric rhythm guitar that opens the song and straightaway tells you it’s going somewhere heavier. It’s a vintage Rickenbacker (my red 330) played through my old vox AC-30 amp cranked up pretty loud, plus a couple of nice overdrive pedals added to that mix. I’m playing lead guitar on another old Rickenbacker – a black 330 also played through the Vox amp. To round out the three Rick attack Denni Meredith is playing his 1974 blonde rickenbacker bass (it used to be owned by Cold Chisel in their early days when they were based in Adelaide). We’ve got BJ Barker on the drums for these songs. On Anastasia he’s got two floor toms going so there’s some serious depth to the beats.


Boneyard Matinee heads into a bit more of a gothic arena, with low female vocals. There’s  a Fender Rhodes electric piano type part running through the song, that along with the bass and drums creates a super cool groove. Elizabeth’s early demo had a bit of a Tom Waits vibe to it, and I think there’s still a hint of that left in the final recording.

What is ‘Anastasia’, about? The Midnight Mares write very cryptically and you keep the listeners guessing, is this intentional or just how it comes out?

Sure, there are cryptic lyrics. Sometimes intended, sometimes not.

A literal lyric expressed in a poetic or dreamlike way can come across as cryptic.

Time, loss, death, sadness, beauty and drinking are what you find in our songs. Oh, and there’s usually a dis-track as well, where someone or something ends up in our sights!


Elizabeth and both write the lyrics, usually separately, and whoever is singing lead in a song or a song section usually wrote those specific lyrics.


When I started writing Anastasia I kept thinking how cool it would be if there was a gothic AC/DC. That sort of directed some of the music parts, particularly the rhythm guitar which is a bit of a nod to Malcolm Young. I’ve also always liked those songs that have three verses with quite similar lyrics but no chorus as such, like Orange Crush or The One I Love by R.E.M.

Anastasia riffs on and repeats the line “Tom Waits for no man”, which as well as being a bit of a sketchy pun, also allows me the keep pushing the idea of time moving on.

The key to Anastasia is the last line, “Is it really too late?”

Have ships sailed and birds got the hell out of here? Horses bolted?

Is Anastasia really gone?

The Midnight Mares, I feel have a very distinct sound that would translate well in countries like Europe – Is there a plan to tour there in the future? And what is your five year plan.

The next album is where our focus lies. There’s been a few releases of singles for us in recent times but our hearts lie with full albums. The plan is for the next to come out later this year. We already have most of the tracks needed and the missing ones are close.

There are songs with a comforting familiarity, others that break some fresh ideas and an epic that will be the centrepiece – Rise up Lights.

There are no touring plans. I think, with the exception of a few local shows, it will be a future of recorded music.

 Interested to know how the Midnight Mares, formed and tell us about your previous acts? It’s not secret that Matt was in one of Adelaide’s best bands back in the day ‘Reckoning’ – Has he brought over any influence from that act to the ‘Mares?

The Midnight Mares began as a recording project. Elizabeth and I had written a collection of songs since our long term previous band brillig had come to an end, and wanted to release them on a full vinyl LP, something which had eluded all of us over the whole trip.

The songs sounded sweet in the stripped back fashion (we thought Bang Bang by  Nancy Sinatra was the perfect recording), but knew they’d shimmer with a full band so we got Pete Owen, who I’d played with in Reckoning in the 1990s. Pete’s tom heavy drumming style was perfect and being a top singer meant we got a third voice in the band and killer drums. I didn’t want to recreate that 90s sonic sound so went for a guitar sound with more tremolo, reverb and Gretsch vibrato.

It is, however hard to avoid your past and Pete brought his Reckoning vibe – just listen to the first beats of Endless Nights Of Rock & Roll.


Denni Meredith, the most skilled and thoughtful player you’d ever find then joined on bass. Our history playing, recording and writing with brillig made it easy -350 shows, 5 albums, 7 EPs, shows across Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Czech Republic, USA made it pretty easy to work together on The Midinght Mares.


So, Previous bands. My first band Reckoning burned kinda bright, maybe too bright. Just for five years, but humming the whole time like the song from Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust – “five years, that’s all we’ve got”.


Brillig started in 2000 and hit through until 2016, so there was so many opportunities to look at different styles and sounds. We played for years with a drum machine to add that electro sound you can only get through synth drums. It make our playing tight as fuck.  Then, moving like Johnny Cash covering NIN’s Hurt, into a sweet Southern Gothic acoustic sound, which we kicked for a decade. It took us to new places and a small German record deal and shows in Germany and the Czech Republic.

  Detail your influences for us, what music inspires you…

The Cure - such a perfect band. David Bowie - every album we make always has a handful of subtle lyrical references to Bowie and his songs and albums.

Lana Del Rey, The National, Placebo, Interpol, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (mid era),

Nancy Sinatra’s version of Bang Bang - the lyrics, vocal sound & delivery plus that amazing guitar sound. R.E.M., Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – they’re the origin of the Rickenbacker fascination. Sparks – still going, still brilliant. Duran Duran, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Taylor Swift – fave albums 1. Midnights 2. Reputation 3. 1989.

Cold Chisel – amazing piano. The Doors, Iron Maiden – it was mandatory for anyone involved or present during the recording of Anastasia to wear a Maiden T-shirt. There were 8 shirts on at one point. I think it helped!




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