Our prolonged Christmas break is over and, like our first featured artist of 2021, we are back with a bang. Midgar is an unusual band for us, given that they started out more than a decade ago but, after a long hiatus, they’re returning with a sound that’s as hard-hitting and intense yet melodic and intricate as ever.
Midgar is the work of Andy Wilson – Taylor, who first formed the band back in 2008 with his friend Oli Wiseman. This represented a move away from performing and touring as a solo artist towards something heavier, and a big rock sound that evolved over the next five years or so.
As Andy puts it: “I like to think that Midgar falls somewhere between Muse, Silverchair, Oceansize and Fightstar, but is also somehow totally its own thing. It’s music that feels everything quite intensely; loud and scary at times but really delicate and emotional at others. I put harmony and melody over absolutely everything else so hopefully lovers of all kinds of music will find something to enjoy.”
The band took a backseat to some bigger life issues, but is now well and truly back with a bang. As Andy explains: “Midgar’s sound developed a lot up until the last album Holographic Principle was released in 2013, which included a lot of orchestral and classical elements. We toured a lot over those years; there isn’t a dingy rock club in the UK we haven’t been to at some point!
“Ultimately, life took over and the band had to take a back seat for a while. I struggled with addiction for a long time and it’s been a slow process of putting the pieces of my life back together. I’m happy to say things have never been better, and putting a new Midgar record out was first on my list of things to do once I was back on my feet.”
The return of Midgar was announced loudly and proudly with the release of new single We Don’t Make The Rules just before Christmas. And it was well worth the wait. The track immediately sucks you in with a heavy blast of fast-paced guitars. That drops into a verse of light vocals supported by strings and rolling drums , which feed into a big singalong cry of “Will somebody wake me up from this nightmare, Where we don’t make the rules.”
It drops back into another light verse, which launches into an extended version of the chorus thanks to a cool section of descending strings and high-pitched vocals. Things get more intense with a return of the heavy guitars and a delicious cinematic section of stabbing strings, then light vocals and little piano flurries. It closes out in style with a final chorus, then a big blast of heavy guitars over delicious high-pitched guitars.
On the track, Andy tells us: “It’s a song about being stuck in a dystopian, authoritarian hell. The scary thing about a story like the Handmaid’s Tale is that it’s so shockingly relevant. 2020 has been a tough year for lots of reasons, but sadly it feels like so much of the progress that’s been made over the last few decades to fight sexism, racism and homophobia has been turned back 100 years in a matter of months.
“It really isn’t so hard to believe that we could be just one global fertility crisis away from the establishment of a regime like Gilead from the Handmaid’s Tale. We have to cling on to democracy for dear life because once it’s gone, it’s gone.” Check the track out in the video below:
The sound of Midgar is summarised by Andy’s varied music taste, including constants like Jeff Buckley, Agnes Obel, Reuben, Led Zeppelin, Massive Attack and Apparat and being raised on Beethoven, Queen and Aerosmith.
The new single reflects this and is being followed up with a brand new album, Unity, which promises to be equally exciting and musically adventurous. As Andy explains: “I work as a composer for TV and film so naturally there are many cinematic elements in there. Lots of strings and piano, but also some really heavy moments. In one way or another Unity chronicles the last 7 or 8 years of my life. Committing that story to a musical work like this was an immensely emotionally rewarding process. It’s all there, in excruciating detail.
“There are full orchestral sections, crazy time signatures, protest songs, emotional goodbyes and everything in-between. While I was away from Midgar – at my lowest, a few years ago – I totally lost my voice and stopped singing for years. As a result, with Unity I really wanted to push my vocal further than ever before, like a big triumphant return. I’m super proud of the performances on this record.”
Getting the album together was no small effort, as Andy produced, mixed and mastered it himself during lockdown. As he tells us: “It was a huge job. The last two Midgar records were self-produced too, but it was a group effort back then. Since, I’ve been learning a lot through my work for TV and have built myself a studio that is now my musical home. My promise to myself was to immediately write, produce and release a Midgar album from here, so I set about doing that as soon as lockdown came into effect early 2020.
“Doing something like this totally solo is like eating an elephant. If you think – even for one second – about the magnitude of the task as a whole, it’s totally overwhelming and you just stop doing anything. Bite-size chunks, each day, and you just slowly chip away at it. I mean, I’ve only myself to blame for the scale of it. It’s no good writing songs with a whole orchestral arrangement and getting annoyed with yourself when you actually have to think about how that gets recorded!
“On the flip side, that total freedom to try, fail, and try again was the most exhilarating musical adventure I’ve ever been on. Without the experience I’ve gained over the last decade or so there’s no way I would have been able to pull off something like this. It’s the product of a lifetime’s learning for me, so I feel like it’s a huge achievement for sure.”
And in terms of what to expect from the album, you can expect more focus on themes such as the social injustice that has been so prevalent over the last 12 months. Andy said: “As personal as this record is, it’s impossible to ignore the end of the world that we all seem to be living through this year. Writing this album has been a good coping mechanism for me. Like many, I was just so heartbroken by the treatment of black communities and people of colour at the hands of the police. We all saw what happened to George Floyd. If that doesn’t make you angry then I don’t know what will. I didn’t know how to process that any other way, other than raising my voice as an ally. While as a straight, white male I don’t really ever get affected by any kind of discrimination at all, I think it’s important for me to stand with those that do. It really is the least we can do.”
You can rest assured that you won’t have to wait another eight years for another Midgar record because, as Andy puts it, “Midgar is back in a big way.”