Interview: UNO MAS

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North West indie pop four-piece UNO MAS have been making waves with the release of their latest single, ‘Glue’, a synth-infused statement from a band whose fanbase and acclaim is growing by the day. Originally formed in college by frontman, Olly Thornton, it would be several musical ventures later that he would re-visit the UNO MAS project with the current line-up – Olly (lead vocals/guitar), Dan Whitelegg (guitar), Tom Pearson (bass) and Lew Roberts (drums).

We spoke to Olly and Dan over Zoom to discuss their latest single, plus the Warrington music scene, lockdown as a band, their upcoming gig at Deaf Institute and plenty more.

NC: So how did the you all meet to start UNO MAS?

Dan: “Tom and Lew had been in a band together previously, I met Lew in Uni and was ready to start a band. We needed a decent singer songwriter and Olly came along at the perfect time, so everything slotted together nicely, almost like it was fate.”

NC: Where does the name UNO MAS come from?

Olly: “The band originally started when I was in college but didn’t go anywhere, it was a flash in the pan, a sort of teenage thing. Everyone went to uni and I carried on doing other music stuff but the band name always stuck with me and I’d always wanted to revisit it. It stood out for me cause I’ve always thought noone is gonna have a dodgy Spanish phrase as a band name, but it works. There’s a story behind it – a Jackie Chan film, Shanghai Noon, if you haven’t seen it it’s a really funny film. Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan are in an old western spa in copper baths, and they start playing a Chinese drinking game. Owen Wilson’s character wants to play it again so he says ‘uno mas’, which means one more. They end up getting lairy so, long story short, we are named after a drinking game, which is kind of reflective on us as people!”

NC: So where is your hometown, would you say you are a Warrington band?

Olly: “I’m quite liking saying ‘we are a band form the north’. I was born in Urmston and moved to Lymm, our drummer is from Warrington and we have always been close to that scene. Dan is from Sale, Tom is from Hyde, so it’s a real mix, but we are all proper northerners. We like both the Manchester and Warrington scene.”

NC: It feels like there’s a real community spirit at the minute on the Warringon music scene, is it a good thing to be a part of right now, particularly following the recent ‘Swings and Waterslides’ cover from Warrington Music to commemorate Viola Beach?

Dan: “I think it’s great right now. Viola Beach were big influences on the modern scene. Before that there was Ian Brown who still lives in Lymm. And there’s other bands that have pushed the Warrington scene. Right now, a lot of the musicians in the town have grown up together and it feels close knit. There’s a big group chat with all of us on, sending each other messages and bigging each other up, so it is a really nice community spirit at the minute.”

Olly: “It is great. Viola Beach were proud to say they were from Warrington. I knew Kris quite well from the band, he went to school in Lymm with me. I was originally in Kris’s old band when we were kids and that’s where I started out as a musician.”

NC: In terms of a genre, would you describe yourselves as indie pop? Pop can sometimes be a dirty word in music so I was wondering how you would categorise yourselves?

Olly: “You could definitley define us as indie pop, but I love that. What is pop? It is popular music. We were talking about this the other day, we do have that indie feel in terms of the guitars, grit and power, especially in our last song. But we also have a synth / pop vibe. Lymm Radio put our latest track on their ‘A-List’, and they are big on their 80’s pop music. They said our song was poppy enough to fit and I think that’s brilliant, that’s a massive compliment. It appeals to both indie fans and pop fans, so who’s to say we can’t appeal to everyone?”

Dan: “There’s a massive range of inspirations in the band that contribute to our sound when we write. Like in Glue, there’s a heavy guitar tone that drives the song and it wouldn’t go amiss on a rock record. But then there’s a pop synth that follows the melody of the track. It’s stacks of genres that you can pick out if you look deep into the song. It’s really interesting and fun to bring in these inspirations and it does put us into a zone inbetween indie and pop. I just really enjoy the music we’re making, I think it’s good music.”

NC: We’ll talk about the latest single ‘Glue’ now. Could you give us a bit of a background on the track and do you think this is your best work to date?

Olly: “Dan came to me with some chords and, if you’ll pardon the pun, they struck a chord. We were in the same room having a meeting with our manager and he was just messing about on one of my guitars as he always does when we are trying to have a conversation. He started playing these two chords and I said ‘what’s that?’ He just said he’d been playing it all day and I knew we had to do something with it. We took it away and built it up, wrote the lyrics over it, and gave it back to the band who gave it more layers. Everyone knew from the off that this one had something special about it. Everything is coming together nicely now and we know where we need to be when we write the next single, which we’ve got loads of ideas for.”

Dan: “I’d definitely say it’s our best work and it’s our best collaborative work as a band. It’s been such a good campaign, we’ve put our all into it and it’s had national reach. It’s started the ball rolling too, the creativity is flowing after this one. I really enjoy the older stuff we wrote and it will still feature heavily in our set, but this newer stuff has got a bit more of a bite to it, I think.”

NC: And when there’s this excitement and buzz within the band ahead of release, what was it like once the single was out there, how has the reception been for you?

Dan: “I was nervous during the promo campaign. I don’t know why, it almost felt different to our previous releases. It was a step up and our first release since lockdown but XS picked it up straight away and all the comments have been nice. People are telling us this is our best track so far and the reviews and interest nationally has been great, we’re reaching out to new places – London, Sheffield and Birmingham to name a few. It feels like we are growing our fanbase. I’m still overhwhelmed and in love with the track to be honest. Every single day a new opportunity comes along off the back of the track it’s amazing and I’m all caught up in it!”

Olly: “Doing things like this is the best thing ever, cause I just wanna talk about it. Because of where everyone has been during this, not just us as a band but the whole world, we were so worried at the beginning because lockdown came along and knocked us off course a bit. We have managed to keep the ball rolling, but the gigging has obviously been stop start. Now, I see Glue as the soundtrack to the reopening of life itself. Fingers crossed, if Boris keeps his promises, that’s what the track can be. Everything is positive and exciting at the minute for us.”

NC: How did the lockdown affect you as a band. With you both agreeing that this is your best work to date, do you think it sparked some creativity?

Olly: “That’s how I see it. One little phrase I say to the lads is it’s the time we didn’t want, but we didn’t know we needed. Now is the time to look forward with positivity after such an awful year. When everything opens up, if you want to go to a gig, go to a gig. If you’re thinking about going to the cinema, go to the cinema. Our statement with Glue is about being positive and taking that attitude going forwards.”

Dan: “Lockdown gave us an awakening, a kick up the arse to make us realise that this is all we want. We want to be career musicians in this band. I’m happy to speak on behalf of the band to say we all want this just as much equally, and more now than we ever have before. So it has sparked creativity within us. When you’re gigging every week you get caught up in the live side of things, so being stuck at home trying to write was tough but it made me realise how much I wanted to create music with three of my best mates. We write really positively as a band, especially with our latest single. We want to put out positive energy and that’s what our new live show will be about, it’ll be one big party.”

NC: How was it for you when you were hearing stories about musicians needing to re-train and a lack of government backing for the arts?

Olly: “It can be quite poisoning on social media, people put things on there to piss people off. It’s the same with magazines using click bait articles. Don’t get me wrong, the whole re-training thing really wound me up at the time, but Facebook took that and ran. Their only interest was how much interaction they could get online with the story. I wasn’t happy with it because, at the end of the day, if you’re good at what you do then you should do it and not ever feel bad for doing it. But at the same time, I took it all with a pinch of salt. It was a flammable situation that got out of hand quickly online. We know what we want to do and we’d never let anyone tell us otherwise.”

Dan: “For me, it was a harder pill to swallow. I work in the music industry on the live side so I lost my job at the same time as everything getting cancelled. I’d just graduated in Music Business so to then get told to re-train it felt like a middle finger in my face, it really annoyed me. I was part of the marches that went on in Manchester and it felt like every time we asked for help, it was a closed door. Friends of mine ended up sofa surfing cause they’d lost their homes and it was horrible to see that happen. I know the industry will be back on its feet again as soon as it’s allowed to be, the embers are still burning, but it’s been such a tough year. The Lottery Winners did a song / poem, an open letter to creatives, and Tom captured a lot of how we feel. There is a lot of frustration, but this summer has the potential to release a lot of the tension. I’m optimistic about it now, I think we’ve got a huge Summer ahead of us. It will be amazing to be a part of it.”

NC: What are your plans for gigging as soon as live music is back?

Olly: “Our big date is headlining the Deaf Institute in Manchester on 25th September. When we say tickets are flying out, it’s not an advertising scheme, we are being honest. Glue has generated a lot more interest and that gig is going to sell out soon. So if people want tickets for it, get tickets for it now, it will be an absolute party. We’ve been practicing to build our live show up. In the words of Liam Gallagher, it’s going to be biblical. We’ll give it everything we’ve got. We’ve also got Carfest which we can’t wait for, about 30,000 people a day, so we’re buzzing to be on that. It’s also a nice little road trip down south. We’re playing Goose Green Festival in Manchester too.”

Dan: “Other than that, I’d love to do a few more dates outside of Manchester. We are talking to a few promoters but keeping our cards close to our chest at the minute. I wouldn’t mind visiting a few new cities and the interest is there. We’ve got a Warrington show that we need to re-arrange and there’s a Sheffield gig that also needs re-arranging, we are looking forward to those two. It’s so hard to plan for this year with the complete uncertainty. But once we get the green light, we’ll try and make up for a year and a half of not gigging.”

NC: Do you think when the green light does arrive for live music, you will have new releases out by then? And is the pressure on now to live up to ‘Glue’?

Olly: “I don’t think there’s any pressure. The last single we put out ‘Don’t You Know’ was in the middle of lockdown and we couldn’t do hardly any promo for it, so I felt a lot of pressure then. But with ‘Glue’, it’s all been about positivity, and I think the next single is going to be mega with the ideas we’ve got at the minute, so I’m not worried one bit.”

Dan:Glue has opened up this new dimension of our songwriting. We always know the next single has to be better than the last one to ensure progression. We’re not struggling to write at the minute, our ideas are working and I’m just loving being in this band right now, I keep saying it to the lads. There’s a lot of exciting things going on behind the scenes and I just can’t wait for everyone to hear it. We’ll have announcements galore in the near future.”

Olly: “Part of that exciting stuff is our new merch line. We’ve got some really cool ideas going on in that regard and there’s some Glue merch out now. We put our all into creating our merch as well as our music. “

NC: It sounds like a really positive space to be in at the minute with UNO MAS, so what are the short term and long terms goals from here?

Olly: “Our short term goal is to sell out Deaf Institute, which we are on course to do. Then we are just going to step it up, bigger and better gigs and keep progressing the music.”

Dan: “More gigs, more tunes, that’s a guarantee in the short term. Long term for me is getting a national tour booked in. To play our music all over the UK would be brilliant. We want to just spread UNO MAS as far as we can take it.”

NC: I stumbled across a Rick Astley cover you did a few years back, should we expect more covers in the near future and maybe some Rick Astley / Foo Fighters esque collaborations?

Olly: “I don’t know what it is about the indie scene but they don’t collaborate like hip hop, R&B and grime artists do. Who’s to say we can’t do that as an indie band? I think now is a great time to do it. It isn’t about being dog eat dog, it’s about being inclusive. The Wigan bands are all bigging each other up at the minute, the Warrington bands are the same, we’re all mates. The circles we surround ourselves in are full of great people.”

NC: Time for your Fantasy Pints now, any three musicians past or present you can go out for a drink with, who are you choosing and why?

Olly: “I’m really into The 1975, and I know there’s a certain stigma around them, but I respect them immensely. They started out as an indie band and now they are everything, their latest album had a bit of country, hip hop, low-fi, ambient, there was loads. I know Matt Healy doesn’t always come across well in interviews but I think we’d get along, I agree with a lot of the stuff he says, so he’d be my first. I’d also like to go for a pint with Ozzy Osbourne, that would be great, just trying to understand what he’s saying. They say never meet your heroes but the Gallagher brothers would be a top night. I’m usually Team Noel for the songwriting, but for actual conversation over a beer I’d say Liam. But I’d have to take both, I’ll split up the fight!”

Dan: “My three would be Liam Gallagher, Elton John and David Bowie. Liam Gallagher would just be a good night out, Elton John can throw a party and write music in his sleep, and then Bowie is just Bowie!”

NC: And finally, what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to once all this is over and normality resumes?

Dan: “For me, it’s the Deaf Institute gig and just playing live as a whole. I can’t wait to play music live in front of an audience again and see people dancing around.”

Olly: “Yeah when I shut my eyes and try to go to sleep, all I think about is that Deaf Institute gig. I’m buzzing inside, I can’t wait for it. I don’t want to rush it around either, we’ve got some great times ahead with Summer approaching. My excitement will build and we will develop our show in the meantime to make sure it’s 100%, the best it can be.”

You can listen to the band’s podcast, ‘The Mas Cast’, derived from their Facebook vlog cast here: https://shows.acast.com/the-mas-cast/episodes. The latest series includes conversations with special guests and sees a more mature side to the band, as well as the usual fun stuff.

If you want to check out the band’s latest merch, see: https://www.musicglue.com/unomas/shop.
You can get tickets to the Deaf Institute gig here: https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/uno-mas-the-deaf-institute-tickets/10867335.

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https://www.northernchorus.co.uk/2021/02/18/contributors-we-need-you/

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