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London, England, United Kingdom | SELF

London, England, United Kingdom | SELF
Band Pop Rock


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"MoRo - Lay Down Your Ghosts"

If I had to pick one song [at the moment] I'd go for Lay Down Your Ghosts by MoRo. They released a really cool soul-pop record last year and now they're back with something different... it's already set up camp in every nook and cranny of my brain. His voice is on another level. - The Guardian

"Introducing MoRo"

We’ve got the wrong name. Should we be called SproRo?”

It’s a clammy autumn evening in the capital and London four-piece MoRo are discussing the digressions they may have made from the mission statement they drew up almost two years ago, which was (as the name astutely suggests) to cherry pick the urgency and power of rock music and place it alongside the taught punchyness and flair of 1970’s Motown records.

It’s a conversation that over the course of our meeting – which comes after a long day for the group, who’ve been recording live in-studio videos for a number of tracks “think Radiohead from The Basement” – highlights what an interesting proposition MoRo indeed are. “Obviously we don’t sound anything like Motown”, asserts singer and guitarist Steve Hughes, before pining that he genuinely struggles to explain what his band sounds like. “A few people have gone down the Springsteen route, with the soul side of Springsteen and the brass” says drummer Ed Carlile, offering a hand, “but then again there are segments of it that aren’t Springsteen at all.” Back to square one then? Not quite. They appear to have settled on it: “It’s a pop record.”

Interestingly for a band that have only just played their first live show, MoRo – completed by bassist Andy “Conkey” McConkey & guitarist Leon Rossiter – have been a fully fledged entity for almost two years. After the disintegration of Hughes and Conkey’s former pop-rock group, the singer emailed friend Carlile a couple of tracks with the intention of perhaps forming something new. “I just thought ‘that’s really cool’,” explains the drummer, “I liked the fact it wasn’t classically indie, it has this sort of Motown bassline thing going on. I thought ‘that’s quite an interesting sound, what if that becomes a flavour of the album’”.

With Conkey the natural go-to bass player, the then three-piece got together in a rehearsal room in an attempt to flesh out the songs and found a creative spark that they are still surprised at today, writing two songs in their finished form in less than half an hour. With these two songs – the Diet-Springsteen-meets-The-Delays-pop-rocker Love Is Here and the slower, more sombre Clouds – they had what would become the bookends of their eventual sound. “As we progressed in writing that became a bit of a feature,” says Hughes. “We’d have these upbeat songs then have these soulful moments that add a really important part. And then the difficult thing became “how do we piece these together?”

One key factor in answering that question was the addition of Rossiter, a mutual friend of all the group, who joined a few months later. Another was the decision to, initially anyway, treat MoRo as an album project for which they would write and rehearse relentlessly as opposed to rushing out into the faded lights of depressing pub gigs. “The concept behind it was coming together to make an album,” insists Conkey, “not really coming together to form a band.” They all agree that doing this was an important step in re-evaluating the proposed creative formulas for new groups.

“Everyone’s doing gig after gig so that the right people come, the right management come and the necessary A&R people come and they like you and they give you some money,” enthuses Carlile. “We were like, why do that? That’s soul destroying. Why don’t you just make it (an album). Make what you want to make now and then promote that. So it was quite fun to be like, you know what, lets just do something a little more creative opposed to feeling like you’re just slogging it out in the Purple Turtle…” “Although the Purple Turtle is a lovely venue”, interjects Conkey, leaning in close to the dictaphone for comic emphasis. Both he and Rossiter are proud owners of a devilish ease in the way they are able to derail the conversation.

With their plan of attack firmly settled on, their sound continued to evolve as more new songs came. However, it was through an unexpected source that helped MoRo, and especially Hughes, find out exactly what they wanted to bring to the table.

While going through a light obsession with The Temptations, Hughes read an “amazing” article focussing on Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s post-tour depression and the eventual writing sessions for Pet Sounds that came out of it. “At that time he just wanted to create some sounds and create some songs that people listen to and just feel really warm and really loved.”

Touched by this simple sentiment, Hughes set about writing songs that were packed with positive energy. “In England the music that hits is often quite angular or… not aggressive, but confrontational. But to create something that makes you feel good, or at least better, was one of the real ideas, both lyrically but also in terms of some songs. We wanted to do something uplifting.”

That optimism can be found all over their debut album, Slow River, from the aforementioned, sunshine-soaked Love Is Here to the relentlessly chipper Something I Can Feel via the “you can’t keep a good man down” chorus of Can’t Keep. It’s an album that has almost nothing in common with what the majority of guitar bands are currently peddling. It’s a rich, tightly packed pop album with deliberate nods to Motown and Springsteen’s soul. When some names are eventually prized from them in terms of reference points for Slow River, aside of the above, it’s with wide-eyed enthusiasm that they speak about Paulo Nutini’s Sunny Side Up and Amy Winehouse’s Black To Black. “Great players playing music you can really feel.”

Not for MoRo then is the “soulless” touching up of an album after the initial takes – a process Hughes claims leaves albums “not knowing if they are male or female as they’ve just come from the same package” – or perhaps the most overused, clichéd term in indie music at the moment, that of putting down the guitars and picking up the synths. The group joke that, due to previous endeavours, it was almost the other way round: “we put down the synths and picked up the guitars!”

“It feels very faddy to do that, obviously, because it is,” says Carlile about the untaken option of going electronic. “It feels so obviously like, well this is what people are doing now. There are no fireworks to our record, it’s just a collection of songs we really like…” Conkey senses an opportunity: “…and also none of us can play synth.”

With the meat of the record put down over the course of a manic three days – “our sound is almost dictated by the lack of time and funds” – and mixed by Adrian Hall, the group are now armed with an album they are keen to showcase live. Their debut outing was to a bustling Proud Gallery crowd who witnessed a rawer, beefed up take on the record’s crisp production. Just don’t expect them to be trudging round to your local pub any time soon.

As well as self-releasing the album, for the time being they are focussed on giving people more reasons to come to the live shows. “You need a very good reason to do the same thing you’ve just done again to the same people.”

Carlile says MoRo’s aim is “trying to make each gig a special occasion which you’ve promoted online through releasing something new, as opposed to three or four gigs a week in toilet venues to your girlfriend and your parents. You need to respect your audience…”.” Conkey and Rossiter can’t help themselves. “Well we’d need to get girlfriends too…”, “…and my parents hate the record”. - When The Gramophone Rings


Lay Down Your Ghosts - EP, 2012
One Camera One Take - Live EP, 2012
Slow River - Album, 2011



Four piece Indie-Soul band from London, set to release their EP, Lay Down Your Ghosts. The record was written and produced by themselves with the help of engineer Mo Hausler (U2, Lily Allen) and mixer Adrian Hall (Alicia Keys, Sinead O'Connor).

Lay Down Your Ghosts marks a new direction from last years debut album Slow River, which featured 'Thousand Suns', which was shortlisted for best Pop song at the 2011 International Songwriting Awards.

The new tracks are influenced by their energetic live performances, with louder drums, dirtier guitars and soaring vocals, but the same MoRo traits are on display.