Spirited and dynamic, ‘Mexico’ glows like a beacon of warm folk rock light as Mighty Oaks dive deeper into themselves than ever before, emerging from the pandemic with a glowing collection that inspires, enchants, and ignites a fire within.
for fans of The Lumineers, The Head and the Heart, Tom Speight
Stream: “Mexico” – The Head and the Heart
A hearty soundtrack to overcoming hardship, Mighty Oaks’ fourth record is as intimate as it expansive – a truly magnificent, wide-eyed and open-hearted album breathing with wonder and refreshing fortitude. Spirited and dynamic, Mexico glows like a beacon of warm folk rock light as the Berlin-based trio dive deeper into themselves than ever before, emerging from the pandemic with a glowing collection that inspires, enchants, and ignites a fire within.
Released May 7, 2021 via Howl Records, Mexico is a moving journey for good times and band. Mighty Oaks’ fourth studio album arrives just over a year after their third record All Things Go hit home with its own passionate force, but thanks to the pandemic, the trio of Ian Hooper (US), Claudio Donzelli (Italy), and Craig Saunders (UK) found themselves with far more time on their hands than anyone could have expected.
Inspired in part by the pandemic and in part by our everyday, Mexico is somehow both an escape from reality and a full-throttle surrender to it: Beautiful highlights like the stunningly heart-on-sleeve “By Your Side” and the buoyant, melodious “Forever” embrace the depths of love and connection, whereas the titular “Mexico” offers a vacation in the mind, and the heated “Bad Blood” (yes, another song named “Bad Blood”) explores the rifts that divide us – political polarization, ideological differences, and so on.
There’s a lot to unpack in Mexico, but Mighty Oaks do it with cool, calm confidence and refined, knowing finesse.
The band’s mix of rich vocal harmonies, driving beats, warm guitars and sweeping pianos makes every moment a charming revelry to behold, beaming with stirring emotion and sweet folk sound that soothes a weary soul.
“Mexico was written and recorded faster and more effortlessly than any of the previous three we have released,” Mighty Oaks’ Ian Hooper explains. “Once it became clear that all live shows were off for the foreseeable future, I decided that I’d immerse myself in regular songwriting, something that had proven elusive in years past due to sheer lack of time. Music has always been a way for me to process life and all of its ups and downs. The pandemic proved to be a source of inspiration for me, as it forced me to see the world, and our place in it, a bit differently.”
“I was also confronted with very new problems. So I sought refuge in my subterranean home studio in Berlin, often waking up at writing at 05:00, before my two little boys began their diurnal onslaught of demands and wrestling call-outs, before the world could take hold of my mind fully. I never thought that we would end up recording the whole album at my house but, in the end, it was a blessing that we were able to, given the lockdown and the fact that everyone got COVID at the studio where we had planned to record just a week before we were scheduled to start. So we all decided to meet here, to make use of the familiar setting, and it turned out to be the best decision we could have made.”
“It was back to the roots for us — taking back much more control of the process, and being far more connected to the recording and production than ever before,” Hooper adds. “We pooled our gear together and amassed an impressive amount of top-end equipment that enabled us to get every sound we needed – two Telefunken V76, two Neve 1073LB, two Capi VP-28 Platinums, a Revox B77, our trusty Townsend Labs L22, am array of fantastic Beyerdynamic mics, UAD Apollo interfaces, and so much more in that vein.”
“We wanted the record to sound warm, natural, and raw. I think it’s the closest that we’ve come to achieving the thus far, and we learned so much about what we do best during this making of this album, that I’m already writing the next one.”
Mexico is an enriching and rewarding listen, and the more time you spend with it, the more you can take away from Mighty Oaks’ thoughtful songwriting and memorable music. This is by no means a “pandemic” record: Immersive and emotional, it’s the band at their very best, embracing a period of self-reflection and discovery and coming out with a world of things to say. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Mighty Oaks’ Mexico with Atwood Magazine as the band go track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their fourth LP!
Stream: ‘Mexico’ – Mighty Oaks
:: Inside Mexico ::
Land of Broken Dreams
Land Of Broken Dreams is pretty self explainatory from the title, it is one of the first songs I wrote for the album when everything was very in the state of chaos and the selfishness and the Me-First Attitude was really being put on display by people around the world. You were kind of seing how different countrys were dealing with this unpresidented situation all oft he sudden – some countries are set up in a more social way, they take care of their citizens and some other countrys like america that let people just slip through the crack and just fall forever. They don’t know social safetyness to catch them.
From my perspective I wrote this song in all of a state being taken by suprise and it’s the same for everybody, it’s the perspective like someone in amercia, they never saw it coming just avelage of hardship, like someone just pulled the carpet from under your feet and there’s nobody out there to help you. But at the end of the day, the American Dream Spirit – what does it mean and what does it do for you? Does i even exist? Being forced in the hardship is kind of laced bare the reality is like you’re the one that has to dig yourself outside that hole, if it all possible. Okay, you can go ahead and be angry and you can go ahead and cry but at the end oft he day like what’s giving you this raw motion is teaching you something. What makes you bitter makes you wise.
I hope these people take something away of these hardships and reflect on what’s important in life and in a place like America, this Land of broken dreams – as hard it is to even have an American Dream anymore sometimes just having that dream gets you up and moving forward – so this song is both sides oft he fence it’s critic oft he country but on the other side it’s also giving great respect to the kind of unwavering optimism of Americans which I have it inside of me and which I think Germany tries to crush sometimes but it’s a tough time for everybody and we are all on our own at the end of the day and the one who pull yourself up and get yourself back on track.
I wrote that song during the first lockdown when everything was so fresh and absurd, I mean the times we live in are still very absurd, but back then people were bashing each other’s heads in over toilet paper….
We as humanity have come so far, we’re so advanced, and that’s just millions of steps backwards fighting over toilet paper. And with the song I just wanted to get away from this absurd reality, at least mentally, and the first place I thought of was Mexico and how nice it would be to take a short break there, and then I did that in my head and with this song.
Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Our song “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea“ is a song ultimately about mutual patience and understanding and respect. I think often times in live you find yourself in a hard place where no matter what you do you can’t necessarily do the right thing. And it takes a while to figure out which path to go down. The song is about those who love you and those you love in live – that they have patience and that they wait for you to figure things out just as much as you wait for them in times of struggle.“
It’s like two songs in one almost – we got this very delicate picked guitar and spares arrangement at the beginning and then after the first chorus the drop and this great groove and a drum track will carry – it’s almost hip hop. I love the song and the world that it exists in and it’s also kind of like expressing the schizophrenia that is a company with addiction. I’ve had so many friends who’ve had serious drug problem in life and a lot of them haven’t made it out of it. And at the end of the day it’s kind of up to the person who has the drug addiction, who ist he addict to want to have help before they can get help.
I think a lot of people try to remove the addict from their situation thinking that by removing them from the problem it solves the problem but they have to be the one who face their fears and they have to go about head on, they have to face their demons in order to get control of themselves. They have to be able to control themselves when they are in it because otherwise the danger will always exists that they’re gonna fall back into it when they are surrounded by it.
I’ve been in this so many times with people that I love – not that I know everything, but I got my views on it and helped a lot of people to get healthy and happy again and some people just were never ready to really get help and if they’re not ready to get help then you can‘t get them help. From the perspective of someone who acknowledges that they have a problem and that they are ready to get the help – sometimes they’re seeking the pain that they have in their lives, but in the end of the day they don’t need sympathies from people – they just need people who believe in them and stand by their side get them through hard times.
Ghost is a song that will be interpreted depending on where you at in your life – even Craig and I saw it on totally different ways which doesn’t say anything about the relationships we’re in but you can either see it as the most real love song that there is a real and honest meaning like acknowledging the fact that being in a relationship or being in love or giving yourself to someone isn’t always easy – in fact it could be super hard – it just can rock you to your core. But than at the end of the day it’s because it’s so real because you go through so many fundamental feelings with that person you know that the relationship and the bond that you end up forming is something that will last until you die meaning you take that to the grave that love. So you could say „until you’re a ghost to me“ means „I’m with you“ kind of forever it’s just a different way of putting that settlement.
Or you can look at it being like this is the anti-love song like being in love is shit nothing but hardship and than it could be like a breakup song like „Until you’re a ghost to me“ means „your dead to me“. So I think it’s up for interpretation in there, people are gonna find what they want in the song. But at the end of the day we were borderline not gonna put the song on the album and I sat down with Nichola, our Producer one day, I was alone with him in the studio recording vocals with him, and than we started jamming out and I started singing this little vocal tag you know the song’s starts out with and the song just completely changed and now it’s one of my favourite on the album and it’s an amazing Mighty Oaks song and I really love it it’s super deep and the production and everything is on point – really cool song.
What You Fighting For
The world is super politicized about everything right now. Everyone’s online and is screaming at the top of their lungs – saying that they are right and what they think is right. It‘s hard to know what to think sometimes because no matter where you go online you can always find something that supports your opinions, even if they are bad shit crazy. And the song is basically just for some other friends of mine who’ve kind of have gone off the deep end and last themselves to conspiracy theories and blatently proto fascists conservative rhetoric.
It’s unfortunate because this could be people you grew up with or became good friends with once i moved to Berlin and I’ve seen it only happened to white guys of my age when they feel like they’ve not been given the chances or the attention they think they deserve in life but this is just their privileged, white, cis-male idiocy. But I’ve had some super serious fights of people and it’s all just been communicated digitally because you can’t talk about it in real life and maybe that’s the issue because you can’t look someone in the eye know what they mean. But who knows if we were face to face probably wouldn’t have gone that well either.
I think people think they’re clever and big and super online but at the end of the day they’re unable to understand that the world is much bigger than them and they’re unable to get outside of their heads or their own bigotry. And so my question in the song is „do you really know what you’re fighting for“ – do you really understand the complexity of so many issues in the world, like what is it that’s got you so „dumb“ right now“.
Bad Blood is a song about differences between people. Last year was a really tough one and it brought out some ugliness in people and is definitely led to a breakdown in communication on many levels – everything is happening digitally right now and that’s very rife for misunderstanding and conflicts. I think Communication really has to happen between people physically and that unfortunately isn’t happening very much right now.
And then also on a political level there’s so much polarization. There’s basically only right or wrong and people are so heavy in their believe that were different from one another and in the song that great divide that you think exists between us is nothing more than a paper-thin line. So when you boil it down we are not too different from another. No matter what our skin colour is or our background – we all bleed the same colour. And sometimes it just comes to a point where everyone’s talking and the noise level just reaches a crazy scream and it’s too much and you don’t really know what to say anymore and you just have to move forward somehow. And that’s what Bad Blood is about!
By Your Side
By your side is a song that could be interpreted in a number of ways but the essence of it is showing somebody the respect and the strength when they are in a time of need. Standing by them and helping them through their struggles. It’s a very soulful track in the way we recorded it. In the way that I initially wrote it, it’s got a lot of feeling in it in the guitar and in the chords – it’s kind of rock, kind of „schalalala“ and i think that you could feel in the song that I wanna be there for someone when they are in the time of need. And that i’m also hoping that there are people there for me when I need them, because it’s life and we all have our good and our bad times and our struggles.
By your side is anything you needed to be when you hear it and when it’s the right time and the right song for you than I hope it helps you.
“Forever” is for sure like your classic love song, but you can read into it in different ways, you may just met someone significent in your life and you know that this person is special or it may also be the first moment you meet your kids which is pretty indescribable, but if you’ve gone through that than you know. I mean the first moment you set eyes on your child it’s kind of like „wow – you’re part of me and i’m gonna be in your life forever and you’re gonna be with me until the day I die.“
It’s a beautiful feeling! There’s both of that in the song.
The other side of the coin to this song is for sure like personal struggle, the chorus is very much about love but also about salvation, like being a bit lost and always chasing along the wrong dreams and making questionable decisions in your life and finding that right person, no matter if it’s your partner or your kid or no matter who kind of wakes you up, put you on track. So it’s a love song but also a one that is born out of hardships in a sense like also being mature enough to understand when you’ve met someone that’s gonna change your life. And holding on to that and never letting them go because sometimes love ain’t easy – but it’s important in life.
And we knew that this song was borderline cheesy and so the way that we recorded it was we wanted to make it very timeless. I wrote the bridge for the song at the very end and I think it gives the song a necessarily kind of Fleetwood Mac vibe that makes the song super credible in my opinion. It’s for sure the most pop and mainstream song that we have on the album but at the same time it occupies a space that is necessary on the album and also tells a story that a lot of people associate with our band which is also kind of the ability to love.
“Heavy” is a mix of different emotions, different things in my head. It’s the first time I started writing in this alternate tuning on the guitar – I just picked it up and fell in love with this chore progression and started writing. This is one of the first songs i wrote for the album during the first lockdown when things were kind of really fresh and really uncertain. I mean not that they are less uncertain right now but everything felled like in a state of „shock“.
Part of me was going back to a roadtrip that I did with my dad driving from Utah, Salt Lake City back up to Seattle in this old Mercedes that you used to have in the States, beautiful 450 SLC from the seventies, in that car it just flew – you can press the gas in the freeway and just fly away. We drove it to desert and along the snake river and over the mountains and it was a beautiful experience and it was the first long roadtrip that I did with my dad. It was a beautiful connection and I remember it was so damn hot inside without any air condition in the old thing – get out and jump in the river, than kind of „Air Drying“, get back into the car with the windows down and keep driving, this is a beautiful kind of the wild west of America Roadtrip and a really great memory for me.
The Chorus is like embracing that fear, the uncertainty right now in a harm that things are getting heavy. It feels like we’re slowly loosing control and don’t know how things will look in the future. I mean a year down the road is the same way, it’s even more unsettling. But basically making that turn not to be just about my dad but about anybody. „Hey dear i need you to hear just to keep me whole to keep me sane“ in a sense. So heavy is about having someone in your life that is helping you through the struggles but also kind of reflecting baving almost in the beauty of the past and holding on to those moments that made you happy in times of uncertainty and struggle.
Gold to Me
Gold to me is a song about the first time I met my wife here in Berlin, She’s from Berlin and we met up at a bar in Prenzlauer Berg, I don’t know if it’s still there, but it clicked very quick.
And it developed into something that is fundamental in my life and I can let go of so many other things in life wether it is richess or security or a home, a roof over my head – all these things which are essential but also superficial in a way, because we have each other and that’s what is important in life. In the second verse i acknowledge that it hasn’t always been easy we’ve had our times where we didn’t see us eye to eye but that what we have is real. And anything in life is not always gonna be easy but it’s real and that’s what makes it enjoyable for me and also long lasting i think.
“Deadman’s Island” is a really small island in Washington State which is where I come from, it’s a place where I spend a lot of time at as a kid. We used to drive out there on a boat, swim out there low tighed and sleep out there and as we got older we had partys out there and now that I have kids i’ve brought my children out there and it’s magical for me it’s a tiny little island with a little run up to a plateau up on top with a cliff and it’s super idyllic and beautiful and it’s also called Cut’s Island.
In the last Year we weren’t able to travel anywhere and go anywhere and that’s tough for sure and this was kind of like a tempt trying to flee from that situation, to get away from the heaviness oft he world right now and from the frustration being stuck at home with two little children trying to keep them entertained and trying to keep everybody happy and trying to keep myself sane and yeah just kind of a wish to go back to Deadman’s Island for a minute.
And the way we recorded it is also very light and delicate almost – it never really takes off too much, it’s meant to put you into positive mental mind state, also it‘s kind of meditative in a sense, and kind of put you into a happy spot because that’s what Deadman’s Island is for me, no matter if i’m physically there or mentally there.
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? © Studio Marco Fischer
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