There’s a sparkling, new pop sound on the scene and it’s being welcomed with wide open arms. Singer, songwriter and producer Mouse unveiled her debut single 3 Weeks at the end of 2018, and the music world was quick to see she was onto something great.
Her second single Escape received a remix from Mun Sing’s Heavy Petting alias, while third single Grow got a release on Leisure Records, as well as a remix from low-fi beatmaker Saaaz.
Mouse’s latest single Touch dropped last month as part of the Illegal Data #1 compilation, alongside some of the underground’s best, experimental artists from L U C Y to Count Baldor. It’s the first single to be 100 percent produced by Mouse (having co-produced on her first few tracks) and it’s easily her best yet.
An infectious dance pop banger, Touch fits right in to the 16-track compilation that scales industrial trance to dungeon trap; though equally, you could hear it playing on a UK top 40. Somehow, Mouse has managed to captivate the experimental underground, while making super catchy songs with mass appeal.
Mouse has managed to captivate the experimental underground, while making super catchy songs with mass appeal
‘I’m very inspired by PC music and that sort of subgenre of pop that’s quite weird and leftfield. Artists like Charli XCX, SOPHIE and A. G. Cook really inspired the way I produce and I write. Fortunately, the guys that run Illegal Data are really into that sort of music too.
‘I think because my tastes are eclectic, that comes through in the way I write, so a lot of different people can find something in it for them.’
You could be forgiven for thinking of pop music in terms of formulaic, repetitive and predictable hooks; however, one of the alluring elements of Mouse’s music is her skill at holding back, playing with tension and delivering huge Beethoven-esque payoffs. So it makes sense when we learn that she is a classically-trained musician with a Grade 8 in piano, as well as playing the bass, drums and being a ‘fantastic recorder player’, among other things.
I listened to a lot of classical music
‘I listened to a lot of classical music’ she says. ‘I’m a classically trained pianist, so theory was very important in the way I learned. Sometimes, I felt that it was a distraction, because I’d get very tuned into: this is how that chord should work with the next chord.
‘So it was taking that knowledge I have through classical training and putting it to one side and thinking: I can take little pieces of this, but really I can focus on just writing this song that I think is great.
‘More pop music than people think probably comes from those great composers. So much incredible music was created back then. Harmonies were amazing. Chords were amazing.’
More pop music than people think comes from those great composers
However, Mouse arrived at her current pop sound via a much heavier detour, having found metal as a teen. Mouse learned to play bass, drums and even had vocal lessons with TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins.
‘My mum was a huge Kylie and Anastasia fan, and she bought me Atomic Kitten and S Club CDs, stuff like that, so that’s what I was really into as a kid. I used to rush home from school and put a CD on and perform to an imaginary audience.
‘Then I got a bit older, found metal and that was my thing. I loved really heavy music riffs and screamed vocals and quite extreme music. I thought “I’m never going to grow out of metal”. I’m going to be a guitarist. I want to be in a band. I don’t really care for anything else. Pop music is lame. And that secret love became almost an embarrassment, because those genres are very opposing.
I thought “I’m never going to grow out of metal”
‘Then I guess I grew up again, my life experiences changed and I found pop again. Regardless of whether I would have admitted it when I was a teenager, I’ve always written pop music. No matter if was listening to something else, I’ve always written hooks, I love writing choruses, I love making things as catchy as I possibly can. That has been the continuum throughout that transition.’
While pop-influenced music has been creeping back into favour over the last few yeas, none of it strikes the same chord as Mouse’s all-out embracing of the sound – cheese and all, if you can pardon the pun. Her whole aesthetic and disregard for what’s considered cool is precisely what makes it so. At a time we could all use some uplifting, Mouse provides that tonic, with excellent musicianship and serious talent at its core.
‘When I released 3 Weeks, I’d had a really tough year. I’d lost my job, people had come and gone out of my life, I had a lot of unrest in myself. And I thought, I’m just going to put this song out. I’m not sure if it’s finished, but I could keep working on it forever and probably never release it and actually start doing what I wanted to do.
what feels fun to me right now?
‘Because I’d had a really bad year, I took myself so seriously. I was very structured, everything came in its place and order; but what I learned in that year was to not take myself too seriously. So when it comes to things like aesthetic, it’s: Okay, what feels fun to me right now? That’s why in my first press shots I was wearing mouse ears, and I thought people would think I look stupid, but I just didn’t care. I thought, this is exactly what I want it to look like in this moment and that’s all that really matters to me.’
That’s not to say there’s not some serious substance in her songwriting. Grow, for example, is a very open and honest song about her own struggle with mental health. Although the music industry is taking strides towards talking about these real issues, if Mouse is the face of future pop, she represents a significant evolution from the shiny pop princesses of her childhood CDs.
Mouse represents a significant evolution from the shiny pop princesses of her childhood CDs
‘People generally are looking for something deeper. People want something that means more, because there is so much hurt in the world at the moment. This has grown since the nineties and noughties, because with social media and technology we are so in tune with what’s going on in the world. We can see all this negativity, all the time. I think that it’s important for artists to be even more authentic and real and relatable, because it makes people feel less alone – and that’s really important.’
While she’s now well and truly entrenched in the Bristol scene, Mouse actually hails from Scotland. Moving to Bath initially, where she studied commercial music at university, Mouse got her introduction to the Bristol music scene playing bass in Emily Isherwood’s band, meeting a lot of people though that, she says.
Over the next few years, she set upon working towards the project that would become Mouse, a nickname used by her mum because of her height and now-conquered shyness.
‘The main reason I chose Mouse as my name was to reclaim my height, which I’ve been insecure about for most of my life. One of my main goals is to empower people to change their perspective on their insecurities and inspire people to learn to love themselves – and if I can continue to do that through my music that’s a win for me.’
With sights deservedly set on big things going into 2020, with ‘at least one EP by this time next year’, Mouse has teased at her new live show with videos on social media that show her rehearsing with a pair of backing dancers.
These days, unless you’re looking at Beyonce or Taylor Swift, we’ve become accustomed to a more static vocalist, or some running and rolling around the stage on the more lively end of the scale; Mouse however, is bringing back the choreographed dance routines of pop music’s late nineties and noughties heyday.
Mouse is bringing back the choreographed dance routines of pop music’s late nineties and noughties heyday
‘I have a short attention span and when I go to a show, I need my attention to be maintained, otherwise my mind goes elsewhere. So I want to make sure that when somebody comes to see me, they’re only focussing on what I’m doing.
‘I feel like pop doesn’t really exist between different levels – you’re either A list, or it just doesn’t really exist. Obviously I’m not there yet, but it’s really difficult to find your footing as an independent pop artist, so having the dancers with me is also alluding to where I want to go.
Bristol is such a rich city when it comes to all genres, apart from pop
‘Bristol is such a rich city when it comes to all genres, apart from pop’ says Mouse. ‘I think that’s worked in my favour, because the traction has been really quick. Obviously, I do work hard as well, but I think it’s helped me that there’s not a lot really out here. But that’s also a shame, because I’m sure there are people around who do want to make similar things to what I’m doing.
‘By making the sort of music that I want to make, I hope that I can encourage people who want to make pop music to start doing it in this city. That’s really important to me. I want to make pop something that Bristol can also be proud of, as well as the really rich DIY punk scene, the drum and bass scene and more underground genres. That’s a side intention with this project, definitely.’
I want to make pop something that Bristol can also be proud of
This month, you can catch Mouse playing Exchange’s basement stage at Wax Music & So Young Magazine’s Who Are You? alongside Walt Disco and Fever 103°; though we look forward to seeing much more of Mouse as she ushers in a new dawn for pop music in Bristol and beyond.
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger
Shoot location: @grainbarge