Stage Times: The Mysterines

The Merseyside band walk us through their gig history – from playing their local to joining Arctic Monkeys at the Emirates

The last few years have been a whirlwind for The Mysterines. 

Recording their critically acclaimed debut, Reeling, during lockdown, in 2022 they unveiled a carefully considered collection of fuzzy rock songs that brought them top-10 UK chart success.

With live music making a return after two years of stagnation, the Liverpool four-piece hit the ground running. Touring across the world – including a stint supporting Arctic Monkeys in UK stadiums last summer – they’ve been unstoppable, but as they began to consider their next move, a change was in order. 

“For our next record, we wanted to do something that felt completely different to Reeling,” nods drummer Paul Crilly.

“It’s not that we don’t like those songs anymore, but we got bored of them very quickly. We recorded our debut album when we were 18, so it just doesn’t feel like us anymore.”

The Mysterines - Stray

Brought up on the sounds of Queens Of The Stone Age, The Strokes and Bob Dylan, their sophomore album sees The Mysterines getting back in touch with their influences. A dazzling reintroduction to their band, Afraid Of Tomorrows presents a deeper, darker foray into vocalist Lia Metcalfe’s psyche, leaning further into the sounds of psych, grunge, and alternative music that raised them.

With a packed summer of European festivals set to preview their latest era, later this year The Mysterines will unveil the full power of Afraid Of Tomorrows on their biggest headline tour to date.

“These will be our first headline shows in a while, so we’re making it as big a deal as possible,” Crilly smiles.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to play for an hour, and now we have two albums’ worth of material. On the previous tour, we’d always have to go back to the old songs that no one wanted to do anymore. This time, we have a bunch of new songs, so we might just do a Bruce Springsteen and play for three hours.”

With a run that sees them stop at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire as well as Liverpool’s Olympia – a venue where they grew up watching their idols – 2024 is looking bright for The Mysterines. 

Before the chaos of the year truly sets in though, we sat down with drummer Paul Crilly and bassist George Favager to reflect on their gigging career so far, from a summer of stadium shows with their childhood heroes to the reality checks that have kept them humble. 

The gig that made me want to play music 

Crilly: When I was younger, my sister’s boyfriend at the time was in a covers band. He used to play at The Cavern Club every Saturday, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. At the time, that’s all I wanted to do. Nowadays, I don’t want to be playing at The Cavern every weekend, but it’s where that dream started coming to life. When I was sixteen, I went to Glastonbury for the first time, and that’s where I realised I wanted to be in an actual band. Before that, I just knew that I wanted to play music, but seeing the scale of that festival made me fall in love with this life.

Favager: Looking back, the thing that made me want to be in a band was The Beatles: Rock Band game, but when I was around 11, I remember going to see The Enemy. It was at the Academy in Liverpool, and it was ridiculously rowdy. I was a bit taken aback by the chaos, but it unlocked something unique within me. We’re playing a few festivals with that band this year, so it’s all come full circle. 

The Mysterines - Hung Up (Sound Check - Live From The Garage)

The smallest 

Crilly: It was a show we played in the middle of a tour. The night before, we had played The Garage in London, which was our biggest show ever at the time. The next day we headed to Norwich, and we were playing a festival. It was in a beer garden, and the drum kit they provided was so small that it looked like a toy. Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard were playing as well, and they walked in whilst we were laughing at the drum kit. They were like, ‘Yeah, we’re not doing that’, and brought their own kit in. It was a funny night, but after playing The Garage it really put things into perspective for us. 

That must have been a reality check…

Favager: I’ve never felt so grounded in my life. We can’t have played to any more than 30 people, and there was this one Northern Soul guy properly going for it in his bright yellow baggy trousers. It was an experience.

The biggest 

Crilly: It was probably when we played the Emirates Stadium with Arctic Monkeys. For all of us, they have been such an important band throughout our lives. When we were growing up, you couldn’t get away from them, they were just everywhere. To suddenly be touring the country with them and having drinks together after shows was unreal. Every time people talk about it, even now, we can’t help but smile. I still can’t believe that we got a chance to do that, and it’s so funny to me that these four people from Liverpool toured with one of the biggest bands in the world.

The weirdest

Crilly: The second time I toured North America with the band, we had this one gig booked in Vancouver at the end of the run. It was in a social club, but it was all seated. Not just in rows though, but at these little tables around the room. We were up there rocking out whilst all these pensioners were trying to have a chat and a cup of tea.

Favager: Very early on in the band’s career, we also played a show in Derby. I was only around 15, and we were playing a girl’s album launch show. She had hired out a function room that was attached to a pub, and it was wild. She had two dancers, loads of backing singers, and the guitarist had a massive stack amp. So much thought had gone into the show from her end, but we got onstage and the only people in the room were her family. Her elderly grandparents and godparents were there, and it wasn’t meant to be a seated gig, but everyone was so old that they couldn’t stand up. It was an interesting experience.

The Mysterines - Dangerous (Later with Jools Holland)

The worst 

Crilly: We’ve played some shockers. I remember when we had just got off tour with Arctic Monkeys we played a festival in Hartlepool. It was the start of the Tall Ships Races, so it wasn’t a proper music festival; there were just some bands playing. We’d just finished playing the biggest shows of our lives, and that day everything that could go wrong went wrong. George forgot to pack my cymbals, Lia’s amp broke, and people were running around trying to fix things whilst 20 poor people from Hartlepool pretended they were enjoying it. At the time, those shows are so depressing, but looking back on them now is hilarious. 

The best 

Crilly: For me, it was the Manchester dates of the Arctic Monkeys tour. We played at Old Trafford, and the scale of those shows was overwhelming. It was ridiculously hot, everyone we knew was there, and it was a boss weekend. In terms of our headline shows though, we played the Electric Ballroom in Camden just after Reeling had been released. In my mind, that’s the best Mysterines show ever. When you come off-stage and everyone from your label and your management are telling you how amazing it was, you know it was a good one. We never get that, so it felt like we pulled it out the bag at the right time! I’m not sure how big the room is, but we sold it out, and that felt like a proper step up for us at that time. It was such a special night.

The Mysterines support Bloc Party on 7 July at Crystal Palace, before returning with their own headline tour in October. Find tickets here.

Afraid Of Tomorrows is out on 7 June, available to preorder here.

Photo credit: Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns