Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Great Britain’s Mass Lines. Together we discussed their band name, politics within the United Kingdom, their relationship with Zack Sabre Jr, and so much more!

1. Mustard is thankful to have Mass Lines join them at Music Shelf. How is everyone? 

Not bad, thanks for asking. We’re as good as you can be in the UK right now.

2. Humans love origin stories. How did Mass Lines come together? Can you recall when the band formed?

It was 2013 and our scene was in pretty rude health. There was lots of great post-punk, post-hardcore and emo being made. However, a few of us wanted to scratch an itch for big, dumb, danceable riffs. 

We would have fallen at the first hurdle if it weren’t for George Clift from Hot Salvation Records (our future label). He was a music teacher and put us in touch with an ex-pupil who was also a whizz kid drummer. Things came together very quickly after that.

Since then, we’ve been a band, have not been a band, and have had lots of different members. For the most part it has been good fun.

3. Mustard is intrigued by your band name. They wonder, is it a reference to transportation such as subways? Or is it related to a geometrical problem? How did you come up with your name? 

It was ripped from the pages of a political textbook, referencing a strategy for proletariat revolution. In truth, we picked it because it was abstract and made us harder to place… although some of us now wish we’d chosen a cooler name.

4. Who are some Mass Line’s influences? 

We started off wanting to sound like a mix of Cloak/Daggerand Burning Love. Not sure we were entirely successful, but it gave us a solid foundation. Now, nothing is off the cards so long as we can make it sound good. The many brilliant DIY bands we’ve played with – Death Pedals, Sans Pareil, Negative Space, Pen Name and countless others – have kept the bar high.

5. What is Mass Line’s creative process? 

If you’d have asked us back in the day, we’d have said a lot of arguing and going round in circles to get a song written. It certainly produced results but the process was long and painful. Now, we don’t overthink things and any idea is fair game – be that electronica, post rock or whatever. It’s led to some interesting songs we’d otherwise not have written. Hopefully we’ll release them soon.

6. Humans sometimes have a cult of personality. Who are some personalities that inspired your album “Personality Cult?” What was it like putting this album together? 

Writing the record felt quite pressured. Jack, our drummer, was due to spend a year travelling the world and we were determined to write and record some songs before he went. We got them done by the skin of our teeth. 

Recording was a real trip, taking place on a lightship that had been converted into a studio. It was a smooth process thanks to the talents of Ben Phillips who engineered the record. After that, our friends Hot Salvation records and Rip This Joint records got involved, as did WeThreeClub who came up with some absolutely amazing artwork. We’re proud of that record.

Nobody in particular inspired the record’s name but our country was starting to be led by right-wing politicians who had a cult of personality about them – that probably had something to do with it.

7. Is there still no room left for married men? 

You’re referring to the song ‘Married Men’ which was actually written about the Robin Thicke music video scandal. The idea was that he was just a married man, a pop industry schmuck, who was being used to generate a scandal by his label bosses. This wasn’t made explicit enough though, and some people think it’s a commentary on married life.

But to circle around to your original question: lots of men, married or otherwise, seem to be doing a whole lot of damage to everything these days. So there’s no room left for men on the whole.

8. Your 2016 single “Career Suicide” explores office culture and not wanting to toe the party line. How prominent is this within England? Was anyone in Mass Lines working at an office at this time? Would you say humans allow themselves to be exploited? Could you share more about this single? 

It was a poke at toxic work environments, including the education sector in which some of us have worked. It’s about any employer who tries to squeeze everything it can out of good people, causing them to burn out. 

Writing and recording the song was fun. We were asked by Rip This Joint records to contribute to their compilation LP. The timing of this request allowed us to write and record with our fill-in drummer Scott – a fitting tribute to his time in the band. It’s a ripper of a song.

9. Humans have stolen weekends and hijacked nights. What are some things that humans can do to no longer live between the cracks? 

A song about burning the candle at both ends, which some of us were doing at the time. Probably explains why it’s on our angriest and angstiest sounding record. Now, we’re more careful about how we use our time and energy – on things that are emotionally fulfilling, like music, and picking battles that matter.

10. How would Mass Lines define a container city? Is there potential to escape the container city? 

We stole the name from a housing development made out of shipping containers, which stood next the studio where we recorded the Personality Cult EP. In reality, though, we just liked the name. To us, it represented the UK which was feeling increasingly constrictive and oppressive. Since then, things have become worse in this country and everyday people are suffering – so we don’t yet know if you can escape the container city.

11. On “Crisis Actor at a Casting Call” you mention humans have trouble making sense of the world because they no longer feel in control. Would you say that is by society’s design? What can be done to improve critical thinking and media literacy? 

The song is about conspiracy theorists – flat earthers, anti-vaxxers and the like. There’s research which suggests conspiracies attract people who feel isolated from mainstream society. There is something powerful about the feeling you’re part of a gang that has some sort of special knowledge, especially if you feel that you don’t quite fit in. It’s an interesting idea.

When it comes to improving critical thinking and media literacy… that’s the big question, isn’t it? It doesn’t help that social media is made for soundbites instead of in-depth debate, and that the current UK government has been blatantly using it as a misinformation tool.

12. Last November you released “Gilded Cages/Curtain Call for Gwii Andre.” Could you share more about this release? 

Unlike most of our output, these songs more or less wrote themselves. They came together so easily that it made sense to get them recorded straight away and put them out into the wider world. We have to credit our friend Jason Frye who co-runs Century Audio – a DIY practice, gig and recording space – for making the tracks sound so gnarly. 

Gilded Cages imagines the lonely existence of someone who’s super wealthy.  Even when we’re skewering people, we want to do it with a degree of sympathy – it’s interesting to try and figure out what makes people tick. It was tricky to balance sympathy whilst also providing critique, but hopefully we managed it.

Gwili Andre was a failed Hollywood actress, although the story in this song – that she committed suicide on a funeral pyre of her press cuttings – is more of a Hollywood myth. It reminded us of some people’s need for validation via social media in the current day.

13. Mustard is a big fan of New Jan Professional Wrestling and was pleasantly surprised to hear your music be the theme for TMDK (The Mighty Don’t Kneel.) How long has this been in the works for? Could you share more about your relationship with Zack Sabre Jr?

Zack grew up with my brother (original masslines bassist Nick) and I’ve known him for many years. He’s a really good guy and has always had a good taste in music. It wasn’t until early 2023 that he asked to use one of our songs as intro music. Naturally, we were thrilled. It was very easy to say yes. 

14. If you could see Zack Sabre Jr face any wrestler, who would it be and why? 

Despite soundtracking Zack and TMDK’s entrances, we don’t know too much about wrestling. Perhaps he could square off against all of our band in some sort of comedy charity match? Despite being outnumbered five-to-one, I would still fancy his chances.

15. A human gets the chance to see Mass Lines perform. How would you describe your live performance? 

Loud, energetic and hopefully a touch sassy. We grew up with bands like At the Drive-In and Glassjaw, so some of that danceable energy is woven into our musical DNA. The aim is to channel the energy of punk and hardcore without it coming across as macho. Nobody wants that.

16. What is next for Mass Lines?

We’ve got a few shows on the cards and we’re in the middle of writing an album. We hope to have it finished by the end of this year or early 2024.

17. Where can readers listen to your music? 

We’re on Bandcamp and all the usual streaming platforms.


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