Mik McKeogh Of Funeral Suits

by Amanda Flinner

Their name may sound somber, but Funeral Suits are all about embracing life. Mik McKeogh, one of the primary songwriters for the Irish alt-rock band in addition to his duties as guitarist and vocalist, explains he was languishing in an office job when he came up with a band name that combined his love of Arcade Fire's debut album, Funeral, with his dreaded work attire. The moniker is a symbol of freedom for Mik, along with bandmates Brian James, Greg McCarthy, and Darragh Grant, who broke free of humdrum day jobs to pursue music.

Starting in 2009, they released a string of singles and EPs until, on a whim, they reached out to acclaimed producer Stephen Street, known for his work with The Smiths and Blur. Within two days, Street agreed to suit up and produce the band's first LP, Lily of the Valley (2012). The collection of tracks melded alt-rock with pop and electronica and inspired a trio of Lord of the Flies-themed videos, including the YouTube burner "All Those Friendly People."

Songfacts caught up with Mik to talk about Funeral Suits' upcoming EP, set for release in August 2016, including the first single, "Tree of Life."
Songfacts (Amanda Flinner): Hey Mik, thanks for taking time to answer some questions for Songfacts. Are you back home in Dublin?

Mik McKeogh: None of us are in Dublin at the moment. I'm in Stockholm. Brian is in Ibiza. Greg and Darragh are in London. I'm always popping over and back to Dublin and we rehearse there so we're never far away long.

Songfacts: Out of all of your music videos directed by Shaun Ryan, "All Those Friendly People" scored an astounding 13 million hits. Why do you think that video resonated with your fans?

Mik: I'm not sure, to be honest. I think there are a number of factors. It documents an age-old battle between the oppressor and the oppressed. It's surreal... It's quite juxtaposed to the song, but I think they complemented each other really nicely.

Songfacts: How much input does the band have with the videos? Do you have a favorite?

Mik: It depends, but we are very hands on. I think "All Those Friendly People" and "Health" might have been the only videos that after shooting we were like, "It's perfect."

We like working with other artists. It inspires and motivates us. We'll get in touch with friends or people we like and see if they're interested in the project. We'll get a treatment and then let whoever we're working with work away and shoot the video. We like the artists we work with to be able to express themselves. We're musicians primarily, but the videos have to represent us. If we feel something more needs to be done we'll become more involved, which happens more often than not, but we enjoy our work a lot. We love the process of being involved in what we are involved in.

Songfacts: You guys set the bar high in working with Stephen Street on Lily of the Valley. What was it like working with Ken and Jolyon Thomas? What did their influence bring to the new EP?

Mik: Ken and Jolyon mixed the EP. It's different from production, but definitely mixing has an effect on what the song will sound like, though. We recorded the record with Jochen Schmalbach and Conrad Hensel in Berlin. It was a great experience.

When we did Lily of the Valley with Stephen we loved it as well. It was such an amazingly enjoyable experience. A record is like a postcard or picture detailing that recording at that time. In a different studio on a different week in a different frame of mind with a different producer, things can change.

Songfacts: Here at Songfacts, we look into the stories behind the songs. What was the inspiration behind your latest track, "Tree of Life"?

Mik: I guess at the time of writing that song I was interested in the idea of delusions that humanity can suffer from. I suppose some delusions can motivate things like racism, sexism, the way humans act. We have innate behavior and some things we learn from birth. I've often thought, How easy was it go along with the brainwashing in Nazi Germany and how much mental strength (or the particular path in life) did it take to not be brainwashed?

It's relevant; we're always going through this. I mean, anyone that would vote for Donald Trump is in some self-harm-to-humanity buzz that is worrying. Something is broken just by the very fact that he is this close. It would be an awful thing for life on the planet. It can only bode badly for humanity if this is the path we pursue. No one is perfect, though, and we are all human - the human mind is a malleable thing. Things will go wrong and sometimes you have to say, "It's fine, we are human," and sometimes you go, "Maybe we need to work on this."

Songfacts: What are some other tracks from the new EP that are important to you?

Mik: I don't play favorites. They are all my children [Laughs]. All of them for different reasons. Maybe "Crowded Out." I like that one at the moment.

Songfacts: What tracks from the EP do you think will most excite your fans?

Mik: I'm not sure. I think they will all excite different fans. Every song is its own thing, its own moment and impression. I like them all in different ways.

Songfacts: For your first album, you explained your writing process differs for each song. Is that still the case for your newer songs?

Mik: Yes, even more so. We're a very organic band. We write every day. It would get boring if we approached it the exact same way every day. We have certain methods but it's a modular thing.

Songfacts: You've toured with some pretty big acts such as Franz Ferdinand, The Breeders and The Passion Pit. What have you learned from these guys?

Mik: Franz Ferdinand are just great musicians and craftsmen. It was amazing to watch them do their thing so close. That was a while ago now.

Songfacts: Are any of your songs inspired by a particular place?

Mik: Yes, of course. I'm not sure if any of the tracks we've released are exactly about a place, but definitely we have loads of demos that are about places. When you're on the road or working somewhere sometimes you take the time to think how you got there or what you like about the place and it's nice to write something.

Songfacts: Who are your songwriting influences?

Mik: It's a mishmash. We all love Nirvana. Björk. Radiohead. Grizzly Bear. The Knife. M83. The Beatles, I still listen to them a lot. Sia is a really great songwriter. We listen to a lot of different music on top.

Songfacts: You've talked about song interpretations and how your songs really belong to the listeners. Has any fan interpretation affected how you view a particular song?

Mik: Not really how I view a song, but how I see other people might see a particular song.

I have seen the occasional comment questioning if our lyrics were sexist.
Two lines together in a song might not come from the same place. In one line we might be talking about a boy in a particular scenario, and in the next we might be talking about a girl in another scenario. The two lines might mean something separately and add up together to mean something completely different and unintended. That kind of stung, thinking our lyrics could be misconstrued in a way like that. We couldn't be further from intending our lyrics to be understood in that way, but I guess it's something that every band will deal with.

Songfacts: Thanks for answering our questions – we look forward to hearing the rest of your new EP!

April 26, 2016
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Comments: 1

  • A Girl Called Anna from Dublin cant wait for the EP ! I love 'tree of life' ... cant wait cant wait :-)
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