Mancunian rap-rockers Prose have just released their debut album Home Of The Brave, and it’s probably our album of the year so far. We caught up with Mike from the band at Barn on the Farm Festival to chat about writing the album, awkward first meetings, and inspiring Emeli Sandé:
How would you describe your music for people who don’t know you?
‘It’s a difficult one, this. We always get asked it, and we never know how to fully describe it. I’d say it’s like acoustic rap, but with rock, blues, and soul. It’s a bit of a mish-mash, really. I like to think that it blends well, at least – it’s not just thrown together. We’ve sort of found a sound that’s in between them all.
‘Nobody else here sounds like us, and that’s something I love about this festival.
‘Yeah, we are a bit different for this festival, but we feel like everyone’s really responded well to us when we’ve played here. We got a good turnout on the main stage, even though we played pretty early on Sunday…
You’re a fan of Barn on the Farm, then?
‘Barn on the Farm’s great. It’s the best festival, for me. It’s like a family, innit? It’s a good group of people. You know how every family’s got that Uncle Nobhead, or that mate where you’re like ‘he’s a bit of a dick, but he’s ours’? I feel like we are that Uncle Nobhead to Barn on the Farm.
You’ve just released your debut album, too! Are you happy to have it out?
‘Definitely! I feel like we’ve spent a long time on it. Not just on the album, but because our music is quite personal, this album feels like it’s almost documentary-esque. 90% of it is all based on personal stories.
‘There is the odd exception, though; Run With Faith, for example, is based on the story of a homeless man from Manchester.
‘My girlfriend at the time told me about him – her mum was talking to him, and she dropped her purse as she was walking away. The guy handed it in to the bank, and it had like eighty pounds in cash in it.
‘The Manchester Evening News wrote a story on it, and everyone chipped in and helped him out a bit. We wanted to take that story, and that act of kindness, and put our own twist on it, and that turned in to Run With Faith.
I seems like it’s not been a case of ‘I need to sit down and write an album’ for you. Instead, it seems to be a case of ‘I’m going to take everything that’s ever happened to me and put it in this album’. It must’ve made for a strange writing and recording process?
‘Yeah, definitely. It’s never been a case of ‘let’s book a studio out for two weeks and make an album’. We’ve just sort of recorded as and when we could. We’ve got our own little writing room, and we’re constantly in there; we could call that a studio, but it’s just a room with all our equipment in. It’s nothing fancy! We just write whenever we feel like we’ve got something to write about.
What’s your favourite song from the album?
‘Have It All, maybe? It’s about my son, so it means quite a lot to me. I like it because it’s emotional, but it’s nice. Songs that are emotional are usually really depressing, but that one’s not too bad.’
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did the band meet?
‘Me and Dave are cousins, and Lee grew up on the same street as Dave. Lee was actually going out with Dave’s big sister, and they were going out for quite a few years. Obviously, he used to come round, and Dave picked up that Lee was a musician.
‘Dave had been making me beats, and I’d been rapping over them, and after a while I thought the time was right to get a band together and start playing some shows. I mentioned that I was looking for a live guitarist, and Dave said that he knew someone. He took me over to Lee’s house – we made one terrible song, and we never stopped!
‘The first time I met Lee properly was quite funny, actually. He’s a few years older than me, so he knew my big brothers and the rest of my family, but I’d never really met him before.
The first time we met I was with Dave, but the second time I met him I was on my own, and I had a raging hangover. Lee was lugging this big keyboard around, and then his phone rang. Naturally, I offered to hold the keyboard while he was on the phone. As he walked away to take the phone call, I held the keyboard over my head and just threw up everywhere…
Out of every song ever recorded, which do you wish you’d written?
‘Bohemian Rhapsody. Any day. Life Goes On by Tupac, too. Man, there are so many…
If you could be in any other band, which would it be and which instrument would you want to play?
‘Guitar in Kings of Leon. I love ‘em. Also, actually, Half Moon Run. They’re such a good band. I’d be happy to be in any of the bands I listen to regularly, really.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?
‘Probably when Emeli Sandé mentioned us on the radio when we were first starting out. My friend rang me one day, and he said ‘Bro, Emeli Sandé just bigged you up on Radio 1’. I didn’t believe him – I hadn’t even met her at this point – but then I went online and listened back to it and he was right! The presenter asked her who she was listening to, and she was all like ‘there’s this rapper called Prose…’. She said something like ‘his music really inspires me to go home and write’, which is mental!
Describe yourself in three words?
‘God, that’s hard. I should be better with words than this, shouldn’t I, considering my chosen profession? The lads always mock me for it, because I’m always so concise with lyrics, but I can’t string a sentence together! I can’t do it…