Singer-songwriter Jo Mango has teamed up with an array of songwriters, academic researchers and sustainability organisations to create the When Tomorrow Becomes Yesterday project. The project’s aim is to bring together academic, musical, artistic and practical knowledge to imagine a future in a more sustainable world. They will be releasing three download tracks along with a video documentary to help promote the cause.
Mango collaborated with a number of artists (Adem, Louis Abbott of Admiral Fallow and Craig Beaton of The Unwinding Hours), researchers (University of the West of Scotland’s Jo Collison Scott, the University of Manchester’s Angela Connelly, the University of Edinburgh’s Matt Brennan and Creative Carbon Scotland’s Gemma Lawrence) as well as organisations Manchester: A Certain Future and Julie’s Bicycle to create a project that would allow art to explore the emotional connections to nature and create a platform for change.
After working together on a research project called Fields of Green, looking at how the live music industry could reduce its carbon footprint, Jo Mango and a set of Scottish songwriters went on to write a stunning collection of songs (Wrack Lines). This was funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) who then sent out a proposal to put on a festival of events around the country on the theme of Community Futures and Utopias (a Connected Communities Research Festival) that would see different communities using the arts to to explores issues related to their futures.
As a result, Jo Mango then took part in three songwriting sessions – in London, Manchester and Edinburgh – thinking about the future and the challenges that climate change brings. This resulted in three songs: The Ceasing (Jo Mango and Louis Abbott), If I Could Choose (Adem Ilhan and Jo Mango) and Better Lands (Craig Beaton, Louis Abbott and Jo Mango), which were first played at AHRC’s Futures and Utopia Fair in Somerset House, London. Coincidently, this event took place the day after the Brexit result so the atmosphere felt charged and extremely thought provoking.
Climate change is a difficult subject to tackle, which a lot of people find unapproachable or simply choose to ignore it. However, with When Tomorrow Becomes Yesterday, Jo and her collaborators hope to break down that barrier and bring the arts together to explore how we can change the future.
Meet – When Tomorrow Becomes Yesterday
For those unfamiliar with your music, can you can you give us a little of your back history?
When Tomorrow Becomes Yesterday is a project that ran over the past year and was a collaboration between myself (Jo Mango) and several artists from across the UK – Louis Abbott, Adem, and Craig Beaton. We’ve all been working on very different projects over the past few years – Louis is the lead singer in the band Admiral Fallow and plays in various Scottish bands such as The Moth and the Mirror, and for Rachel Sermanni and Kris Drever; Adem began playing in the band Fridge (with Kieran Hebden – now of Four Tet) and moved on to release solo records that were very influential in the nu folk movement. Last year he released the first album of his solo music for a number of years (called Seconds are Acorns); Craig released an album last year under the name A Mote of Dust, previously he had been songwriter for The Unwinding Hours and Aereogramme (along with Iain Cook – now of Chvrches). This project is really unique. We’ve been meeting with climate change scientists, sustainability experts and urban planners (interested in planning for a climate-changed future) in Edinburgh, Manchester and London and finding out how they see the future. Then we’ve been working together trying to channel all the thoughts that this has inspired into songs. It was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research council.
Who would you list as your musical influence?
We all have such varied influences that’s a very difficult question! For me I’d say I’ve been very inspired by musics related to Old and New Weird America (both waves of folk revivals focused around Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music). It’s hard to speak for all of the rest of those involved in the project, but I guess I can say that Adem certainly draws a lot of inspiration from electronic music (his side project Silver Columns is a case in point) as well as post-rock and various English folk and experimental music influences. Craig cut his teeth in alternative rock and indie bands on the Glasgow music scene but is also very influenced by film and film music. Louis also grew up in the Glasgow indie music scene and draws a lot of inspiration from classic American singer-songwriters and Scottish folk influences also. He’s also a great drummer and percussionist and he throws that into the mix too. (I hope I haven’t misrepresented them in their absence!)
What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you since you started up?
We got to play our songs (some of which were only hours old) in the absolutely stunningly beautiful Manchester Museum in the (very important) Climate Control Exhibition. We got the opportunity to meet with climate change and sustainability experts from up and down the country and hear their thoughts about the future (which seemed a rare privilege) which we then worked into some very exciting songs. That was all pretty cool!
What are your hopes and dreams as a musician for the next few years.
I’m hoping that we can get the When Tomorrow Becomes Yesterday project songs recorded in the studio and perhaps combined with the songs that were written for the Wrack Lines EP project (which was long the same lines, and involved Rachel Sermanni, RM Hubbert and Pictish Trail too). I’d absolutely love to take all these beautiful people and songs on tour – what a kind of roving revue that would be! We’d have to find an environmentally friendly way of doing it though… Personally, I’m working on a new album too (produced by Adem) that I hope I can release at some point next year.
What are some of your favorite albums from the past few years?
I think Joanna Newsom’s ‘Divers’, Sufjan Stevens ‘Carrie and Lowell’ and Marika Hackman ‘We Slept At Last’ have had the heaviest rotation on the Jo Mango record player recently. ‘Sylvan Esso’ by ‘Sylvan Esso’ got me through my last tax return too (which is very important!).
Do you see any real use for social media, or is it all just a pain in the ass to keep with?
It is certainly a bit of a pain in the ass to keep up with – there are just so many different sites and types of content to keep on top of. And I’m not very good at it either! But you can’t get away from the fact that it’s totally vital. And actually really rewarding when you get it right.
Do you pay attention to reviews or comments from people about your music or do you just turn that noise off?
I think it’s really good to be able to hear constructive criticism and allow other peoples perspectives into your life and your music. But you have to be able to filter out the deconstructive/non-constructive bits. I have some really trusty, solid voices in my life that I really rely on, and they are great for helping me keep the perspective that allows me to pay attention but filter too. And I’m very thankful for that.
If you could tour anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?
I absolutely adore touring in Japan. I can’t get enough of it. So I’d go straight back there. To adorable fans and bamboo forests and silent audiences and mad cafes and tea ceremonies and humility and grace and silliness.
Can music save the mortal soul or is just a good backbeat to your life?
This project we’ve been wondering aloud if it can save the mortal body, if not the soul…! I think we have to think that it has a very big purpose in human culture. It certainly has a massive place in my life – I don’t know what I’d do without it. I think it helps us know we’re alive, and helps us think about how we’re alive.
Any last thoughts for your fans?
They’re all contained in this little film we made about our project, so have a look if you’ve got some time. And let us know what you think!