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What happened to Mesh?

It's the 16th August, 2016. Obama is still US President. Britain has just voted to leave the EU. Hardly anyone has ever heard of a “lateral flow test”. And Mesh have just released their seventh studio album. After the success of Automation Baby, reaching 33 in the German album charts, it was a big ask for Looking Skyward to do even better. But better it did, and by some margin, hitting number 12 in that same chart. Many of the tracks quickly became live set favourites - Kill Your Darlings, The Traps We Made, Runway and more.

This unassuming band from Bristol had been perfecting their craft for 33 years. Chart success had come on the back of very hard work. Now they had built real momentum.

But then the music stopped. At least the studio productions did. What happened, boys?

Mark and Rich have always been private people. They love their fans, there’s no A-list haughtiness here, no barbed wire PR fence or passive aggressive interviews. No, it was more like a heavy velvet theatrical curtain drawn around them to protect the work, their partnership and their families. And to let the music take centre stage.

Mesh continued over the years that followed to bring delight at festivals and on tour. But fans’ excited anticipation of the next album turned to patient waiting. And more waiting. Finally, it started to feel like a mirage, a hope, tinged with grief that they might have heard the last Mesh track.

I can confirm that Mesh really are working on a new album. I know you might have heard that before. But as a token of their commitment, they’ve agreed to draw back that velvet curtain and let me tell you a bit about what has been going on. After all, you’ve waited for more than seven years.

Richard Silverthorn and Mark Hockings 2024
Richard Silverthorn and Mark Hockings 2024

noun: mesh;

  1. material made of a network of wire or thread.

  2. an interlaced structure.

verb: mesh;

  1. (of the teeth of a gearwheel) be engaged with another gearwheel.

  2. make or become entangled or entwined.

  3. be in or bring into harmony.

Mesh - An interlaced structure

Rich & Mark - Amphi Festival 2010
Rich & Mark - Amphi Festival 2010

A musical duo is a strange entity. It allows for some division of labour, some complementarity of skills and creative dialogue. But it can also be intense and polarised, with no third or fourth band member to lighten things up, to suggest a way through a creative difference, or to call out thoughtlessness.

The resemblance to a marriage is an easy joke, but it can be close to the truth. Couples - and bands - form because they are drawn to each other at a moment in time, but what happens when the days become months, the years become decades, and you’re having to navigate growing up and even growing old together? Add the commitment to constant innovation and musical excellence that Mesh demonstrated for 33 years, and you have a partnership under a huge amount of pressure.

Success doesn’t relieve that pressure. As Mark and Rich found, it can make things worse. When you’ve gone from striving to status, what exactly are you supposed to do with that status? Is success an obligation to keep going or an opportunity to do something different? Should you double down on the creative process or let other life priorities finally make their way to the top of the list? These questions are at the heart of how Mark and Rich found themselves side-by-side, but seeing two very different views of the horizon.

Make or become entangled or entwined

For Rich, the view was dark and confusing. Significant changes in his personal landscape brought a profound shift to a period of deep introspection. Things hit a low point during the Retrospective tour in 2018-19. Throughout the tour, and in the associated interviews, he was just about holding it together. Outside Mesh, for 40 years, Rich has been self-employed, which meant there was no workplace to turn to, no team-mates to check on him. If there was ever a time that Mesh could’ve helped him the most, it was now. Musical history is littered with examples of musicians producing their greatest work when they are hurting. And he did continue to compose, to offer his emotions in electronic form. But there was nobody ready to receive them. Was that the end of Mesh? Was that the end of his one enduring source of stability, of purpose?

Mark was also re-evaluating life, but in keeping with his introverted nature, it took him away from the partnership rather than towards it. He craved a break, a chance to spend time with his family, travel the world in ways more salubrious than a tour bus, and further develop his skills as an Enterprise Systems Storage architect. Most of all, Mark itched to have his own solo project. A different, personal vision was bubbling up inside him, and it demanded expression. These were ideas that only he could articulate, just him and the technology. The result was "Blackcarburning”, a solo project that became a full album, Watching Sleepers, in 2023.

In Mark’s eyes, Rich was preoccupied with a painful personal transition. So he gave Rich space. Mesh could wait. He never expected it to be permanent, just a little break. They’d pick up again when the time was right.

Mesh had been a close partnership for 33 years, but as many bands have found, that doesn’t preclude serious miscommunication. Which is exactly what happened. If they had been able to talk it out, things might have been very different. But like the two intense, private, very British men that they are, they couldn’t and didn’t.


Be in or bring into harmony

Thankfully, some personnel changes were on the horizon that would break the stalemate. 

In April 2023, Vaughn George came on board. He had interviewed Mesh for his Youtube channel in 2019 [watch interview], making the effort to travel from London to Bristol to get a personal connection and to showcase the guys in their studios. He proved to be a gifted listener and revelled in exactly the kind of off-colour humour that made Mark and Rich feel they had a kindred spirit. Vaughn’s own music delved into themes that echoed Mesh’s edgy work. So, when Mark Trueman’s commitments precluded him from performing with Mesh in April 2023, the metaphorical address book fell open at “V”. Rich asked Vaughn to play keyboards with them in Germany, alongside Sean Suleman on drums, and he agreed. After just two gigs, Vaughn George was part of the family.

Richard Silverthorn and Mark Hockings 2024
Mesh backstage at the O2 Academy Islington, London

During that springtime trip to Germany, the Mesh world suddenly started to feel coherent and purposeful again. Their live configuration was fresh, exciting, and the fans noticed. Rich, Mark, Sean and Vaughn were four very different, perfectly complementary characters. It just worked. 

It was as if the Mesh that fell asleep all those years earlier woke up in 2023, rubbed their eyes, and realised there were so many opportunities waiting for them. The ideas and energy shot up, and the guys were suddenly impatient to get on with it again. Creative sparks started to fly. 

Rich and Mark initiated a management and strategic revamp next. It didn’t hurt that Vaughn already had a huge social media following, which meant that he was able to role model and be a critical friend to Mark and Rich as they worked out what they wanted: a combination of connecting much more frequently with their long standing fans, delivering on the promise of new material, as well as finding ways to share their music with a new global audience.

Now the pieces are starting to fall into place: increased presence on multiple social media platforms, a series of live shows across 2024, including stops in Glasgow, Manchester, and London , as well as five shows in Europe [link to tickets], and a relaunched website with a guest blog - the one you’re reading. 

The future for Mesh has never looked better. That new album? You’re going to love it.

Carla Groom has a PhD in psychology and works for the UK Civil Service. Outside work, she enjoys freelance copywriting and assisting Vaughn George with his YouTube channel and other projects.


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