Given the intelligent, lush, upbeat quality of The Mispent's music, one could argue that it is influenced as much by the widely diverse backgrounds of its members as it is by their musical tastes and talents.
Band leader, singer, and songwriter Warrick Hayes’ background is a perfect example. He was born in Rio, then “thrust into the heart of 80s England. Post-punk, pre-grunge, hard, cold, good old repressed New Romantic England.”
Given that background, it is no surprise that his band mates share similarly wide-ranging pasts. Co-founder and lead guitarist Guy Fearon lived in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Fred Vislander's rhythm guitar was flavored by life in Stockholm, bassist Andreas Jensen's Danish sensibility is tossed into the mix, and drummer Kari Paavola adds a final Finnish touch !
Vastly diverse origins, but one voice. Sophisticated but cool. This is contemporary rock with a global warmth, derived from a breadth of experience that would be nearly impossible to attain in any conscious way. This is music from something as vast as the world and as personal as the soul.
And the music world already seems to be taking notice. The band has twice entered VH1’s “Song of the Year” competition, where Hayes’ compositions "In My Shoes" was a runner up, and “Wish You Well” a top-five finalist in the rock category.
It was Hayes’ experience on other stages in England that shaped his writing and the formation of the band itself. “In a world where the pop song — the three-minute distillation of ‘what’s cool now’ — was the barometer of all things under thirty, I found it hard to fit in,” says Hayes. “I kind of acted my way through it: got parts in the school plays, did a degree in English and drama, trained as an actor for one year, and then appeared in 19th-century costume dramas.”
Then came the epiphany. “As much as Oscar Wilde is a great writer, I thought, ‘This stuff is all a hundred years old’,” Hayes continues. “I discovered that I wanted to deal with life as it is now.” He’d been writing songs off and on since age seventeen and enjoyed the challenge, so in the autumn of 2003, The Mispent was formed with drama school friend Fearon.
Hayes has a clear definition of success as a musician and an actor. He rejects the notion of being involved in the creative process of making music strictly for the business aspect of it all, preferring to pursue a more humanistic path. “If fame and fortune don’t address any of the spiritual problems presented to us as human beings, and we have to take responsibility for them ourselves, why not write songs as a means of catharsis and expression?” Hayes asks, adding, “It seems to me that the primary purpose of a good song, in human society, is to generate communal identification of a universal feeling or truth.”
When pressed, Hayes will tell you he believes that one can, by extension, become successful if listeners buy into a particular expression of that truth. But looking for commercial success for the sake of itself is not a valid objective. “There are plenty of bands that have made that particular Faustian pact, only to find that their goal in the first place was deeply flawed.”
The Mispent cite an eclectic but impressive pedigree as far as musical influences are concerned. Springsteen, Knopfler, Gilmour, Dylan, Barlow, Beck, and Crowded House are among their favorites.
Hayes doesn’t buy into the “flash of inspiration” model of songwriting, preferring to let the inspiration happen, then using his technical skills to put together the music. “Naturally, you can’t constantly walk around in a state of letting it happen,” he says, “so there have to be left brain influences. The inspiration is the design, the cognitive stuff is the bricks and mortar. You need both.”
His songwriting process starts with the music, and then lyrics are added. “It can’t be forced,” he says. “The most important thing for me is to put myself in the situation where a really worthwhile idea can come up as often as possible. It means setting a lot of time aside, and being able to accept that sometimes it will just be wasted.” Hayes credits his best lyrical material to walking around. “Wish You Well,” the VH1 “Song of the Year” finalist, popped into his head while he was doing door-to-door fundraising. Hayes explains, “I was thinking about the end of the film ‘Withnail & I,’ and the Hamlet speech, and it turned into a kind of goodbye aria.”
Hayes is not one to reflexively rail against the music business establishment, recognizing that the success of his art is more than simply expressing his talent. “There is a real opportunity, with digital distribution in music, for example, for people to make more creative decisions,” he says. “More independent artists and labels as a result has to be a good thing.” And while he believes the Indie movement adds critical variety and honesty to music that reflects where the world is really at, he recognizes that there is a lot of great commercial music.
This is certainly a practical attitude, and one that might reflect Hayes’ development of an ability early on to reflect upon where he was (literally, spiritually, and creatively) and respond accordingly — and do so very well.
“For many reasons, there aren’t enough intelligent, melody-driven, adult-orientated bands that are new out there. My focus is to make sure we’re good enough to fill that void and do that job,” says Hayes. “And I think we are, and we can.”