The Mocktales played outside The Ritzy throughout the lockdown, helping Brixton meet its need for live music. Simone Richardson listened and asked how they came to be there
A warm, sunny day and a small crowd of separated, masked music lovers stand watching three young players – Isabelle, Ice and Matthew, who call themselves The Mocktales – busking right in front of the Ritzy.
Ice tells her version of their tale. She has been drumming for eight years and played in a few other bands … “Before hitting it off with Isabelle and Matthew, I saw them playing on Putney Common last summer and pestered them to let me rehearse with them.
“I really liked their enthusiasm and togetherness and that was what I was looking for in a band. I thought we could really work well together as a three-piece.’’
Matthew – the young lad with the striking hair – picked up a ukulele when he was about five years old.
“From there, I started playing my sister’s acoustic guitar as she began learning how to play at school.
“I wasn’t too interested in the guitar until a couple of years later when my dad showed me an old Stratocaster he bought when he was younger but never played.
“This was around the same time I started listening to Green Day and watching their old concerts online.
“When I plugged in the electric guitar it just all started to make sense and I’ve never looked back.’’
Matthew also plans to start learning the piano.
His sister Isabelle – or Issey as she also likes to be known – is the lead of the Mocktales.
‘‘I started playing acoustic guitar about 10 years ago and recently moved on to learning bass.
“Like Ice, I was in a couple of bands before the Mocktales, but they were a bit restrictive for me.
“Matthew and I started playing together during lockdown and The Mocktales took off from there.
“We didn’t have a band name until Ice joined and then we threw a few names around after a busking session.
“The Mocktales – with a play on spelling – seemed a little more who we are! It sounded fun!’’
“We all come from families with no musical background,’’ says Issey, with the exception of her mum Olivia. Her second cousin – who she has never met – is Ron Stryker of the Australian band Men At Work.
But, like so many before them, school music teaching gave them an opportunity to develop their talent.
All three praise their music education.
“We had had a really cool guitar teacher for about eight years who is like a big brother,” says Matthew, who learnt “from jazz to rock”.
“He makes music interesting for me because he understands the importance of enjoying and feeling music.’’
Ice has always been a drummer and was inspired by many, saying: “I’m open to the drumming styles of many musicians and have been on many drumming camps over the years and attracted by one-off master classes.
She names Mexican-American jazz musician Antonio Sánchez as one influence.
Issey says that playing live during lockdown helped her break out – “Music allows us to forget about school and the pressure of it. It also gives us an opportunity to write about how we’re feeling and that somehow helps.
“There is a thrill in performing and this keeps our confidence.
“I’ve watched many of my friends’ mental health decline in lockdown as they haven’t been allowed out.
“Ice, Matthew and I all meet outside to rehearse as much as we can to keep our creativity going.
“I guess if lockdown didn’t happen then The Mocktales may not have happened – it just fell into place and we made the most of the opportunity.’’
Matthew thinks the trio’s varied range of musical tastes makes their set list enjoyable for a lot of people and also helps their original music.
Growing up with ‘‘The Clash, The Jam, Sex Pistols being played in the house and liking both the sound and the lyrics of their music,” has definitely influenced him.
Ice is a big fan of traditional Arab and Turkish music, and all three Mocktales, she says, “love learning about life and people through their lyrics”.
They love “energetic” music and were extremely energetic in Brixton.
Ice says Brixton “radiates a sense of freedom that is so desirable especially in the current circumstances.
“The crowd in Brixton has an incredible energy and it is rejuvenating, especially as not being able to perform for such a long time is very challenging for all of us.
“Music is what we love and care about and we all want to have a future in all the industry.
“We love the vibrancy and multiculturalism of Brixton and how it is accepting of people from all walks of life.
“People are genuinely encouraging and this helps our creativity, especially our performing skills as we are relaxed enough to try new things. Brixton feels real.’’
Olivia – mother of Isabelle and Matthew – and Lorraine – mother of Ice – say they are both from “humble working class backgrounds”.
“I grew up on a farm in rural Australia,” says Olivia, “and Lorraine is a born and bred Peckham gal’’.
Both mums back their children busking, even though it can be tough through a lockdown.
Olivia initially only intended to stay in London for six months, “but ended up marrying the fellow hairdresser I was with on my travels – the rest is history!”
She and husband Simon Cartlidge are pleased that hairdressers are legally back up and running – you can check their salons – Barnes & Bray in Wandsworth town and Geddes in Ladywell and Forest Hill.
“The diversity of Brixton naturally offers such an environment to absorb,” Olivia says.
“It is wonderful that the local council recognises the vitality street performance gives to the area.
“We love that even though we live down the road from Brixton they have been made to feel welcome.”
The Mocktales are fans of another busker, Francisco Javier Perez and his trio Zurito, already featured by the Blog.
To see the Mocktales for yourself, look out for them in Brixton or visit Instagram @the_mocktales_