The musical brainchild of artist duo Maddie Banwell and Grace Black, Mosquito Farm, revolves around homemade instruments. In 2022, the pair started making music with setups containing objects like powdered milk, fans, ping pong balls, camping tables and plastic bottles. They make their way through this noisy pen of automated and manually played acoustic creations in a playful yet seemingly deliberate manner, like true puppet masters, orchestrating erratic percussions and ominous industrial drone sounds.

How did you meet and start collaborating? And where did the idea come from to start building instruments together?

    We met in the pub . But we became friends in our studio, which is in Lewisham in a closed Mothercare store. We were asked to participate in a DIY instrument building performance night by our friends in the band Gentle Stanger and we made Mosquito Farm for that night.

    Also, how do you actually start building an instrument? Do you have an idea of what it should look/sound like beforehand or do you let the process lead you?

    Our starting point used to be mechanical i.e. what does this sound like when you hit it with this? to more of an instinct where we have a better idea of how certain materials and shapes work. The instruments have become simpler looking or lost a lot of extra parts that weren’t doing much. Sometimes we’re led by actions or ideas like wanting to see Maddie shoot a precarious structure down with a spud gun or wanting to watch a euromillions lottery ball drop happen. But mostly we are led by looking for sounds that excite us in some way.

    Two of your tracks have been released on SELN recordings. Do you feel that the audio-only recordings lack the performance aspect?

    Recording is useful, it’s like documentation of how we experience being in Mosquito Farm, seeing as we don’t get to watch ourselves perform. We still use some parameters dictated by actions that aren’t seen in the recording i.e how long a motor takes to fully rotate or how long it takes for something to collapse.

    Mostly our ideas that lead our performances are sound based. Recording allows a section of music or sound to exist in a more distinct and separate way than when we perform. The visuals are so strong that they consume a lot of attention so recording allows the sound to exist in its own world and make its own references.

    Is there any opportunity for the audience to interact with your instruments? If not, would you consider involving them?

    We have had some funny and slightly antagonistic relations to our audience before - our friend George was a plant in the audience of our first gig. We got them to play a pipe made of plastic tubes and rubber gloves which blew up into a big round hand when they played it, really high pitched. It was really funny to see someone so surprised and feel uncomfortable - we are usually so serious when we perform, but this was ridiculous. We also made a ping pong machine in a bar which spat balls at people while they were playing pool and drinking. People got a bit upset about it.

    There's very little recorded material from MF out there. Do you have any releases planned in the near or distant future?

      Yes quite a few are planned, hopefully at least one or two by the end of the year. We are recording with our friends Mark and Richard who are “Gosh, Son…”. We will do more recording with Seln, and some with the Infant Tree label too.

      ©Yuxuan Shao

      Find Mosquito Farm on Instagram, their website and soonly on the links above!

      Mosquito Farm will buzz down on ye this KRAAK Festival 2024, March 2 at Het Bos in Antwerp. Get your tickets here!