Tag

interview

Browsing

Sorbet: “it’s a kind of writing that just doesn’t make sense to prescribe to a band”

Best known for his work with genre-bending jazz rockers Robocobra Quartet, Chris Ryan’s solo outlet, SORBET, is an entirely different kind of project.

Described by Chris as a “musical cleansing of the palate” (hence the name), it’s out via Hamburg based Bureau B Records today, and deals with specific feelings and senses, being very much ‘feel’ based.

I spoke to Chris ahead of the release, and he had this to say about ‘Life Variations’…

Congrats on the new EP. Can you talk me through the concepts behind it?

Thanks! Life Variations is a collection of three pieces of music that all share musical/lyrical themes around life, death, birth, rebirth, and all that good stuff. In a way it’s 3 pop songs but in a way it’s 3 parts to one whole composition.

Is there a certain amount of life examination going on for you at the moment, and has it led anywhere in particular musically?

Yeah. I spent some time in Sao Paulo last year as part of the PRSF/ British Council Musician in Residence and it made me think a lot about my life and identity. I’ve also always been interested in having an outlet for the kind of hyper-specific writing I’ve always enjoyed doing— a kind of writing that just doesn’t make sense to prescribe to a band.

If you have that kind of urge I find it’s much more appropriate to use sheet music or ProTools or these kinds of fixed mediums as opposed to the ‘band’ method of getting ideas across orally.

I’m a big fan of vinyl releases – was that an important part of the release for you?

It certainly does make it feel real for some reason, especially with a short format release like an EP. It looks really cool – it’s a one-sided 12 inch so the B-side is unpressed and is just smooth black vinyl.

Snowgoose: “The Making of You’ feels a cohesive progression towards the subtly sinister”

Scottish indie mainstays Snowgoose are known for their emotional warmth, their songs representing an exploration of folky, 60s-style nostalgia with a little psychedelia along the way. New album ‘The Making Of You’, their second full-length, has drawn them the vibrant backing of novelist Ian Rankin, who’s a huge fan, and also saw the band backed – more literally, on several tracks – by much of the Scottish indie community.

The duo’s core – although there are many others regularly on stage – are former Soup Dragons guitarist Jim McCulloch and vocalist Anna Sheard, though members of Scottish indie royalty Belle and Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub are amongst those that appear on the new record alongside the songwriting pair.

“There’s a mutual respect in the music community that’s built around trust and integrity,” McCulloch says of the depth of collaboration. “Then all it takes is a phone call or email to see if and when someone is available to record. I’m not saying that it works for everyone and every time, but if your pals are the best at what they do then why the hell not ask them?”

Unlike their debut record, vocalist Sheard is heavily involved in the writing of this record, and that has contributed to the way it’s performed, and indeed its very feel, alongside all those big names. “In much of the new material, Anna isn’t having to sing words where she is second-guessing motivation or whatever,” McCulloch says of the change. “There is a much deeper connectivity with the material there, and she is much less the auteur or interpreter and more the artist… I feel this is a much more satisfying approach, both as a musician and writer.”

“From my perspective,” Sheard adds “‘The Making of You’ feels a cohesive progression toward the subtly sinister, where the recognizably hopeful spirit of Snowgoose shines amongst the eeriness. For me personally, it has been a very transformational time between records, both in becoming a mother and returning to my roots in Somerset. These experiences have been hugely grounding and inspirational, allowing me to find my confidence as a songwriter with greater focus and less fear.”

“Myself and Jim become immersed in lyrics,” she continues. “They provide another layer of artistic expression, tell our story and add to the emotion of the music. A favourite line of mine is “Strength in your sweetness, love in your blood, proud of your weakness, just follow what you know”.

Imelda May: “I wouldn’t be a musician or a writer if it wasn’t for The Liberties”

Since writing and launching her debut, but especially since sophomore album ‘Love Tattoo’, the biggest selling record by any Irish female artist ever, Imelda May has been part of the folklore of a certain distinctive part of Dublin city.

The Liberties has its own special character, and Imelda, despite having moved to the south of England with her daughter, still holds the place in the highest of esteem. “My heart and soul is in The Liberties, and I’ll be coming back,” she tells us. “I wouldn’t be a musician or a writer if it wasn’t for being from there.”

“It’s so pervasive and colourful, a place where eccentricities are really encouraged. I used to put my demos in the fruit and veg store on Meath Street, and they’d make everyone who came in keep quiet and listen to them. You never forget that kind of support.”

“Poetry was everywhere, too. People have been asking me recently if I think poetry is elitist. It absolutely is not. My dad used to read me Spike Milligan. I have an uncle who was a taxi driver and a poet. Another guy did beautiful oil paintings and drove the delivery trucks, and my aunt used to dance. The place is so creative, it’s part of its spirit.” Some of May’s own work is used in support of the Penny Dinners in the area, with the poem ‘Liberty Belle’ a particular dedication.

R.S.A.G.: “There was an excitement in the unknown and where this could take me”

R.S.A.G. – the apt descriptor for Jeremy Hickey’s inventive and textured electronic act Rarely Seen Above Ground – is something of an icon in a certain segment of the Irish music scene. Known for his subtle textures, startlingly impressive drumming and clever production.

His latest, ‘Chroma’, is an unusual concept album, based on ‘Colour’ pieces that chart Hickey’s day-to-day life in musical form. He describes it as being about struggle and emotion, frustrations and regression, but also about concept and creativity.

“I think on this album the songwriting has gone to a different sensitivity, a more thoughtful space. I also decided to mix the album myself which was a very interesting and fulfilling exercise.”

“The process really started when I moved out to the country about 10 years ago and set up my new studio. I decided that whatever I was going to do next it had to be an honest reflection on how my life had changed and was continuing to do so.” 

“There was an excitement in the unknown and where this could take me. I was also struck by the wondrous colours and sounds nature had to offer from my studio view. There was an interesting correlation between nature and the recording process. I sat down with my co-writer Jamie Walsh and we talked about the album being a more colourful piece of work and that we could document it through a musical diary. Going back and forth with sketches until the right lyric fitted each musical mood.”

Hinds: “We have always loved live shows, we toured almost the whole world before putting any albums out”

Spanish indie four-piece Hinds are something of an exception to the restrictive conventions that have typically governed their genre. Indie rock has traditionally, to an almost ludicrous degree, been the preserve of quite a specific grouping, largely white, male and set in modern English-speaking cities. 

The Madrid-based four-piece, consisting of three Spanish women and Dutch drummer Amber Grimbergen, are a welcome change of pace that sit a long, long way from those traditions. It’s been harder to break in from that outsider perspective. Indie rock bands from non-English speaking Europe that succeed in places like Ireland are a real rarity. That Hinds have succeeded, recently returning from a tour supporting The Strokes that stopped off in Belfast, speaks volume for the quality of their music.

“I think we may have seemed ‘exotic’ playing kind of American music with Spanish accents,” Grimbergen laughs when I ask her about their status in the genre. “I think people are getting more used to girls in bands, and girls on stages, and it’s no longer “the thing to talk about,” but I still think it is harder for girls in music and we still get more shit than male artists.”

Hinds were on the verge of releasing their third album, ‘The Prettiest Curse’, when the coronavirus hit, halting their ever-popular tours, and ultimately halting the album, too, with its release pushed back for happier times.

“It feels amazing to have it done,” Grimbergen says. “It was a long process, building this album, way longer than the previous two albums. It sounds so different, it really is a good third album, in my opinion, and we were all so excited to finally put it out.”

“We weren’t really sure about the delay being the right move, but it seems it was. It was just intuition, and seeing the whole world was going to be shut down… it didn’t make sense to keep the original release date. The new one feels like good timing.”

Strange Bones: “I often get hit in the face with a guitar”

A quick glance at Strange Bones‘ demeanor probably gives a solid idea of what to expect from the feisty Blackpool band. Fronted by the imposing, tattooed Bobby Bentham, a man who has been known to lead the band live in a face-covering gas mask, the punky, protest-embracing sound feels a natural fit.

The band, after all, are underdogs, if born of strong underdog stock. Having grown up surrounded by early-punk gristle, they’re off the beaten track when it comes to music’s city trends, and willing – see it as their duty, almost – to hit the road hard. The gritty, hotly-tipped act are most likely to rise through their pulsating live show.

“We’ve gone for a bit more of a breakbeat vibe,” Bentham tells me of what will be their second EP, ‘Blitz Part 2’, which references different sides to their upbringing. “Three of us in the band are brothers, and our parents kind of threw us into the breaking world of punk music at a very young age. It was a good environment to nurture a bit of an attitude towards life.”

“As we grew up and we managed to get out of Blackpool, we also got heavily into electronic music, a lot of jungle and dub. I like to mix it up, to constantly evolve to keep things exciting. It’s not just for other people, it’s for my own sanity.”

“My earliest memories of music, I think I was about 8, and my dad took me to a punk festival. I remember thinking it looked like a lot of fun, and deciding almost on the spot that I wanted to do that, too.”

Strange Bones, are, perhaps, an inevitable result, then, a natural evolution from what they call “the town that time forgot, stuck in the 70s.”

“All the money we make from touring is put into recording equipment,” Bentham continues. “We record it all in Blackpool, in house, which gives us a lot more freedom to experiment. When you’re working to the clock in a studio it’s a bit restricting, so it’s good to take our time. We end up, with tracks like ‘Napalm’, using about the fifth version of the song. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and sometimes that’s a bad thing, but it’s worth it.”

Side 4 Collective: “I just sent them the beats and connected them up and sat there eating sandwiches”

Dave Hingerty’s day job is as one of Ireland’s most successful drummers, a regular behind the kit with the likes of The Frames, Kila and Josh Ritter. Naturally, he’s made plenty of contacts through his job, and the whole thing has led to an unusual record.

Side 4 Collective are, perhaps, the ultimate ‘isolation’ style group, in that some of them have never met, though their output far pre-dates our current situation. Their album is constructed with the layering of their various contribution on top of Hingerty’s drum backdrop. Their new record ‘We Burn Bright’, which features Josh Ritter, Paul Noonan (Bell X1), Joe Chester, Ben Castle (Radiohead, Blur, Amy Winehouse) and Katy Perry drummer Adam Marcello.

I caught up with Hingerty to find out all about it…

Congrats on the new record. Can you tell me a little about the story behind it?

It all started with my obsession with recording drum ideas at soundchecks and at home. I have that type of personality that can’t stick to a practice routine and I go on tangents almost immediately and got into the habit of recording any new creations.

I feel like I am a frustrated guitar or bass player, and I think I try to express melodies through the drums often subconsciously.  This in turn led to the idea that I could use all of these ‘melodic’ or experimental grooves and beats as a ‘first point in writing’ and invite lots of friends and artists to challenge them to write a song or piece to one of these grooves.

You seem to have gathered quite a collection of musicians around you. How much did they contribute to the construction of the record? 

Almost Everything. I just sent them the beats and connected them up and sat there eating sandwiches while Anthony (Gibney, Audioland Studios ) did the real work, recording and mixing. I did ‘Anti Production’. I worked with Steve Albini a few times in Chicago with The Frames etc and he never liked the whole ‘produced by’ title. Like him, I just didn’t want to get in the way. The whole spirit of the project is musical and sonic freedom. Now and then I made some suggestions or played a keyboard, bass or xylophone badly.

This is quite a creative departure from The Frames. Is this more along the lines of your personal taste?

Probably yes. Not that it’s musically so different, but it’s more focussed on freedom and experimentalism. I love The Frames music and I love the music I play with Kila, and also with Josh Ritter, but there isn’t always room for creativity and I often have had to ‘play for the song’. So, for this Side 4 project, these poor artists were forced to work with my rhythmic creations. So, there is more of me creatively in Side 4. I am wide open when it comes to taste, but I prefer if music is brave and performed with emotion though, otherwise I smell a rat.

The album, you say in the press blurb, is a departure from the need to be commercial. How does that pressure influence bands in general, do you think?

Following on from the last question, I do feel that nearly everyone I work with panders towards what they think will be more acceptable to the record-buying public, as opposed to what they really want to make.

Freud used to encourage his patients into ‘free association’ which means talking honestly and continuously and without a filter. We need more of this in music, I think. We need a new wave of punk. Raw, real, and brave. This, I would hope, would freshen everything up.

Where are the mavericks these days? The David Bowies and the Iggy Pops and the Georgie Bests, John McEnroes and the Alex Higgins’? There is too much music now that is slick and sterile I find. Over edited. Overcooked. And, commercially speaking, mostly in the hands of the wrong people.

Dagny: on chilling and connection.

Norwegian pop starlet Dagny – Norvoll Sandvik, to her family – is a name that’s been on the lips of many industry types in recent months, with her debut album one of the most anticipated pop launches in recent years.

Despite the ‘fresh’ feel around the singer and her bubbly, emotion-laden pop, however, she’s actually been around the fringes of the London’s pop scene for many years, biding her time and waiting to make her move. 

When we caught up with her just ahead of the album launch, she explained that things have changed recently, and she’d just had enough of messing around the edges. She decided to take some of her massive songwriting backlog public, with the likes of The Guardian and NME throwing their weight behind her.

“The last six months have really been a different thing,” she explains. “I’ve been working on the album, and it’s really been my first big project, in a way. That’s been super motivating and exciting, but also a bit scary.”

“I started off songwriting, not performing, but once the performance came, that kind of took over,” she continues. “I spent a lot of years just performing, releasing some singles and an EP and just going with the flow. I was trying to get as much traveling and performing into the diary as possible. At times, working on an album felt further and further away from happening, and it got to the point where I didn’t know what I was waiting for.”

“I said to myself, I have 250 songs, I’m sure I can find 12 that hold together as an album. Funnily enough, I’ve been writing songs for ten years and I ended up putting on tracks only from the last 18 months, as they just felt more relevant to me. I think everyone who writes thinks their most recent stuff is their best, and I just tried to concentrate on what my vibe is right now, rather than looking to the past. The album isn’t conceptual, but because of how it all relates in my head, it almost felt like that.”