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”.
For now, the album will have to exist in its own right, absent to a large degree the typical bout of touring and promotion that would accompany it. “At the moment just like everyone else we`re in live music purgatory,” McCulloch laughs. “Anna and I recorded a televised BBC Quay Session just before lockdown happened and so, for the time being, that’s all we’ve got to hang on to. We can’t wait to get back out there though, whether as a full band or as a duo.”
“We`re in the lucky position to be able to perform both as an acoustic duo, and also in a fully blown electric band set up. At the end of the day it’s all about the songs, and the album is very much like an improvised jazz album where it’s about capturing a performance – and who’s to say what’s the definitive version?”
As for that support from Ian Rankin? “At first we felt a bit bewildered and a bit gobsmacked,” McCulloch says, “but then we found out he’s a huge music fan and plays in a band of his own. His patronage is very welcome.”