In their early days, Sounds Of System Breakdown were a fiercely ‘Dublin’ band. Their music, a style of live dance heavily dosed in party-loving lyrics, was crammed with city references and delivered a boisterous style designed to be performed in front of an audience. And then time passed. Two of the three members relocated to London, and the third to a new life on a houseboat in Kildare.
Things paused for a while – or at least significantly slowed down – before the three-piece returned this month with ‘Desperate Creatures’. “2013 was our last album, though we’ve done an EP and remixes, but this is the first body of work since then,” frontman Rob Costello says.
“I guess we were trying to remember what, exactly, we were doing,” he continues. “It felt like the second album was a move on from the first one, and after that, there seemed to be a number of different threads, musically. It took me a long time to figure out which of those threads was SOSB, and take it further. That’s accelerated in the last couple of years, and the current album is a representation of what the band is to me. It feels good to be at that point.”
“The previous EP captured a moment for me. I was quite central in London, in Paddington, doing this guardianship thing where I lived in this big office, a huge space in the City of London college with a lot of people around. It was this weird, not very domestic situation, and I felt like that bled into the EP quite a bit.”
“This new album, I kind of feel like, is influenced by the big old melting pot that is Catford, where I live now. My studio is right in the centre, so I hear a lot of goings on out of the window. Of course, there’s also my personal growth, self reflection – this album has a lot of that kind of thing in it.”
While London seeps into Costello’s consciousness, the rest of the band contribute in their own way. “I write songs and I send them to the guys, and we chat about which way to take them,” he says. “Ed is a sound engineer by profession, so he has a lot to say about the mixing, especially the drums, which is his part. It would start purely electronic, and then we’d work on replacing instruments and adding analog drums and so on. It’s a conversation that we have.”
“Because of the live set up, I try to reign things back to the minimum required instrumentation for that song. I also try to play these things quite a lot in the studio, and one of the things I’ve been trying to do recently is to share the little jams.”
“I’ll have everything set up ready to go, and just turn on a camera, and show a work in progress or an interesting song, show a different angle and so on. That’s always a part of what I do.”
“I make field recordings, too. I’m not sure how much of it ends up in the album, as sometimes the songwriting is a bit of a blur, but it’s there. On top of that, I do a themed radio show, which involves a lot of research on that theme. I give myself room to go in different directions depending on how things feel and how things are working, and consuming a lot of music, that voracious consumption, has become a big thing when it comes to ideas.” The band are in transition, then, a natural part of life’s changes. Their new album shines with the variety of the circumstances.