Ever-morphing Belfast six-piece Robocobra Quartet are one of those bands that are very hard to pin down: equally at home in jazz and punk quarters.
‘Living Isn’t Easy’, their first full-length record in four years, is typically exploratory, with a single ‘Wellness’ in which vocalist Chris Ryan reads verbatim a bizarre article about an influencer’s daily routine, is typical of the band’s leftfield exuberance.
I spoke to the band around the launch of the record, and found them in thoughtful form…
Hi lads, congrats on the new record. You did some interestingly specific things in the studio around creating a mood. Can you tell me how that worked in practice?
Ryan Burrowes: Thank you! We decided to record the album in a studio in rural Donegal, a cool looking modern studio set in a sort of idyllic rugged Irish landscape. The idea was to focus solely on the music and spend time together as a group of 6, which up until that point we have never really done.
The album was written and arranged very collaboratively compared to previous records and we wanted to maximise this when recording by forcing ourselves into the same location for a week, while also recording many of the tracks live. We decided on a strict ‘sound palette’ for this record, which allowed us to be as creative as possible within strict parameters. I think this has all contributed to our most direct sounding release thus far. We also had a great time as a collective.
The title of the album suggests a response to circumstance. How do the songs link in with the concept?
Chris W Ryan: The title is a play on the way lifestyle brands sell ‘easy living’ as something to aspire to. As if complacency is the goal or something? It seemed like a good title to group a collection of songs about our modern life of aspiration. Pretty much every song is loosely based around something we try to aspire to (or are told we should aspire to).
Did covid feed into your musical worlds at all?
Chris W Ryan: In a way we wouldn’t have been able to make such a focussed album without the pause on touring that Covid forced us into. As a band we tend to do a lot of small runs and fly-gigs which can make the brain a bit scattered and lose momentum when writing. But the break in schedules allowed us to bash around songs in the room for a whole year.
Ryan Burrowes: Covid definitely fed into our musical world for this album as the downtime also allowed us to work on new ideas in our own time separately in isolation. Once lockdowns opened up a bit we spent a period intensely arranging these ideas into songs and recording an entire demo version of the album basically, with many tracks that didn’t make the final cut.