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If you missed part 1 of TGTF’s interview with Syd Arthur frontman Liam Magill, you can find it right back here.
Syd Arthur‘s current opening slot for Jake Bugg‘s North American tour doesn’t afford them the luxury of much time on stage at the moment, but Magill says the band are trying to play a mix of songs from their 2012 debut LP ‘On an On’ and 2014’s ‘Sound Mirror’ along with the new ones. “It’s kind of like half and half, because we’ve got three records to dip into, and lots of material we can chop and change and make different sets up as we go. So we’re experimenting and trying the new stuff out, as well as playing older songs. Sometimes it can be short with an opening slot, but we’ve got like 45 minutes, so there are sections that are open where we can freak out and jam out and stuff. It’s fun to do that every night, you know, and keep it a bit free like that”.
The band sound remarkably clean and tight on the first three singles from ‘Apricity’, especially considering that they’ve recently had a major change in their lineup. Drummer Fred Rother was forced to step away from Syd Arthur before they started recording the new album, due to severe hearing difficulties. Rother is replaced on the album and in the band’s live setup by Josh Magill, sibling to Liam and bass player Joel. “It was a precarious moment, Fred leaving, but Josh sort of saved the day, in a way. The transition was slightly difficult because we’ve been a tight band, you know, us four members, for a long time. That was a big change, and it seeps into the music of this new record and informs the new record, because Josh is obviously on this new album. It’s a different style of rhythm and he’s a different drummer.”
Raven Bush is Syd Arthur’s resident multi-instrumentalist, and Magill says that he and the rest of the band used a broad sonic palette on ‘Apricity’. “There was lots of experimenting on these recordings, trying to get the best sound, and lots of stuff was done and ditched in trying to get to the best thing. Raven’s playing lots of keyboards, he’s playing mandolin, synthesizer, stuff like that.” In this context, Magill specifically mentions an instrumental track called ‘Portal’, which he describes as “quite hypnotic and expansive” before mentioning, a bit wistfully, that the track is “actually sort of like a dedication to Fred.”
For his part, Liam Magill seems happy to have another brother alongside him on tour. “[Josh] has been really good. He’s taking to the whole thing really well. He’s played [with us] before, and he had a band before, but he’s really gotten so involved now, and he’s playing so well. It’s worked out a treat. It can be good to have your brothers around. The joking and the banter is fun, you know, having some family on the road. [And] Raven’s been with us for a long time, we’re a big family. Bands are like that, bands are like a little family unit, you know.”
Touring across North America with Jake Bugg has been a valuable experience for the band as well, despite (or perhaps because of) the difference in style between Bugg and Syd Arthur. “He’s an interesting songwriter, he’s very mainstream”, says Magill. “But it’s about us getting that exposure across America [with] the people that he’s pulling in. It’s a business thing, in a way. But just watching him the last couple of nights, I’ve got a lot out of just seeing what he does. I’m not a massive fan, I wouldn’t go to a show of his, but I’m involved with it all now and it’s interesting. It’s not what you’d expect, necessarily, but it’s working. His fans are enjoying our music when we open up, and we’re enjoying him.”
Following the tour with Jake Bugg, Syd Arthur will return to England in October for a quick tour with Austin, Texas rock band White Denim. Magill describes White Denim as slightly more similar to his own band’s sound: “It’s guitar music, bluesy, rocking guitar music. They are like us, but I suppose we’re a bit more English, and we have a bit more sort of a jazz influence or something compared to them.” I suggest that it might not be possible to find an exact match to Syd Arthur’s unique blend of psychedelic-jazz-rock, and Magill laughs. “No, we’re a bit of an outsider band.”
The middle of October will find Syd Arthur embarking on their own headline tour of England and Ireland, which will extend into early November. The band will celebrate the release of ‘Apricity’ with a special album launch show on the 18th of November in their hometown of Canterbury.
I thank Liam for taking time out of his busy tour schedule to chat with me, and he ends the interview with a neat contextual twist. “It’s fine”, he says, “we just pulled over off the [highway], and I think the lads are having a drink while I’ve been sitting on a bench in the sunshine chatting with you, so it’s all good.” Be it summer sunshine in the States, or winter ‘Apricity’ back in England, both seem to suit Syd Arthur quite well.
Our thanks to Dan for coordinating this interview, and our best wishes to Fred as well.
Syd Arthur’s new album ‘Apricity’ is due out on the 21st of October on Communion (UK) / Harvest Records (North America). TGTF’s previous coverage of Syd Arthur can be found through this link.
It’s been a couple of years since we at TGTF last spoke with Canterbury rock band Syd Arthur. They made a lasting impression on me at SXSW 2014, where I saw them play the Harvest Records showcase along with Glass Animals and Arthur Beatrice. At the time of my last chat with the band, Syd Arthur were in the midst of the promotion cycle for their second album ‘Sound Mirror’ and had just finished an American tour with progressive rock band Yes.
Now, a bit more than two years later, Syd Arthur are back in America, touring through the end of September with singer/songwriter Jake Bugg. They’re also anticipating the release of a new album, their third, titled ‘Apricity’, due out on the 21st of October. Syd Arthur played shows along the U.S. West Coast at the end of last week, and I had the rare opportunity to do a phone interview with the UK band while they were in the same time zone as myself. I caught the members of Syd Arthur at a stop along the road “somewhere between Seattle and Portland” last Friday afternoon, and though they were between gigs, lead singer and guitarist Liam Magill graciously agreed to have a chat with me while his bandmates took a break for refreshments.
Magill revealed straightaway that Syd Arthur had a brand new single released that very day, a groove-oriented track called ‘No Peace’. ‘No Peace’ is the third single from ‘Apricity’, following ‘Sun Rays’ and the album’s title track. I wondered about the sleek, vaguely pop-leaning sound of the three new songs from a band who have often been described as “psychedelic” and “progressive”, but Magill says it’s not really a new approach. “It’s always been a part of something we’ve tried to do”, he says. “We’ve always tried to streamline and condense lots [of sounds] into a small thing. I guess this is just more of that sort of thing going on. But when you hear the whole album, there are expansive tunes on there. And when we’re playing live, we can open them up and do more expansive stuff with them in the live setting as well.”
The full album ‘Apricity’ might be expansive, musically speaking, but its title is quite specific. In case you haven’t yet consulted your dictionary on the matter, the word ‘apricity’ refers to the warmth of the sun in wintertime. “It’s a curious word,” Magill muses. “It’s like the feeling that you sometimes get, feeling the warmth of the sun in the winter. We were feeling [that] here and there, writing the record and tracking the record. We didn’t know the word at the time, we just knew that feeling.” He says they happened upon the name when band member Raven Bush’s girlfriend gave voice to the feeling. “Raven’s girlfriend is quite a wordy person, and she told us the word, and we liked the concept and the word itself, so we decided to use that.”
Eponymous album track ‘Apricity’ has been waiting even longer for a title, and Magill’s explanation turns into a discussion of Syd Arthur’s fluid songwriting approach. “That’s an old song, but it was reworked several times up until it becoming the ‘Apricity’ song on our record. A lot of the time, the music’s been written first and the lyrics will be added in. Or there’ll be some music that won’t have any words associated with it for a while, you know, and then all of a sudden the words fall into place. Sometimes I’ll have a title, and just that one word or two words will springboard a whole tune. Often there’s words that just appear as the music’s being written, and they cling, and then you add stuff to that and it all becomes clear. It all just comes together over time, really.”
Early album single ‘Sun Rays’ fits quite neatly into the ‘Apricity’ theme, but it also played nicely into the more summery vibe of TGTF’s July Spotify playlist. “It is a catchy tune, yeah”, Magill agrees. “It’s fun to play, and it connects well live. It’s quite powerful, and it feels quite modern and sort of supersonic, in a way. We’re enjoying playing that one, it’s fun.”
Stay tuned to TGTF for part 2 of this interview, which will post tomorrow. In the meantime, check back through our prior coverage of Syd Arthur right back here.
Catch up on part 1 of this interview with Twin Atlantic’s bassist back here.
Though the album was produced and recorded in Los Angeles, ‘GLA’ is the first of Twin Atlantic‘s albums to be written almost entirely in the band’s native Glasgow. Savvy travellers among you might already have noticed that ‘GLA’ is the International Air Transport Association code for Glasgow Airport, and bass player Ross McNae says that the identifier is significant to the songs on the album. “It’s not too complicated, as you can imagine. We travel, and [that] was our access point back to all the people that we love, and to all these great memories and adventures that we would go on in different countries with each other. We were just trying to think of something to match the record, and ultimately I think we realised that we didn’t actually need to think too hard. The record had been written at home for the first time, and rather than actually calling it ‘Glasgow’, we thought, ‘Why not just call it that?’ It seemed interesting and straight to the point enough”.
As far as the band’s writing process is concerned, McNae says Twin Atlantic has evolved in that way too, though the core of the band has remained the same for the past 7 years, comprising McNae, lead singer Sam McTrusty, guitarist Barry McKenna and drummer Craig Kneale. “There have been ups and downs. People go through periods where they’re more invested than others, and everybody has their moments where they’re affected by things, but it’s been very important to us that we started the whole journey together. We’re not hasty, some people will just chuck people out of the band and all that kind of stuff, but we kind of think there’s a reason to keep going together. We have something that’s, maybe not the best band in the world, but there’s a good energy there, and when we get together we create something that’s pretty cool.
“We’ve written in loads of different ways. [At] the very start of our band, myself and Sam would write everything, predominantly him writing the majority. Over the years it became much more weighted on Sam writing, and I would suggest ideas, like kind of direct arranging of the songs. For this album, for the first time [and] from the beginning, Sam and myself pretty much wrote as much as each other. I was writing some lyrics, and it was the first time where he was not playing guitar on a lot of songs, and that was giving him the freedom to maybe think about things a bit differently and concentrate on the vocal. It kind of evolved to the point now where it’s much more of a collaboration between the two of us, and that’s kind of exciting.”
One particularly exciting result of the new songwriting pattern is the variety and subtlety in the songs on ‘GLA’. Heavy drums and forceful guitar riffs combine with catchy melodies, graceful string arrangements and surprisingly effective vocals throughout the album, starting with opening track ‘Gold Elephant Cherry Alligator’. It’s a straightforward rock ’n’ roll song, but its lyrics are both exotic and elusive. “Like a lot of the album”, McNae says, “it’s less literal than everything else that [Sam’s] ever written. It’s more about the feeling that things give you in putting words together”.
That kind of raw, instinctive rock sound dominates the first half of the album, particularly in a song called, ironically enough, ‘Overthinking’. “We felt that was definitely going to be on the record, as soon as I heard a demo of it. You know when [a song] has something and it excites you, you just know, and that was one of those moments quite early on. I suppose that thinking inspired the rest of the album to be more free. If it feels exciting, feels right, then just roll with it.”
On the thematic side of the coin, the songs on ‘GLA’ are quite dark and tumultuous, but McNae seems surprised to hear me describe them that way. “I don’t think that we’re particularly dark or angsty people, but we’re certainly not all prim and proper, shiny, nice, ‘everything is all rosy’ either. I think that that’s more of a reflection of the fact that we just have been a little bit more honest and a little bit more real about who we are, and not kind of trying to dress it up as much.” He describes the song ‘Whispers’ in particular as “probably the most literal song on the album,” having been written about experiences with loss and death. “I suppose I kind of felt like that needed to be said in a much more direct and literal way. It’s not really the type of thing for me to be too wistful about.”
Recent single ‘The Chaser’ reflects back on McNae and McTrusty’s early music experiences, once again at home in Glasgow. “Myself and Sam grew up spending loads of time messing about with my dad’s guitars and stuff like that. My mum was always a fan of glam rock, those type of bands, and I suppose that [song] is a throwback to those early experiences that we had. If we were making an album that was inspired by home, it felt like that was the real genesis of the two of us making music together, so it would have been untruthful to miss out on this particular thing because it was so much about where we’re from.”
The early rock influences that have found their way onto ‘GLA’ will likely translate into high energy for Twin Atlantic’s upcoming live performances, and McNae was clearly looking forward to incorporating the new songs into a live set. “Right now, we’re currently pretty much playing everything straight off the record. Trying to put a set together [from three albums’ worth of songs] is pretty exciting, to be able to kind of have ebbs and flows in your show. It’s good to have that diversity.” But in the end, McNae circles back around to what seems to have become Twin Atlantic’s new mantra: “I think that this time we’re going to concentrate and focus on just kind of being a rock ‘n’ roll band, because that’s what’s exciting us just now, you know?”
Twin Atlantic will play a full tour of the UK and Ireland in October and December, as well as planned American and Australian dates in early 2017. Their third album ‘GLA’ is due for release tomorrow, the 9th of September, via Red Bull Records. TGTF’s past coverage on Twin Atlantic can be found here.
Special thanks to Carina for coordinating this interview.
Scottish rock band Twin Atlantic are experiencing a rebirth of sorts around the creation of their upcoming new album ‘GLA’, whose early singles are already enjoying commercial success ahead of the album’s official release this Friday. But as Twin Atlantic bass player Ross McNae pointed out to me in our phone interview last week, commercial success wasn’t the band’s main concern with their third full length release. “I suppose we’re not really that bothered this time, as much as we have been in the past. We just kind of concentrated this time on making a record that would excite us, and [that] was what we felt we wanted to hear from a rock band.”
Twin Atlantic’s own rock credentials had come into question somewhat of late. The band’s first releases, mini-album ‘Vivarium’ and full-length LP ‘Free’ established them as a rock band first and foremost, but their sophomore album ‘Great Divide’ left some doubts in the minds of their listeners. TGTF’s own former writer John Fernandez found that album to be somewhat indecisive, with the band straddling the fence between commercially successful mainstream pop-rock and the louder, grittier brand of alt-rock he would have preferred. (Read back to John’s August 2014 review of ‘Great Divide’ right here.)
Whether or not ‘Great Divide’ appealed to your rock sensibilities, it was undoubtedly a turning point in Twin Atlantic’s creative development and a necessary stepping stone to the band’s current sound. McNae explains the evolution in a bit more detail: “The funny thing is, [‘Great Divide’] was a reaction to the fact that our record before that was probably more of a rock record. You kind of just get to the point where you’ve been doing something for 2 1/2 years, and then you think, ‘I don’t want to do that again, I’d rather do something new’. So then you react and make a new record. But yeah, the last album was definitely more toward a kind of ‘perfect pop’ at that point. I think it was more the strive to achieve that than the actual sound of the music. And I suppose maybe halfway through the last album, we realised that as things were going really well that there wasn’t quite as much of a connection as we thought to the actual album.”
McNae reveals that with ‘GLA’, Twin Atlantic made a very deliberate decision to revisit alt-rock. “We haven’t really been listening to much rock music for a while, and I suppose it’s because we hadn’t really heard much that had grabbed our attention. I think that was important to us in making this record, to dial back what we’d been doing and remember what it was that excited us about this kind of music in the first place, and try and make [the] album we were missing.”
Though Twin Atlantic have made an effort with ‘GLA’ to create a heavier, more visceral rock sound with ‘GLA’, they did carry over one important element of ‘Great Divide’, namely producer Jacknife Lee. McNae had asked Lee to do some work with Twin Atlantic on ‘Great Divide’, describing the original collaboration as “a shot in the dark” that happened to have positive and long-lasting results. “We went to him with an album that we, in our heads, thought was finished, but we weren’t sure”, McNae explains. “He found parts of our other demos that he felt would really add something to the record, and it turned out that we really kind of found that energy and that spark when we worked with him. We knew there was something in that with him, like he awakened something in us. I think he just made us question ourselves and what it was that we were doing this for.”
That energy and spark eventually led Twin Atlantic back to Lee’s Los Angeles area studio for the recording of ‘GLA’. “Over the course of the last album and touring it, that [experience] was quite in our heads. The whole recording process with him was really enjoyable, and made us start writing the kind of songs that we were writing for for this [album], so it made sense to go back and try and finish what we started with him. And we knew he was more excited about making something like this, with as much roar, and more of the angst of [the] funk and guitar music that we grew up listening to and also that he grew up listening to. So, it felt like if we went back and worked with him there was going to be something that was new for both of us, and it’s worked, it’s worked out. We were challenging each other.”
Stay tuned to TGTF for part 2 of our interview with Ross McNae, which will post tomorrow. In the meantime, you can check out their live dates in the UK in October and December here, as well as trawl through TGTF’s archive of coverage on Twin Atlantic via this link.
“BRONCHO is a real party animal. He can’t be stopped sometimes. Sometimes it’s too hard to get his attention. Sometimes it’s too easy. Sometimes I’m not sure what he’s talking about, and sometimes you’re not either, right?” Thus begins our strange q&a with the Oklahoman band’s frontman Ryan Lindsey. “BRONCHO also seems to care about the people. He seems to be a real people person. A man of integrity. A promise keeper. A secret keeper. He always keeps secrets. Tell him one, and find out for yourself.” Enigmatic, yet enlightening. You see what sort of frustrating entity we’re dealing with here. Is BRONCHO friend or foe? Ally or enemy? Keep reading and find out.
As mentioned in my album review of their newest work ‘Double Vanity’, BRONCHO was born from a film project, when Lindsey was asked to compose music to an ‘80’s inspired punk film. The concept of visualisation has remained a constant for Lindsey, no matter what he’s up to: “I write in all the same ways. I think visually a lot when I write. Whether it’s for a project, or if the project is BRONCHO. I like to write songs with a visual in mind. Sometimes that visual turns into a video idea or ultimately a video.”
“I wanted the record to be a discovery process [for the listener]”, says Lindsey about ‘Double Vanity’. “I know it might take a minute for some people, but I like that. Some of my favourite records are records that I didn’t get the first time”. When asked about the reason for this and if there was a change in direction when writing the album he simply replied, “these songs made the most sense when they were slow. Keeping the songs slow left a lot of open space, so we added a lot of reverb to take up some space. That felt the most natural to me. Reverb is very dreamy, and I do love dreams”. You just imagine Ryan Lindsey smiling like a Cheshire cat saying those words. He is proving almost as enigmatic as BRONCHO.
Thankfully, the band was open-minded towards the recording and production of their new material, which appears to have reined in any fanciful notions on Lindsey’s part. “The way we recorded ‘Double Vanity’ was different than the previous two records. And those two were different from each other. I have a big imagination, so that finds its way into the process too.” Over the years, the band have undergone a few line-up changes, first losing original bassist Jonathon Ford, which led to the addition of Penny Pitchlynn (bass) and Mandii Larson (guitar). When asked how if at all has the changing line-up affected the music, Lindsey replies that this hasn’t fazed him one bit. “It hasn’t really affected the music. Just makes the hang on the road a lot more fun”. Make of that what you will.
If you’re a fan of BRONCHO, you know that they have quite an eclectic discography. Despite only being active since 2012, they have already released three studio albums each more diverse and forward thinking than the last. Album number two ‘Just Enough Hip to be Woman’ is their most commercially successful. Their songs ‘It’s On’ and ‘Class Historian’ were used in the soundtracks of HBO series, advertisements and Hollywood films, propelling the band to the mainstream. “I want everything I work on to be successful”, Lindsey says with bold, unfettered ambition. “I think that last record [‘Just Enough Hip To Be Woman’] made more sense to a larger audience. It wasn’t the plan or goal for that to happen. Our goal is always to be happy with what we do”. As if to prove there’s more to him than being seriously, Lindsey adds light-heartedly, “Or if we’re not happy about it, to at least get a few drinks in. Best case scenario, we are happy and get a few drinks in”.
Perhaps the Oklahoman five-piece will do just that when they come to the UK at the end of September. As the days draw closer, Lindsey can’t help but express his excitement: “I can’t wait to get to the UK! We love playing the UK, I think I’m supposed to live in the UK. I’ve always felt that”. Given they are currently finishing an extensive European tour, they may not be top of their game, but Lindsey is confident they won’t be flagging. “We won’t be too tired. Or maybe we will, but we won’t let that get in the way!”
Bring it on, BRONCHO. Be sure to get your tickets for one (or more) of the many dates on their UK tour starting later this month; you can find all the dates here. BRONCHO’s third and most recent studio album ‘Double Vanity’ is available now on Dine Alone Records. For more on BRONCHO on TGTF, go here.
Editor of TGTF Mary Chang contributed to this feature.
“A lot of people have preconceived ideas of who I am as a person and who I am a a performer, because of my history. I’m really enjoying wiping that slate clean. It’s been a lot of fun.” Frank Carter’s career started back in 2005 with Gallows, who released their debut album ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ to critical acclaim. After parting ways with Gallows due to creative differences, he then proceeded to form a band called Pure Love. It was when Pure Love went on an indefinite hiatus that he found himself in the unknown.
However, a third incarnation of his career, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, is where Carter firmly believes he has finally found his home. When talking to Frank Carter, you can tell he is a man who is determined to be the best at what he does and who is also going to have a great time doing it. “For us, it’s just all about going out and just having fun with it because ultimately, if we’re having fun, it doesn’t really matter what people think, as long as we’ve had a great show, because we’re the ones that have to do this every day. You’ve just got to go and have fun and play every show like you might not get to play the next one”.
This is the key aspect to anything Carter touches. It’s him doing what he needs to, and he’s finally found the band to back him up. “I just set out to write songs and play them the best I could. I’ve definitely resonated with people over the years. Now I’m in a position where I’ve got the right band to capture new fans and pay respect to my old fans so they don’t feel like I’ve abandoned them. They’ve watched me grow up and they’ve grown up along with me. They’re different people than what they were, like I am now. Now it’s a lot to do with respect. I know where I’ve come from, and I’m not trying to run away from that.”
Touching more upon his personal journey, Carter discusses his performance evolution, an always integral part to any artist’s craft. “I’ve always been quite a scrappy performer, I’m a professional scrappy performer. I’ve found a way now to manipulate all the best parts of that and embrace the parts that I was missing. I never ran songs through into other songs, I used to talk for way too long, which slows the flow of the show down. Now we have a few where it’s just bang bang bang, which gives people a big burst of music that they’re not really ready for. That means I can then talk for ages about some bullshit. I feel that’s what I’m learning, how to control the madness a bit better, more so than I have before. I’ve always been good at that, but it can run away with you, like really easily, and so now I’m trying to tighten the leash a little bit.”
Of course, it’s not all been smooth sailing for Carter throughout this process. He talks about his journey to this point with a deep reflectiveness. “I’ve had a troubled relationship with music and my career, but now I feel like I finally understand what I’m supposed to be doing, where I should be. I feel good as a performer for the first time in my life, which is not something to be scoffed at. I’ve found who I am.” Going further into this self-learning, he continues, “I’ve had a heavy couple of weeks of deconstructing the idea of me that people have. A lot of people have sort of been like, ‘Who are you?’ or ‘We don’t know you!’, and I’m now saying to them, ‘I am myself’. It feels good finally to be this and I feel like I’ve been looking for a long time. I’ve finally gotten there, so I’m in really good place.” The future is certainly going to be strong for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. With a UK tour coming up at the tail end of the year and a second album in January, they’re continuously working hard, as Carter puts it, “to try and show the world that we’re an important band”.
He also opens up into the current state of the music industry and what it means for newer bands to reinforce his previous point. “Genres and cliques have fallen away. Anybody can listen to anything, which is a great thing, but it also means you open your competition up to the entire spectrum of music. You have to form an act on a level that can compete with all those genres and bands and styles. So that’s kind of what we’re doing at the minute, trying to just find our place in music.”
Since we’re talking to Carter at LeeFest 2016, it would be rude not to discuss festivals in some format, and festivals are where The Rattlesnakes are apparently most at home. “Everyone wants to have a good time when they’re at a festival, it’s normally your chance to escape reality for a little bit. We being a band that want to kind of abuse that in people, we relish it. Festivals are kind of our thing, we just like having a good time. We’ve had a really good summer, so I’m excited about what this band can be in the future at festivals. For us, I’ll always take a festival over a small show because you just get to play to more people and have a great time.” The strength with The Rattlesnakes is Carter’s approach to every gig. “We don’t really try, we just do. We just go out and play the same sort of show be it 7,000 people or 10 people, we just keep doing our thing.”
To check out where you might catch Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes live next, visit their official Web site. nearly half of their UK tour dates in November are already sold out, so be quick to snap up tickets to the remaining dates if you’re keen on seeing them.
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