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Interview: Mattie Vant of VANT

 
By on Monday, 7th November 2016 at 11:00 am
 

A band currently on everyone’s lips are London-based VANT. Why all the hype? I think we can all agree that there are some pretty terrible things going on in this world, and yet there are few brave enough to say something about it. Judging from their recent shout from the folks at SXSW for next year’s festival, it’s a position the folks in Austin want to hear.

Frontman and primary songwriter Mattie Vant hasn’t shied away from damning of the government and their policies he disagrees with, making him one of the strongest young protest voices of the UK music scene today. Not surprisingly, he and his band will be playing a gig on the Dr. Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING autumn tour this coming Saturday night at Newcastle Cluny, not far from where he grew up. Ahead of what I expect is their rocketing to international stardom following their first appearances in America in the new year,

Tell us about your earliest memories of hearing music. How did it become a part of your life?
Music first became apparent to me whilst riding in my Dad’s dilapidated Rover 800. The fact that it was the main focus of the journey became really apparent to me. It was probably the first time I was aware of it’s influence and how it effects your state of mind, that was the hook for me.

When you did you start playing an instrument? Were your parents supportive?
It was a gradual process for me, I was rejected as a 7-year old when the violin / guitar guy assessed my class and decided I wasn’t ‘musically gifted’. I joined a recorder choir when I was 9 but was severely bullied so gave up. At 10, I tried Spanish acoustic but hated it. I begged my parents for an electric guitar aged 13. Eventually they complied, and I’ve never looked back since.

Seaham is a long way from Brighton and London. Has your upbringing in County Durham has affected your writing and point of view and if it has, how do you think it plays out in your music?
It probably has, certainly because it drove me to the point of escapism. I love aspects of that part of the world but it has never felt like home and I hate the narrow-minded nature of some of the society up there. Moving south enhanced my liberal beliefs and proved that there are a lot more people aligned with my mentality than I initially thought. Realising that ‘home’ isn’t necessarily where you grew up was a massive awakening to me.

I understand that it was through your management of the Dalston venue Birthdays that you met your future bandmates. Venue management is not experience most musicians have. What do you think were the biggest lessons you learned while manager? What advice would you give bands coming up now, knowing what you know from your time there?
I definitely learnt what not to do. It’s really important to respect the bar staff because without there dedication to fuelling people’s alcoholism shows wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun! I guess it’s about seeing all the cogs in a machine and appreciating there importance and influence on the overall event.

I read in this Team Rock feature on VANT that you respect the songwriting of Ray Davies and Frank Black, who are from very different decades of music. What makes them each special to you?
Ray Davies laid the foundation of honesty within music, commenting on his own life as he moved up the social pyramid. The Kinks to me are massively underrated. In a similar vein, Frank Black managed to take the format of vocals, guitar, guitar, bass, drums and turn into something completely unique – he influenced and continues to influence generations of artists. The Pixies are basically the equivalent of a non-commercially successful Beatles.

In the same article, there’s emphasis on your DIY roots and the self-release of your first single. How important is this ethos to you?
When we initially started, we recorded and intended to release our debut independently. By a series of inexplicable events, we ended up signing to the prestigious Parlophone label, which gave us the opportunity to share our music on a much bigger platform. The fundamental principles [on] which we built ourselves upon haven’t changed. Now we just have more of an opportunity to express those beliefs to a larger audience.

Were you excited / worried about signing to a major label, their having control over your music, etc.? You must have been courted by many labels?
Parlophone got us immediately, they understood where we were coming from and what our ambition was. They have never tried to mould us, and this was vital. We have complete creative control, they are just helping us reach an audience that was unachievable on our own. As a label, Parlophone have always allowed their artists to grow and change freely and this was something that was massively influential in our decision to join their ranks rather than the multitude of other labels we met with.

In August, you released your ‘Karma Seeker’ EP. Which of the EP’s songs is most important to you, and why?
I think ‘Birth Certificate’ resonates with a lot of people. Watching the meaning of that song develop over the last few years has been really interesting. Sadly, it’s has and probably always will be relevant to something whether that is visa control, immigration, refugees, the EU Referendum or Donald Trump the message rings true. [You can read more about this EP by VANT in Steven’s review of it through this link.]

VANT will be performing at the Cluny on the 12th of November for the Dr. Martens #STANDFORSOMETHING tour. Is this going to be a messy one, being back in Newcastle?
The Cluny is a staple of the North East community. It’s a great independent venue with a wonderful ethos, I’ve always loved playing there over the years and it’s the perfect opportunity to come back once more and showcase our new material! Most of my friends have moved away from the North East, so I can’t imagine it being anymore chaotic then any of our other shows.

You’ve toured with some pretty big names, including Royal Blood. What did you take from your time supporting other bands?
When you play a support show, it’s similar to festivals, it’s all about winning the audience over, which is a rewarding challenge when it goes right. Watching bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen, Biffy Clyro and Royal Blood work an audience of that size was really interesting, I’ve definitely got a few manoeuvres in my back pocket now for when the time is right!

Congratulations on getting a shout to SXSW 2017! What does the invitation for VANT to showcase in Austin and play in America mean to you? Does the spectre of performing a song like ‘Jesus Was a Conman’ in front of Americans worry or energise you?
It’s incredible, it’s one of those massive band bucket list moments. I just want to stir as much shit as I possibly can in America, to me they are a genetically modified warning sign to the rest of the world. I’ll be curious to see how ‘I Don’t Believe In God’ and ‘Put Down Your Gun’ go down as well. We’ll probably have to play them in that order!

There’s a rumour going around that your debut album is done and will be released next year. Is this true? If yes, what can you fans expect from the new release?
It’s [scheduled to be] out on the 17th of February 2017. For me, it’s a marker in history of where we are as a species. If an alien happens to come down in a few hundred years when we are extinct and all that’s left is one of our vinyls sticking out of the ground, I believe it will be a pretty good summary of how everything went wrong.

Here’s your chance to have a final word with our readers. Go for it.
Wake the fuck up, get out of your digital atmospheres and talk about important stuff in the REAL world. It’s the only chance we have of survival, it all starts with discussion. Peace and love.

Many thanks to Mattie for answering my many questions. Without a doubt, VANT will be one of the hottest tickets in town come March in Austin, so pencil them in your schedules now, SXSW-ers. Thank you also to Jamie for sorting this interview out for us. The Dr. Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING tour stops in Newcastle this Saturday night at the famed Cluny; at the time of this writing, tickets are still available and can purchased here.

 

Interview: Tom Baxendale (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 3rd November 2016 at 11:00 am
 

If you missed part 1 of our interview with Sheffield singer/songwriter Tom Baxendale about his debut solo album ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’, you can catch up on it right back here.

Though the album was recorded in fairly short order, the individual songs on ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’ evolved over a much longer period of time. “Some of them are really new, or were at the time they were recorded, and some of them are really old.” Rather sheepishly, Baxendale admits, “I’ve just got millions and billions of songs that I need to record that are kind of stockpiled. I used to write songs in bunches, like with an album in mind, and I’d have them sort of lined up. At any given time I’ve got about six of those. But this [album is] the first time I’ve ever just kind of ignored that mindset and picked songs across the different kind of ideas that I’ve got. I picked them [based on] how they were going to work together, so there are kind of themes [on this album].”

The album’s first electric guitar-based single ‘All My Nightmares’ is one of those older tracks that began its life with Baxendale’s old London-based band, the Rainy Day Club. “[We had] a double bass player, and a ukulele player, and a fiddle player and I was playing acoustic. You can imagine that that’s quite a different sound.” But ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’ has its folkier moments as well, including the simple-yet-heartfelt ballad ‘All I Ask’, which surely carries over some influence from Baxendale’s earlier venture.

Recording the songs alone, part-by-part, presented a unique challenge for Baxendale, but playing them live turned out to be somewhat easier. Baxendale performed an album launch show in Sheffield on the 30th of September, with his friends from The Payroll Union stepping into the role of his backing band. “We’re so used to playing with each other, [and] I think everyone’s enjoying it. It’s quite a fun way round of doing things, actually, that the music already exists. It’s not like they’re just learning it and playing it exactly as I did, but they’ve got those kind of reference points to get their head round what the song is meant to be, do you know what I mean? Whereas with Payroll, we always develop that together and spend a lot of time doing that. This is a completely different process.”

Baxendale has lined up a handful of local gigs in Sheffield to support ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’, but he hasn’t yet made plans to play shows any farther from home. “I’d quite like to, I’ve kind of half-heartedly put some feelers out, but not really got anywhere.” He cites the difficulty of being away from his family and his graphic design job as the main obstacle. “Say like, just a week-long tour, you have to sort of cash in all your brownie points to go away for a week. It’s got to be worth it, there’s got to be a reason to do it. It’s not like [we] can go and do these really cool, high-profile gigs, because we’re not a high-profile band, outside Sheffield. Or even in Sheffield, but definitely not outside Sheffield. We just kind of thought, “what’s the point?” Which is really defeatist, but I don’t know.”

Beyond the few gigs scheduled for this autumn, Baxendale looks forward to more solo recording. “I’m really, really dying to start recording again, and I actually might be buying better equipment. I’ve been investing in some cool things, like, to make my recording sound better and be easier and more fun. I’m really dying to start using all this nice, fancy, expensive equipment that I’ve bought and seeing whether I can actually make it sound good. I think I’ll do it on my own again, just because I really like that process. DIY writing is really cool. I mean, I would be quite happy if like a big record label came and gave me loads of money to make music, but that doesn’t really happen, because of the state of the music industry or whatever. But the flip side of that is, you can actually do all this stuff on your own, you can make a half decent album in your own house, and put it out for very little cost, which you wouldn’t have been able to do in the ’60s or ’70s or whatever, so you might as well make the most of it.”

Tom Baxendale’s decidedly better than “half-decent” album ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’ is available on Spotify, iTunes, and on his Bandcamp page. If you missed our earlier coverage of ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’, you can read it right back here.

 

Interview: Tom Baxendale (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 2nd November 2016 at 11:00 am
 

If you’ve been following TGTF regularly this autumn, you might already have read about Sheffield’s Tom Baxendale and his new album ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’. Released at the end of September on independent label Backwater Collective, the album is Baxendale’s solo debut, and like most fully independent music ventures, it was a true labour of love for the journeyman singer/songwriter. Completely self-recorded and produced in Baxendale’s home, ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’ is a prime example of how high-quality musicianship can blossom outside the restrictions of typical music industry channels.

I chatted with Baxendale via Skype at the end of September, around the album release, and the usual challenge of arranging an interview across oceans and time zones was complicated somewhat by Baxendale’s day job as a graphic designer for a publishing company. I caught him still sat at his desk at the end of his work day, though this turned out to be perhaps not as inconvenient for him as I initially imagined. “I work from home,” he revealed, describing a situation which both pays the bills and allows him some flexibility for making music. “It’s a good set-up. I can’t complain.”

Aside from work and family activities, Baxendale also records his music at home, and he talked about the retro sound quality of ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’ as a direct product of that recording environment. “If I could, I would make something that’s more contemporary sounding, really. But it’s all kind of homemade, and I was working within my significant limitations, and that’s kind of how it ended up sounding. I made it on Garage Band on my laptop, just in my house, wherever I could find space that there weren’t children running around or people trying to do things. And I haven’t got very much good equipment for recording or anything like that, I just kind of cobbled it all together and hoped for the best.”

In fact, Baxendale didn’t even start recording with the intention of making an album. “I started this album just for fun. I had a spare day, [when] my wife was off somewhere with the kids for the day or something, which doesn’t happen very often, that I’m just sort of sitting round the house with nothing to do. I recorded ‘Red Rag’, the second song on the album, and I thought ‘that’ll do for a demo, that’s not a bad demo’ sort of thing. And then I listened to it more, and I thought, ‘well, actually, I don’t know if I need it to be any better than that.’ And I just carried on recording from there. A couple of songs later, it was kind of obvious that I was making an album, but I didn’t really mean to at first.”

To counteract the “homemade” quality of the album’s production, Baxendale tried to emphasise the strength of the songs themselves. “I think that if the songs are good and you’re just trying to serve the songs with the arrangement, I think that you can get away with quite a lot. The average listener doesn’t really listen with those sort of ears, like an audiophile’s ears. I think most people just listen to whether the songs are good and whether it’s working or not. That’s where I put all the work in, whereas I think if you spend money going into a studio, unless you’ve got quite a bit to spend and you can spend a bit of time on it, the priority just becomes kind of capturing the song professionally, rather than actually exploring the ideas. That’s what I like about this sort of home production, you can spend as long as you like on it, and I think it works.”

I mention the lyrical strength of the songs on ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’, and ask Baxendale if this is what he means about “serving the songs”. “Yeah, definitely,” he says. “I think [the lyrics] are important. But I don’t think they always have to be the most important thing. I don’t know, it really depends on the song. I think it’s legitimate that sometimes the lyrics are just a kind of a passenger in the song. Probably my favourite song on the album, the one I’m most happy with, is the penultimate song, ‘An Old Hand’. I would say that applies to that, to me that song’s all about the sound and the chord progression and the melody.”

Baxendale played all the instrumental parts on the album — guitar, drums, bass and keys — himself, as well as singing the vocal tracks, which tested his skill and extended the recording process considerably. “I’m not a drummer at all,” he confesses, “but I can sort of play a little bit. Just to get a useable drum part would [take] like, 2 hours, whereas a proper drummer would just do it. And I don’t really play the keys very well, so again, all the parts for that were like, same thing. So, yeah, that meant it dragged out.” He was able to complete the recording process in about five months’ time, from August to December 2015, with the album release finally happening this September. “It takes a long time to go from having finished something to actually releasing it.”

Stay tuned to TGTF for part 2 of our interview with Tom Baxendale, which will post tomorrow. In the meantime, you can check out our past coverage of ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’ right through here.

 

Interview: Tom Chaplin (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 12th October 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Missed part 1 of my interview with Tom Chaplin? No worries, catch up on the previous half of it through here.

Tom Chaplin’s first foray into the industry as a solo artist has been a long time coming. His initial desire to write on his own was the impetus for Keane to announce their hiatus after the release of their 2012 album ‘Strangeland’. “I have a little studio in my garden at home and sort of locked myself in there. But I very quickly ran into a creative brick wall, I think, because as you say, it’s like finding a voice, isn’t it? The songs I was writing about at that point were very observational, they were about other people, other relationships. They were looking outward as opposed to inwards, which is how I ended up. That’s the story of the record now, a very much inward looking record. Yeah, it was a kind of mixture of different songs that didn’t feel particularly cohesive, as I say they were observational, and no wonder that I hit a brick wall creatively.

“Obviously my problems with drugs completely really took over my life and I stopped being creative altogether. I discovered so much about myself and who I am that I looked in such kind of minute detail at my actions and my characteristics and what makes me who I am as a human being, as well as how I developed as a person. I’d kind of almost completely lost touch with being a real human being. All I was obsessed about was getting wasted, and that’s not really a life. That’s the absence of life in a way, sort of living for a drug. It’s about as far away from the essence of being a human being as you can get. So yes, rediscovering or the discovery into who I am as a person was a painful, but at times a really interesting adventure into my inner world. As that inner voice took shape, then the songs flowed out of me. Becoming a kind of authentic individual was very, very important in finding a voice for making this record.”


Tom Chaplin performing with Keane at SXSW 2012

I asked Tom if it was difficult, either literally or figuratively, to find his voice writing ‘The Wave’, either from being the frontman of Keane or coming back from addiction. “One of the main drives in making this record was that up until now, there’s been an undiscovered part of myself that I haven’t expressed as a singer. It’s [‘The Wave’] unveiling the inner voice, behind the outer voice that everyone’s been hearing for a very long time. With Keane songs, I was always interpreting someone else’s world and someone else’s feelings. Obviously, while Tim [Rice-Oxley, Chaplin’s bandmate and primary songwriter of Keane] all the time wrote with me in mind in terms of singing it, nevertheless they were always going to be his personal view and perspective on the world and his experience with life. It feels very difficult to compare the two.”

Chaplin begins a UK tour next week, playing far smaller venues that us Keane fans have been accustomed to seeing their heroes on in recent memory. “I feel like these songs are telling a direct story, very personal story. I’m inclined to think that there won’t be as much a posturing rock show as it would have been with Keane in a way. I think it’ll be much more about focusing on telling the story. I’m sure it’ll suit the small venues really well, in that sense of getting a really intimate story, with everyone being close up. I’m really excited to play these songs in that context.”

A brand new experience for Chaplin, one he grabbed onto with both hands, was putting together a live band for this upcoming tour. “I spent the summer assembling these new musicians around me. That itself has been very, very interesting. Obviously with Keane, our roles were defined very early on and have remained more or less the same for many years. To work with new people, and the album is obviously quite textured and layered and requires lots of different instruments, so figuring out that puzzle has been really fun, actually. Watching how other musicians interpret the songs and how they their parts, and being part of something so brand new for me as a musician has been really cool. So I’m really looking forward to see it working out onstage.

“I’m very excited and I really hope that the story of the record and the sense of going from this very dark place towards finding some sort of sense of resolution is something that is manifested in the live show as well. We will see!” I’d gotten the impression that as the primary songwriter in Keane, Rice-Oxley called the shots. So hearing how creatively inspired Tom became in putting together his own band and how excited he is about having full artistic control suggests to me this is the start of a wonderful new chapter in the career of Tom Chaplin the artist. There is no mistaking his laughter and genuine happiness on the other end of our conversation, from a man who has thankfully found peace from his demons through continuing treatment and is now “rooted in an authentic and real life”.

Tom Chaplin The Wave big version of cover

I want to ask him about what ‘The Wave’ has become to mean to him. Tom says, “As soon as I wrote it [the song], it always felt like it was going to be the finale [for the album]. It’s a song about finding a sense of resolution, I think the thing for me was that I always felt like I was in sort of opposition to life, always wanting to change how I feel. For example, for when I felt pain or sadness, it was about ‘how do I stop myself from feeling like this?’ And my go-to method was to take drugs. If I felt happy, and actually, this was a common problem for me, if I felt happy and elated and high, and good things were happening, I wanted to extend that. So I thought, ‘how do I keep this going?’ So I’d get good news, and my wife would say to me, ‘I’m worried for you because things are going well’. Seems kind of paradoxical, but truth was, I would then see that as a green light to again go out and take drugs and feel like I deserved a good time.

“[There was] the sense that I was always trying to control how I felt, and I think ‘The Wave’ is a song about developing a sense of going through life with good grace. You are going to experience ups and downs, and you cannot control that stuff, it’s what life visits upon you. I feel like I’ve learnt to acknowledge that stuff. If I feel down, that’s just the way it goes. And if I feel good, then [I’ll] enjoy it, but it’s not going to last forever. The song is really about looking back and acknowledging that stuff and using that as an ethos going forwards. It feels like a great note to end the record on, as that’s sort of my mantra for my life as it stands. And you know, by extension, it seems like a good way of describing the process and the place where the record has taken me to.”

Tom Chaplin photo from FB

As far as Chaplin has come in this journey, he recognises he’s still a work in progress. “I do still need to force myself a little bit to go spend time with friends, or go on family holidays or get off my backside and play golf, or play football, or whatever it is. But I am aware now that as soon as I do those things, they bring me a real sense of fulfillment and happiness. You know, at the end of the day I suppose, that’s what we’re all looking for from life, it’s what makes it bearable. So those are the vital things that I am now fiercely protective of.”

The days are brighter for Tom Chaplin now, and it’s heartwarming to hear he’s reached a place of more peace, epitomised best by the lyrics “time will sweep these things away / and I’ll be carried by the wave”. Beyond the joy he brought to so many as a member of Keane, that he’s chosen to use the harrowing life experiences he’s been through and put them into song to help others will be an even bigger feat.

Tom Chaplin’s debut album ‘The Wave’ will be released this Friday, the 14th of October, on Island Records. My review of the LP will post today at noon. Chaplin has a series of intimate UK gigs lined up for this month, starting on the 22nd of October at the beautiful St. George’s Church in Brighton, one of the most unique venues used during The Great Escape festival. All dates are now sold out at the time of this writing. The UK dates are followed by a series of larger shows in Belgium and Holland; for a full listing of all his live dates announced so far for this year, visit his official Web site.

 

Interview: Tom Chaplin (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 11th October 2016 at 11:00 am
 

“It’s good to talk about the darker stuff, the kind of stuff that some of us are too frightened to tackle”, says Tom Chaplin matter-of-factly. While he’s most famous for being the frontman of piano rock giants Keane, Chaplin’s recent struggles with drugs and depression have brought him back down to a place far relatable to most people. Relatable, yes. But as we all know, it’s not a state of mind without societal judgment: consider the ostracisation of Pete Doherty and the late Amy Winehouse. “Particularly in British society at least, that’s my frame of reference, there’s still a big stigma to mental health and to talking about shame, addiction and depression, the kind of things that can really roll over many people’s lives and can incapacitate people. In my humble opinion, the only antidote to that is for us to talk about it, to destigmatise these things. My intention and my hope by doing this record and by being so candid, this will encourage people to follow suit. That, in itself, I hope will be the biggest achievement that the record can make.”

As someone who has been in the public eye for over a decade, and with a self-described image as “a clean-living choirboy” with a million-watt smile that provided a convenient façade to his secret, Chaplin is exactly the right kind of person to use his celebrity to bring attention to an important social issue. His debut album ‘The Wave’ is a bold, courageous step to raise awareness and encourage those suffering alone and in silence from addiction to come forward and seek professional help. Out Friday on Island Records, the album as a whole can make for difficult listening at times. The honesty in Chaplin’s voice and lyrics are intensely palpable as he takes you through his darkest days. Conversely, there’s also an optimism that permeates these songs, that things will get better. The biggest takeaway from the LP, then, is one of hope.

Following Keane’s announcement of a hiatus in October 2013, Chaplin fell into his old, bad habits, relying on cocaine binges to get him through the day. It wasn’t until he reached the lowest of lows that he finally decided enough was enough and sought treatment. On the road to recovery, he admits there was a surprise result of this process. “The one benefit of my addiction, it forced me to start communicating. I wouldn’t wish addiction on anyone. In my case – and this is a bizarre chicken before the egg kind of thing – if I had never been a drug addict, I don’t think I ever have been in a position where I was forced to look at myself in a different way, taking down my haphazard defence system as a human being. I needed to find out what was underneath all of that and rebuild something stronger, something more adept for coping with life.

“My addiction took me to the point of death, it really was that bad. I knew at that point the only way out of it was to start talking and communicating, and I did a lot of that through therapy and through psychoanalysis. During that time, I really examined my actions and who I am as a human being and I talked about stuff I was so embarrassed about, so ashamed of for so many years and always kept to myself. I talked about that stuff to another human being, and I suddenly though, ‘hey, hang on. Life is much more bearable when I’m communicating this stuff.’”

Tom Chaplin Hardened Heart cover art

Chaplin acknowledges that the songs on ‘The Wave’ are an extension of the hard work he has been doing in therapy. One of the most moving moments on ‘The Wave’ is the song ‘Hardened Heart’, in which Chaplin sings the poignant line, “I know my hardened heart is beating still / I drove it to the point of madness just to feel / something real”. He explains that with the track, he wanted to articulate the feeling he had shortly after making the all-important choice to properly deal with his substance abuse problems. “When I made this resolution to get myself well again, there was this times a few months afterwards where I felt like I was in this no man’s land. It was a chemically-induced depression, the result of years and years of serious binging. So when I came out of it, I was aware that there was no way I can go back to drugs back again because I know it’s going to kill me. But also, I think I felt like I had no real desire to live. I looked at the world and thought, yeah, I can understand it’s a beautiful world, and I can see it, there’s good stuff to enjoy and things to take from it and I could see how it’s possible to engage in life, but somehow, I’m not there yet.

“The song really is about that particular time, and the song itself has a progression to it, it’s a transitional song, it’s about being stuck in that awful place. But as the song goes on, you get these green shoots of hope that start to appear. ‘Hang on, maybe I can start to believe there are signs that are telling me things can be okay again.’ I really like how it [‘Hardened Heart’] has the beginning of that transition. After a few months of being away from drugs and pushing myself in the studio, even if it was for 5 minutes to go and do some writing, or even if it was anything else, hanging out with my family, things that give normal people lots of pleasure, I began to slowly see that maybe these things can give me pleasure that they should. So the song is about that, yes, still being stuck and finding life very difficult and meaningless, but the song is also about looking to the future and beginning to feel hopeful.

“And I suppose, too, that line about driving myself to the point of madness, it felt like this kind of idea of taking myself to the brink of death that I was able to start to recognise that what was important and what, you know, I needed to focus on in my life. In the last few months of my addiction, I really had no concept of how I was destroying, for example, the relationships in my life. My wife kept saying to me, ‘you don’t have a relationship to your daughter. I can’t trust you as a human being. I don’t know you anymore’. But I was so far removed from the feelings attached to that stuff that I just couldn’t acknowledge it. But I drove myself so close to the edge, it wasn’t until I got there that I thought, ‘oh, hang on, those are the important things’. Being relational, being connected to these people in my life, really, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”

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The mental health treatment Chaplin has been receiving is Jungian psychoanalysis, which he describes as “quite sort of intellectualised therapy. Very philosophical, very in depth”. On ‘I Remember You’, he chose to profile how therapy helped him reach a place in his formative years and come to terms with its effects on him as an adult. “It’s one of the few places where you can talk about your dreams without the other person getting bored! A Jungian analyst is very interested in your unconscious and what dreams might say about your life. I really like the fact that the song is kind of framed in a dream-like way. For me, there’s a very lonely little boy who was trapped in my past and who needed to feel some love. Part of the process of my therapy was going back to that part of myself.

“I’m still not very good at it at crying, but it was actually one of the few times in my therapy where I had lost it and wept uncontrollably. When I really thought about that lost and lonely little boy, I felt like I didn’t have my emotional needs met by the world. In fact, I used to think, ‘I can deal with this on my own’, and I became very insular and kept my problems to myself. So the song is a dream-like reflection of what it’s like to go back, to make contact with that part of myself, to acknowledge it and give it a place. Lyrically, I think it’s one of my absolute favourites on the new record because of that.”

Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Tom Chaplin, which will post at the same time tomorrow. My review of ‘The Wave’ will follow closely behind, at noon.

 

Interview: Liam Magill of Syd Arthur (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 15th September 2016 at 11:00 am
 

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”.

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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.

 
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