How's life finding you at the moment? You seem very busy touring the new album?
Yes, we've just returned from a run of dates across the UK and Ireland: we've played some shows with Shearwater, Death Vessel and Hospitality, as well as a few of our own shows. It's been good to get back into the groove of playing, as we hadn't played all that much for a year or so while making the record. It's been fun exploring the songs, seeing which ones work together, which ones we can approach in different ways to how we recorded them.
The vinyl version of Best of Times is a thing of beauty (I'll be bringing my copy along for signing next week!) Who's the art fan in the band?
Art has always been a really important to what we do - Nick and Dan are both practising artists. It definitely influences how we write and it's something we've tried to incorporate into other aspects of the band, like playing shows in art galleries, or how we make videos.
The packaging really grew from that. The idea was to commission 9 different artists to respond to a song each, so we had a unique piece for each track. Nick and Dan both contributed, along with Nick's brother Phil (who has done all our previous covers as well as this one) and other artist friends of ours. We also asked Tim Rutili from Califone, whom we toured with a few years back. In this age when it's easier not to buy records we wanted to try everything we could to make it something worth investing in. I'm really proud of how it turned out
Who chose the band name and why?
That was me (Ed). I took it from a poem by Thom Gunn that I discovered and liked ... it somehow seemed to reflect the sound of the songs I was making.
You're currently on the Bella Union label. How did that happen and has it been good for business?
It happened fairly organically. We'd done a couple of records, the last one of which Simon Raymonde had put on his favourite albums of the year list. We played some festival things they were organising - Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park, their 15th Anniversary celebrations at End of the Road. So we just got to know the people there over a couple of years and had always loved the label, so it seemed like a good fit.
The new album is called Best of Times yet despite the beautiful mournful music the themes seem to contradict the title. Are you naturally drawn to the melancholy?
Well, the title comes from the song 'All Times into One' which says 'it could be the best of times, the worst it could be too'...so accepts the possibilities of both hope and regret at the same time.
It would be great to see a longer set from you guys live. Any plans for a headlining tour?
We've been playing a handful of headline shows. It is nice to be able to stretch out a bit more. It's been hard for recent support shows boiling things down to half an hour, as we either have to trim things a bit which doesn't feel right or only play a handful of songs. We'll hopefully be back with more headline shows after the summer.
Which current bands do you admire and who are your influences?
Current things ... I really like William Tyler, who recently put out a great EP called Lost Colony. Also enjoying records by Kevin Morby and Younghusband. More generally influences kind of start with the Beatles, move through 70s krautrock and end up with US indie stuff from the 90s.
What would be your dream venue to play and why?
The Empty Bottle in Chicago - it's near where our bass player Dan grew up and went to see shows all the time ... it would be nice to end up there.
What's next? Do you start writing new songs now or wait until touring this one is over?
New songs are always percolating. I've got some things I'm working on and now this first bit of touring is over it's probably time to start pulling things together and working on new stuff in earnest.
And finally: Who's going to win the World Cup?
Questions from our Keith.
What are the feelings now that your debut LP is 'done & dusted' ?
It’s a pretty bizarre feeling. We just got the test pressings back the other day and it blew all of our minds. Listening to our music on vinyl for the first time was just crazy. It sounded pretty much the same but then you’d look at the record spinning and it was surreal. When we started the band we didn’t really have any goals, it was started as a sort of joke. Once we started to take it a bit more seriously we knew that bringing out an album on vinyl was the ultimate goal. I think too many unsigned bands hold out on making an album because they are waiting to get signed. I think that if you have an album in you then you should get it out as soon as you can. So the main feeling is just a mix of relief and happiness.
What was the experience like in the studio recording eleven songs together and how long did it all take?
We did the majority of the tracks over two days and then spent the third day adding some extra over dubs and vocals. Then we spent just under two days mixing. We recorded the album in Green Door Studio onto 16 track tape. Most of the tracks were done live in the first few takes which was a good way to work. I think if it takes more than 3 takes to get a song down then it’s not tight enough to be recorded yet.
Stu Evans was our man behind the desk and he was great to work with, he knows his stuff and is a super easy going. I was pretty stressed going into it as I didn’t think we’d have enough time to get it all done but it ended up being a pretty stress free experience. It was one full week of constantly being in the studio though which was pretty intense; I put everything else on hold for a week and just focused on the album.
How did you make the tie up with Fuzzkill Records and how important do you think it is for a new band to have a 'label' behind them?
We were asked to play up in Shetland last year by the guys who run Fuzzkill, Marshall and Keppie. They had just started out with the label and were both about to move down to Glasgow. We got on straight away and agreed to release something together when they moved down. Having Fuzzkill help with all the press side of things has been a massive help for us and has let me concentrate more on booking shows and working on material.
I think it’s very important for a new band to have support in any form, whether it’s their friends working the doors at gigs or helping out with photos/artwork. If we didn’t have Fuzzkill helping us out over the last 8 months then we definitely wouldn’t have got as much attention from press and radio. I believe in always retaining a strong DIY ethic but its also positive to work with people who you know genuinely care about your band, you’d be silly to turn that down. I’ve pretty much spoke to Keppie every day for the last 4 months about something relating to the band, I would be way more stressed out/depressed if I didn’t have him helping with all the number crunching and press stuff.
How is life treating you in the music business this week?
Very good, I seem to be riding a creative wave at the moment, busy writing songs for a new album as well as a collection of obscure covers for a possible album or e.p. including songs by Sandy Denny, Mickey Newbury and Bob Carpenter. At the same time I'm also working in collaboration with another local musician Neil Campbell (he released an album under the title of The Professor Campbell Explosion in 2011) who is re-working some of my old songs which should be interesting.
22+ Albums and EPs, you must have been long overdue a retrospective release. 'From The Fleet To The Medlock - A Collection (1997-2014)' is being released on 12th May – How did you go about selecting the must to use?
As opposed to my personal favourites, the selections have been based on critical feedback and popularity through downloads, streams, etc, so hopefully it serves as some kind of varied introduction to my music.
What were your ambitions for album No.1 and have they changed with this latest release?
Looking back I used to sweat blood over my early records and then just hand them out to a few mates so I wasn't very ambitious in that sense although I used to put heart and soul into every release. It was only by 2007's The Julius Work Calendar that I decided to market my music to a wider audience.
How would you describe your music to people that have not heard any of you music so far?
It's difficult to pigeonhole, but I would say it's essentially singer-songwriter with an experimental edge. My love of folk, drone, krautrock, synths and psychedelia colour the music too.
A lot of solo artists play under different names to their own. Did you ever consider that and if you did so now, what would be you’re 'also known as'?
I actually did release my music under the pseudonym of Rhubarb from 1998 to 2010. I've also released more experimental music as G For Gnome. However, it felt like the right time in 2010 when I released Safety In Movement to use my own name and draw a line under the whole ‘Rhubarb’ period.
Hi Nick. Hot on the heels of supporting Laura Marling’s shows, you have just finished a big solo UK tour ...how did that go?
Hi Kevin. This most recent tour felt special to me, a bit different. People were singing along and having their own relationship with my songs. We're getting to all know each other..
And theres an album out soon?....
12th May! The album is called First Mind. I made it last September with producer Dan Carey and I'm really proud of it. It's very me.
Heard a rumour you may be playing some big festivals this summer....are you allowed to say which ones yet?
At time of writing I'm not at Liberty to reveal all out festival plans but I can say I will be at Green Man, Bestival and Summersault. and I believe you may be playing with a band? We are a five piece and I chose my players carefully. I hope you love it.
You were a founder member of the Mercury-nominated Portico Quartet – what made you leave such a successful band?
I had a wonderful time in Portico Quartet but I had to leave the band to keep true to my creativity. After all nothing else matters really. Or put it this way, for me everything else that does matter tends to fall in to place when I do what my creativity asks.
A lot of your song lyrics seem very personal...are family and friends a big influence on your work?
Of course, they pop up in my lyrics from time to time. All my songs are very personal in the sense that they come from a deep place but not in the sense that they are confessional. I'm not interested in public laundry hanging- what interests me is that at a certain level we're all the same and if you can dig deep enough and write from that level whatever you produce should stand and chance of connecting with others.
Finally can you recommend 2 tracks for our readers to enjoy – one from yourself, and one from any other artist
From me- 'The House Of Saint Give Me' and from someone else- Charlotte Dada's cover of The Beatles 'Don't Let a me Down'.
Nick was talking to our corespondent Kevin Hand (@Kevinhand3)
How is life in the music business treating you today and where on your tour are you?
Well we are back with a new album and still rocking out so things are still going great! Currently we are at the beginning of the CONTROL European tour and currently in Spain and we have to say it's great to get back out there on the road!
New album out and lengthy tour underway. Can life get any better?
Haha it's going to be a busy year which is great for us because that is what we like to do best play music and get out on the road!
Can you tell us how the band was originally formed, and are the ambitions from those early days still alive today?
It's a very long story but we formed back in 2004 Jason was playing around town in a couple of blues bands and The Brew "formally strange brew" at that time were playing around the town of Grimsby also and had a strong reputation, the previous guitarist left and an occasion came where we just happened to meet at the right time we got together for a jam and never looked back and Jason still doesn't know if he got the job in the band!
As far as ambitions go I think right now they are at their strongest as we have gained a lot of touring and writing experience over the years we just want to keep evolving and developing as a band and I think the moment that stops with any band it's time to give up and we are not going to do that for a long time!
Your fourth studio album ‘Control’ was produced by Toby Jepson, how did that come about and, did you approach the writing or recording of this album, differently from your previous records?
We just wanted to try something different try a different writing process, try a different studio and work with somebody different so Tim contacted Toby Jepson we sent over some demos which he was really enthusiastic about so we hooked up and things really gelled he was on the same wave length as us when it came to our sound and how we wanted the album to come across which was back to basics just three guys in a room raw power!