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Stereoboard Talks To Tall Ships About Being The Saviours Of British Guitar Music (Interview)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 Written by Ben Bland
Stereoboard Talks To Tall Ships About Being The Saviours Of British Guitar Music (Interview)

Tall Ships have been busy bees recently, releasing their long-awaited debut album (read Stereoboard's review here) and then touring around the UK like thereís no tomorrow. Before their show at the famous Brudenell Social Club (read Stereoboard's live review here) in Leeds, we sat down with drummer Jamie Bush and bassist Matt Parker for a little chat in the snooker room...

ImageSo, itís been a while since you guys first got together as a band but 'Everything Touching' is your first full-length album. Have you been feeling the pressure a bit ahead of its release?
Matt (bass): Weíre extremely relieved to have it out I suppose... erm...

(All get distracted by a loud man wielding a snooker cue)

Jamie (drums): Yeah, itís been ready for a while really. Originally we wanted to have it out in May, but then it got pushed back for various reasons. It has been a long time but I think people agree that we havenít rushed itÖthat itís been worth the wait.

I suppose for a lot of people there is an expectation that a band will do a couple of EPs and then have an album out soon after. Has the approach you have taken to the full-length been shaped by not wanting to repeat what you have done previously on your EP recordings?
Jamie: Yes, I think so. Obviously we never want to repeat the same things twice. The first two EPs were two separate entities in themselves anyway. I mean, that first EP... weíd just come out of uni and we werenít used to being musicians at all. It was so rushed and all the drums are out of tune... we didnít even know how to use the studio. They were basically just jams rather than proper songs but then we got approached by Big Scary Monsters who wanted to put it out which was amazing. Then when people loved it we were really taken aback so we had to do another one! James Elliot-Field from Tubelord did the second EP with us, but it was still a very rushed process so the album for us was very much an opportunity for us to take our time.

Weíve toured with Maps & Atlases a couple of times and one of the things they really taught us was how it was important to develop from early EPs. Take a listen to their earliest recordings and they sound nothing like what their first album sounded like. There is just such a massive step up I think and so their approach influenced us greatly.

A couple of the songs on the record are oldies that have been re-recorded specially, 'Books' and 'Ode to Ancestors'. What was the reasoning behind putting both of those songs on the album?
Jamie: Those two just werenít what we had in our heads; they were merely what we could produce at the time. Other songs, 'Vessels' and 'Chemistry' maybe for example, are very different because they just are what they are. We had the opportunity to extend the songs, give them space to breathe. I think the majority of people agree with us on that.

Matt: It felt a bit like they were demos originally for what they potentially could be. Especially with 'Books', we always felt like it could be much grander than it was, so when it came to recording the album it seemed obvious to us what we were going to do. We didnít let ourselves be reined in by overthinking live performance either, which we were prone to do before.

Itís interesting you say that because I have often wondered how much that is a factor in your writing process, what with there only being three of you (plus a ton of loop pedals) on stage...
Jamie: We didnít let that become a problem on this record... but I think next time we are going to have to start thinking about it again (laughs). I mean, we have just about managed to sort things out this time around for live performances but it has been pretty tough. Some things have to be stripped back, thatís kind of the nature of the beast. Again I think Maps & Atlases are a good example of that. Weíre obviously very fortunate in that we have the technology available to be able to pull things off live. Otherwise it would be near impossible to play a song like ď'Murmurations' at all.

You mentioned 'Murmurations' there. I have to say that it was the song that intrigued me most on the album... being a nine minute epic and all! Would you say that maybe that song is something of a defining statement of where Tall Ships are as a band at this point in time?
Matt: Yeah, definitely. Ironically it was one of the first songs that we actually wrote together as a band but it never made it on to the EPsÖ

Jamie: It kicked around in various forms but then when we went to record the album we just turned into this big grand piece of music. Ric, our guitarist, always calls it Ďthe most Tall Ships Tall Ships song there isí, and I guess he is pretty spot on there. It is just a set of loops building up to one big drop. Itís important to us as well because there are loads of our friends and family playing on the song tooÖabout forty people in total including a choir of thirty singing in our old school hall! That makes it quite poignant to us, and the fact we have been able to master playing it live is also obviously great.

It must be amazing to reach the stage you have got to now in terms of touring... selling out some pretty decent medium-sized venues. I mean, the first time I saw you was in Hitchin with Tubelord and about twenty people turned upÖhalf of whom looked rather disinterested...
Jamie: Fucking hell, were you at that Hitchin show? That was the first day of our first proper UK tour. We really were wondering what we had let ourselves in for...

Yeah, well touring in the UK is almost a struggle by definition a lot of the time isnít it?
Jamie: It definitely used to be, but you have to put up with that because the only way of making a name for yourself really is to just tour and tour and tour. Weíve done that and I think we are reaping the rewards now. I mean, this place is nearly sold out tonight... thatís 350 odd people.

I saw Liars here the other day and it was only half full really so for you guys to be selling it out says a lot I think...
Jamie: Well we supported Liars recently in Norwich and that place was packed out so itís amazing to think that here we are pretty much selling out the venue they were playing. Our Brighton show was packed too... and XOYO in London is close to selling out. Thatís 400/500 people coming to see us at one show. It really is insane.

Your songs have a real accessibility to them that some people might claim other bands of a similar ilk, maybe Maps & Atlases for example, havenít quite been able to capture. Is that something you often consider when writing?
Matt: I think we do to an extent. We grew up listening to pop rock songs so itís not in our nature to be obscure! Itís just natural the way things turn out... we donít know any different. I find it, and I think Ric definitely agrees, important that we have a strong vocal melody or hook involved a lot of the time. I think on the next record we might consciously look into recording songs that feature less of us wandering off and doing our own thing and more of us focusing a little on the accessibility factor.

Jamie: I think we definitely are a pop rock band anyway with big choruses and repetitive loops, etc. On the next album I think we really want to explore limiting ourselves to certain things rather than being as expansive as we have been on this album. Weíre so depressed with the state of Ďpopí at the moment... all indie pop rock seems to be so lyrically boring and void of anything actually interesting. Every new guitar band seems to be Ďthe saviours of British guitar musicí. Itís just pathetic really, the same old shit time after time. You can do something interesting whilst still being a pop band and I think that is what we want to prove. We want to be a big pop band but be credible and intelligent still.

'Everything Touching', the debut album by Tall Ships, is out now via Big Scary Monsters and Blood & Biscuits.

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