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Guillemots Discuss Their New Album ‘Walk The River’ (Interview)

Thursday, 10 March 2011 Written by James Conlon

Guillemots are a Mercury Prize-nominated four-piece known for their passionate musical visions and eccentric choice of instruments. The band made their first impression on the music scene in 2006 with the critically-acclaimed ‘Through the Windowpane’, and have gone on to find fame with a string of successful singles and their second LP ‘Red’. Guillemots recently put the finishing touches on their third release, ‘Walk The River’ and premiered the lead single from the album, ‘The Basket’. Luckily this week Stereoboard got the chance to talk to lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield about the recording process and what the band have planned for the near future.

Stereoboard (SB): What was the band’s attitude and main ambition when writing and recording ‘Walk The River’?

Fyfe Dangerfield (FD): We really just wanted to make some music, simple as that. The more music we can get out, the better, really. I didn’t think about it too much, to be honest. We just wanted it to be good – to make something that you can trip out to a bit and hopefully get led away by it. We spent loads of timing just trying to write stuff and getting lost in making music again, then when we had enough stuff so that we were gagging for people to hear it we picked a bunch out and put it together to start making the record.

SB: Your new single ‘The basket’ is in many ways a big (and brave) track to have made. Are there any nerves about the release and why was that the choice as lead single for the record?

FD: There are always some nerves, but choosing a single is always a difficult thing to do. Really with singles the point is to have something which the most people can hear, so we were definitely going to choose the most radio-friendly song we had. We’ve also put out this video for ‘Walk The River’ too, the lead track, which will hopefully show the other side of the record. We love the ‘The Basket’ but it’s probably the most ‘spangly’ track on the record – overall it’s probably more of a dreamy record.

SB: How does the new album differ from ‘Red’? Was it a big departure for the band?

FD: Yeah. It’s different because ‘Red’ was a difficult record to make in some ways: the first record took a good few years to write and the band had already been playing together for a long time by that point, it felt like it had a big build-up to it. However with ‘Red’ we just jumped into it without much break at all, just wanting to make another record. That’s why this time around we spent about a year before we even started recording the record just playing and writing together. It felt really different because we were going in with a bunch of songs that we knew how to play and we already loved. In a lot of ways it reminded me of making our first record, even though it is a very different sounding album. I don’t think it’s particularly like either of them, really. I feel just as attached to ‘Through The Windowpane’, but where a lot of that record was about the strings and other bits and pieces, ‘Walk The River’ is more about just the four of us and no-one else...it’s a different kind of sound. ‘Red’ was a different kind of record, and probably not what a lot of people would have made as their second album – we’re very much about just following what we want to do at the time.

SB: What were your main influences going into the new album?

FD: We generally won’t make records to try and sound like anything. I think you’re influenced by everything you hear and everything that happens in your life, but I always find that question a bit hard to answer. It’s more like what affects your mood when you go to the pub in the evening – It’s about what’s happened that day or that week. We were never sitting there thinking ‘We want to make an album that sounds like this or this’, we just wanted to play music and see what comes out – try to get lost in it and not think about other stuff.

SB: Last week Moby made a statement saying something along the lines of ”Major labels should just die”. Obviously being signed to Geffen you’re quite invested in the subject, do you think being on a big name contract can affect the music you make?

FD: We don’t spend too much time thinking about that side of things, to be honest. You could spend a lot of time thinking about it but I just try to focus on the musical side of things. I think that we’re living in a time when labels generally are losing their grip on things because more power is going back into the hand of people making music, in a lot of ways. We’re on a major label and we wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of things without that – we wouldn’t have been able to have an orchestra on our first album, for example. I don’t know really, you could go back and forth on the whole issue for ages but I try not to give it too much thought: we’re making music and unless you have the time to be completely self-sufficient then you’ll have to be involved in the business in some ways...it’s unavoidable unless you’re really hardcore like Steve Aldini or something, which I really admire but it would just take up so much of your life trying to self-organise everything.

SB: One of the hot topics in the music industry for the past few years has been Illegal music downloads. Do the band have any strong feelings about the concept?

FD: I don’t really care, to be honest. Ever since I was a teenager I used to get CDs out of the library and copy them onto tapes so I can’t sit here and say I’ve got a problem with it. I use Spotify all the time, and I know that’s not downloading. I don’t tend to download music but that’s not particularly because I’m really ‘anti’ it, I’ve got enough stuff to listen to already, but things are changing massively. Vinyl is a different matter for me – I do buy vinyl because I love the way it sounds, but more and more when new records come out these days I find myself listening to it online. Sometimes I think ‘I must buy that’. Personally I just want people to hear my music and don’t really mind how they get it, but obviously I don’t want to not make a living out of it.

SB: Are there any smaller acts that you feel should be getting more recognition? What sort of music have you been listening to recently?

FD: There’s lots, but whenever I’m asked questions like this my mind just goes blank! I haven’t really been to many gigs recently, we’ve just been a bit lost in doing our own thing, so I’m not particularly on top of the ‘radar’ In terms of new music. The new Lykke Li album is fantastic [‘Wounded Rhymes’], although I guess she’s been pretty well covered recently anyway...but I really love that record.

SB: You had massive success last year with the solo release and the wave of interest from featuring on the John Lewis advert. Did it change your attitude personally when thinking about the new Guillemots album?

FD: It was a really fun record to do but the whole John Lewis thing was a bit strange really. I felt really happy to give Billy Joel’s career a boost as I’ve liked his music since I was a kid, but I was just singing someone else’s song and didn’t really do anything different with it so it felt very weird when it became really successful...I felt like it was a bit out of my hands. Obviously it was a attracting quite a different audience to people that would normally like some of the Guillemots stuff but hopefully there’ll be some crossover of people who liked that and will like the new stuff as well.

Guillemots are set to release their lastest album ‘Walk The River’ on April 18th through Geffen Records.

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