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Stereoboard Chat With Neil Pennycook Of Meursault Ahead Of Their Headline Show At The Liquid Room

Tuesday, 30 April 2013 Written by Jonny Rimmer

Scottish indie group Meursault have grown from strength to strength since their formation in 2006 by Edinburgh songwriter Neil Pennycook. On 26 April, the band played a precursor show to Edinburgh’s annual Haddowfest in October, which will feature the likes of The Cribs amongst others. With support from the likes of Radio 1’s Ally McCrae, tonight, however, was all about local talent and I caught up with Neil from the band before their headline show at the Liquid Room.

How you doing? Obviously, being Edinburgh based, I’d imagine this wasn’t too much of a trip for you!
I’m doing great! The sun’s out [writer’s note: this very quickly changed!] which is lovely. I’m actually from Leith, so it took a little longer than you’d think! We didn’t just pop over with the van.

Now, obviously you formed the band yourself as a solo project, and the band has had multitudes of members come and go since its inception. Can you state just how many members are in the band at the minute?
There’s currently six of us in the group, obviously since the project began things have really expanded. There is no specific reason why so many of those guys left the band – y’know, people come and go, folk have day jobs etc. As long as I’m still a part of the group, I’m not too worried.

In terms of the song writing process then, would you say you still have the most creative control? Are you the chief song writer? 
Yes, but the rest of the band have a lot of input now and that is reflected on the newest album Something for the Weakened. It still generally starts with me on the guitar, and then the other guys coming in with ideas, but the process is slightly different. It used to be just that I’d write something and then work out how we’d play it live, whereas now it is a lot more collaborative early on.

You’re on Song, By Toad Records, a label that started in Edinburgh, and one that has released some great releases – some I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing (See Sparrow & the Workshop and The Savings and Loan etc.). What originally attracted you to the label?
Well, we met Matthew Young, the guy who runs it, years ago; he used to be at a regular at our shows back when the label didn’t even exist. When it came to putting our music out there, he basically offered to do all the boring parts! The relationship just started very organically, and as the label grew, we grew with it. It’s been very nice.

Are there any other bands on the label that you share a camaraderie with or particularly rate?
The Leg, certainly, because we share a member! The Sparrow guys are good pals too, we’ve got lots of respect for them, and a fair few other bands on the label. I mean, I could go on, but there are some bands I’ve never even met – Lil Daggers for example. What started as a local label is now an international affair, which shows how far it’s come. There’s a very broad range of styles now, whereas the few bands that started out were all somewhat similar.

Independent Scottish music is seeing another movement of new, young musicians, and the influence of lo-fi 90s bands such as Arab Strap is undeniably present in the style and aesthetic of many of these new bands. Is this something you identify with? Or would you say there is a distinction in sound within this new wave?
Ooh, hard to say! As a teenager, I would point out that I certainly didn’t identify Arab Strap or Mogwai or whoever else as Scottish bands - they were just bands I listened to. And I wouldn’t place any sort of emphasis on those groups over other influences of mine, because we are just as indebted to Neil Young and a myriad of other American and European artists. I’m sure there are a lot of Scottish bands that feel the same.

And what about folk influences? Obviously, we journalists love to throw these kind of labels about sometimes, and with the rise of “indie folk” and bands like *cough* Mumford & Sons, it’s a question worth asking; are you naturally drawn to traditional styles of music? Is it just in-built?
Haha, I’m not really drawn to it at all to be honest! I listen to a little bit of folk, of course, but it takes no more precedence than anything else really. I try to downplay the folk thing wherever I can. I think observers see banjos and whatnot and that’s why they make that connection. But, hey, I wouldn’t class Neil Young as folk either. Instrumentally, there was more folk instrumentation of course, but I’d not place us within that genre. To be honest, I think it’d be a great injustice to real traditional musicians to lump bands like us in with those guys, and vice versa to be fair.

Something For the Weakened lacked the electronic flourishes of previous releases. Is this a road that you’re hoping to continue down?
It’s not a permanent direction, no. We’re always evolving – that’s the buzz word isn’t it? On the last record, there was definitely a conscious decision to present the songs as ‘live’. Pre-programming beats lacks that real live element I guess you could say. As clichéd as it sounds, I really wanted to hear the creek of the drum stool and the rattle of the strings on that last album. But hey, those electronic features might creep back in on future releases. It’s all about keeping yourself interested.

Finally, is there anything in the pipeline this year?
Hopefully, we’re doing a lot of recording at the moment, but we’re keeping it on the down low. I mean, we want fans to know we are recording but not what we are recording necessarily! We’ll be playing some shows as well. We have Belladrum coming up, a show with The Twilight Sad… I can’t really remember where else, I’m hopeless with remembering. Check our Facebook, we’ll be playing music in some capacity!



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