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Society: Do It Yourself, Do It With Style

Tuesday, 08 September 2015 Written by Milly McMahon

Composing commanding music that takes itself seriously requires confidence and watertight musical prowess.

Society, now the shared moniker of two man melody team James Girdler and Brendan Lynch, write layered symphonies that could have been expertly designed to complement a beautiful black and white epic romance from the ‘20s.

Buried among samples and instruments for the past three years, quietly researching, diligently writing and then finally producing an epic, deeply affecting album, Society’s music represents a pure, almost orchestral delight.

Emerging vitriolic after months spent grafting in the studio, Girdler and Lynch are ready to showcase their sound, proudly unveiling their anthemic, intricate LP this autumn.

Both artists are creating the kind of music they had always dreamed of making. Having enjoyed a turn around the block with Beggars, Girdler has worked in music since day dot and benefits from understanding experience and respect. The friends connect emotionally on record, fusing soul, classical and elements of every genre of electronic music in between.

Stressed out by a lack of knowledge on the DIY front one sunny summer afternoon, Girdler took a short break from sanding the floors of his new Islington flat to discuss the importance of learning how to play music that has flaws.

With regards to the equipment you work with, is there a standard set up or do you switch things around fairly regularly?

We mess around with stuff, we play everything on the album but we don’t play anything particularly well. We just try stuff out. There’s some accordion on the tracks and all kinds of shit. If it’s to hand we will pick it up and try it out. It’s random. We found a lot of sounds from other albums and shit like that, so its all about sounds and the mix of instrumentation and messing about with sounds that we have found.

Are you self taught?

I’m self taught, play it badly. Never any lessons.

A lot of people use YouTube tutorials to learn new instruments today.

The first time I went on it to learn something is when I Googled how to sand a wooden floor today! Lots of kids can learn, but I think you are much better off teaching yourself. All the best musicians developed a unique style by teaching themselves how to master an instrument. Maybe piano, or something a bit standard, is easier to learn the fundamentals of playing via YouTube, but I think that you need to develop your own sound whether it’s wrong or right as soon as you start getting taught to play anything, otherwise you end up sounding like everyone else. That’s why I don’t like playing with session musicians, they may be technically very good but they do end up sounding the same. I’d rather play with a kid that sounds shit but has style.

How will the music work when you are playing live?

We play with a live band. Brendan plays lots of samples and will trigger the samples, a little bit like Primal Scream. It’s like a full on band and then you will hear a mad sound that has been triggered by a sample, or the drummer or a keys player.

How are the creative responsibilities shared out between you and Brendan?

It’s really natural. We have different qualities we bring. Brendan's main thing is producing and writing. I always have something to say in production. My main thing is playing and singing and writing but he is always ready to give direction on that also, with melodies and lyrics, so it’s very even. It’s a true collaborative partnership.

Who cultivated a passion for music with you?

My dad was a musician, he played piano and went off to LA and tried to make it as a musician. Even though he never quite managed it I was always surrounded by music as a kid. He was commonly in the studio recording an album. There was always some band hanging out who I used to play Sega Mega Drive with. One turned out to be Radiohead, because they were recording the album at the same time, so I was always surrounded by music. My dad used to force me to listen to the Beatles and Leonard Cohen. He was so obsessed with Leonard Cohen and I am too now, as a result.

What does he make of the music you record today?

He loves it, he just has a go at me constantly for not playing him enough of the stuff. He lives in Cornwall and he hasn’t heard so much of the album yet, he’s only heard a few singles. He’s so supportive. He always jokes about when Brendan is going to record his album instead of mine.

Is he still making music?

Not really.

Did you have a tarnished experience of the industry from his past, of not quite breaking through?

I guess I never really thought about it at the time because I was so young and it all happened so quickly. Ultimately, if you write good songs and if you can get them out there, people will hear them and like them. It’s quite easy for people to pick up on stuff. We put out a tiny 7” for our first single and it was the first thing we had ever done. We released via Roundtable records and suddenly it was just everywhere. It’s quite easy in some senses but at the same time people are so fickle about music, they don’t give bands the chance to grow. I’ve been quite fortunate because Brendan and I just went off and made our own album, in our own time, but a lot of artists don’t get that chance. I’ve never been bitter about the music industry from my dad’s perspective. He’d be the first to admit that it wasn’t the right time or he wasn’t good enough.

How different do you find releasing under Luv Luv Luv as opposed to a major label?

For me it’s kind of the same thing. Same thing different sandwich. It’s great having a team you can work with but ultimately they are all still part of Universal, a bigger entity like most of these labels are. When I was at EMI [with Beggars] they had most of the influence over what I was doing so it’s kind of the same thing. The big, major labels still handle the budget so you have to get signed off by them, but the more creative stuff is handled by the label. It’s good. It’s great working with those guys because we met a lot of people when we were making this album, but Luv Luv Luv seemed the most passionate and were able to get it more than anyone else, so it’s quite an easy relationship.

My favourite track is All That We’ve Become. What’s the story behind the lyrics.

There wasn’t really a story, we just had an idea when we first wrote and started working on it and we just went with it. There’s no real story. It’s an equal sharing of lyrics. A lot of the time we will finish the song with not even the lyrics finished and we will just sit around and work on it together. If he doesn’t like a lyric he will be the first one to say.

Are you both quite emotionally similar people? There’s a certain melancholy quality to the sound.

Yeah, maybe we are both really sad. We come from quite a similar background, we are into the same things. We have similar outlooks on some things but very different on others. I think we must be quite similar. Maybe we are fundamentally different in some senses and that’s how we clash. I’m not sure. It’s difficult to self analyse like that. We really get on and enjoy making music together. Some days we can sit around all day and not do anything and then other times when it’s good luck just trying things out with mad ideas. Sundays nothing really happens. We just look at YouTube videos about how to sand floors.

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