NWOH Q&A WITH GAVIN AND ALEX.
We gave our friends and fans the chance to ask anything they wanted about the making of our debut album 'New Waves of Hope'. Thanks to everyone who got involved; they're all great questions and we enjoyed racking our brains to answer them as honestly/accurately as we could :)
Maisy: This album is pretty huge and epic in scope! How did you manage to record it in two and a half weeks – was it down to meticulous preparation? And how do you see such a significant piece fitting into today’s horrible musical landscape?!
Alex: (1) I’d like to say that it was but I’m incapable of meticulous preparation! In fact I was pretty down on myself in the days prior to the trip because we had a seventy minute album to track and I was still writing lyrics and guitar overdubs; in other words, didn’t think I was ready. Thankfully by the time it came to tracking, we all loved all the parts. We had three demos for each song – one, my kind of super scruffy ‘bedroom demos’ (known in band parlance as RAF demos – rough as f***!) one of Gav and I laying down our parts to a metronome and one acoustic/vox demo. I think Gav and I had played less than half the album live together before we flew out; thankfully we have a fantastic musical relationship and it all locked in in no time!
(2) Well, there are two considerations there. Firstly, as an album, it may be anachronistic – if not in musicality, then certainly in form. That was always a consideration. But – and I’ve said this many times – for me, on a personal level, this debut album is maybe ten years late. So, while I was cognisant that it may not fare commercially to the same degree it may have been ten years ago, Gav and I discussed this and we absolutely wanted to make and release a big, old school, sprawling, significant-body-of-work type album because it is those albums from the bands we love that have kept the fire burning for us; they are what we wanted to aspire to.
Secondly, who is responsible for this malaise and how do we/can we even buck it? Do we go down without a fight? No! We’re not gonna change the machinations of the business with one album and more than likely, the industry will never revert to previous form; but we’re not gonna let it stop us doing what we want to do – at least with our debut. We’d rather have fallen on our own sword than to have compromised our art. We put our album out, unscathed by that side of things but perhaps the industry has crossed the Rubicon. And if it has, these questions are redundant - because what I can see happening already is bands like TMD being wiped out as a commercial force and assigned a kind of underground cultish status. That’ll mean less recorded output - because there’ll be no money - and a move into a kind of underground world where we play in front of 50 people seven nights a week. That may sound over the top and kind of dystopian, but two generations down the line, who will the kids who want to make a living from non-processed music have to aspire to?
Gavin: We prepared a lot, but in hindsight we could have done so much more! There were a couple of songs that we hadn't rehearsed at all before leaving, so I sat up in our apartment in Echo Park after getting back from the studio a couple of times just going over my parts again and again to make sure they sounded alright before we had to track them. You always want to do more to be ready, but life gets in the way, and once we had booked our flights and the studio time we couldn't wait any more.
I can't really say what's going to happen in the future. There's definitely going to be fewer bands and artists committing to weeks in the studio when they're selling a tiny fraction of the number of albums that they would have fifteen or twenty years ago. That might mean a lessening of production values, but on the other hand, bands now have the ability to make and sell recordings themselves without a record company or studio guy telling them how it should sound. There will always be interesting music coming out, you just have to find it. I think New Waves Of Hope sounds the way it does because it was so important for Alex and me to make something that could stand alongside albums from the past – that we might have listened to as kids, or grown to love – even though they were recorded in a completely different musical and commercial landscape.
There will always be a place for live music, so I think that as a band we have to keep working hard to put on amazing shows, whether that's playing a different set of songs every night, developing on our stage craft, or just harnessing that energy that we have as a band to create electric performances, sprawling and unpredictable.
Dave: Is there a theme to the album? It seems to me that there’s a duality between looking to the future and regretting the past.
Alex: Yes, but like so much in life, on reflection, it all seems a bit naïve now! There is a lyric in our 2013 song ‘God’s Joke’ “Hope is the cruelest liar” – I’d trust that Alex over the NWOH one! The great thing about lyrics is that while they are limited in the sense that they're the truest reflection of your world at that time and circumstances can render them no longer valid, they are a snapshot; I guess everything ends up that way. I also find it artistically gratifying reappropriating old lyrics to fit my current circumstances. It helps to find a new energy in the songs for me.
Gavin: I guess the only answer I can give is that the theme is the album and the album is the theme! The songs may have come from a similar place lyrically or conceptually (although in musical terms they're quite diverse) but once you start thinking about the album as a thing in its own right, it develops a life of its own. Once each song is finished it slots into place and shapes the character of the whole album as it does so.
Kathryn: I honestly think every song on the album is amazing! Do you have a favo(u)rite?
Alex: Not a longstanding one, for a couple of reasons: firstly, we did not want any dips in the album; and that meant if one song was standing out, they’d all have to be brought up to that level. There were periods in which certain songs weren’t reaching the benchmark we had set but we managed to bring them in line with it by one means or another. For instance, It took a long time to get 126 Dreamless Sleeps right – I had to fight pretty hard to keep the solo in there because in some eyes (or ears), it was a bit ‘gratuitous metal!’; I kind of agreed but really liked it as an emotionally powerful musical passage and suggested ‘lushing it out’ in line with the warmth of the album with vocals – and IMO, it turned out fantastically… one of my fave moments on the album. Secondly, I really wanted NWOH to have that thing that all of the albums I love have - where my favourite song changes periodically.
Every song on the album has been a favourite of mine at one point. We’ve also found, when speaking to people that there isn’t one particular song more popular than the others. I love that because what usually tends to happen is that the singles or more instantly gratifying/catchy songs get most of the love. It means a lot to me that the longest song on the album ‘Mi Perro Blanco’ is getting so much fan attention.
Gavin: For me there's two different ways to think about a favourite: my favourite to listen to, and my favourite to play. On the first count, I'm with Alex: I'm not able to settle on a stand-out track and each one means so much to me in different ways. The album closer 'This Malaise Is Over' is definitely in my top three as a listening experience, which is funny because I contributed almost nothing to it in the studio. One evening I dragged producer Frankie out with me to meet a friend for sushi, and when we came back after a couple of hours Alex had basically recorded the whole track by himself.
On the second count, I would go with Heeby Jeeby or City Was Cruel, we've had such a great reaction whenever we've played them live.
Toby: The album is so f***ing good, it seems to me that there’s lots more. I want more! When’s the next album?
Alex: Ha ha, thanks so much! We could have recorded another two albums and a handful of EPs since we made NWOH; there is no shortage of songs. But a band has to be its own bank and recording is expensive and time-consuming. We are in discussions about what we can do to be more prolific with our output in this age of diminished consumerism. For instance, we could put out music with lesser production values – a rough edged new wave or acoustic EP for example. Having said that, we don’t want to compromise our output; I love that stuff but I think it’s more appropriate for b-sides or that sweetener EP between albums. In short, we don’t know about the next album. But we will be releasing some new music this Spring.
Arvie: Is the reverb effect most present in most of the lead (Alex) and back up vocal(Coley) parts? Is it Dverb? :)
Alex: I had to consult Frankie on this one! Dverb was used as a way of finding parameters – decay etc. We then found the appropriate reverb for each song. I actually referenced a lot of songs for vocal sounds prior to the recording; but that stuff tends to go out of the window as a song starts to take its own unique course - that ‘in the moment’ vibe usually informs the finished article more than any initial ideas and a lot of the time we just end up going with the flow! It’s also worth mentioning that reverb can be significantly affected when chained with other effects or modifiers such as compression and EQ; so that meant changing some of the verbs post mix.
To quote the man himself:
“We used D verb when tracking as sort of a quick reverb to monitor with. But the final mixes used a variety. Some of the fuller organic verbs were the Altiverb. The more modulated and crazy long reverbs were the Reverb One which has a chorusing function in the reverb as well as one of the coolest infinite reverb sounds.”