If this all fails and goes to shit, we’ll become Indie Disco DJs
If you’re an avid reader of Birthday Cake For Breakfast, you might’ve gathered by now that I’m a big fan of Tall Ships (and if you’re not an avid reader, here’s your chance to start!)
I first saw them support Maps and Atlases a few years back at Night and Day Café in Manchester, and I was pretty much hooked from the get go. They were one of the main highlights from the first ArcTanGent festival last year, and their first full length ‘Everything Touching’ was a firm favourite of mine for a number of months. Compared to previous years, 2014 has been a bit of a quiet one for Tall Ships, but they’ve recently confirmed that they are back in the studio and working on album number two. In anticipation of the new record, they’re currently finishing up a run of shows to road test the new material, with four intimate gigs in Bristol, London, Brighton and Manchester. It was in Manchester that I caught up with bassist Matt and front man Ric ahead of their show at Soup Kitchen, to talk about their second record, as well as their eventual careers as Silent Disco DJ’s.
This summer saw Tall Ships take in a few festival dates, as well as a number of dates across the UK. Having eased up on shows since they toured constantly in support of ‘Everything Touching’, I put it to Matt and Ric – How does it feel to be back playing more regular shows?
Ric “We’ve had a really good summer. We had loads of fun; did loads of different festivals. Favourite one being one we did in Czech Republic that was amazing – pretty naughty night out, that one.”
Matt “Three years of solid touring from when we started, it was the first time we kinda really had a break after the first album, which was real nice to look back and see what we’ve done, and look to the future and assess everything. Taking our little break was really nice, but then it was even nicer to come back and play shows again and be like ‘oh yeah, I forgot how good this is’ It was nice doing a couple of shows before the summer, and then play all the festivals and then have these run of dates now. Try out some new stuff – see how they work, see what people think.”
The band have already been trying out new material on shows this year, including dropping new songs into their sets at 2000 Trees and ArcTanGent. You’d think this would be the highlight of their set, but it was at the latter festival that this was overshadowed, when a couple got engaged during one of their tracks! Luckily, the result was positive, as Ric notes “Thankfully she said yes, that would’ve been…*laughs* a bit of a downer. It was cool; It was for this one song called ‘Ode To Ancestors’, which is a bit of a soppy love song. It’s great, it’s amazing – we get messages from people saying they’ve had it played at their wedding; brides walked down the aisle to it. To have someone actually propose during the set – though I didn’t notice when we were playing. I only got told about it afterward so that was a bit gutting; I would’ve loved to have actually seen it”
It was also ArcTanGent where Tall Ships took up their residency as Silent Disco DJ’s for the second year running, something which is now almost as highly anticipated as their actual sets. Ric “We love that festival, it’s always mayhem. The DJ set is by far the highlight of the summer. We opened with the Game of Thrones theme this year, and that went down…”
Matt “…Didn’t it go straight into ‘My Own Summer’ by Deftones? I’m starting to think, DJ’s get paid way more than bands; they have a way easier job and way more fun. We could just be Silent Disco DJs. If this all fails and goes to shit, we’ll become Indie Disco DJs”
A different career option isn’t unheard of in their circles, as &U&I almost got side-tracked with becoming a wedding band (as previously discussed in their interview with Birthday Cake For Breakfast last December)
Matt “The Mockers, that’s what they’re called. There’s a little plug for them. They’re very good. We had the pleasure of playing with them and Tubelord as a Wedding cover band at our friend Alan and Rachel’s wedding. We were shoddy at best, but they were very very good. Hire them for any wedding you have coming up”
As previously mentioned, Tall Ships have been dotting new tracks throughout their sets this summer, but as Ric explains – those were just a sneak peek at what could’ve been rather than the bigger picture. “It was good playing those new songs, but we’ve actually just scrapped those new songs now. We’ve gone back to the drawing board, and we’ve actually got started in the studio and have started making the album. It’s such a slow process for us, because we have to fit in with lots of other commitments, and it just takes us ages to actually write songs. Musically it just takes ages to come together – Lyrics, I actually need stuff to happen to actually get something to write about, so that takes a long time as well. We’re really excited with it, we’re just doing it in our own time, just recording it by ourselves and just trying to make it sound as beefy and fun as possible”
The band have been playing as a four piece for a while now, having taken on former Tubelord member and producer of the first Tall Ships full length, Jamie Field. With the addition of Jamie to the line-up, the studio process has been pretty similar to their work on the first record, as Ric explains, “It’s not that different, because the fourth member Jamie, he actually produced the first record. So he actually did have a lot of stuff to do with a lot of the keyboard parts anyway, so it’s quite a natural transition. It’s been a really slow, quite drawn out process. We’ve demoed songs numerous times; we’ve just tried to figure out what we’re all about.”
Matt “It’s a completely different process to when we started, which is the three of us and we were writing songs to play live, and then they would develop over time through playing live, and then they got recorded and that was done. Everything we recorded on that first album was pretty much everything we had to date, very much everything we had. This time round, having a bit of a break and obviously writing on those tours for the first album, we ended up with so much more ideas and so much more stuff that I was surprised we could even get to – just like a pallet of stuff that we can go, ‘well we don’t like that song anymore, we can get rid of stuff’ Whereas the first album was very much – we need to make this good, ‘cus that’s all we have. It’s a lot nicer this round to be more cut throat with songs, and they’ve had time to develop. So from the initial ideas they’ve gone through, maybe we’ve played them live and then we’ve changed them, got rid of them. It’s been a more natural process of writing”
At this stage in the recording process, I wanted to know what tracks were standing out for the band and which tracks were personal favourites. Ric: “That’s a tough one, ‘cus they’re all quite different. I think my favourite is one we’re working on; it’s called ‘Meditations on Loss’ and it’s just three and a half minutes of just thrashy, noisy – it’s pretty punk, it’s got a big breakdown. I might get to do some shouting, which is something I haven’t really done before. It’s good, it’ll be really good fun…We’re really excited. We’re just developing what we’ve already done and refining it. It’s not gonna be radically different, we’re not making a ‘Kid A’ or anything like that, we’re just moving forwards and we’re really happy with what we’re making, and that’s all that matters to us”
It’s certainly a cliché, but with the impending second record, there’s definitely going to be some who will be looking to compare it to ‘Everything Touching’ The band themselves have had this in mind, and it’s played a part in the upcoming record. So what’s different this time around? Matt “Kind of less nonsense? A bit more coherent, a lot more…maybe broader sounds. We’ve noted what people liked and what we liked from the first album, and we’ve tried to explore those avenues. From the moment we started as a band, the door was open to whatever ideas we had, we could just do it. We never put ourselves in a genre, but as we’re getting a bit older, we’re refining our music tastes, and refining what we wanna do and how we wanna be as a band, so I guess it’s gonna be a lot more coherent, a lot more…coherent I think is probably the word. It’s definitely coherent *laughs*”
So in the next couple of months, we should hopefully look to expect lots of updates from Tall Ships. Some new songs, a release date. An album name? Ric “We have a working title, which I’m too embarrassed to say because it’s horrifically pretentious, but I think it’ll work quite well actually. The whole album is all about experience. The first album was thinking on a kind of macro scale, so talking about big bang and shit, whereas this is very inwards.”
It’s not all been smooth sailing for Tall Ships, and it would appear the break from shows came at the right time. As previously mentioned, the boys were pretty much on the road for a good three years with an album to promote as well. So how are thing in the Tall Ships camp at present?
Ric “Good…They were fucking shit.”
Matt “No one’s ever asked that question. No one ever asks… At the end of the album tour of just touring for three years, we fucking…Emotionally, physically, financially all completely broken, and it was very hard towards the end. Not to say we didn’t enjoy it, but…”
Ric “We can’t complain. It’s just tough, because we don’t really have any money behind us or any kind of big backing. All the time that we’ve put into the band is time when we really should be working, earning money to pay our rent. It’s pretty tough. It’s cool, we just took some time off. Interrelationships are better now.”
Physically is right – Poor Jamie (drummer) got a hernia at the tail end of last year, which as he explained on the band’s Facebook was from “rocking out too hard this summer” It was beginning to take its toll.
Matt “… I think me and Ric had a breakdown. So, mentally and physically we’re back on track, and it’s just improved the writing experience. The touring experience is so much better.”
Ric “It’s why we scrapped half the songs we’d written in that period. At the start there was a bit of pressure on us to get some tracks together and we did, and it got attention from certain labels, then it got to the point where we had a contract in front of us and we were like – no, this isn’t right. So we ditched all that, and got happy again.”
Matt “I mean, we could’ve been on Top of the Pops if it existed any more…We could’ve been the next Backstreet Boys, but we turned it down”
After a lengthy discussion on mid-2000 boy bands and talk of opening up a ‘coherent’ strip club, it’s clear to see that the Tall Ships boys are in good spirits. Ric jokingly apologises for having “…absolutely nothing useable” in the interview, and then they’re off for hugs and handshakes with the rest of the band and some Northern friends who have come down to Soup Kitchen to see them perform.
After their brief run of shows, it’s back to the studio to work on the album. But hey, if it doesn’t work out, they’ve always got their DJ careers to fall back on…