It’s easy to get disillusioned these days. Without even mentioning the harsh current state of affairs in politics, the terror kicking off on every corner of the globe and worshipped musicians dropping dead left right and centre, there’s the small matter of an over-reliance on technology and dependence on the screen(s) on which you’re likely reading this. It’s easy to see why people fuck off to secluded cabins in the woods, or why that lass buggered off around the world on a boat before everything kicked off.
It’s this block-it-all-out approach that Leeds quartet Post War Glamour Girls employed for the recording of their new album ‘Swan Songs’. Recording in near enough isolation, the band took a few weeks off early last year to work on the follow up to 2015’s striking ‘Feeling Strange’.
A break from day jobs, spouses and the grinding day-to-day, it allowed the quartet to become immersed in the recording process (though perhaps not quite as far as Tusk–era Buckingham). Speaking with Post War Glamour Girls late last year, this is near enough how drummer Ben Clyde summed up the decision to record in the far reaches of Scotland.
“That’s why we did it. We went up there ‘cus it was just the middle of nowhere, basically.” He says. “It was a reaction to the second album, ‘cus the second album was just so fraught, because we were having to go to our jobs in-between. There’d be points where there’d only be one band member going in every three hours, then like passing ships they’d be going to work, then the other person would go in and do their parts. Basically, by the end of it you had an album. Whereas I think it was a reaction of that, to take ourselves away in a whole unit – kind of detach ourselves away from it.”
Post War Glamour Girls had just supported the tremendous Future Of The Left when we caught up in Manchester – a bit of a dream come true for frontman James Smith (“I love Future Of The Left. I think we’re a good fit. Two peas in a noise-rock pod. Nah… We’re soft-rock noise-rock.”)
Somewhat a return to playing shows, 2016 had seen the group slow down on touring to not only work on Swan Songs, but also the brilliant ‘Live At St Austin’s’ . The ambitious album was recorded and mixed live to tape at St Austin’s Theatre in Wakefield, in front of a live audience as part of Long Division Festival.
“That was a funny one, because we did the gig and then we went to record the third album in Scotland – ‘the studio album’.” Says James.
Rather than set both projects months apart, amazingly the Post War Glamour Girls crew decided to pack up immediately following their live album in Wakefield and jump in the van to embark on the new album adventure.
“…Didn’t realise it’d be that tight a turnaround. We didn’t realise we’d be packing the van to go on the same night.” James continues.
“Basically, we took everything from one studio to this church, set it all up there in the day then did the live album.” Adds guitarist James Thorpe-Jones. “Spent the early hours packing that whole studio back into a van, then the next morning drove up to Scotland on a 14 hour trip to the North Coast of Skerray.”
Discovering less of a studio than what they’d encountered in Wakefield, it was the location of Skerray – a remote village on the North Coast of Scotland – that proved the perfect departure for the band.
“Despite having no distractions, there was a beach about 100 metres away.” Says bassist Alice Scott with a smile. “So we all ended up going off and doing a little bit of respite. Our little alone time. So we were alone in the village of about 20 people, yet you could get away. So it was good in that respect.”
In addition to their own sense of alone time, there was also their 5AM dive into the icy depths of the Scottish sea upon arrival in Skerray (“Terrifying… Fucking ice cold” – James S) and a special birthday celebration gig for producer Jamie Lockhart’s Mum. Reminiscing over the special show for the birthday girl, James TJ chuckles and adds, “It was actually nice to play some old songs.”
Swan Songs was announced late last month with the arrival of lead single ‘Chipper’. Prior to this, a number of not-so-subtle videos were released, each one featuring footage from the studio, complete with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it song titles. Alongside the brutal ‘Gull Rips a Worm to Rags’, there was also titles such as ‘Pollyanna Cowgirl’, ‘Organ Donor’ and ‘Welfare By Prozac’. The latter was released in September on a 7” split with Menace Beach, as part of the Too Pure Singles Club. Having previously had a release through Too Pure, it was business as usual for the band as James S laughs.
“It’s just friends amongst friends the second time round. It was great. It was really nice to do a split with Menace Beach – just having them and Paul involved, and Alex Wharton who mastered it. We met him last time, but he didn’t master the last one.”
This time around they managed to bag the assistance of Alex Wharton, previously only getting chance to have a drink with him in the Abbey Road beer garden. He was too busy at the time, re-mastering Nick Cave’s back catalogue…
“We got him the second time round and he was brilliant.” Continues James S. “It was just a really nice experience and it was good that it was for Jumbo as well, because you know – something that’s dear to our hearts.”
Considering its inclusion on the album, the two blokes up front joke that Welfare By Prozac is more of an album track rather than a single, but that its release with Too Pure felt right.
“After all the referendum, all that shit, it felt like – we were gonna put a different one out – then we sort of decided on that because it’s more of an immediate statement…” Says James S. “I don’t know if anyone listened and picked up on that. Tend not to broadcast those things, think it’s kind of crass to be overtly political. I feel like the people that like our music have enough common sense to realise that about us, without having to rub it in their faces. Hopefully people listened to that and figured it out. Might put it on Rap Genius actually, so people can read into it a bit more…” He laughs.
Back to the recording of Swan Songs and the other nine tracks that make up their third album, the sessions in Skerray didn’t have the band encounter too many problems, though the process was very different.
“To be honest, we spent so much time on the live album, we kind of forgot about the actual album.” Says James TJ. “So when we got up to Scotland, it was like – oh, we’re actually here to do another one. We had the basis of what we wanted to do, but I suppose being so prepared for the live album made us better playing together again, more relaxed. We just were able to crack on. We just locked ourselves in a shed for five hours then asked Jamie and Lee when we were ready to record.”
“I think probably having the live album to focus on as well meant that we didn’t really overcook it.” Comments James S. “It made it feel fresh, ‘cus some of the songs were structurally written but not finished. It meant that we hadn’t overcooked it or overthought anything in the studio in Scotland when we did it. It felt new, ‘cus some of those songs have been knocking around for a year, probably over a year. Some of the demos go back before ‘Feeling Strange’ came out. With ‘Feeling Strange’ we kind of perfected everything before we recorded it, because we planned out everything. We even demoed ‘Feeling Strange’ in the studio and then sat with them tracks for two or three months, so it was very focused. Whereas this one was a lot looser, a lot jammier and there was sections where we kind of just played ‘em out and then chopped ‘em when it felt right.”
“We didn’t feel the time constraints, but we didn’t waste any time by sitting on anything. It just really flowed.” Says James TJ.
It’s notable through our discussion that, as well as their continued relationship with label man Dan O’Dell and their producers Jamie Lockhart and Lee Smith, Post War Glamour Girls enjoy reflecting on what’s come before them and holding onto those close. Commenting on Facebook about their Live at St Austin’s album and the resurrection of debut single ‘Spitting Pearls’, they mentioned that their Tour Manager had cried, overcome with emotion.
“He was crying for about 20 minutes afterwards. It was really sweet.” Smiles Ben. “It’s nice when you realise the music you made like five years ago has an effect – even if it’s a friend. Brought up a lot of memories – maybe memories he didn’t want to bring up, but it did.” He jests.
“It’s just really nice to go back and play older songs and give them a new lease of life.” Comments James TJ. “Making a couple of changes or just even feeling a bit more sure about things and certain with what we’re doing as a band. It just comes across a lot better and feels better for us. I enjoy playing older stuff every now and again, digging it up ‘cus It gives it a new lease of life.”
“I think that song’s special as well. That was the first time we really locked in with what we were doing.” Adds James S. “We’d been playing a few gigs before it was written and I think the intent was there. We sort of understood that we were doing something right, but we hadn’t quite got there. ‘Spitting Pearls’ was the first time where the four of us locked in and kind of realised that we’d done something decent, that we were proud of. That’s why it ended up coming out as the first single. We’ve always sort of moved forward, that’s always been the key thing, and the old stuff can kind of get neglected.”
“Everything we’ve done has been constant for five years. It’s kind of guided us from the ages of 20 to 25 – half a decade of our lives has been based around this. So there’s a lot of sentiment, a lot of emotional weight; it still resonates when you look back on the old stuff. It’s nice to reapply it in new situations, where we are now and how we’ve grown as a band and as individuals. I think that’s worthwhile. ‘Spitting Pearls’ has got a real sort of sentimental weight to it that can make a big man with a beard weep like a little baby with a beard…”
Swan Songs is now penned in for a release date this April and Post War Glamour Girls will embark on a run of UK shows over the coming months; keen to show off the fruits of their labour. The new record was still under wraps at the time of interview, though James S was dead certain of the date.
“April 21st.” He says, as the rest of the band burst out laughing at the specificity. “I fucking hope so… Yeah, April 21st. Put a stamp on it.”