TMF meets Guillemots
Hot on the heels of their new album, Walk The River, Guillemots have embarked on a short tour of small venues. As TMF waits to speak to them, their soundcheck makes it clear just how seriously they're taking the shows - stressing the importance of creating the right atmosphere, not just getting the sound right. We catch up with lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield, as roadies hunt for incense to create the mood...
What was the thinking behind not naming the venues ‘til the day?
It was just a bit of fun. Something more exciting for people
Watching you soundcheck, you seemed very keen on making it the right experience for people – getting incense burning, checking the background music…
Anything to create a special atmosphere – more than the usual – we want to make it more unique.
Between Guillemots albums you made a solo album but you were working on band material at the same time…
I had some downtime. It wasn’t meant to be an album at first – I just went into the studio, did some stuff and thought I might as well release it.
Were you thinking “This one’s more a Guillemots song, this one's more solo…”?
No. At that point anything new I’d written I put on the record. I didn’t think they sounded like Guillemots songs. A lot of them were acoustic guitar and voice, very stripped down. I wanted to challenge myself to do something very simple and straightforward – the opposite of Guillemots.
There was a lot of different instrumentation on the Guillemots records.
Less so on the new one. We’ve made more of a decision to keep the core sound being the four of us playing live.
Does that make it easier to translate those songs to the stage?
It does. We’ll keep changing it. We’re already talking about what we want to do next. People see your albums as a linear thing, and each has to follow on from the one before. I don’t see it that way. I just see each album as a separate entity.
It’s quite different to the last album
And Red was different to Windowpane. That’s what we do. There are threads between them all – because it’s us! But I seen an album as a chance to try and do one thing and next time you do something else – not just refine what we did.
Last time I saw you in Manchester, you were supporting REM. At the end of that set you did a solo song to a stadium, and I thought that was pretty brave.
Playing solo is easy. Short of your guitar cutting out, there’s less than can go wrong. I get more nervous about band things because you’re depending on each other more. It’s funny, nerves. I’ve done solo songs to huge crowds and not found it nerve wracking at all. It’s almost more nerve wracking when you play an intimate gig. We did a gig in someone’s house once – I was more nervous about that. The scenario feels a bit weird and you feel like an intruder.
On a more frivolous note - did you find your Casio keyboard? (Fyfe tweeted that he’d left it in a café.)
No. This is why we were re-working 'Made-Up Lovesong' (in soundcheck) – I bought some bells instead but they were shit. It’s just nice to be doing it differently. I’ve ordered another one on eBay, I really thought I’d left it in a takeaway, but they don’t have it.
Still on Twitter – you went to a Lykke Li aftershow…
I don’t know why I put these things on Twitter. It’s lethal. You think “oh, that’s funny I’ll put that up…”
Do you find social media useful?
Well, I wasn’t going to join twitter, but my ex-girlfriend joined me, without asking. She was trying to be helpful. I like it for the randomness – I’ve got mixed feelings. It’s like anything on the internet – it’s a bit weird how something will happen, and rather than be in the moment you just want to report it. I’m quite sporadic with it, I don’t intend to become more regular.
It’s festivals next, then will you go back to recording?
It depends what happens with the record. Definitely once we finish promoting this one we’ll get on with the next one. We won’t leave it as long. Who knows what we’ll do next? Maybe it won’t be an album.
There’s a move towards releasing chunks of music when it’s ready…
There’s a lot to be said for that. Anything to break that cycle of record, release, tour… I’d happily put something out the minute I recorded it. But you don’t want it to distract from what’s currently out there. From a creative perspective, as soon as I’ve done it, I want people to hear it and to move on.
Come showtime there's incense and expectation in the air. As you'd expect, the bulk of the night's set list is made up of material from the new album, all of it well received.
The higlights come when the band turn it up and make a glorious racket, particularly when the ending of newie 'Vermillion' builds from a false ending to a wall of sound, the crowd pleasing main set closer 'Trains To Brazil' and recent single, 'The Basket'.
It's not all new, though - Fyfe pulls out a crowd pleasing solo rendition of early single 'We're Here', and a slightly re-worked 'Made-Up Lovesong' builds from an acapella into a joyous rendition that gets the front bouncing.