Over the past few years, the Scottish indie-folk scene has become one of the most exciting and well regarded music platforms across the United Kingdom (apart from the burgeoning Sunderland music scene of course). Emerging over the course of five years, critically adored bands like Frightened Rabbit, Admiral Fallow, The Twilight Sad and Meursault have been making a name for themselves and their country with a series of bruising, booze-sodden albums which often don’t tug at the heart strings so much as flailing stab at your chest with a knife and a cathartic despair.
The musical baby of songwriter Neil Pennycook, Meursault have always tried to do things a bit differently from their contemporaries, but how does Pennycook see his band’s place in the ‘scene’ as it were? “I’m not sure actually, with the exception of some of the Frightened Rabbit albums, I don’t really know much about the other bands (that are) mentioned.” Oh.
He continues “I guess there’s bound to be a bit of audience crossover when you make this kind of music and are from such a small country, but I don’t see there being any ‘scene’ to be a part of.”
A fairly blunt assessment then, and one that may be more than a tad disingenuous but Penncook and Meursault are a fiercely independent concern. Since the release of their first album in 2009, the pleasingly titled ‘Pissing On Bonfires/ Kissing With Tongues’, their releases have always underpinned their folkier leanings with synthesised sounds, characterising their albums with a strong use of electronics but interestingly, Pennycook doesn’t see his music fitting into either of those genres.
“A lot of stuff gets called folk music nowadays and, other than being played with acoustic instruments, really has nothing to do with it at all. It’s odd when a tag like that sticks because, as a genre, folk music isn’t of much interest to me. I’ve always leaned more towards indie in terms of how I’d class the songs I write. A lot of ‘new-folk’ leaves me really cold. It’s not for me.”
Despite Neil’s own view of Meursault however, there is a strong folk undertone to the band’s latest full length, Something For The Weekened, maybe not so much in the instruments used but certainly in the arrangements with tracks such as ‘Lament For A Teenage Millionaire’ filled with shimmering harmonies whilst Dull Spark provides an acoustic whirlwind to contrast with the sparse, piano led emptiness of ‘Marnie’. The record is even more stark than usual when you consider that this is the first Meursault release not to feature any electronic noises (Pennycook’s Macbook broke).
Technologically challenged recording process or not, there can be not denying that Meursault’s new album marks a change in the band’s dynamic, not least because Pennycook has opened up his song writing process to his band members even further: “Once you’ve played with people for long enough I think you start to subconsciously write with their strengths in mind. Also, when the songs are being recorded/arranged the rest of the guys have a lot more input now due to the nature of the sessions. Whereas before I treated recording as quite a solitary thing, I play better with others these days.
I was also keen to get away from the idea that every album had to have a concept. I think that this group of songs is a lot more direct than stuff I’ve written in the past where there was a lot of metaphor and I was singing a lot more about ideas rather than actual people or events.”
So then with that in mind, what is the next stage for Meursault, how does Neil see ‘Something For The Weakened’ taking them there, and how much stock does he put in trying to maintain the support of the online indie press?
As far as keeping the press sweet, that isn’t too much of a concern for Neil, as he notes that: “It’s always nice when people say nice things about what you’re doing but if you let that kind of stuff factor into how you write or how you perform I think the fun would get sucked out of it pretty quickly.”
On the whole though Pennycook and Meursault are upbeat about their future, and grounded on what they want to achieve“Because of ‘the-state-of-the-music-industry’ there doesn’t seem to be much of a defined ‘next stage’ for bands any more, which is nice. We’re quite happy with how things seem to be progressing. We have no specific goals really, anything we were hoping to achieve I think we already have done by making a record that we’re all really happy with. Whether or not other people are into it is out of our hands really, we’ll just have to see.
Originally published here: http://markgraingerwrites.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/276/