They may have Super Furry Animals and Catatonia-related troops in their battalion, but The Earth – whose debut album has just been released – are very much moving in their own orbit.
GIITTV had a chat with the band about their gothic breed of acid pop, and uncovered revelations about underground recording studios, the agonising lessons of love and why Cardiff runs like a “stick of rock” through their debut LP…
The first thing people might note with The Earth is the fact it contains members of Catatonia and SFA. But of course it sounds nothing like those bands, right? What’s your take on the character of The Earth?
Mark: I think you have to realise that Daf and myself are only half of the band .Dionne and Tristan’s contribution mean that our sound steers in a different direction to anything else we were involved in.
Daf: Dionne’s voice/vocal style is so different from Cerys or Gruff and seeing that the vocal is usually the first thing you home in on it’s bound to sound different. That said I think it’s inevitable that some characteristics that have appeared in our previous work will seep through. I haven’t reinvented my drumming or stopped singing backing vocals or messed around with keyboards, it’s just that it’s done in a different environment and that’s reflected in the end result.
Dionne, your voice is a fine presence on the record: it sounds almost like a big sister who’s loved and lost on tracks like Superstitious Now and Baby Bones. To what extent was this a personal album for you to make?
Dionne: Ah, Thank you. It’s funny you should mention those two songs, even though my heart is in all the tracks on the album, these two stand out for me, I felt a special connection to them. Singing Superstitious, It felt beautifully hypnotic and Baby Bones I got all my pain and frustration out, especially when we get to the outro on the single.
They’re both love songs but in a very gothic sense. No hearts and flowers more of the dark twisted kind. I can relate to them, so I sing from experience and knowing how agonising love can get at times.
Daf – you’ve been drumming since forever now. Are you still learning as a drummer and if so, how so?
Daf: I don’t think you ever stop learning. I’m in a lucky position where I run a studio with my brother Cian and the process of recording the drums has become as much of a quest as learning a fancy new drum roll! It’s a never ending process of discovery – as it is with writing and producing records – which I hope will never reach a conclusion. There’d be no point carrying on otherwise!
The album was recorded in Daf and Cian’s “guerrilla-style recording studio / middle-aged youth club” Strangetown – could you tell us a little about the history of your time in this place and what it’s like to record there?
Daf: It started off as SFA’s studio about 13 years ago but for the last 5 years it’s been run by Cian and myself as Strangetown Studios. The main advantage being that we can come and go as we please although it can result in taking far too much time in finishing a project! It’s very easy to turn into party mode when you’re not paying stupid daily rates for a studio but all in all it’s a very creative place and we’ve been very lucky to record with a lot of talented people there.
We’ve recently recorded the new Gulp album there as well as Bunf’s The Pale Blue Dots album, Cian’s new project Zefur Wolves album and a new The Earth album is in the pipeline! There’s always something going on regardless of the occasional moments of mayhem!
Album finale The Earth Beats The Machine sounds like you all had a pretty hearts-on-sleeves moment there?
Daf : I suppose it does have an “us against the world” sentiment to it but I hope it avoids the Phil Collins “Against All Odds” approach! I think it’s a very positive song dressed up in a melancholic arrangement.
Finally, the record’s got quite a ‘city’ feel. Is Cardiff imprinted in this music somehow?
Mark: I think it’s inevitable that the place you write and record a piece of work has a bearing on how something sounds and seeing that we wrote and recorded it in Cardiff means the city runs through it like a stick of rock.