Glasgow band Spinning Coin’s debut album ‘Permo‘ came out three autumns ago, bringing with it a reminder of the total pleasures indie guitar music bring. With its then two songwriter set up, Sean Armstrong of the nice songs and Jack Mellin delivering raw confrontation, ‘Permo‘ is a record of astounding colour.
Personal stories, political and social observations, unafraid of the glorious Scottish pop tradition of melody.
The Spinning Coin way of quietly getting on with creating perfect pop songs combining jangly guitars with reflective songwriting is still, happily, present in second long player ‘Hyacinth‘ released at the end of last month.
And yet the band has moved on in a myriad of ways, they return to us minus former bassist Cal Donnelly but drummer Chris White remains and Rachel Taylor – bass, vocals, keys – brings her songwriting chops into the mix.
Between albums both Rachel and Sean found a new home in Berlin. The former is Canadian, the UK’s immigration rules forcing her to decamp, the other two remaining back at home.
But when I speak to Sean all four are together in Glasgow, starting ten days of rehearsals before a UK tour.
Is this week like frantically cramming for an exam?
‘It’s all new for us,’ he says of the situation. ‘But yeah, it’s been pretty relaxed so far.’
Spinning Coin’s charm on ‘Hyacinth’ as with the first record is the ability to hit that sweet spot combining hurt, joy and attitude.
A difficult thing to nail, yet they capture these things effortlessly.
Take ‘Laughing Ways‘ on the new release, both lovelorn and lovely, and the gorgeous ‘Black Cat‘.
‘Black Cat‘ is Rachel‘s debut for the four piece, a deceptively simple sweetheart of a song embracing hope and optimism.
‘I know something good is gonna happen…trust me when I say it’s gonna be alright’ she sings. ‘I know that somewhere out here there’s another who’s feeling just how we’re feeling.’
It’s a delicious sorbet of a listen.
‘A cleanser, right in the middle (of the album). It’s really nice,’ Sean agrees. ‘We really like her music.’
Sean describes Jack’s sound as ‘raw, visceral and abrasive. Beautiful.’
It’s all that, and lyrically no holds barred.
On ‘It’s Alright‘, Jack informs us baldly, ‘When they tell you it’s all meaningless that’s no lie.’
The key to the Spinning Coin formula if there is one, seems to be an openness to collaboration.
‘How very tempting it is to control things, I think it’s good to just let everyone do their thing,’ says Sean.
Berlin is an interesting place culturally and Sean reckons, unique. He describes it as a place inspiring, talks fondly of a free flowing energy.
‘It feels like an atmosphere where you can be yourself.’
It’s this new sense of place and surroundings that’s had an effect, a positive one, on his own songwriting. Forcing him, albeit gently, to explore outside his own personal space and life more, a widening of scope.
‘I’ve started to write more about things outside in the world. I used to just record at night and I was totally in my own head, it didn’t really matter what was going on around me. But now I think it’s more to do with what’s going on outside.’
In tandem with this fresh outlook, ‘Hyacinth‘ is far reaching in its creation. Scottish and Canadian members, recorded in north east France and with the band located across Europe, the album’s release feels like an opposite of what’s been happening here in the UK, with its self-isolating Brexit notions. A record for our times?
‘We probably want to be the opposite of what’s happening as well. We obviously have our own opinions and generally they are, we want to be connected with the rest of the world and we have to try and manifest that as people as well in what we do with our lives. We wanna play in Europe and we have friends there as well, we wanna stay.’
The bulk already written by the time ‘Permo‘ hit the shops, ‘Hyacinth’ was a happy accident of sorts. The band went into the studio for a few days, with the original intention of recording an EP yet came out with something quite different.
‘We went a bit rogue and recorded a whole album,’ Sean laughs. ‘We just had to try and do it really quickly, and even the songs sound like they’re a bit faster than how we play them. But as the tour goes on we get faster.’
‘You’ve done it more times, it gets faster and faster… I dread to think what would happen if we kept playing for a year…’
On ‘Hyacinth‘, a fondness for the quirks of psychedelia makes itself known and the four of them are, he says, interested in how music can be encompassing and multidimensional.
‘We’re thinking how can we make it sound weird, we want to get weirder!’
We get a taste of this side already, Sean’s vocals now more up front, wobbly and high on those nice songs he is so known for. And yes, slightly odd.
This and the musicality of those guitars bring the magical balance of The Smiths to mind.
‘I like it when singers voices change or their voice changes. It’s more of an interesting collection of songs if it’s got more variety,’ Sean says mysteriously, giving nothing away on the subject whatsoever.
‘There can still be a seam running through it, there’s just more peaks and spikes and troughs. ‘
‘Ghosting‘ has Sean sounding wonderfully unhinged.
His explanation for the song the result of a long lonely night drinking sour cheap coffee and screaming into a microphone, resembles the plot to a heroically bleak European short film if ever there was. There has always been shade, more than a hint of melancholia to counteract the trademark niceness, but ‘Ghosting‘ is on another level.
‘Maybe they have always been a bit sad. I don’t want to be sad and I don’t want to encourage people to be sad. At the moment my life is pretty good. I guess the style is maybe changing, I just want to let it happen. Not be too conscious. Don’t want to have a style, then it can get contrived.’
There are he explains, frustrations staying within perimeters.
‘It was probably more accurate about how I felt at that time. For a while I wanted to make nice songs that didn’t have any darkness because I didn’t want to share that with people. I didn’t think it was fair to give anyone any of my negative feelings. I didn’t want to offload that onto people but recently I think it’s probably better to really not filter what comes out. As long as it’s true then maybe there’s something to be said for that!’
‘Hyacinth’ is out on Geographic now. Spinning Coin are in session for Marc Riley on 6 Music on 16 March. Tour dates:
12th March – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
13th March – Beat Generator Live!, Dundee
14th March – Soup Kitchen, Manchester
15th March – CCA, Glasgow
17th March The Exchange Basement, Bristol
18th March – The Lexington, London
19th March – Prince Albert, Brighton