Every local music scene has hundreds of musical acts plugging away to try and break it out nationally. Few, if any though, demand for you to almost will them out of the country because you know they are that good. I caught up with Andrew Bate, a fantastic singer-songwriter from Cornwall, on the release of his latest EP Fainting In Coils to ask him about the new music and just how does it really feel to be compared to an iconic figure such as Jeff Buckley.
Hello Andrew, Your new EP Fainting In Coils is out soon. Can you tell us about the record, what the title means, how you came about creating it and when it will be released? “Fainting in Coils” is a line in a great piece of fiction which I won’t tell you because I don’t want it to influence people’s take on the record. It was originally pitched by Paul Reeve in response to one of the songs that made reference to the book. The song didn’t make it onto the record but the title just stuck around, I liked the shape of it, the way it sounded and the way it looked and the images that it brought up in my mind. It’s better than “Nightmare at the Opera” anyway.
You recorded at the legendary Sawmills with Paul Reeve of Muse fame. How do you feel that helped you to create the sound that you wanted on this record? I remember being about 13 and my Dad and I were sat in the car and he put on a CD that he’d bought which was Muse’s single for “Unintended” which Paul produced and I remember thinking that it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. My favourite thing about Paul’s work is the fact that somehow he injects an undercurrent into everything he does, he makes it sound like it’s alive! It’s quite weird working with the man who essentially formed your musical tastes, everything he does was just right for what I’d imagined. I’d think of something and he’d have already made a note of it. He helped me realise my ideas for the songs and how to put them together more effectively. And the man is an octopus, he managed to find a time to be engineer, producer, mixer and still managed to talk to each of us privately and discreetly and give us notes on how to enhance our performances without being in any way intrusive. I may have written the record but Paul brought it to life.
You now have a backing band, whereas before you often played solo. What was the decision behind this and did that have a bearing on the songs on the record? The songs have always been written with these musical arrangements in mind, I’ve just been too stubborn or controlling to put a band together to showcase them in such a way. I get frustrated when I deal with others in that way, it’s hard to stay consistent, by the time of my second band gig I was on my second drummer and bass player. So in the past performing solo has more been an act of convenience, I never intentionally set out to become a “solo singer songwriter” it’s just one of those things. I love working with The Lost. One of the reasons I think I enjoy the recording process so much is fact that you can take your time and experiment with things, you don’t have to be over rehearsed. We had two recording blocks for the record, the first we were really well rehearsed for and somehow it took a long time. The second block, the band and I were separated so we had no rehearsal time and were going into record songs we’d never played together, but it was all finished so much quicker. The first song we recorded in that second batch, we’d never played together before and we were recording it live, we got it in about three takes.
Having heard the EP, it feels quite eclectic, Lay Me Down comes across as a grandiose rock number, Deliverance has a theatrical element to it while Fire Rose and Ghosts are stripped bare orchestral numbers. How did you choose the tracks to go onto the record? That’s just the display of a restless brain, I mean who would ever want to settle down with just one style of music forever? It’s not like a marriage you’re not bound to it forever, and if you want to be you’re a moron. If you’re not constantly trying your hand to work out different styles, then you are taking up too much room in this trade. When Paul and I first started talking about working together I sent him some demos of a concept record I was writing. He said it would be a good idea but thought it would be good to record a few specific songs at first to showcase the range of my writing to get people interested and would possibly give us some funding for a full record. There were songs that we recorded that I didn’t want to have on the EP just because they didn’t sit well with the others and I was very adamant that even if we were showcasing different styles, I wanted all the pieces to sound like they were of the same bloodline. To showcase that we could be a sound without being a genre.
All of your press compared you to Jeff Buckley. Do you find this comparison disheartening in anyway and do feel your new material will help to quash any comparisons? I’m not sure what those comparisons are for. If they’re for flattery that’s fine to a point but if it’s for the public to get an idea of you it starts to be damaging as people come to your shows thinking you’ll be one thing and when you end up not being what people think, there’s a violent backlash. I know that I for one have been on the receiving end of that backlash and it’s pretty unpleasant when you’re trying to carve out your own place as a writer. If anything I think the record owes more to PJ Harvey than to Buckley, but I’m not a woman so the press don’t see it that way. There is a certain standard by which most press seems to reference what they see. Does my music sound like Buckley’s? No. Am I a solo performer? Yes. There is a common ground that someone like Buckley and I tread on which is picked up on a lot and even though I am a huge admirer of the man, I don’t see any similarities between us other than superficial ones. Maybe I just look like the kind of person who’ll die young I don’t know.
The industry is a strange place these days, so what are your plans for this release, do you have a label for it or will you be distributing it independently and what formats will it be available in? You say industry like there is one. The stage we’re at now it’s going out independently which is kind of ideal for what we want to do. My wife is working on the artwork for the record and she’s really come up with a special and innovative design which hopefully should make for a rather stand out physical copy. We’ve got a kind of cottage industry going in putting all that together which feels like the best way to be when you’re an independent. And I like physical releases, I’m not big with the Ipod generation as there seems to be a pick and choose type scenario going on and nobody is listening to albums, complete albums in the order and pacing that artists and producers work really hard on putting together. If you put your ipod on shuffle around me I’ll choke you.
What are your plans of touring in support of this release?
At the moment touring is all relative to the response we get to the record. My daughter’s only just been born and I don’t want to be away from her touring unless I feel like it’s really going to make an impact. I love touring and I love playing live and as soon as we have a plan in place I will be out playing every place that’ll have me. Tom Waits goes years without touring and he seems to be doing pretty good.
And finally, when can we all expect a full-length release from you? I’ve been speaking to Paul some more, throwing songs at him and I think we’ve got a few we would like to explore. We’ll see what ground we can make with this record, it’d be nice to be able to pay Paul something other than biscuits you know? I guess it’s all just a matter of money. You got any?
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.