Tall Ships

INTERVIEW: Tall Ships

Tall Ships

Foals MK II, math-indie, art-indie, I’ve heard the band called a lot of things from friends and press alike but ultimately, on the back of two very competent EP’s, Tall Ships have been heralded an early success. What started as a hectic rush to play a friend’s house party has become an increasingly flourishing career but Tall Ships as of yet don’t seem to have forgotten the early days of playing through crap gear. I caught up with them as they had just been confirmed for Reading festival and had released the track listing for debut album Everything Touching to discuss their music careers so far. What I found was a band who despite their growing popularity were not only professional but also incredibly humble, often a rarity when talking with those in the music business. Over the course of the interview we discussed the new direction of the band, talking about their debut album in-depth and I feel in doing so, I was given an honest account of how the band feel about their musical journey thus far and I admire them more so for it.

Hello, hope you are doing well.

Ric: Hey. Very well thanks!

October sees the release of your debut album, Everything Touching. With such success on the basis of your Ep’s was there any pressure in writing the full length and did you approach the writing and recording of the album differently to how you have recorded your EP’s in the past?

Ric: I think pressure is probably the wrong word really. It made it easier knowing that we were going in to the studio and recording something that people were actually excited for and wanting to hear. It was a good place to start at when writing a record. I feel it gave us a sense of confidence and purpose in what we were making and the resulting album reflects this.

In terms of the recording process, it definitely differed from our first 2 EPs. To start with it was the first time we had ever worked in a proper recording studio and this had a huge impact on the way the record sounds. We had a lot more time to play with so we were able to really explore the songs and allow them to arrive at their finalised states freely rather than rushing them, so from a technical point of view the songs sound much richer and fuller.

With regards to the writing process we really wanted to try and write more immediate and consistent songs. With the first two EPs we always felt they were a little all over the place. Within songs we would have three different parts, which loosely fitted together, and then those songs themselves would each differ hugely from the other songs on the EPs they sat next to. With Everything Touching we knew what kind of album we wanted to make and the record as a whole is much more cohesive as a result.

Having heard the pre-release stream, it sounds like an evolution from the dreamy indie of previous EP’s and into rockier territory. What influenced the album and how would you describe it yourselves?

Ric: We’ve always felt like our EPs didn’t really represent us properly as a band. Live, the songs were always much heavier and intense than the recorded versions. With the album, we wanted to try and capture more of our live sound, as this is closer to what we’re about as a band. We’re actually quite surprised with how much heavier it turned out to be. I do feel it’s much more melodic and accessible compared to the previous EPs as well though.

Gallop is one of the lead singles from the album. Why did you choose this song to showcase the album?

Ric: When we initially recorded and finished Everything Touching it was 9 tracks long and Gallop wasn’t on there. After a few discussions with our managers they felt that we should record one more song, which we could release as a 3rd single. So we basically set about writing a ‘single’, which was something, we’d never even really thought about before when writing songs. We really thought about what makes a good single and as result aimed to create an upbeat, catchy song.

Ironically though, I feel lyrically it’s the most downbeat and depressing track on the album, which makes it a slightly funny choice for a single. I think it represents the album well though and when taken out of the context of the album, it works as a stand-alone track.

Everything Touching contains two older tracks, Ode To Ancestors and Books. Why did you include these songs rather than others to put on the release?

Ric: They were two songs that we felt we could develop and change into the songs they were meant to be. With our other songs we felt like that we couldn’t really re-record them, they’d be exactly the same but slightly more polished in production. It would have been boring for us to do that and as well they didn’t fit within the conceptual content of the album.

How did you approach rewriting those two particular tracks?

Ric: Ode was pretty straightforward, we just wanted to change the slightly shit keyboard pre-set we used to layer the vocals over. The struggle was to come with something interesting to replace it. After experimenting with a xylophone with Jamie Field we came up with the multi layered Reich-esc arpeggio which is infinitely more interesting and soulful than the shitty pre-set we’d used previously.

We wrote Book such a long time ago, and now we’re a completely different band. We’ve always wanted to experiment with a slight orchestral sound and this song lent itself perfectly to it. It’s pretty grand and over the top now, but we feel that is the perfect backdrop for the lyrics and the book that inspired it. It’s a song we cannot wait to perform live, and hopefully one day with an orchestra.

Everything Touching is available for pre-order in many different formats and bundles. Can you tell us why you are releasing the album in so many ways, and what a fan will get for their money?

Ric: Artwork has always been a huge part of every release we’ve done as a band. We work very closely with our good friend Harriet Bridgwater who has made everything we’ve ever done. In many ways she’s a kind of fourth member and her artwork definitely influences the songs and our band as a whole. Music lends itself to visual accompaniment so well that it’s such a shame when you see bad artwork that just doesn’t work with the music.

Within this digital age where people can just download or stream your songs for free, I think it is more important to create a physical package that people want to physically own. So we hope by putting this effort into our merchandise that it will stimulate people to want to buy it.

Simply put, without people buying our records we physically couldn’t afford to exist as a band. We don’t have a major label pumping money into us, so all our profits that we make by selling merchandise enable us to function as a band. Hopefully it can be seen as a symbiotic relationship between our fans and us. We create things worth having, and they give us the much needed money that helps us keep on playing.

You’ve spent a summer in the midst of the festival season. It’s such a huge change in terms of volume from a small club gig, how do you prepare playing a large stage to vast amounts of people?

Ric: We don’t really change our approach at all. We always aim to go out and play the best show we can. We really enjoy (if it all goes well…) the pressure of playing to loads of people. As a band we aspire to play main stages and become a big band so naturally we like playing the larger slots.

That being said though, a really tiny sweaty club show can be just as immense.

Since your first gig, playing a house party in Falmouth, how do you think you’ve improved performance wise? Has the ethos to your performances changed at all as the band have become more successful?

Ric: When we first started playing we were an instrumental band playing really scrappy fast songs through shit gear, now our gear is slightly less shit so it sounds better. Live we use lots of loops which can make things pretty complicated, so we’ve had loads of issues with timing and trying to stay in time. It used to be 50/50 whether we’d hold it all together which was pretty funny but definitely not a good ratio if you want to be a good live band. We had a bit of an epiphany though, thanks to our tech wizard sound guy Matt Grimble, who helped us create a new set up using Ableton. So now we’ve been able to tighten up and start really doing exciting things with looping vocals, synths etc as well as allowing us to tighten up to the point where we don’t fuck up that much anymore.

We take performing a lot more seriously now. We used to drink loads and just fuck about because we felt uncomfortable being on stage, but now we don’t drink beforehand as a rule. So yeah it’s more professional, we’re more confident and we’re also, maybe, just maybe, a tad more competent as musicians though that’s definitely open to debate.

You have a fifteen date UK tour to promote the album. If someone hasn’t seen you live before, what can they expect from your live shows?

A good old-fashioned rock show, and an amazing tour support in the shape of Dad Rocks! His album ‘Mount Modern’ was easily one of the best last year and aside from making incredible music he is just the best guy ever.

Thank you for your time, and good luck with the album!

Tall Ships ‘Everything Touching’ is available to pre-order now – www.wearetallships.co.uk

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