I’ve never been bothered by the term “post rock” but it seems to be a common tag with any music we make. I realise that the first song from our previous album, “Knut” could certainly fit into that category since it was a slow building, repetitive number with barely any singing but this time we decided to start the album off with something completely different. We wanted it to be a huge boot in the genitals, a blast of melody, a traditionally structured song with a verse and a chorus. It wasn’t an attempt to distance ourselves from any post rock tag because….well, we have always written traditionally structured songs along with the weirder structured ones but Break was our attempt to grab the listener’s attention right away making it clear we were trying to do something different.
I’ve Loved You For So Long
The Flaming Lips “the soft bulletin” was in the back of our mind when we were mixing this song. The bass is meant to have that big warm, fuzzy feel to it to compliment the driving guitars. I guess you can hear the influence of all the 90’s guitar bands that I was obsessed with growing up. We also wanted to have less intimate, fragile songs on this album so that we didn’t repeat ourselves. This song hopefully keeps up the pace and keeps the listener interested so they don’t drift off, go eat a yoghurt, forget we ever existed and get distracted by a plastic bag floating by the front window or something.
The Right To Know
So hopefully by this point, the listener is still with us so we felt we needed to keep things interesting and change it up a bit. There is only one guitar on this song and Iain made it sound like a synth during the mix anyway so the idea was to introduce a new sound/feel/atmosphere (?) to the proceedings. It was certainly influenced by Iain’s obsession with collecting synths over the past few years but Aereogramme/Unwinding Hours always had an electronic element to certain songs so this just felt like a natural progression for us from the programmed synth parts that we have always used. Very much like “Child” from the previous album, the Terminator 2 theme was at the back of our minds while writing this. That’s what you get from growing up in the 80’s and watching violent films. It’s such a great tune.
Saimaa is a lake in eastern Finland and is maybe the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing and experiencing. I was living in the southside of Glasgow at that point and had neighbours from hell making my home life pretty miserable so to find myself on the shores of a peaceful lake, far away from civilisation was exactly what I needed and my heart still swells when I think about the sound of the water quietly lapping at my feet, not seeing another human being for miles and the sky slowly turning red, reflecting on the surface of the still water. But when you have to leave, to go home to the neighbour blasting “sex on fire” on repeat while they have passed out drunk or the screaming couple fighting in the hall …well, that initial feeling of wonder is unfortunately mixed with a feeling of dread of what you have to return to and the thought that you might never see that wonderful place ever again. That’s what Saimaa is about and it was an attempt to try and capture both those feelings.
The Promised Land
I have studied Theology for years and I find it endlessly fascinating. It really is a conversation killer at parties though. Still, it’s always at the back of my mind and The Promised Land reflects that. It might possibly be my favourite song on the album but more for personal reasons. It feels like a song I have been trying to write for years. I had the biblical story of Abraham and the near sacrifice of his son, Isaac, at the back of my mind when writing this although it’s not just about that. It’s a simple arrangement that builds and evolves into something that hopefully feels more ethereal and hypnotic by the end.
This was the first song we wrote after the first album was completed. I remember wanting to emulate one of my favourite Wedding Present songs which is called “What have a said now” which has a wonderful repetitive pattern at the end that I used to air drum to in my room to when I was wee. (Everyone else was out getting drunk and having questionable first time sexual experiences. I was sitting in my room listening to John Peel and air drumming on my imaginary drum kit. Yes indeed. I was that cool.) Anyway, the long and short of it is that Wayward doesn’t really sound like that wedding present song but the initial inspiration was to write something as fast, driving and as fun to play, and with real instruments too.
Say My Name
How long does it take before you think of Destiny’s Child when you read that song title? Well anyway….I can’t remember a single thing about how this was written but I know the feeling I was trying to express. A good relationship can give sustenance to your life and you can begin to miss it, feeling pale and empty when you have spent too much time apart. I don’t believe in having a soul but the right person can give you inner strength and give you the energy you were missing. You can easily adapt this to how I feel about sausages as well but that’s not as romantic. And no-one wants to hear a song about that…..I think.
Remember that awful flat I mentioned earlier with the horrible neighbours? This is the song about living there. We wanted to make it as sparse as possible though, really intimate, so you got that close feeling while listening to it, as if you managed to find a moment of peace but it could be broken at any moment. Iain took about two takes to play the piano part and managed to make the song so much better.
Skin on Skin
My default time signature for writing songs seems to be in three/four but that’s a waltz which makes it difficult for people to dance around at our concerts. I‘ve seen it happen. They want to get into it but then they try to jump around but quickly and inevitably feel awkward so they stop and stand with arms folded, nodding along, hoping no-one saw them. So one of our goals was to try and write more songs in four/four so we could have more songs to choose from for the live set. This song started with the most basic drum pattern I could possible write to make damn sure I wouldn’t deviate from that. The initial influence was “wandering star” by Portishead which is a song I’ve always loved but that song is much darker. Skin on Skin was an attempt to express the power of connecting with someone, a closeness that you only achieve after a longer period of time, so needed to be more relaxed and lighter.
Day By Day
Many of my friends or even family members are at the age now where they are having kids. I often think of them growing up and the experiences they will have. I realise western life is so much easier than the life most of the rest of the world has to live through but when you grow up, you are only reacting to what you know and experience around you. I’ve suffered from depression in the past and it felt sometimes that it was completely out with my control and something I genuinely struggled to contain. This song is about what I might have wanted to hear years ago, when I was younger, angry and confused but it’s also something I thought might be helpful for someone else to hear that could be going through similar feelings at this present time. It’s simple and to the point and I knew it might make some people roll their eyes but that’s ok. It’s not meant for them.
Afterlives is released out now through Chemikal Underground Records. You can catch the Unwinding Hours playing live at The Tunnels in Aberdeen on 31/08/12, then the following night they're going playing a home town show at Stereo in Glasgow.