It's been a long time coming, but next week sees the release of Cancel The Astronauts debut album, Animal Love Match. Having been a fan of the band ever since I first saw them supporting Kid Canaveral back in Edinburgh a few years ago, I have been looking forward to this album for a while now. I am pleased to say that they didn't let me down, as it's a cracking wee record fully of dark catchy pop tunes. If you're looking for a more observant opinion of the album then you should check out the review that Steve wrote last month. For now here's Matthew and Kieran to talk us through the album...
Animal Love Match
Matthew: This was a natural opener for the album as it's been the first song we play at gigs for ages now. It's got a nice pretty start, followed by a less pretty guitarmaggedon noiseattack by Kieran, before it launches in to the song proper. I also knew I wanted the album to be called Animal Love Match, so that really fixed it as the album opener. Lyrically it establishes the themes behind the album: the conflict between desire and impulse, morality and ethics- what's a more honest way to live your life? Doing what YOU want, or doing what your supposed to do. What's more truthful- passion or conscience?
Kieran: I bought a reverb pedal that if you turn all the knobs all the way right and thrash your guitar about makes a sound like the world and several other worlds and maybe some moons are ending, but in quite a pleasant way. I call it StuntReverb. It’s my favourite thing. If you listen really carefully, you can just about hear it being deployed about a minute and half into this track.
M: This carries over the energy from Animal Love Match, but it's a bit poppier and it's got more hooks, so it seemed sensible to put it second, especially as it was a familiar song to people, having been released as a single last year. It's got some good lyrics and reinforces the themes of the album, as well as some fun backing vocals.
K: Our first single! And the most stressful to mix because we did it first, making it the big scary template for the sound of the whole album. Everyone was all opinions and freaking out. I think it also made us aware of just how much we had bitten off by electing to do the album ourselves. We spent aaaages getting Seven Vices right. I’m glad we persevered with it though. The song and the album.
M: There was a lot of debate about the vocoder hook in the intro and mid, and whether to keep it or not. Me and Chris added it one day when we were recording vocals and I think Kieran and Michael hated it to start with. It was even more vocoded/autotuned though and over time we compromised to how you hear it now. It's the oldest song on the album, and I think it gives it a freshness, as well as being a bangin' hook.
K: When I first heard it I was a bit ‘what the what?’, because I was surprised and also watching a lot of 30 Rock. But Intervention falls victim to an old songwriting habit we had, whereby we’d write intros with a number of sections and we’d play each one twice before moving on to the next, and so they’d build quite predictably, with little, er, ‘sonic movement’ in each section. This is boring. The vocoder vocal fixes that, and is indeed a banging hook. I think me and Michael were ultimately concerned that the sound of it would put people in mind of The Black Eyed Peas, rather than, say, Daft Punk. Because no one like to think about The Black Eyed Peas.
M: After three fast songs it was time for a breather and the acoustic intro does that nicely. Someone we know recently got the lyrics to this tattooed on their back (not all of them of course) which is pretty cool. They owe us royalties though now.
K: The first name on the teamsheet. Big game player. Will probably score from a corner in the cup final. Charlie Mulgrew.
M: This song changes the tone of the album a bit. The first few songs are deliberately poppy and upbeat but you can't keep that up over a whole album or people will get bored. It's a slightly edgier song lyrically and musically, and is sort of intended to demonstrate that we don't just write 3 minute pop tunes.
K: Came together over a period of (cough) nine months in the practice room. I went to see Beardyman a few days after we finally nailed it and it was the wrong thing to do, seeing as he spent the entire evening writing tunes like this in real time, using only a mic, a laptop and whimsy. Sob. Beardyman doesn’t have our rhythm section though. Or as many beards. Or faces on which to sport them, I suppose.
M: Lekking continues the change of mood and is us at our post-rocky. This one probably reflects Kieran and Michael's musical influences more strongly than my own, because they love noisemongering, and the recorded version here is definitely not how I heard it in my head. Sometimes other Astronauts have good ideas too. We tried this as a pretty, delicate almost ballad-like song but it just didn't work. We decided to hit things very hard instead, and it sounded loud and exciting. Thus, Lekking was born.
K: Our post-rock side project is going to be called Destroy All Cosmonauts and it’ll sound like this. We played the old, delicate version of Lekking live only once. Our friend heard us soundcheck it and was ‘blown away’. Then we played it in the set and he changed his mind entirely. Entirely. Incidentally, a ‘lek’ is “a tradition place where males assemble during the mating season and engage in competitive displays that attract females.” I had to look it up.
M: This is the start of the second half of the album and we knew we needed a quieter moment, particularly after such a big song as Lekking. It documents the end of a relationship, and it's the most fragile, simple thing on the record (apart from it's big(ish) outro). It's got a delightful bassline.
K: Yeah, we always knew this was going to be at the centre of the album, lyrically as well as, er, tracklisting-ally, I would venture. We managed (for the most part) to resist our usual urge to go big, or to go disco, or to go big and disco, and it’s all the better for it. I think it turned out lovely.
Promises of Strangers
M: Lyrically this works well after Shapes; to the discerning listener, it perhaps answers some questions raised by the previous song, while asking questions itself. It's got a different feel to Shapes though. It's a sexy, sultry song (or is supposed to be) with a killer bassline and some great synth. I like how it's got a mad guitar solo as an outro too.
K: It’s basically about sex, this song. At the climax, I launch into a big fuck off guitar solo. I try not to over analyse this one.
I See, Uh-huh
M: The last four songs are the newest ones we've written. This wasn't a deliberate decision, but it seems natural enough to start off with some familiar songs and end with a few surprises. I wanted this song to be second on the album because it's even punchier- and a bit shorter- than Seven Vices, while the lyrics are directly related to the themes of the record.
K: This one’s a special favourite of mine. It’s almost old-school CTA in its simple, straight ahead poppyness, but it’s got some nice bass and a killer vocal hook. It’s also one of the few songs (along with Intervention) that sounded great at every point in the recording process. A good song that never gave us no trouble, apart from that one time when I accidentally threw all my guitar parts in the recycle bin and then emptied the reycle bin.
While I Was Sleeping
M: This is a big song. Simple, driving, economical, straightforward, with a sing-a-long chorus. One of my favourites. Good lyrics.
K: The album was already way behind schedule when we wrote this, but we knew it had to go on. Schedules be damned! It’s tremendous fun to play live, and features what you could conceivably argue is a bass solo towards the end.
Catch You If I Can
M: This is probably the most un-Cancel the Astronauts-ey song we've ever written. It doesn't use traditional structure, it's got piano on it and mostly electronic drums. We messed around a lot with the outro until we got something that really worked. This is a direction I'd like to experiment with more.
K: StuntReverb! There’s quite a bit of it on here. I like how this one is built up using texture, and how the chorus is announced by acoustic guitar, and how the hi-hats at the end sound like the tide going out, which mimics a recording of the tide going out which runs secretly through the whole thing, and how when Matthew sings about ‘one heart’ the kick drum sounds like a single, sad heart, beating forlornly and soon giving up. I’ve over-analysed this one, haven’t I?
I Sold My Soul (And This Is All I Got)
M: If Noel Gallagher taught me anything, it's that every album should have at least one song with brackets in it's title. We all agreed this was the obvious choice to close the album. It mirrors Animal Love Match in that it starts big and ends slow, and it's the same chords pretty much. It's got some great lyrics and answers some of the questions posed throughout the album I think. Also: lead guitar by Matthew Riley.
K: I’ve moved beyond lead guitar at this point in the album. Beyond notes themselves. Instead I spend the entire back half of the song strumming indiscriminately with the help of my friend, StuntReverb. People who aren’t fans of this approach to guitar playing include my upstairs neighbours, who almost ruined a perfect take by ringing the doorbell to complain about the noise. People can be so selfish. I say almost, because we used the take and you can hear the doorbell tinkle right at the end of the song. They’ll probably want royalties now.
Animal Love Match is available to pre-order now on Bandcamp.Details on a forthcoming Glasgow show will be announced very very shortly, hint hint I might be involved it in some way...