18 October 2012
State Broadcasters - Ghosts We Must Carry: Track By Track
Part of me has been putting off publishing this post for a while now as I thought it made more sense to stick it on the blog around the time of the album launch gig (which is this Sunday in case you were wondering). The other side of me has delayed posting anything simply because quite simply I don't believe that I have the vocabulary to portray just how much this album means to me. Over the past couple of months 'Ghosts We Must Carry' has received some mighty fine reviews, it even received this amazing review from Mike.
For those of you who aren't already aware, the album came out on Olive Grove Records, the label that I co-run. Now I have always been a wee bit paranoid about posting anything on the site about releases that I have been directly involved with, what with the conflict of interest and all. Then I realised that the label is essentially an extenuation of this blog. I post about music that I like, so if I like a band enough to release their record, it makes sense to me that I would want to post about them on here. If you disagree, then that's your opinion, as long as my conscious is clear that's all that matters
Rather than trying to justify myself, I guess it would make more sense to tell you a bit more about my relationship with the band and how all of this came to pass. It was way back in December of last year that Pete from the band got in touch to see if we might be interested in working together. Now to my shame it took me a few weeks until I actually listened to the album that they'd sent over, but once I did there was really no way that I could say no. So after many many months of planning it came to pass that we sized each other up and agreed that we'd love to work together. Seeing as we haven't released an album on Olive Grove since back in October of last year, I am so glad that we held out and didn't just rush into our next release. Quality over quantity and all that jazz. This is an album that I have been lucky enough to live with for almost a year now, I am so pleased at the plaudits that it has received since it's release. Sometimes it's good to know that it's not just me that believes in a band. Anyway, I have rambled at you more than enough, so you'll be pleased to know that I am now going to pass you across to Graeme from the band to talk you through the album...
The Only Way Home
I wrote this about halfway through the making of the album. By this time the feel of the album was pretty clear and, in some ways, was dictating what kind of songs I was writing. The truth of this song is that the only certainty in life is that we will die, some people choose when that moment will be and sometimes I can understand why people make that choice. I hoped for this song to be a fitting tribute to 2 of my favourite songwriters, Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt.
Written during a holiday in Orkney where I hoped to see lots of Kittiwake but they are in decline on the islands so I didn't see too many, other than on postcards. It's a pretty straightforward story song about a husband losing his wife suddenly and far too young. The arrangement on this song is one of the best on the album and the band did a brilliant job. I wanted the album to have lots of singing on it and I'm pretty pleased that the first 2 songs have all six of us singing on them albeit quite quietly.
A love song: 'Take off your coat, sit by the fire, I'll brush out your hair, your true friend is here.' Could be State Broadcasters motto. The instrumental bit in the middle is affectionately known as Mr Twinkles by the band and I look forward to hearing it every time we play this song. It's like I got my own little bit of Sigur Ros into one of our songs.
The Only One
I wanted to have a harp led song on this album and doing this Billy Bragg song seemed to make sense. The lyrics are unsurpassable, Bragg is a fine chronicler of unrequited love and broken hearts. I'm really pleased with the way this turned out as we've always been rubbish at cover versions before. I knew putting Gill in charge of the vocal and the lead instrument we couldn't really go wrong. I think Billy likes it too!
The first song Pete and I worked on together back in 2004! There's a different version of this on our debut self released EP which is basically just me, Pete and Fergus plus a couple of pals helping out and a lot of people loved it. We decided the song didn't quite fit on our first album but this version had to go on Ghosts We Must Carry, it fits the mood perfectly. It features the duel trombone talents of Pete and Cam and sometimes when we play this live I just look over and watch them and the sound seems kind of magically mesmerizing to me.
Outside The Bakery
Written not long after the first album but signalling the intent of where we were going next - a quieter, more melancholy mood. This is a song about the beauty of friendship and the small, often unspoken and even unacknowledged, gestures that humans can make to each other to provide hope in hopeless situations. Did the protagonist in this song deliberately fall over in the muddy path because he knew it would make his friend laugh for the first time in a long time?
Where I Belong
I wrote this really quickly and didn't think much of it to be honest but when I played it to Pete he really liked it and persuaded me, eventually, that we should try it. I'm glad he did as it's one of the strongest songs on the album. I love the sound of the recording of this it feels kind of earthy and warm to me, it's those trombones again and the accordion part is sublime. Happy to report that there's lots of singing on this too, a 4 part harmony no less. It's kind of about agoraphobia and it's kind of about how records can help you through rough times and it's the first time we've ever employed fade out at the end of a song which pleases me enormously.
The Writing's On The Wall
This is a very poppy song for us but I think we just about get away with putting it on this album. I think I was listening to the Ben Kweller album when I wrote this and it has some brilliant pop tunes on it like Penny On A Train Track and Sundress. Ours doesn't sound like that but in my head it sort of does, the lyrics are fairly self explanatory and well explored: self loathing, hopelessness, 'that bloody black dog' as Winston Churchill would say. Everyone feels like that sometimes, don't they? WE ARE HERE FOR YOU WHEN YOU DO.
This Old Table
The original guitar version of this is kind of a Smog, Palace rip off but I never wanted it to be like that when the band did it. We had this idea of using a harmonium and having unison singing to make it feel like a kind of Church Of Scotland hymn. Fortunately, Malcolm Lindsay (Glasgow based producer and composer) let us use his harmonium and studio to record this in and I think it sounds perfect. Lyrically it is the song I am most proud of and I am delighted that the performance came together the way we hoped. It's a very personal song to me but I think the way we present it makes it more meaningful to the listener, that's what I hope anyway.
New Years Day
Pete wrote most of this I just added a couple of lines. Gill's vocal performance on this is great and the piano is a creaky old thing that Pete has which is just about in tune with itself and nothing much else, but it sounds perfect here. Our first album ended with a little, short song at the end and so does this one. I like that. This song does the one thing that is most difficult for a song to do: sound simple and yet convey emotion and meaning. That's proper pop music.
Ghosts We Must Carry is out now on Olive Grove Records. You can buy a copy in person from LoveMusic, Avalanche Records, Groucho Records, Monorail, Fopp (Union Street) and One Up Records. As always it would be great if you could do your bit to support your local record store.
If you can't get to one one of these stores then the album is available via Bandcamp or you can always download it through all of your usual digital stores.
The band are celebrating the release of Ghosts We Must Carry, this coming Sunday at the Wellington Church (off University Avenue) in Glasgow. Support on the evening comes from the fabulous eagleowl.
Plus we will also have the premier of the video for the bands single, Trespassers. It's £4 to get in and it's also BYOB!!! If you can come along it would be great to see you there. Here's the Facebook events page if you want more info.