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Q&A: Graveyard Tapes

by DavidBeech
DavidBeech
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on 06 December 2014 in Features
Release date Out Now

There's a certain majesty upheld by White Rooms, the second record from Edinburgh's Graveyard Tapes, a not-so-quiet melancholy that pulses through the album's veins, providing listeners with a level of emotion made all the more prominent thanks to the carefully constructed soundscapes on which the lyrics are drabed. Indeed, the music itself is tantamount to the lyricism and often even goes further than the lyrics possibly could, tracks such as 'Exit Ghosts' for example, conveying the emotional tumult of grief and loss (the album's predominant themes) by means of off-kilter and even jarring instrumentation.

Of course, the process of grieving isn't always underpinned by negative emotions alone, and as such, nor is White Rooms. Opener 'Flicker' is a grand, uplifting affair that appears to explore the positive impact the subject in question has had on one's life, whilst 'The Secret Voices of People' is lead by an understated piano and more off-kilter effects to create a track that, whilst being somewhat disconcerting, ultimately feels uplifting.

With the album having been released a little over a month ago, we decided to pick the band's collective brain in order to find out just what went in to creating a record that explores human emotion so excellently.

Hi guys, thanks for taking the time out to answer some questions. First of all, who are you and how did you get together?

Euan: We are Euan McMeeken and Matthew Collings, an alternative pop duo from Edinburgh. We got together when Matt moved to Scotland from Iceland and after a few beers and some chat about music decided to work together and see where that took us.

You've just released your second record White Rooms. What have the reactions been like? It's a beautiful record but presumably not everyone has found it that easy to get in to?

Euan: Thank you. So far we’ve received some pretty lovely reviews and the response seems to be positive. I am not convinced that it’s a difficult record to get into though – it is essentially a pop record, just viewing what pop is through a slightly distorted lens.

Matt: I think our definition of pop music is an unusual one, which makes it all the more interesting...having said that I feel there is always something immediate to this music which appeals to a broader audience. For us it is as straight as it is strange.

The name Graveyard Tapes isn't the most upbeat, and a lot of your music has quite sombre undercurrents as well, is melancholy something you find integral to the makeup of your band?

Euan: No, I think what is integral to the makeup of the band are the different approaches/ideas to and about music that the two of us offer/bring to the table. Essentially we are happy guys. The name was basically created by a friend – Matty Ross. He’s a film maker and when my previous project The Kays Lavelle split he made a video of me playing some new songs and called it ‘The Graveyard Tapes’. I just liked the sound of the name to be honest. The music is certainly not inspired by the name or by being melancholic but I do think that the darker side of life/the world can be a more interesting place to explore as it tends to involve searching for answers, finding your way and resolution. How we grow as humans through the trials of life is more interesting than how happy I feel when I eat apple pie...to me anyways.

Conversely, optimism is something which feels quite prevalent too, 'Flicker' for instance, for all its off-kilter delivery certainly feels somewhat uplifting. Was this a balance you tried to explore on White Rooms?

Euan: I think White Rooms is pretty much that. It’s about loss but more about how we deal with loss and how we grow as humans through these experiences. So ultimately I think it’s full of optimism, if you look hard enough.

Matt: I think I'm as prone to both those extremes of emotion, and it makes sense to put them together. The best creative work is multi-dimensional, as there’s no point in dwelling on the same idea or emotion all the time. 'Flicker' is a very old track, based on something I wrote 6 years ago, when I was deliberately shifting to write about more upbeat things, as my life was changing. I want to make something which uplifts; even something very melancholy can do that too. One man's poison is another's medicine.

Similarly, what was the recording process like for the album? Were any field recordings taken? 'Dulcitone Grasses' in particular stands out as the track in question.

Matt: The recording process was actually much faster and easier than the previous record. We worked in a different way, and I tried to produce the music differently, faster and with more drive. We also involved a third member (Ben Chatwin - Talvihorros) a lot in the process, either playing live and recording the improvisations or contributing synth parts over the internet. Much of the material came from me initially rather than Euan this time around which also gave everything a different feel. I generally avoid field recordings in music if possible, I feel it's a real crutch that people lean on when they can't think of something...'Dulcitone Grasses' is basically made of dulcitone samples and layers of processed guitars, which sound like an environment. I'm much more interested in working with space and landscape in this way.

There's a huge amount of experimental percussion and drones with your music, yet all of them seem to work together, there's little noticeable discordance, is that something you intend when creating the soundscapes that feature in your work?

Matt: Absolutely. When you're making music is fundamentally electronic (as it is recorded rather than live, usually pieced together like a collage on a computer) you are required to push things and experiment. I find it very hard to work with traditional drum or percussion sounds for instance. Like all sounds I use, I have to get my hands on them and fuck them up somehow, otherwise they don't feel like they're mine. It's important to develop your own approaches to working with sound, in the same way a sculptor develops their own process of working with physical material. It's the same thing to me. we're trying to create a coherent world for the listener to be placed in, which takes time but is very important to the listening experience.

Is there a particular narrative running throughout the record? The tracks do feel linked, though not immediately so.

Euan: Yes, as discussed before it’s about loss and recovery in many ways. Does it flow in that way from start to finish? Probably not, but the theme is clear I think.

Matt: I feel like it's a state of mind rather than a narrative. I'm less keen on someone trying to guide me through a narrative. I'd rather just be set up with the ideas and let me develop my own response.

For me personally I think you have a lot in common with Sigur Ros, are they an influence at all? Who would you say has influenced you as a band?

Euan: I think both Matt and I like early Sigur Ros and they are certainly a group our work could be compared to. Radiohead are the obvious comparison but, unlike a lot of reviews, I don’t think they are the main influence. What we are is simply a combination of two different styles of music kind of coming together to create something of interest and value.

Matt: My girlfriend always says that 'Flicker' sounds like Sigur Ros. As much as I hate it she's usually right about a lot of things.

With the new album now out, what can we expect from Graveyard Tapes going in to 2015 and beyond?

Euan: We recently played a festival in Latvia and it was such a positive experience I think we’d like to play some more. And we are getting together with Ben (Talvihorros) in the new year to start work on what we hope will become album 3.

Matt: I'd like to play more live shows, and I'm looking forward to the next record. For me the joy of this is in the making of things, and those fleeting moments of joy when you come up with something which makes you laugh because it's awesome.

Finally, any exclusive news or parting words you'd like to leave our readers with?

People say alcohol is a drug. It's not a drug, it's a drink.

Thanks guys, it's been a pleasure.

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