Monday, 1 October 2012

We're Only Here For The Banter - The State Broadcasters

I was lucky enough to have been joined in the studio by Graeme and Gill of The State Broadcasters about a month ago, and along with having their new album 'Ghosts We Must Carry' on constant repeat, they have really enchanted me.  Below is the transcript of that interview for you to check out.

Hello, how are you?

Graeme - We are all fine and dandy, thank you!

It's the question that everyone hates, but could you tell us a little bit about your music and influences?

Graeme - We've been about in various different forms for a good wee while, probably about 7 or 8 years all in.  We put out our first record in 2009 through Electric Honey, and we've just released the second album.  We are a six piece most of the time, and we've been described as various different things from folk-pop to Americana to indie-folk so I don't know!  It's the hardest question in the world a band can get asked is, "what's your music like?"

Tell me about the new album 'Ghosts We Must Carry'.

Graeme - The album itself has been finished for the best part of a year, but for a variety of reasons we had to leave it until September to put it out.

Gill - We are really lucky in that Pete, who is a band member is also the producer.  Which is brilliant because we can make all of the recordings literally in his bedroom, which is fantastic.  But at the same time it's easy to take a long time to do things, and also we've all got other things going on and life gets in the way.  But being able to take your time over it is a mixed blessing because you realise a whole year has gone by, but it's nice to take your time over it.

Graeme - It sounds a bit weird to say this, but the songs on the new album, with the exception of one song which is quite old and another which is a cover, were all written in a very short period of time.  What we wanted it to feel like this time round was an album which had a very strong sense of cohesion.  So although it's taken a long time for it to come out, the actual songs themselves were all written in a short space of time close together.  We worked pretty hard, Pete especially, to try and get the sounds we wanted this time as we had a very definite idea about what we wanted this album to be like.

How did you come to start working with Olive Grove Records?

Graeme - Well we kind of met Lloyd, and I'm not really sure how, which is often the way with Lloyd!  We let him hear it and he liked it.  We were looking for someone to put it out and liked the way that they were wanting to do that.  For us this time, it was really important that we went with people who were really enthusiastic about the album and the songs.  For me that was more important than having a big budget.  And that really came across for us, and was a big factor in our decision.

What's your song writing process like and does having so many instruments to call upon influence that?

Graeme - Pete MacDonald who plays trombone, piano and also sings, it's him and I who do most of the writing and the initial arrangements.  I don't tend to think of instruments when I'm writing a song, but maybe when you get to the arrangement stage.  A lot of the songs from the first album I had written before we'd formed the band, so there was no pre-conception of what it will sound like.  But with the songs off of this album, were all written with the band in mind.  So oddly enough it does start to influence your writing and the type of instruments that people play in the band.  Some times it's really clear, there's a couple of songs on the album that I knew exactly what I wanted them to sound like, but others I had to sit down and strum it out and the others would come in with their ideas. 

In terms of writing, sometimes I'll go to Pete with the chords and the lyrics, and Pete will embellish it.  Sometimes he'll have the piano part and then I'll add the lyrics and maybe add something.  Everyone tends to write their own specific parts.  Sometimes we'll have a clear idea and say we want it to sound like this, but everyone does write their own parts.  We tend to have the songs worked up before we record them.

Have you got any gigs coming up that people can catch you at?

Graeme - We have a launch night for the album on 21st October, which we are going to try and make a really special night.  We are going to premier a video that was made for 'Trespassers', and it's in a really pretty venue in the West End of Glasgow, The Wellington Church on University Avenue.  So hopefully that will be a really special night, we wanted to try and do something a bit different for the launch of the album. 

Gill - The video that was made for 'Trespassers' was along the theme of light, and I think there's going to be some quite special things at the launch night.

What could we expect to see from a live show?

Gill - That's a good question!  I really really enjoy playing live with The State Broadcasters, because I think everybody's really nice in the band!


Graeme - The trouble we have, is that when we rehearse we rehearse acoustically, we don't go into a rehearsal studio and plug in.  So some times when we plug into a PA and stuff like that, if it's not quite coming together it can make things a bit difficult.  I think we've got better as we've gone along.  And also because some of the instruments we use are a bit unusual.  We're not really selling ourselves!

Gill - If I was in the audience I would think it was great!

Graeme - I would say that I think there's a warmth from what we do.  One of the sounds I wanted from both albums was a feel of being able to comfort people.  It sounds a bit grandiose, but I mean that it can make you feel a bit better.  I think because we genuinely enjoy it ourselves, we hope that comes across.  If people are into it, then it's a great feeling.

Gill - There's some quite unusual moments because having two trombones in the band, you do the warmth of two trombones and the cello, along with the guitar, the harp, the accordion and the banjo it is really warm.  And we've worked quite hard on making sure there's lots of vocals so sometimes we're all singing and it's really lovely.

The new album is called 'Ghosts We Must Carry', and it's a name which really entriuges me.  Is there any particular meaning behind it?

Graeme - Yes there is!  It's really difficult to try and distil it down.  It's got a range of meanings.  I guess what I was thinking with that title, the 'ghosts' are either actions you have committed, or have been committed upon you, that occur throughout your life.  Whether that be someone passing away or someone kicking your car door in.  These things stay with you and they're kind of the 'ghosts' I refer to.  No matter how you progress on with your life, and things changes all the time, these are the thing that stay with you and part of what makes you what you are.  It also has a very literal meaning of people that are no longer here, that you still think about.  There are two or three different meanings to it, but I hope that makes sense.  The album is what we would consider a traditional album, that's designed to be listened to from beginning to end.  So when we produced it, we wanted a title that reflects that, so this is what we decided upon in the end.

At Scottish Fiction we focus on new Scottish music, how do you as a band view the Scottish music 'community'?

Graeme - I personally am a bit detached from it now as I don't go out very much!  In a way it's kind of sad that there are so many great bands and talented people, and so few of them are playing to bigger audiences, which sometimes can depress you.  But I am also full of admiration for people who are doing it just because they feel it's a calling, or because they like doing, but people who just carry on regardless, I have nothing but admiration for that.

Gill - From my perspective, coming from a more traditional background, can see huge developments in the traditional music world. 

What other Scottish artists would you recommend to the Scottish Fiction readers?

Gill - I've been listening to loads of Joanna Neeson recently.

Graeme - I haven't been to see many local bands recently, but a person who I have never ever fallen out of love with in terms of the Glasgow scene is Beerjacket.  I think for as long as I can remember he was been so consistently good.  And I'm really pleased for him that his last album seemed to really take him to another level in terms of the audience he is playing too.  And the songs that he has been writing for about the same length of time that we've been going, the standard is just up there all the time.

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