Monday, 7 October 2013

The Spook School - Dress Up - Track by Track Review

We love The Spook School.  It's a bold statement, but every since History hit the internet back in 2011, I've been waiting for this moment.  The moment when a band manages to push through all the crap that being in a band can bring, and write enough tracks to put together and release an album.  The band have twice played on a Scottish Fiction Presents bill, have released a series of catchy, jaunty singles along the way, and had fun all the while.  I asked the band to talk us through their album Dress Up to reveal the inner workings of The Spook School.

Are You Who You Think You Are?

Nye - Are You Who You Think You Are? is a song that we’ve always loved playing live.  We pretty much always start off the set with it, because it’s has a great fun build-up of momentum that, if we’re lucky, will have people dancing or tapping feet by the end and ready to hear more.  So when we had to pick the first song for the album it was kind of an obvious choice!  The song is about a few things, but mostly it’s also about not accepting the box or role that society wants to place you in.  All that hetero and cis-normative bullshit, gender stereotypes, you don’t have to accept any of them.  Be who you want to be, yeah!

I’ll Be Honest

Nye – This song is about drunken honesty.  I’m guessing that more than a few people might relate to letting their deepest, darkest secrets slip out after a few too many, I know I’ve done it more than once.  Still, the best friendships are often built on those times.  The song is also kind of about disassociation, from who people think you are, or from a time or place you find yourself in.  We wrote it in Nottingham, before a great fun Anorak Nottingham gig, so yeah, cheers Nottingham!

You Make It Sound So Easy

Anna – Sometimes if I get comfortable with a situation, a little shift in circumstances can feel a lot worse than it is. This song’s about overreacting to things and worrying too much. More specifically it’s about not hearing from someone in a little while and deciding they probably hate you and never want to talk to you again, and obsessing over what it is you could have done.  You’re wasting your time on something you have no control over so you should just go and have a cup of tea and forget about it, but that’s easier said than done.

I Don’t Know

Nye - This song is pretty simple.  It’s about not being able to talk to people.  Just not having the right words to say, or the confidence to say them.  Given that I’m the kind of person that has to work up the confidence to phone for a pizza, it’s an emotion I’m familiar with.  Writing this one, Adam had written most of a guitar part, and had that main line “I just don’t know how to talk to you”, and I just took it from there.

The Cameraman

Nye - This song is inspired by the brilliant Buster Keaton film, The Cameraman.  In it, Buster is trying to prove himself as an aspiring cameraman at a newspaper, but also in the eyes of the woman he likes.  It’s essentially the film told through the viewpoint of that woman (although probably a lot more cynical).  I feel the songs I write the lyrics for essentially always fall into one of two groups, they’re either about gender, or they form another step in my campaign to get everyone to love Buster Keaton.  Because everyone should, his films are just little pieces of genius.


Nye - This song is one of those ones that really is pretty much about exactly what the lyrics say.  Years ago now, I went out wandering quite late one night, just thinking and listening to music.  Some drunk bloke walked past me on the street, and he almost bumped into me or something, but anyway, he kind of apologised and said “all right there, son.”  And I was really happy about this.  And then I wrote a song about it.  And that’s about it really.

Can You Ever Trust A Man Who Thinks Matt Damon’s Really Cool?

Adam - This is probably the most straight out angry noisy shouty song on the record.  It was inspired by a time I met a ridiculous man who upon seeing my Lou Reed t-shirt remarked, “It’s a good job you don’t have Marc Bolan on your t-shirt.  You wouldn’t want to have a queer on your t-shirt.”  Which is clearly a stupid thing to say regardless of either pop star’s supposed sexualities.  I suppose more generally it’s about people (mainly straight men who enact hegemonic masculinity) who presume that their position of privilege in society makes them inherently better than other people who can not, or choose not to live the way that they do.  Boring, nasty people who believe everything the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail or all the other ‘newspapers’ with ‘Daily’ at the beginning tell them. 

What A Pity

Anna - This is a song about disappointment.  Every now and then I meet someone and think, “Oh wow, they’re just like me!  We’re going to be best friends!”  But over time I realise that we may have a lot in common but there’s no real connection, and it’s kind of a let-down.  It’s about that, and also about the sinking feeling of having shared a lot with someone and then growing apart from them.  You can’t figure out a logical reason for this to have happened and it seems like a shame to lose whatever you had before.  That’s silly because logic doesn’t really come into it, but you’re a bit desperate so you can’t help but analyse everything.

Devil Of Mine

Nye - This song started off kind of being about a friend of mine but kind of morphed into something quite different.  I’d noticed that they seemed to be considered the ‘best friend’ of a lot of people in their life and to fill quite a big space in a lot of people’s lives, some of them people that they didn’t necessarily consider themselves particularly close to.  It got me thinking and I ended up kind of writing a song from the perspective of one of those people, wanting their ‘slice’ of this one person that matters so much to them.

That’s When I Ran Away

Nye - I feel that this song is about some of those moments when you meet someone and within a brief period you start to think, “Hey, this person could really be important in my life”.  And that’s great, but it’s also terrifying at the same time.  Sometimes the temptation can be just to run away from it, not to take the chance, to just let your life go on as it was before.  I’m also really quite fond of the line, “I bought a cut-price happy meal, I wanted to show how I feel”, because I feel like it expresses a kind of odd emotion.  You’re happy, but maybe it’s not quite the real deal.  Me and Adam wrote the lyrics on a train, how fun.

You Don’t Know

Adam - This one’s a wee story that I like to interpret in two different ways.  It kind of reads like this really creepy stalker-ish character who’s obsessively following someone around and somehow knows everything about them.  They’ve never said anything to them though.  That’s what it’s really about to me.  That kind of feeling of knowing someone really well but still not being able to fully express yourself.  Being too scared to speak to someone and honestly tell them how you feel.  In any sense it’s got some silly cheeky lines about Rolling Stones albums that I quite like.


Nye - This song has quite a mixture of themes that crop up to a greater extent in some of our other songs.  There’s gender, (“I was a boy or so it’s told, I was a girl or so it’s told, don’t believe a word you’re told...”), cynicism about relationships (“now it’s just me and you, and I confess, the boredom’s got me on my knees...”) and a good dollop of pure silliness for good measure.  I remember me and Adam writing this one on a car journey – sitting in the backseat and passing post-it notes between each other with lyric ideas.

Who You Gonna Call? Goatbuster!

Nye - Again, most credit for this song should go to Buster Keaton, this time for his film ‘The Goat’, (hence Goatbuster!) which the ‘loud’ verses pretty much just recount the story of.  It’s a brilliant film, about mistaken identities, and very, very funny.  One thing I love about Buster Keaton films is the way that he just seems to drop into the landscape of each film as if out of nowhere.  He’s the eternal traveller, always the new face in town, often leaping onto the backs of trains or cars to escape somewhere else.  I often get the feeling, kind of ‘the grass is always greener’ syndrome, wanting to try out somewhere new for size.  But at the same time that is always warring with an attachment to the place that you call home, your family, the friends that you’ve made.

The Spook School - Dress Up is out now on Fortuna POP!  You can buy physical copies (CD and vinyl) here, or download via iTunes.

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