I always find it a hard question to answer, but luckily I don't have to this time, so: can you tell me a little about your songwriting process?
I don’t really have a fixed ‘process’… most songs I can’t really remember writing. Sometimes I have a melody or a few lines that I’ll spend ages moulding into a finished song but most of them come along by chance and are formed fairly quickly. I do a lot of songwriting in the shower. When I’m rich I’ll buy a waterproof guitar and have a built-in recording desk built in my bathroom.
How often do people ask you about, or comment on, the humorous content of your lyrics?
Fairly often. It’s a strangely under-tapped emotion in music. So although musicians have been utilising it for decades, it still strikes a lot of people as being a bit unusual. I’m happy being unusual – it’s descriptions like ‘quirky’ or, even worse, ‘novelty’ that I think start to undermine it a bit. I got to know Duglas T Stewart from the BMX Bandits a while ago and he was someone who reinforced the philosophy that humour is as valid in songwriting as sorrow, anger, etc. The world is full of humour so why shouldn’t that be represented in music?
Like I say though, loads of musicians do utilise humour (in far more effective ways than I ever could) but a lot of people still see it as being a bit weird. I’d go as far as to say that some people resent it, as if it means you’re not taking music seriously. I do take music seriously but I don’t take myself very seriously. We sometimes get called ‘twee’. I presume that has something to do with the playful nature of the lyrics and the lack of macho solemnity. I personally associate the word ‘twee’ with more of a straight-faced kind of saccharinity and sentimentality and I think humourous lyrics often demonstrate a level of self-awareness which goes against all that.
It was the lyric "I went for pakora with Derek Acorah" which attracted me in particular to your most recent record before even hearing it, and the album didn't disappoint. It does start with a slightly more sombre track however. Are you conscious of not wanting to be pigeonholed as someone who writes humorous lyrics?
I think everyone ends up being pigeonholed in some way. I’d rather be pigeonholed as someone who writes good humourous songs than someone who writes bad serious songs. It’s something that works for me and I’ve seen evidence to suggest that people enjoy it. That makes me happy. The first track on that mini-album (Conversation) does indeed sound more sombre but it’s got some ‘funny’ lyrics in it too I think. Also, the Derek Acorah one (Psychic) is partly based on genuine feelings of despair I’ve felt when working in minimum wage jobs. So there is an emotional core to it. I try and do a bit of both in every song but some inevitably end up drifting towards one end of the silly/serious spectrum. It’s interesting what can be done with arrangement, performance and production to alter how people react to certain lyrics though. I’ve got a song called Weatherman which, on paper, is quite humorous but the use of minor chords give it a less than cheery atmosphere.
So, no, I don’t worry about being pigeonholed. I’m quite a silly person. I enjoy puns and bad jokes in my day-to-day life so it stands to reason that those things would inhabit the songs. Whether people like the music or not, I think I have succeeded in making the albums sound like me. I think that’s important as an “artist”. I enjoy music where you feel like you’re getting to know the person who recorded it.
I’m not keen on clichés. What I wanted to say in that quote was that you don’t have to write about clichéd or over-explored themes. For some reason those examples were what popped into my head as ‘clichés’. Thing is, being in love with your best friend or being depressed are totally valid things to write about if you do it well. My point was supposed to be more about the way in which songwriters approach their themes. I enjoy hearing people write in inventive ways. However, there’s no point being weird for the sake of it. There has to be some truth in there or it’s ultimately fake. I think all of my songs are at least loosely based on something I’ve genuinely felt. It just so happens that I’ve (fortunately) had a fairly pedestrian, comfortable tragedy-free life thus far. I don’t write dark or angry songs because I’m not a particularly dark or angry person. That’s not to say I live in a bubble of whimsy – I listen to all kinds of music – but, as a songwriter, I operate the way I do because it’s what works best for me and comes naturally.
Who (or what) are your biggest songwriting influences?
Too many to list…my favourites are the people who marry melodic, beautiful, memorable tunes with original and inventive lyrics.
What is your favourite lyric? (at the moment, at least)
Here I stand disarmed in limbo
You stand with your arms akimbo
I'm lying on my bedroom floor
You smirk behind my bedroom door
Intuition told me so, intuition told me so
(Intuition Told Me (part 2) by Orange Juice)
Know any good jokes?
Q. Why did the farmer put his cows in the barn during winter?
A. ‘Cos they were friesian.
Boom Boom! Randolph's Leap have hunners of news. Catch up with it all at their website. They've also just released a Christmas EP!
As I put this feature together I was comforted to see that many of Adam and Eleanor's feelings about writing and humour mirrored my own. I particularly identified with Adam's description of the balance between silly and serious. For instance, I have a song called Deadpool which might seem like nothing more than a silly, fun song about robots and TV and pop culture, but the heart of it is about the notion of death, and how we deal with it. I was inspired to write it when a friend's mother passed away and on that day, my friend changed her display picture on Facebook to a picture of her and her mum. It made me think about the ways in which we remember people, and how our loved ones live on in our memories of them. But I'm me, so the way I expressed that was through Star Trek references and a jaunty tune. I've never told my friend that she inspired me to write this particular song, partly because I'd be afraid that she'd be offended, since on the surface it seems like such a cheery song. Maybe I will soon though.
Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow folks!