“You have to make people dance when they feel like crying” - hmv.com talks to Another Sky
Formed at London's storied art college Goldsmith's around six years ago, post-rock quartet Another Sky have spent the time since their formation building a reputation as an impressive live act with their own brand of driving, swirling soundscapes and haunting melodies with often brutally frank lyrics delivered in unique style by vocalist Catrin Vincent. They once described their sound as "like being punched in the face an then kissed tenderly."
They've released a handful of EPs and increasingly impressive singles over the last couple of years, but this week the band finally get to unleash their debut album I Slept On The Floor.
With the album arriving in stores today we caught with with Catrin for a chat about how they bonded over Talk Talk's more experimental output, being compared to Morrissey, and the trials and tribulations of releasing a debut album in the middle of a global pandemic...
They say you have your whole life to write your debut album - how far back do the songs on this record go?
“There's some really early ones on there. It's six years of our lives, basically, as long as the band has been together.”
And you met at Goldsmith's, is that right?
"Yeah. The guitarist (Jack Gilbert) scouted people a bit and said 'Hey, do you want to get in a room?' I think he'd decided he wanted to be in a band with Naomi (Le Dune, bassist) and Max (Doohan, drummer). He was already playing for me in my solo project as my guitarist and he said 'Oh, yeah, I'm trying to think of a vocalist for my band', and I was like: 'Er, hello? Me?'”
What drew you all together initially, do you think?
“It was really funny, actually. I never wanted to be in a band, I just sort of wanted to hang out with him more. We ended up in a room, and Naomi and Max were in about 13 bands, everyone was involved in so many projects, that was the nature of going to Uni to do music. But as soon as we got in a room, we didn't know what we expected. We wrote a song and just laughed at the end of it! It was like: 'Well, that was easy!'
"The second song we ever wrote was actually 'Fell in Love With a City', which has just come out. It just seemed to work, and I can't say why."
What kind of music did you all bond over, initially? It's difficult to find a reference point for your music...
'”I think I've said this in an interview before but we really bonded over the latter two Talk Talk albums, when they started going really experimental. It was more about jamming and exploring, I'd say. I actually listened to our debut album the other day on a long drive and I thought 'God, yeah, I wouldn't know what to call this.'"
How does the songwriting process work between you?
"I write lyrics, but I take them from real life conversations, so one of the band might say something and I'll be like 'that's great, that sounds really poetic.' But as for the music, one person will bring an idea and then we'll build around that. It's so equally split, and I've only recently realised that is actually quite unique. I didn't realise, I thought most bands didn't care who wrote what, but we really need each other to write.
"Naomi actually said today that it feels like a conversation, like we're having a conversation through music, and I thought that was a really nice way to describe it."
Do you tend write lyrics first?
"It really depends. If I have a really strong idea of what I want a song to be about I can write poetry and then turn it into a song, but if someone else has brought in a musical idea the I end up writing over the top of that and having to fit it in. And there's different pros to both ways of writing. If I write lyrics first, I find that you can be more ambitious with the actual songwriting.
"But then the other band members come up with ideas without thinking about lyrics, which can be really freeing and explorative as well. So it's like we're just trying to do everything. I don't know if we'll do that going forwards, it's just in the way we do things and we haven't thought too much about it.”
On this album, it seems like there's often a kind of contrast between the lyrics and the music – its wrestling with some heavy subject matter, but the music is quite uplifting– it's dark, but it's filled with light and hope also. Would you agree with that?
“I completely agree. One of my favourite things is writing really dark lyrics to really uplifting music.”
The Smiths used to that really well. Where does that come from with you guys, do you think?
“When we started gigging live we had lots of slow, downbeat songs, and I think to really capture an audience you just need to offer both sides, really. You have to make people dance when they feel like crying.
“We did have a producer once that said my lyrics reminded him of Morrissey. I don't like his politics at all, but I do love the Smiths era and I actually started reading his lyrics, and then they started inspiring me. I know some people use art to escape and feel good, but when I consume art – whether it's music or writing or books – I like to see myself in it. And I think there's a certain catharsis in hearing dark lyrics in music that stirs you, that's quite driving.”
Who's producing the album? Was it all recorded in one go?
“It's been bits and pieces. We started off self-producing, so it was very strange to work with producers for us, because we were so close-knit as a band and felt like we'd found a sound. But we have this small studio, and for some of the songs we just had to go to a bigger studio because we couldn't get the drum sound we wanted. So it ended up that Joleon Thomas is the executive producer of the whole album, and that really helped us, to have one voice.
"We're a very democratic band, so at times decisions just don't get made! It was really helpful to have someone to say 'what about this?' But it took a while, we have quite particular ideas about how it should sound.”
What does he bring to the table from a musical perspective?
“This kind of epic soundscape. He produced 'Fell in Love With the City, Brave Face, Let Us Be Broken. I'm trying to think of the others, but he focussed on the details to create a bigger soundscape. There's a lot of epic sounds that we wouldn't have been able to get ourselves."
How long have you had everything finished? What was the last song to be recorded?
"It was the vocals for 'Let Us Be Broken'. I really struggled with that song personally, I couldn't get the chorus. I'm still not sure I've got it. It's always the vocals, it seems to be, that come last. I think it was February, maybe January, I was still trying to finish the vocals. I went and said: 'Today's the day!' And then it'd be, like, five more days. Oh my god, I don't know why they say so long.”
It must be frustrating releasing your debut album in the middle of a pandemic, particularly with touring – what are your plans for getting around that?
"We're hoping to do a live stream of the album in a studio, that seems to be the current plan. But yeah it is really frustrating because I think that''s where a lot of our power lies, playing live is where we get our most enjoyment and and our best response.
"I've been thinking about doing regular live streams, because I get really bad stage fright and if I don't gig for a few months at a time I literally can't play in front people. My hands start shaking and they stop working. So I think I'm just gonna have to do some live-streamed gigs to keep that practice up!"
Another Sky's debut album I Slept On The Floor is available in hmv stores now - you can also find it here in our online store.