“It's back to basics. You can't cheat…” - The Script talk stripping things back on new album Sunsets & Full Moons
Over the course of their career, Irish pop trio The Script have been in the room with the creme de la creme of pop-production talent.
The list of credits across their five studio albums include OneRepublic mainman Ryan Tedder, Steve Kipner, who wrote 'Fight For This Love' for Cheryl and 'Genie In A Bottle' for Christina Aguilera, and Max Martin disciple Oscar Görres, who helped Troye Sivan pen 'My My My!'.
But, for new album Sunsets & Full Moons, they’ve decided to bet on themselves, removing much of the studio sheen and focusing on producing songs that are simpler and much more direct.
We spoke to the band about why this album finds themselves going back to basics and why they’re trusting their own instincts instead of relying on super-producers...
You’d talked openly about taking a bit of time off after Freedom Child, but you changed your minds. Why did you decide to dive back in?
Danny (O'Donoghue, vocals/guitars): “We bring a mini studio with us on tour, we set it up every day and dismantle it every evening and it gets incredibly frustrating. We want to be putting in mad hours in the studio, all day, all night. So the studio does feel like a break for us, we do find it relaxing, unlike touring.”
“I think we were all open to the idea that we need to slow down and stop. But, we just decided that we’d get in the studio and we’d see if we could make a record and it came within a couple of months. After we had the first few songs, there was no point in stopping.”
Did you have any sense of what you wanted to do differently from Freedom Child?
Mark (Sheehan, guitars): “You can’t go into the studio with the mindset of ‘I’m going to write a big hit’ or ‘I’m going to make a record that sounds like this..’. You have to write and you have to see what comes out. If you have a sound in mind, it never goes your way.”
“Freedom Child was an extroverted record and we had it in our minds to make an introverted record, something more like our first and second albums. Bare minimum when it came to production, all the focus on lyrics and melody. All our songs are anchored in reality and the challenge is taking a situation we’ve been in or a story we’ve heard and bottling it up to make a song. That never gets easier.”
Can you talk us through the collaborators on the album?
Danny: “Mostly new people. We’ve produced and A&R it ourselves and it’s a much shorter list. It’s myself and Mark, then Jimbo Barry, David King, Sam Tsang, who's a real talent, and Camille Purcell did one song. We worked with so many producers on Freedom Child, we went right in with the Max Martin crowd and so many people were asking us 'What do you think of this lyric?', 'What do think of this vibe?'. We were leading the melody and the production.”
“I just thought 'What the f**k are we paying these people all this money for? They keep asking us for our opinion'. We've fallen in love with our own sound and our own process again. We started with 'Something Unreal' and it came together so well, and we felt like we had something. We'll live and die by this record and this sound. It's back to basics. You can't cheat. You can't make any song into a great song by plastering production all over it."
Just the three of you in a room, did you enjoy the intimacy of that?
Mark: “Totally. We believe, fundamentally, that a great song can still be a great song if it’s played on one instrument. We check every song that way, strip it of all the bells and whistles and make sure the idea is strong enough. One piano or one guitar, it has to stand up in those circumstances. It makes all the songs ready for the live environment too. They can all be stripped back to acoustic instruments. I can’t wait for everybody to hear them live.”
What kind of record is this lyrically?
Mark: “It is a very introspective record.”
Danny: “It’s a very articulate record and not abstract. Every song leads you through a story and every song has a meaning and a moral. It’s a record from a band that’s really discovering itself. I know some bands only get one album to make their mark, but we really feel that over the course of The Script’s career that we’re just maturing."
"We’ve been going for 12 years and we’re just entering our teens. I feel like a lot of our earlier songs were half-formed and now we’re making more rounded music. We’re expressing ourselves a lot better. It feels like a risk, making our songs more naked, and, if it doesn’t work, we’ll fall on our own sword. But, you know what, it’s the sharpest f***ing sword that’s out there.”
How are your live plans coming together?
Danny: “We’ve already booking plenty of shows. We’ve got massive festival offers and big shows. Our touring has never been better. I feel like what sets us apart from our contemporaries is how much we put into our live show. We sweat every detail. People know we’re our own men, we sing live every night, even though we probably shouldn’t!"
"We play our own instruments and we’re a hard-working band. We change so many people’s minds when they see us live. When you’re in a Script crowd and everybody’s singing along, it’s amazing. It’s moments you will take to your grave.”
What kind of live set are you bringing out? You’ve got six records now…
Danny: “No B-Sides!”.
Mark: “People pay good for their tickets and they deserve to hear the biggest songs of your career. That’s what we’ll be doing.”