Paul Smith. 24.3.17

Damian: The new album ‘Risk to exist’ is a fantastic record, you must be excited to let people hear it?

Paul: Absolutely, and thank you very much.  With every record we make we try to do our best. Perhaps some people are on cruise control after they’ve made a few records, but we always believe that we should treat every album as if it might be our last.  With this record we wanted to feel energised when we got into the studio, and then we wanted to feel confident that the final recording was worthwhile and sounded interesting.  We don’t want to put out a record that sounds just okay, or pretty good.

Damian: Tell us a little bit about the sound of the record

Paul: I think this is quite a groovy record, influenced a lot by the soul music we grew up listening to and some of the 80’s electro pop as well.  ‘What equals love’ for example reminds me of a weird mix of Echo and the Bunnymen and Luther Vandross.  (Laughing) I’m not everyone will hear that connection.  There’s something different going on with this record.

Damian: There’s definitely a groove to the record, but behind the sound there’s some very serious, well-articulated, messages about the state of the world.

Paul: I’d agree. The music’s very hopeful but I think there needs to be some light and shade on every record.  I think we’ve always written songs that are heart-on-sleeve, emotionally intense, songs.    We don’t want to be like wallpaper in the background and have always tried to stand up for something, even if it’s just been about how we feel about the world.  Perhaps on this record our political messages are a bit more explicit.

Damian:  Is there anything in particular you’re being explicit about?

Paul: Mostly it’s about things which have concerned me, as a lyricist, over the last few years.  I’m disappointed with certain aspects of political discourse in our country.  Sometimes, for example, you can’t hear the word refugee without hearing negative connotations.  These are people who have been driven out of their home.  There’s a lot of people who need help and empathy.  Because we feel strongly about these issues, they tend to end up in the songs somewhere.

Damian:  Production wise how was it working with Tom Schick?

Paul: We wanted to record the tracks live and knew Tom was an expert at that process because of the work he’d done with Wilco.  He did a great job of capturing the sound of the band, and they sounded great. (Laughing) I can say that as it’s nothing to do with me.

Damian:  Was recording live a challenge?

Paul: It was actually pretty easy.  Because we put a lot of hard work in beforehand, we arrived prepared.  Ultimately, we ended up with a record that we’re proud of because of the hard work and because Tom made recording really easy for us.

Damian: Great.  Did you have to use a few takes to get the sound of the song right?

Paul:  Not always no.  The first song you can hear on the record was the first take we recorded.  That’s unheard of for us.  (Laughing) It usually takes an eternity.

Damian: And you recorded at Tom’s place?

Paul: We did, and it was an amazing experience.  Jeff Tweedy’s guitars were all there to choose from, as well as other instruments, and for us musicians it was like a playground.

Damian: Last question, you sold out Newcastle’s O2 Academy in days.  How does that make you feel?

Paul: We’re honoured that we sold out the venue and can’t wait to play the new songs, and some of the older ones too.