Three years on from their last release the Manchester five-piece have returned with a new album The Big Defreeze and a tour. Jo Dudderidge talks about playing gigs in fan’s houses and their move away from folk.
Last time you spoke to The Big Issue in the North the rapture was coming. Are you glad the world didn’t end?
Well it’s on the way to ending isn’t it?! I can’t tell if the world has always been this fucked up or that we’re just more aware of it now. Our underground bunker is coming along nicely…we fitted the launch pad last week.
What freedoms has using Pledge Music given you as a band and how has the experience of releasing an LP this way compared to releasing an album through a record label?
I’m not sure crowd funding is the answer for all bands, but it can certainly be a good way of overcoming financial obstacles to creative projects. It’s empowering to know we can make records and release them without the need for someone else’s label or money, and it has brought us even closer to our hardcore fans (who are amazing!). Pledge was only the first stage of the album release though. We’ve put the record out to the wider world on our label Sideways Saloon via Republic of Music. A full release was always in our plans.
You played gigs in fan’s houses as part of that process. Were there any awkward or funny moments?
I suppose it depends on your mentality! I get a kick out of awkward situations but for some people that level of intimacy with strangers/fans freaks them out. We had a genuinely lovely time at all of them, though some of the ‘stages’ were a cramped to say the least. (As in literally a sofa!)
I spend half my time looking out the window wondering where the next adventure will be
Despite the DIY approach to funding, you worked with big name producer Iestyn Polson on the latest album, what influence did he have?
He was just what we needed at the time. We’d sat on the songs for a few months and his fresh perspective and love for getting the band to play as much of the recordings live in the studio reaped rewards for us. Having an experienced producer helped us to focus on our playing and finding interesting sounds. It also took the internal band pressures away that can exist when self-producing. I enjoyed not being the whip cracker for once!
How has you style evolved on The Big Defreeze and why the change in direction?
I think our arrangements are tighter and the production shows a bit more ambition. I suppose after years of touring and the live shows getting bigger more expansive, this has reflected in our approach in the studio. We flirted with banjos and mandolins etc on other albums and made a conscious decision not use these this time – maybe as a reaction to be labelled a folk band, which we’ve never seen ourselves as. The fact that there are less acoustics and more electric guitars and synths now is probably a natural progression anyway. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.
You’re about to head out on tour. Do you manage to live up to your name and travel as much as you’d like to?
We love being on the road and we’d like to tour more to be honest. I can’t stay in one place for longer than a couple of weeks before starting to go a bit mad so I spend half my time looking out the window wondering where the next adventure will be. I have to move around to reset my head.
Do you feel more comfortable on the road than in the studio?
Both have their place, though it’s hard for everyone to feel involved all of time when you’re in the studio, whereas on the road it’s all for one and one for all.
Your name perfectly reflects your music which is expansive and free. How does a city-based band make music like that?
I think we’re all searching for some kind of escapism, either through imagination or location. We had all been in touring bands before we got together, so had spent many years inspired by the open road and travelling in Europe and North America. Three of us had lived in coastal parts of Wales at different times too so had our fair share of fresh air and sea shanties. We’ve also never recorded an album in our home town so maybe being away helped to add those elements. We made the first album in the hustle of Brooklyn and the second album in the isolation of a converted church on the Isle of Mull. ‘The Big Defreeze’ was made in another old church (The Church Studios) in Crouch End, London. You can hear those buildings and landscapes in our music; the stories are there to be discovered within within the songs.
The Travelling Band tour throughout October, see http://www.thetravellingband.co.uk/live/tour-dates/