Music Q&A: Arliston

Jack Ratcliffe from the London-based three piece band talks about recording new EP Hawser, encounters with murderous chilli sauce and avoiding the word 'baby' in lyrics

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Tell us a bit about the recording process for your new EP Hawser, out on 12 October.
The album was recorded in Dock Street Studios in East London with Chris Blakey (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Lloyd Williams, Death in Vegas). We tried to be pretty open-ended with what we expected from the songs. Chris has a great knack for spacey, blissed-out production and that’s definitely my inclination as a songwriter too, so we knew we could aim for creating something quite different. My go-to creative mode is overbearing perfectionism so we went over the songs again and again searching for the perfect mix or piece of production that would give them that x-factor (not in any way referring to Simon’s X-Factor here – more the opposite), which was very hard work and quite challenging for both of us, but I’m very glad we did as in the end we got a result that we are very proud of.

What informs your music and songwriting?
The music is deeply influenced by artists like The National, Bon Iver, Alt-J, James Vincent McMorrow, Daughter, Talos, Fink and lots more like them. Other sources of inspiration come from classic choral singing and instrumental piano. The things you can achieve with plug-in reverbs these days means you have access to pinpoint accurate models of crazy spaces like Winchester Cathedral or the Taj Mahal, and are able to create enormous choral backing or lead sounds with fairly small source sounds.

How have you evolved as a band over the years?
We have slowly moved from being a studio-only project into a fully-fledged band over the course of the last six months. It’s been a fascinating process, trying to deconstruct the tracks we’ve recorded and reverse engineer them into a form where they’re playable live. Crucially, not just copping out and bunging it all on a backing track to a click, which we were adamant we didn’t want to do. We want our live set to come across as a lithe, wriggling, organic thing, not some sterile blob of mass production.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I’ve got my hands on a second hand TR8 Drum Machine, and exploring that in conjunction with a borrowed Moog Sub37 and a 0-coast monosynth has taken us in a direction that we’re getting really excited about. Stay tuned for the results!

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
As a band, I think our most surreal – and partially embarrassing – experience has been eating the ultra-hot Blair’s Mega Death Sauce, “with liquid rage” as used on Hot Ones, the YouTube channel. It destroyed us. It was all at once painful, hallucinatory and hilarious.

What song do you wish you’d written?
So many. Perth, Heavenly Father or Forest Green by Justin Vernon et al. Nobody Else will be there by The National, I think is very close to a perfect song. The syncopation of the piano with the understated softness of the vocal does something black magic-y that gives you a sense of total isolation. It’s amazing.

What’s your worst lyric?
Haha, ahh, so many regrettable things to choose from, I think back in the early songwriting days particularly! We’ve managed to steer clear of saying “baby” so far, but I’m sure it’s coming. Perhaps I feel the cringiest about lyrics which aren’t metaphors or some veiled version of the truth, but rather are just straight, unambiguous statements. As that’s all a bit on the nose and really we’re too English to be expressing ourselves like that (that is, in a healthy and open way). So lines like “I miss you”, the chorus line of Politics, or “Today I tried to pretend it’s fine” are always tricky. Hard to deliver live too, as sometimes I can get quite choked up onstage.

What can we expect from a live show from Arliston?
Hopefully a great experience! We’ve tried to create a set that has a bit of everything – big anthemic songs, loud rocky songs, softer groovier ones, and order them in a way that makes sense and gives people what they want to hear. You should come away from one of our shows a bit sad, a bit deaf, a bit energised and hopefully a fan.

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Interact: Responses to Music Q&A: Arliston

  • Howie
    12 Oct 2018 10:36
    An amazing EP!! Looking forward to seeing what these boys do next!

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