As their British tour kicks off (with our own Jack Carty) in support of their new album Almost Home, we catch up with Matthew Lowe of the Keston Cobblers’ Club to find out more about the fitting follow on record to Wildfire.
Congrats on the new album! It’s fair to say that things feel a bit more stripped back on Almost Home compared to Wildfire… What led the decision to head in this direction for this record?
Yes, I think it’s slightly stripped back, we pulled away from the use of too many orchestral styles in this album (although they’re definitely still there in areas), I think we wanted to create an album we could play live from start to finish with five people.
I’ve been doing a lot of lone writing on guitar and I think this also helped influence the album and finally we wanted to concentrate on a melody first on each track, whereas I often start with instrumentation. It was a fairly different process, but there’s still the fundamental Cobblers’ styles in there.
As a fan of Wildfire, it took a few listens for Almost Home to really hit me, but once it did, it emerges as some of your strongest material yet. Are you finding this with responses from other fans as well?
Yeah I think it perhaps takes a couple of listens, we’re so happy with the results, I think it’s the album we’re most happy with. I suppose with the stripped down nature we’re not automatically going for the ‘big bangers’ although there’s a few in there, but we really wanted to create a small journey as a complete album from start to finish and not just be a shuffle album.
With home and the past serving as themes for the record, can you tell me a bit about what led the band to get sentimental, thematically? I can’t help but think the state of the world and Brexit etc. played a part. But maybe I’m reading into it too much. Or maybe your mood is reflecting my own. Ultimately, you guys are away from home a lot!
Yeah I don’t think it was anything too global, for me at least and the songs I wrote, it was about home to me, my family home and my flat with my girlfriend and different themes around this. I knew I wanted it to be something that can easily be interpreted by other for their own ideas of what home is. It’s meant to be personal, but specific to me.
I bring up themes because honestly, on Wildfire, I never thought about them. The music was so magnificent that the lyrics almost became secondary. Here it’s the other way around. And I love that. The melodies are strong but it’s the lyrics that bring you in. And it’s why is grown on me so much. The best records do. This isn’t a question, just a statement. But do feel free to comment! Ha. thanks! I think I’ve honed in my lyric writing a little more these days, I used to write a rough melody then go crazy with orchestration and finish off with lyrics, but lyrics get in at a very early stage these days for me as I sit and write on guitar or piano etc.. and try and get a complete feel before I start multitracking loads onto it.
Though the record follows a cohesive tone, some tracks do push the envelope in terms of what the band is capable of (and directions you’re willing to go). Can you tell me a little bit about some of the direction behind “Forest Hill”. I adore the track, yet it’s one of the most surprising on the album.
This is the first track I wrote for the album and I think it kind of shaped my ideas a little, it’s about me living in Forest Hill now and basically getting by. The demo was slightly different in that it had a massive intro like the ending of the album track and massive ending again, but the middle was completely stripped down to just a guitar and vox. This felt a little like two different tracks though and I wanted it to flow as one, so I re-recorded. It flows through the same lyrics all the way through which I like, it’s simple and was written so quickly, so creating a big climax at the end was lots of fun/the icing on the cake for Tom and I in the studio.
The last time we spoke, at The Great Escape a couple of years back, you were gearing up for the first Camp Wildfire. How did the event go then and in its follow up year? I was thrilled to hear it returned.
Yes it went really well thanks, it was Jules‘ baby and she now runs it with Lee Denny of Leefest as it’s too much of an event for us to run as a band every year, but we’re still a massive part of it. We play it each year and help with rigging and all that; it’s on again this year so check it out, it’s part activity camp in the day, part wild, music festival in the eve. I can honestly say after about 60 festivals, I’ve never been anywhere quite like it.
…and how are things leading up to the 2017 event (I guess this would be the third?). What do you have in store?… I assume you’re still in involved?
Oh I think I kind of answered above, but yes, very involved, Jules and Lee organise it with a great team and the rest of us just enjoy it!
What did you do to launch the new album by the way? How did you celebrate the release?
This time around we did a VERY intimate houseboat launch. It felt fitting to perform in someone’s house and it was this wonderful little boat – it was fairly cramped and my Mum did some catering with champagne and we played unplugged with candles, it was lots of fun to do and I only wish we could bring it to our fans as well, but it’s a little too intimate to take on tour perhaps.
Aussie songsmith Jack Carty is joining you on the road in the UK, are you a fan yourselves? Do share your thoughts on the great man!
Brilliant! I must admit I didn’t really know his stuff ’til he was suggested, but loved his stuff when I heard it and I’m typing from my hotel room after our first gig of tour and have just seen him play live and I can confirm it’s even better live! Really looking forward to getting to know him and his music over the next two weeks.
With your two last albums enjoying a tonal shift, and an amazing catalogue of music to choose from, how do you go about constructing the setlists now? What can fans expect from the upcoming show?
That’s a good question. We believe it’s important not to just play new tracks, or old and with three albums and three EPs we do struggle with the choices, we try and keep the sets varied in terms of fast and slow, we love getting people involved and dancing, but we also love the quiet/slow tracks when everyone sits and listens.
We played our first show of tour tonight as I say and it was a seated gig for a concert feel, but we also had a little dance area to hopefully keep everyone happy. I think we’re just carrying on as usual though to answer your question – we’ve just added six brand new tracks to our setlist and another new cover as a finale and it’s great to play some new stuff, although a little frightening as well! We’ll see what the feedback is like when we finish this tour.
Almost Home by Keston Cobblers’ Club is out now. They tour with Jack Carty through April.
April 21st | Union Chapel, London
April 22nd | St Mary’s Church, Ashford
April 23rd | Phoenix, Exeter
April 25th | Milton Keynes Stables
April 26th | Nottingham Rescue Rooms
April 27th | Kendal Brewery Arts
April 28th | Durham Gala Theatre
April 29th | Sheffield Greystones (3pm matinee & 7:30pm evening show)
April 30th | Colston Hall Lantern, Bristol