British indie wonders Guillemots are a band you may not be familiar with, but they are definitely an act you need to know. The four-piece have recently released their third studio album Walk The River, a collection of lush, delicately arranged pop tunes that simultaneously recall the sounds of classic ’80s romance and the exploratory remnants of jazz. The AU Review had the pleasure of chatting with Guillemots’ charismatic front man Fyfe Dangerfield about the ins and outs of their new album…
Hi, how are you going?
I’m good, thanks.
Whereabouts are you at the moment?
I’m just hanging out in my flat in London. We’re not undertaking a massive tour at the moment, but we are playing quite a few gigs and festivals here in the UK.
Much of the press I’ve read surrounding Guillemots mentions your lush orchestral arrangements that stem from your classical music training, but I’ve also read you dispute the term ‘classical training’ in interviews. When did you first get into music and realise that this is the career you wanted to follow?
It annoys me that things like that are taken out of context. I never had classical training. I learnt piano in school. It’s not like I’m a child prodigy or anything like that. I’m a lover of pop music. Since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with The Beatles. My parents used to play their records at home. It was when I was 18 that I started listening to classical music for pleasure, and realised that this is something that I wanted to do and that I really enjoyed.
Who are your personal favourite bands and musical inspirations?
Loads of people, too many to list. The Beatles definitely were the first. I grew up listening to them. I didn’t listen to much else until I was 9 or 10. I’m loving Wild Beasts at the moment. They’re amazing. They seem to be the band that can do no wrong. They make their own world through their music, which is the best way to do it.
Your solo album, Fly Yellow Moon, was one of my favourites of 2010. Was it difficult going back to writing with the band after taking a break to do your own thing?
Thank you. I had a lot of fun making that album. It wasn’t at all difficult doing Guillemots stuff afterwards, though. I didn’t have much of a break, to be honest. When that record came out we’d already been writing together for months. Fly Yellow Moon was recorded so quickly, but it took a while to get released, so it never felt like I was away from them. We’d be touring for Guillemots, and I’d go off and do a few solo shows in the same area, so we never really had much time apart.
Tell me about the new album Walk The River. What was the process of writing and recording album number three like?
It was lovely. We wanted to take our time with it and we did. We had about a year of playing together before heading into the studio. We felt a bit lost and didn’t know what to do musically. There’re so many different ways you can go in the band. We wanted to come up with loads of music and kept finding sounds, working on them and refining them, so in the end we had lots to choose from and then selected the tracks that belonged together. It was an exciting time, we wrote loads of stuff. I think we just wanted the record to sound kind of fantasy-like, and wide and expansive with a lost sort of vastness. The result is definitely what we were going for. I want every album we record to be different. Lots of bands progress, but show the same side of themselves on every recording, but we want to be able to show a different side with every record, and I think we‘ve achieved that with this album.
Did you work with Adam Noble again?
On this record we wanted to work with someone new, so for a change we worked with David Costin. He produced the Bat For Lashes records. He was great to work with. It was a totally different experience to other albums we‘ve made. He was opinionated, but he got what we were wanting to do at an emotional level and really helped the work along.
Is there anything you did when making this record that was different to the approach you took with Through The Windowpane and Red?
There were differences, but they weren’t deliberate; those albums had different feels. We’re not really conscious of what we explore when we’re writing, or what our sound is. It just sort of happens. There’s a lot of variety, which is what I‘m used to, and there‘s quite a few bits on the record that I really enjoy. It felt like this was the first album where we had no agenda. We didn’t want it to be a kind of boring guitar record. We wanted to capture the four of us playing in a room together. We’ve previously worked with a lot of guest musicians adding extra instrumentation, but for this album we wanted it to be just the four of us. It was like a challenge to have everything played by us without help.
What’s your favourite song from the album?
I don’t know. I don’t have a favourite. I’m really happy with them all in different ways, and if I wasn’t happy with a song then it wouldn‘t have made it onto the album. The overall sound is quite uncompromising and intense, but we have a lot of love for all of the songs on Walk The River.
I saw the film clip for “Walk The River”. What was the making process like with Sophia Di Martino?
It was done very quickly. I was determined to do something and to have something to show when the single was released. So we hopped in a car and drove to the country and filmed the whole thing in one afternoon. It was just me and a few others. The video is very simple, it’s really just me walking around lots, but to me it suits the mood of the song – an endless lost journey. Sophia did a great job.
Walk The River is due to be released in Australia this week, do you have any plans to tour down here in the near future?
I really hope so. At the moment we’re looking into the festivals, and seeing if we can make it over for your Summer. We’ve not been yet as a band, and I‘ve never been to Australia at all, so it would be nice to come and visit.
What do you enjoy most about the live performances?
I love the live shows, they’re an invigorating experience. It’s kind of like an interchange between you and the audience, and the atmosphere can be intense, and so much fun. I don’t even see it as a performance, as such. It’s more like a dance between us and the crowd, we keep dancing back and forth, playing off each other.
What do the next 12 months hold for the Guillemots?
A lot of touring and more writing. We’re going to be keeping busy, and touring as much as we can to get our new material out there.
What’s the best live act you’ve seen lately?
I haven’t been to a gig in awhile. It’s been a few weeks since I went out and saw a live band, but I did go to a classical concert a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it.
What was the last record you purchased?
The new Wild Beasts record. I absolutely love them.
Thanks for chatting with us today Fyfe. Hope to see you playing shows in Australia soon.
Cheers Kat. We hope to make it down there as soon as we can.