domingo, 24 de febrero de 2013
Post War Years - The Bell
Post War Years are a glorious mess of contradictions. The group’s new tracks are simultaneously complex and epic, fuzzy and clear, and all underpinned by polyrhythmic beats that could start a party pretty much anywhere. It is ecstatic indie soaked in a deep love of forward-thinking electronic music. Their new song “The Bell” begins with militant beats straight out of Portishead’s Third and evolves into a synth-laden life-affirming slice of dancefloor-friendly magic.
“We have a penchant for great pop music and we’re partial to experimentalism, so we sit somewhere in the middle,” says Henry Riggs (vocals and guitar). Take last December’s knockout single, “All Eyes” (released on new independent label Labour of Love), which featured big bad drums and a memorable synth line, offset by Tobias Stretch’s otherworldly video that starred a fearful alien called Gorky.
It’s a long way from the days of playing “standard garage rock” in Royal Leamington Spa, where they started. The four-piece have all known each other since they were kids. They did the obliging unsigned band thing, sending demos off in vain, playing circuit venues, before relocating to London, all moving into the same East-London warehouse. “It was the dream really,” says Henry. “We learned how to produce and record our own music there, just bought some equipment and ploughed ahead. You’d have Tom knocking on all of our doors in the morning telling us to get out of bed and get to work. It was a really cheap way of doing it but it did get a bit claustrophobic. We had all of our girlfriends living there as well.”
“It was quite an amazing period of time,” says Simon. “We’d often stay up until four in the morning recording, or we’d just wander around getting to know London. I’m not sure that many people in Leamington completely understood what we were trying to do, so it felt like starting again.”
Chess Club Records pulled them out of obscurity after checking them out at the End of the Road Festival. When the DIY label released the house-inspired track “Black Morning”, the press started to stir and the band soon self-released their first album The Greats and the Happenings.
Listening back to their debut now stirs up mixed emotions for the band. “It sounds like what it is – a lo-fi album that we recorded and produced ourselves,” says Simon. “We were only just beginning to learn how to use our instruments at that time and were recording in a small box room in the warehouse. It was an interesting period of time. We weren’t earning any money and we all started to fall out. Relationships started to fracture.”
Did the band think about splitting up? “There were a few depressing moments. I’d never physically hit anyone in my entire life, but I hit Fred around that time. When things like that happen you suddenly realise the desperate nature of the situation, it was quite horrible actually. But you fall out with the people who are closest to you, don’t you?”
Out of the blue during the summer of 2009, European promoters started getting in touch after the band had – unbeknownst to them – been getting a lot of radio play across the continent. Playing the resulting shows in Europe was the game-changer for the band’s future. “Suddenly we were playing in bigger venues, and festivals with really good audiences,” says Simon. “We were used to basement venues and small clubs at that time, so it just flipped everything around, and it felt like a worth-while project again.”
The most influential stop-off in terms of the band’s new direction was Germany. “We started getting into German electronic music like Modeselektor and Pantha Du Prince,” says Henry. “Doing things like Sonar in Barcelona opened our eyes to the fact that there was all this incredible electronic music around that was distinctly European sounding,” Simon adds. “We came back and started the new record. It was like a new beginning.”
To bolster the confident new direction, the band enlisted the talents of Philadelphia’s far out animator and filmmaker, Tobias Stretch. “We’ve been big fans of his work since we saw an Efterklang video that he created a few years ago – he’s a really talented artist” says Simon. “At first, I sent him a really self-deprecating email about our first album, he didn’t get back in touch. A few months later we sent him our new songs, and he did.”
Tobias has duly bestowed his brand of dream-logic surreality upon the band. On top of making the video for “All Eyes”, he has designed striking cover art for the “Glass House” EP and the forthcoming “The Bell” EP and will be involved with the band’s videos and artwork for the foreseeable future.
Over the last year and a half the band have been working with producer James Rutledge on the material for the second album, creating songs bursting with an explosive sense of sonic freedom, yet tied together by a strong pop sensibility. “With this record we wanted our songs to sound more immediate and urgent, so James was perfect,” says bassist Tom. “He’s interested in soundscapes, synthesized textures, and sampling, but he is also quite pop-minded. The four of us created lots of ideas and noises that maybe didn’t sit together at first, but he instinctively knew which ideas to run with. He’s really good at knowing when to keep certain things really simple.”
For these four old friends, the next 12 months look set to be as mind-bendingly bright as the colourful music they make. So just how far can take their free-flowing electronic prog-dance party? “To be able to do it for as long as possible without ever repeating ourselves is the ideal,” says Henry. “We’re older now, and perhaps we lost that romantic idea of what being in a band is about. Now we’re closer to understanding the reality of it, it feels more real…” says Simon. “...we started making this record because we felt we had to create something, not because we want people to be screaming our names.” That might be the case, but armed with tunes like these, it’s an outcome that feels inevitable.