Arcane Roots drop ‘Melancholia Hymns’ this autumn – but the album feels like it’s only just begun, says vocalist Andrew Groves.
Your new album is due in September – is it all done and dusted now, and ready to go?
Haha, no. It’s been nearly two years in the making, but it’s only in the last few weeks that the songs have truly come to life, and there’s still a little way to go. For this record, we really endeavoured to abandon any conventions or approaches that we were familiar with or had ‘learnt’ over the previous records. For us, this was about removing any expectations from our music and focusing purely on whatever would produce the greatest musical outcome. Understandably, it has taken quite some time and effort to craft it into something as grand as our original intentions.
How are you finding getting it over the finishing line, is it a difficult one to draw a line under?
With each of us facing such a steep learning curve to even competently express our ideas, the record naturally arrived at a point where we had to decide on whether to stop or push on even further with the writing. Especially after the incredible reaction to ‘Curtains’, that really helped reassure us that we were doing the right thing. Suffice to say, the other songs went straight back to the chopping board after that. It’s a novel problem to have, but the album genuinely feels like it’s only just begun and that there is so much more to discover when once they come to life on stage.
You’ve said before that you’ve been listening to a varied bunch of musicians during the record’s creation – do you think new influences are apparent on the finished product?
I often find that the influences I expect to surface in reviews and social media etc., never do. So I’ll certainly be interested in the lines drawn from this record! I’d even go so far as to say that this record is half electronica and classical/jazz/score, so, if anything, I’d say it’s mainly been an exercise in not turning any influences off. In fact, here’s who you should write me up for:
James Blake, Keith Jarrett, Nola Frahm, Bill Lawrence and Bill Evans – Piano gods. I wanted to learn the piano for the record, and so I did my very best to emulate/simulate/imitate & recapitulate their chords, approaches & theory.
Venetian Snares, Aphex Twin, Datach’i, Fourtet, Thom Yorke, Takami Nakamoto, Dataline, Larnell Lewis & Robert Searight – Lords of rhythm. My main attraction to electronica was the use of unconventional rhythms and accents. I gradually amassed a few drum machines, and these were my teachers.
Matthew Robertson, Liima, Björk, S U R V I V E, Boards of Canada, BT, Tycho, Bon Iver, Zammuto, Feist, Low Roar, Sigur Ros, Warpaint, Olafur Arnalds, Johan Johansson, FKA Twigs, Banks, Efterklang & Snarky Puppy – Just beautiful and captivating. All I wanted was to take our record anywhere near their towering works.
What themes do you cover across the release?
Originally, I intended to steer our music away from the very personal lyrics of our previous records, and concentrate on writing something that encapsulated more universal values and topics. Like a snapshot of life as I see it now. It was only upon commencing the writing that my every effort seemed as if it was entirely engulfed by the weight of the world. Some days, I would only have to accidentally glance at my phone to be hit with such intense sadness and exasperation at the situation unfolding. Never have I felt such interference in my daily life from the outside world and it soon became a seemingly unavoidable obstruction to the writing process. Almost entirely against my usual sensibility, the record unwittingly became an honest commentary on the world as it stands in 2017 and it’s hymns of rejoice and melancholia.
Do you have a favourite song on it?
Hmm, I think maybe ‘Curtains’ as it was the first to feel complete after a long struggle to find a balance between all the ideas we had for the record. But, also ‘Indigo’ as it’s such a departure for us and we even decided AGAINST a riff.
Were there any lessons you learnt during the creation of your debut album that you were able to put into practice on this one?
It’s okay to reach that place where you have no idea if it’s any good, if it’s what you wanted, or if you even like it anymore. Trust yourself; you’ll come out the other side soon enough and love those decisions.
Were there any hiccups during recording?
With taking on such a huge project with so many unfamiliar processes and outcomes, there was certainly a long settling in and learning period. At the beginning, we were faced with a lot of self-doubt and discomfort, and it certainly got the better of us more than we’d care to admit. We knew everything had to be perfect if we were ever going to pull off such a record and we’d stumbled to a halt. It’s about now that I really have to give credit to our amazing team and producer Chris Coulter for believing in us and what we wanted to achieve. They truly supported us unflinchingly while we licked our wounds and gave us time to find our feet again.
Taken from the July issue of Upset – order your copy below. Arcane Roots’ album ‘Melancholia Hymns’ is out 15th September.