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Nottingham Castle

Interview: The Soundcarriers

20 December 10 interview: Wayne Burrows
photos: Adam Woodfield

"We get bigger audiences outside of Nottingham, in places like Manchester, Sheffield and London, but it's starting to change"

The Soundcarriers - Adam, Pish, Dorian and Leonore - caused a splash with their psyched-out debut LP Harmonium. Now, their latest LP Celeste is being properly bigged up by the heavyweight music press. So isn’t it time Nottingham took them to its heart?

We heard that the band first came together over a shared love of John Barry’s Midnight Cowboy soundtrack. Is that true?
Pish: We were all listening to similar things and that was one of them when we started. But that LP does sum up the mood - or moods - we often go for. It’s got a beautiful cinematic feel, that’s also mixed with psychedelic experimentation, harmonies, grooves and other sounds. It’s a real journey from start to finish and that’s what we’d like to achieve on our own records.

Bands usually have an image that unites the members, but when you’re on stage it can look like you’ve all wandered in from different bands and genres.
Pish: Yeah, I suppose we do all look pretty different, but it’s not contrived. I don’t think we’ve ever thought much about our image, to be honest - maybe we should start.
Adam: We all listen to different things, and we all listen to so much different music on a day to day basis I suppose it’s inevitable. I think we looked a bit less different when we started, but we’ve always been four individuals rather than the kind of gang who all do the same things, and all like the same bands.

Your first album Harmonium is a very catchy, poppy kind of record, while Celeste seems to have much more improvisation, riffing and jamming going on within the songs...was that a deliberate decision?
Pish: I think it’s fair to say we really wanted the first album to sound much more like this second one than it eventually did. Harmonium was like a prototype for Celeste.

In the sleeve-notes to Celeste, it says it’s impossible to tell if your sound comes from Nottingham, the West Coast or Saturn...
Pish: Well, it’s what a lot of people have said, which is probably why we get a lot of Stereolab and Broadcast comparisons. I suppose they’re other bands who are hard to place, so in that way I don’t mind at all - but it gets a bit ridiculous when every review has the same comparisons.

You’re in the unusual position of being better known nationally than in your home town at this point, in that you’ve had a lot of press in the London-based music magazines and newspapers like The Guardian and The Independent, but don’t seem to have been quite as well covered
Pish: It is strange that not that many people know us in Nottingham, and we don’t get to play that much here. I’m not sure why that is - maybe it’s that thing of not quite fitting into any particular scene. We seem to get bigger audiences in other places, like Manchester, Sheffield and London, but maybe that’s starting to change. We’ll have to play more gigs here and find out!

Do you all still live here?
Adam: Yes, me Pish and Dorian all still live in Nottingham and Leonore’s in Manchester, which is also where our label Melodic is based.

How did you get involved with Melodic?
Pish: Initially we were on a smaller label called Heron, who put out the first 45, and we were going to do an album with them, but that didn’t quite work out. When Melodic heard the rough mixes and demos we’d done towards it, they offered us a deal. It was quite easy in a way... and it was very important to us that they could do vinyl as well as the usual CD and download releases. I think we’re the only band Melodic do vinyl issues for, but we wanted that in our agreement with them from the start.
Adam: I think more bands are going for vinyl now. It feels like a more permanent document of what you’ve done - like having a book in your hands or something.

So you’ve got two albums done now, do you have any ideas about where you’ll be going next?
Pish: I think we’ll just put out a double album with nothing but white noise on it, like our own
Metal Machine Music, you know? Actually, I’ve no idea.
Adam: So far our approach has been very simple, with space to play and a tape recorder, basically, and we’re thinking about doing the next record in a different studio. We did some mixing for Celeste at Chickenshack Studios, which has lots more space than our usual place, so we might try to do some recording there. You notice that where you record makes a difference to the sound and because we’re interested in going for a bigger sound it makes sense to record in a place where we’ve all got more elbow room and can bring in additional musicians if we need them.

I’m guessing The Soundcarriers isn’t yet making enough for you to give up your other jobs...
Pish: Not yet, though we do make some income off the band, so I suppose you’d say we’re semiprofessional musicians at this point. My day job is working with Jim Cooke, formerly of Selectadisc, selling records online. It’s a great job and nice to have that feeling that my work with the band and with Jim are at least kind of related.
Adam: I’m more an odd-job man myself - though I just got sacked, but I won’t go into that. However, it’s been the usual stuff you’d expect a musician to be doing to make a living. Some work at bookshops, others do retail jobs or sell records online.

Do any of you play in other bands?
Adam: Not any more, but we’d all been in loads of bands before forming this one. I did a degree in jazz in London, and so I’ve played drums in lots of different line-ups over the years. But we didn’t meet in other bands - me and Pish were at school together in Beeston, and we met Dorian at college, so we’ve known each other for years now.
Pish: We’d had about five different female keyboard players in the band before Leonore. You could say female keyboard players were to The Soundcarriers what drummers were to Spinal Tap for a while, except ours just left rather than suffered all sorts of bizarre accidents. But with Leonore it just really clicked.

Any reason why you’ve always gone for female keyboard players?
Adam: We’ve always wanted that blend of male and female voices in the sound, as we all love the kinds of records that people like Nico and Francoise Hardy used to make and you can’t get that sound without a female voice in the mix.

It’s notable that when you play, it’s very much as an ensemble, rather than singers plus band...
Pish: Yes, that is deliberate and we rarely have anyone at the front on stage. The way you arrange yourselves on stage does have an effect on the sound, and we like to play in a way where we can all see each other and interact. I suppose because our songs are built around harmonies, the way we are when we perform reflects that.

So what’s next?
We’re just itching to get back into a studio at this point and we’re playing some gigs around the country with the new album at the moment. Beyond that, it’s just a case of keeping going, keeping writing, and seeing where we end up.

Celeste is out now on Melodic records and can be bought from record shops on CD, double gatefold vinyl and digital download.

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