Something old, something new, something borrowed, something Blue (Nile)…but no $1,000 wedding
While making up your own interpretations of songs and feeling as though they mean something in your life is brilliant, I’ve always liked hearing artists give their own thoughts about songs and the artists they like and admire. It’s probably easier to talk about acts that you like than the things that you create yourself, for many reasons, but as part of our State Broadcasters weekend, Pete MacDonald has provided us with a run-through of some of the new songs, some of the band’s older favourites and he also talked about the acts that have inspired him and the band over the years.
Braced Against The Cold
This is the easiest one for me to talk about, as I wrote it. It was written a good few years ago and it seemed to fit on this album. It’s taken from the perspective of my parents, arriving at my Grandma’s house on Skye just after she died. It’s about how we try to steel ourselves for heartbreak, be it due to bereavement or love or anything really, but ultimately there’s very little we can do to prepare for pain.
This is my favourite of the poppy songs on the album. I love the chorus, and the lyrics have a nice combination of resigned world-weariness, doomed romance and optimism. The music is about as exuberant as we’ve ever been, and I find the way that sits with the more downbeat lyrics very satisfying. A lot of the music I really love does this. The production is a bit different from what we’ve done in the past, and I was really pleased with the result.
Let The Wolves Roam
I think the production and arrangement on this track is what I’m most proud of, in terms of my own involvement. The choir-like humming, and the saw and guitar (by Kieran Heather from Washington Irving) in the instrumental section creates exactly the atmosphere I’d been aiming for. There’s also an old interview recording of my Grandpa, speaking about crofting on Skye, in there too. That has a real personal resonance for me, as you’d expect.
The Only Way Home
Again, I’m very proud of the production on The Only Way Home. I think it’s a lovely tribute to Mark Linkous (who is such a big influence on our music) and Vic Chesnutt. Andy Bush’s noisy electric guitar in the instrumental is a major highlight for me. It’s a good one to play live, especially when Suz is with us.
I think this is one Graeme’s best songs. It’s desperately sad, but very enjoyable to play live. We recently played a ‘Hazy Recollections’ gig at Celtic Connections where there was an audible ‘awww’ from the audience at the end of the song. Probably my favourite crowd reaction ever.
Graeme and I played Takeshi in our first ever rehearsal, in his kitchen in early 2004. Despite being such an early Broadcasters song, I think it stands up really well.
The Tenderness of Wolves
I think this is probably the best song on the first album. We still play it live quite a lot. It’s nice playing with the 2 trombones and cello all at once. We don’t have that many songs that feature that, so it’s always good for adding something different to the mix instrumentally during a gig.
There are some bands that have been huge influences the entire time we’ve been making music. The ones that spring to mind are Lambchop, Sparklehorse, Billy Bragg, Clem Snide, Eels, Wilco. When Gill joined the band we said that we were aiming for something of the way Gram and Emmylou sang together, though that influence may not be immediately obvious.
More recently, we’ve tried to emulate (rip off?) certain aspects in production or style from the likes of Laura Veirs, The Blue Nile and Bjork. There’s even a sneaky wee Bruce Springsteen reference in one of the new songs.
Songs that have been pretty inspirational reference points in at least a couple of our songs are ‘Family Life’ by the Blue Nile, ‘Joan Jet of Arc’ by Clem Snide, and ‘The Only One’ by Billy Bragg (which we covered in the second album)
If you would like to read the interview with Pete about the new album and the state of the world today, please click on State Broadcasters – A Different Past interview, thanks.