U.K. pop-rock band Coldharbourstores released their first album
in 2002 and many years later theyre back with a 2017 release
called Wilderness. The album is filled with dreamy,
post-rock sounds accentuated by the superb vocals of Lucy Castro,
who is backed up by her bandmatesDavid Read, Michael
McCabe and Liam Greanyall topped off by the splendid
production of Graham Sutton. Filled with surreal soundscapes
and over-the-top production, the experimental sounding rock album
is currently being heralded as one of the year's best indy rock albums.
Speaking about the chemistry of Coldharbourstores, group
guitarist Michael McCabe explains, An important aspect of
the group is that there arent particularly fixed roles on tracks;
we all play whatever we feel like, with group drummer Liam
Greany adding, The chemistry is interesting! We have always
got on well, but I was for a long while conscious that I was joining
an established band. The friendships have taken a long time to develop,
but that can be a good thing and over the years has become something
we are all proud of. With its myriad of postmodern rock
influences looming over the sonic landscape, its plain to see
that theres plenty of worthy sonic treasure here worth mining
as you play and re-play the Coldharbourstores CD. www.coldharbourstores.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Coldharbourstores started in the late 1990s. Where is the band from
originally and where are they based now? How has your sound changed
since 1999 and can you tell us some of your musical influences?
David Read: The band was pretty much formed in East London,
although no members are actually from London originally. We are currently
spread over the country from Kent to Yorkshire.
Michael McCabe: Also at various points during the making of
Wilderness we had members dispersed across the globe
France, Egypt, Argentina
so that made things interesting to say
David Read: Musically I feel like we've become better at writing
coldharbourstores songs, but I don't see any massive shift in musical
style. I've never felt talented enough to purposely take on any influences,
but there are musicians I'd love to look like or be, that's probably
the teenager in me. I'd be happy to be as talented as John McEntire,
have the song writing ability of Jeff Tweedy, and look as cool with
a guitar as Isaac Brock.
Liam Greany: I think we can all appreciate a well-constructed
pop song, but collectively we seem to dislike similar things too.
A terribly cynical approach to most things has probably shaped how
we sound more than we think.
McCabe: My influences for Wilderness were Erotica
era Madonna, Virginia Astley, Human League, Augustus Pablo, Angelo
Badalamenti and Fleetwood Macs Tango in the Night.
Lucy Castro: Pivotal influences for me have been early Madonna,
Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Throwing Muses, The Pixies, Bjork, Cocteau Twins,
Julee Cruise, R.E.M., Neil Young and The Cure.
mwe3: How did the addition of singer Lucy Castro and drummer
Liam Greany change the Coldharbourstores sound? Who is in the current
band and who plays what instruments and what is the band chemistry
David Read: This in no way takes anything away from Lucy and
Liam's contribution to the band, but I would say our sound changed
more when Sam and Dan left rather than when Lucy and Liam joined.
Michael McCabe: An important aspect of the group is that there
arent particularly fixed roles on tracks; we all play whatever
we feel like. Yes, Lucy is the lead singer and lyricist but she plays
piano and synths sometimes, Liam is the drummer but he sometimes sings
too. Myself and David used all kinds of guitars, basses, keys, melodica,
samplers, synths, drum machines and sequencers etc on this album,
but it never has been, nor will it ever be set in stone. Graham Sutton,
the producer plays whatever else is necessary sometimes
an important ethos of the group.
Greany: The chemistry is interesting! We have always got on well,
but I was for a long while conscious that I was joining an established
band. The friendships have taken a long time to develop, but that
can be a good thing and over the years has become something we are
all proud of.
Lucy Castro: Band chemistry equals understated un-entangled
mwe3: Tell us about the Wilderness CD? How long did
it take to write and record the CD and is there a single from the
album? Who wrote the music and lyrics?
Liam Greany: Years!
Michael McCabe: With the exception of the song Wilderness,
we began recording with Graham at my house in 2007. That was The
Antidote, Genie and Kissing...
although we recorded the drums at the Premises in Hackney.
David Read: The oldest song on the album is "Wilderness",
and that was recorded 11 years ago, I think that was the last thing
we did as the original line up. We liked the recording too much to
bin it after Sam and Dans departure, so we stripped the vocals
and Lucy wrote new lyrics and sang new vocals over the top. Other
than that the song hasn't changed since the recording session.
The rest of the record was recorded in Hackney in 2009 with additional
vocals recorded sporadically between then and now. The same happened
with Sightless. That started as an idea from Michael,
then I went to his house and we finished off the music. Lucy added
her vocals, and then we approached Scott Heim to do something.
Michael McCabe: Scott ended up writing and performing a prose
piece for the middle section with the12-String
guitar part, it works really well, he recorded that in Boston and
sent it over. We were aware of his work through seeing the Gregg Araki
film Mysterious Skin, which is an adaptation of his book, although
we actually met him because he asked David and I to contribute to
his book on The Cocteau Twins.
The first single was Genie. We write quite quickly, when
we have an idea we all like. The recording can take a bit more organizing,
though we move fast when we've the inspiration and opportunity. Michael
and David initiated the musical direction on this album, sending me
loads of outlines and ideas, and I see what I respond to and focus
in on it.
I can enter into the zone and bang out the lyrics if I'm really feeling
the vibe of a track. Sometimes the melody and lyrics come out in little
unexpected snippets over time, and I have to keep an ear out, waiting
for the story to unfold. The process always surprises me
of follow the thread and usually find out what the songs are about
in retrospect. I love that aspect.
mwe3: What did producer Graham Sutton bring to the sound of
the Coldharbourstores album and who else was behind getting such a
great sound on the CD? How long has Graham worked with Coldharbourstores?
David Read: Graham has been on board since our first album
More Than The Other, I think I've said this before, and perhaps
it's a labored metaphor, but he's our George Martin.
Lucy Castro: Graham brings in a divine synthesis to all the
parts. He has this amazing capacity to sit back and see the whole
picture and to weave his own magic throughout. It's quite an experience
to have his input. All the guys have got an ear for the intricacies
of sound in a way that I find fascinating
I've learnt a lot
Tell us about the track The Antidote. Who wrote the track
and is there a cool story behind it?
Lucy Castro: I do remember lying down one afternoon, looking
up from out of my window in West Hampstead
there was this majestic
old tree in the garden that I was always transfixed by. It was summer
2007 and there was a balmy feel in the air, and I was listening to
some demos David and Michael had sent me.
When the opening chords of what became The Antidote started,
I felt this rush of blissful excitement rise up and I knew something
magical was happening, so I went with it and wrote the song. It really
captured the essence of what I was feeling
a rebirth. Dave and
Michael added some crazy guitars, and then Graham got his hands on
it and it transformed again.
David Read: The Antidote is one of those songs
that sounds nothing like the original demo. I was really into the
first Ladyhawke album and I loved all those arpeggios on the Korg
Microkorg. Michael bought one and we put that on. The guitars were
all strummed pretty traditionally and then cut up in the studio, and
I think the ending was us, just letting Lucy go off on her own. Unfortunately
for Liam he came on board after most of the tracks were written so
he found himself drumming along to drum machines.
Michael McCabe: Its a great track, the only problem being
that its almost impossible to play live, and it's the same with
the song Cost You Dear.
Cost You Dear is another great song from Wilderness.
Whos playing what on that track? Where do you get your lyric
Lucy Castro: I love that track... I remember being in my living
room, on the sofa during the afternoon. It was raining outside and
I was listening to the outlines of 'Cost You Dear'. Michael had given
the demo that name, and I loved the incongruity of it - and the absurdity
of those words in this landscape of lush sound. I knew I wanted to
fit the song around that title somehow. I was experiencing heartbreak
and wanted to communicate something, but I didn't know how - or who
to tell, or what to say even really. So I put it all in the song.
It was like the whole crushingly beautiful thing in the one song,
from start to end.
Michael McCabe: At the time I was really bored of guitars,
so I wanted to write something with synthesizers and I was also really
into 1 or 2 note bass lines, inspired by Justify My Love
and Erotica by Madonna, and those songs are also quite
slow, so I had this 75 BPM drum loop and basically a mood. At the
same time, David was into this concept of slowing real drums down
and had written a really slow guitar part and these 2 things somehow
David Read: I love 'Slowcore' and I'd read that Mark Kozelek
would slow down the Red House Painters drum tracks after they were
recorded to get a really lethargic sound. I think I'd purposely made
it slow so we could do that in the studio, but I think the rest of
the band vetoed that idea?
Michael McCabe: Well in the end, we also ditched the drum loop
and Graham decided to make Liam physically play it really, really
slowly on a real kit.
Greany: I played probably the simplest drumbeat ever known to
man, and yet found it painfully difficult to actually do. It literally
sounds like a 3 year old did it, but I couldn't stop myself trying
to add in fills etc!
David Read: Lucy's brother Leo played trombone on that track,
I think Graham was pleased with not having to mix in yet another guitar
part, but I seem to recall the studio was a bit small and he had trouble
mic-ing up the room.
mwe3: What studio did you record Wilderness in and would
you consider the album to be state of the art sounding? Do you have
some special studio effects or sonic devices to help you get such
a great sound on CD? Also can you tell us about your guitars and amps?
Lucy Castro: We recorded anywhere we could depending on what
was needed, I remember laying down vocals in my living room in West
David Read: Most of the 2009 recording session for Wilderness
was recorded at The Premises, Michael, Lucy and I would listen to
Fleetwood Mac while we waited for Graham to show up.
Michael McCabe: The track Wilderness was recorded
in the middle of the night in a bomb shelter in Essex, out in the
middle of nowhere, which definitely added to the atmosphere, it was
absolutely freezing in mid winter and also helped by the odd acoustics
Read: I think Underworld were in a room next door to us. We stayed
up all night recording, with John Lee Hooker playing in the background.
Graham Sutton: Its just down to using your ears
need flashy or "special" hardware. A hammer is a hammer
its all just tools. So long as it gets the job done and doesn't break
David Read: I mainly just used clean guitars straight into
the desk with effects added later. I did use a Marshall Stack that
was left in the bomb shelter for the song Wilderness,
but it was in another room from the desk, and because there was no
talkback I'd have to run from room to room with Graham giving me 30
seconds to get ready before he hit record. We used a Korg Elektribe
ER-1 Rhythm Sequencer, which is about as technical as I can manage,
and I used a Mexican Telecaster for most of my guitar tracks.
Michael McCabe: In the studio I used Grahams Fender Jazzmaster
and Gibson ES 295. My own main guitar is a Japanese Fender Jaguar
HH Special, but I only use that live, most recently at our album launch
through a Fender 65 Twin Reverb with David using a Fender Hotrod Deluxe
3, but I also like to use Vox and Orange amps.
Pedal-wise I currently use a Boss DD3, which I consider to be a perfect
delay, a TC electronic Flashback and an XVive, which can blend a chorus
and vibrato together, but like David, in the studio I used clean guitars
straight into the desk with all the effects done later and occasionally
I used a Vox AD50 amp too.
mwe3: What plans do Coldharbourstores have for 2017 as far
as writing and recording new music and live performances?
Michael McCabe: Well, we just worked on a track for Waywords
and Meansigns Open Door Edition which is an online collaborative
thing, setting James Joyces Finnegans Wake to music,
but that was a very strange one-off.
David Read: We're about to go into the studio with Graham again
in a month or so. After the wait between recording and release of
Wilderness, I think the band is keen to capitalize on
the current momentum.
Castro: We've been writing loads in the last couple of years.
I'm really excited about the new songs and where they might lead.
Liam Greany: Some gigs, please!
Michael McCabe: I think the songs from Wilderness
sound really good live, so we want to keep performing them and also
start playing some of the new songs in the set.
Lucy Castro: I'd love to do more live performances when the
I think we all realized that after the high
of playing at the Wilderness album launch at Rough Trade East
in London. That was an unexpected bonus, as none of us normally gravitate
towards being in the spot light.