Debut album - Tracks of Wire
Why did you call the album Tracks Of Wire?
ROS: It actually came to me as a poem one sleepless night after months of changing the title and driving everyone crazy. I was thinking of the strings on my guitar that used to cut my skin when I first learned how to play and tried to write songs, the razor wire fences that were going up across Europe, railway tracks, the tracks on the album.
What are the themes you explore in the album?
21st Century hypocrisy, the responsibility to think and act as conscious human beings, freedom of expression, feminism, journeys, barriers in our way stopping us from reaching our destination, from reaching our potential.
It’s like a party, a call to action and a truth bomb rolled in to one. Combined with passion, honesty, and amazing tunes, it’s a really powerful and inspiring mix.
Thank you we love that!
deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan
The tracks show us a new side of your music from filmic through to anthems, to a dance groove. Was that a conscious decision?
The album was our chance to develop the music the way we hear it. All the songs can be played live as a duo and that is important to us but we were interested to paint a picture on record that could be listened to again and again. We have always wanted to really explore what we can do together without restriction and often feel restricted by bottom rung London venues. We have songs with dynamics and textures that we imagine will sound great through bigger and better PA systems but we rarely have the opportunity to really put this range across.
Ros: At the heart of it all are killer riffs upon killer riffs. How do you write so many great ones?
Thanks! I love to randomly pick up the guitar, often on my way out the door, place my hands anywhere on the fretboard and get a rhythm going. I often play on one string like a bass and repeat. If I get something that works for me I know it will lock in with Vas’s drums and get people moving. Vas will of course not play what I have in mind but as long as I have it in mind then that’s good. Riffs are usually the starting point of the music side of the song for me but this needs to develop so there is a strong direction musically, and first words often appear at the same time as I’m humming along. It is initially quite a subconscious process. The key is knowing what to dismiss.
Ros, deux furieuses - pic Terry Tyldesley
Vas: Your drumming is powerful, surprising and unique. How have you developed your signature style?
Thank you! I’m always surprised when people say this to me as I always feel that what I play is actually quite basic, anyone could play it!
I’ve always loved interesting, unusual beats, rhythms, drums that make you dance or jump out of your seat, tribal rhythms.. being brought up on Greek music also played a huge part, I love the different time signatures and the percussive layers.. and I think what I was trying to do in my playing when I first started out was to have all those layers which is impossible but didn’t stop me trying! That percussive instinct has stuck and I still like to use lots of toms and experiment with rhythms and sounds which being in a two piece allows me to do. It also helps that Ros comes up with these amazing riffs as it’s always a challenge to find rhythms that complement and add something to the mix.
Vas, deux furieuses - pic Terry Tyldesley
You were working with Rob Ellis from PJ Harvey on the album, what was that like, and what did it bring to the recordings?
He was such an inspiration to us from his days drumming on PJ’s Dry and Rid of Me. He was also the man that screamed “Lick my legs I’m on fire!” And did string arrangements for her. He has a real knowledge and understanding of music and we were really pleased he liked our song structures and arrangements suggesting only one small arrangement change to a song which in the end we didn’t use.
He brought his experience and judgement to bear in pushing our performances. We had never been through this process before. He listened very carefully and required consistent intensity and spot on timing. He didn’t mind if you went out of tune but he minded if you went out of time. Everything was discussed in minute detail with Dave Pye the engineer, but Rob had the final say. We said what we thought too. He knew where our music was coming from. He could hear our influences. He said this was where music needed to go.
Bands used to get the benefit of this kind of experience in the past but with the advent of home recording there is no one really helping you or passing on this kind of experience. We learned a lot. One day after things had got a bit intense Rob drove us out to the countryside for a walk and another time for a ride in a miniature railway, during which Vas fell out and derailed the carriage we were sitting in to much hilarity.
At end of the day’s session as we would leave the studio we could hear Rob on the piano playing these lovely notes and we were intrigued.. on the last day we realised he had been working on the beautiful piano lines you hear on Time to Mourn and Dream for Change. We had told him we loved the piano he played for Marianne Faithfull on “No Child of Mine” (written by PJ Harvey) for her Before The Poison album so he echoed this part on Dream for Change. It was an honour to have him play on these songs. The three of us singing backing vocals together on Dream for Change and Philistines was quite special to us.
What new ways of working did you explore?
That chance to spend ten intensive days concentrating solely on making music was quite fantastic. We had saved up and borrowed money for the chance to do this. We hope we will have the opportunity again one day. We didn’t even need to commute. We recorded for twelve hours a day for most of the ten days apart from the two aforementioned sanity breaks. It was difficult to keep going at times, as voices got tired and hands ached. It is relentless because, as a two piece, you don’t get any breaks while the bassist or singer or keyboard player does their bit. The minute Ros has finished the guitars she is doing vocals. There were times we knew we could play something better normally which is frustrating but it has to be what you can do at the time to meet the deadline.
Although we took a long time, due to a lack of money, to finish the mixes with Mark Freegard, artwork with Dan Donovan and release singles and videos, we never went back to change anything we did at that session. The performances Rob Ellis captured during the session are what is on the album and still sound fresh.
Did you use different or unusual sounds, tell us about the hub caps!
Rob brought various ‘instruments’ with him in his car like the hub caps. He lined them all up in a row in front of him and hit them with drum sticks in a very fast precise rhythm to Vas’s drums on From Fear to Fury. They moved away from him as he hit them and he didn’t miss a beat! He also played fast rhythmic notes on his violin at the end of Get Nowhere. There was an old foot pump organ in the studio and he used that on the start of Philistines. This draws out the start of the song more which works well on the album, as does drawing out the end of Dream for Change with high organ. He also added the hypnotic xylophone on Dream for Change.
In the album credits we saw Rob played a theremin. How did that come about and was it controversial?
He used the theremin app on his phone, just took it out his pocket and pointed it at the speakers and played the part on the chorus of Kill Us in one take. We all loved it. He had been dying to try it out and wanted a theremin credit!
As well as plenty of raw power there is also a great use of space and silence on the album for the music and thoughts to breathe. Is that part of your writing or did that come about more through the production and recording.
We consciously made space in the song arrangements. Right from the beginning of deux furieuses we talked about creating space for the words and vocals to come through. We wanted contrast between sections of mayhem and sparse, more reflective moods. This was enhanced with great sensitivity by Mark Freegard’s mixes.
Your live sound is explosive, how easy was it to capture that energy on the album?
That is not as easy in the studio as it is live on stage in front of people. The isolation of sounds needed to have the control later does impede the joy of playing somewhat. You have to work hard and think of the bigger picture, like making a film rather than a theatre performance. We do enjoy both though. We have home demoed loads and no matter how passionate you feel that is not enough. You need an engineer with good techniques and recording equipment to get that passion across with our kind of music. No-one was offering us this kind of opportunity so we made it happen ourselves. Rob Ellis and Dave Pye were a crack team getting us through our album recording.
It was produced at Bryn Derwen, Wales, what did that contribute to the process?
Total intensity of focus. Stunning countryside in Snowdonia National Park on tap. A cottage right beside the studio which was done up like a church. We recorded drums onto tape using a big analogue desk, then used Pro Tools for everything else, a big live room with lots of instruments hung up on the walls.
deux furieuses - pic Terry Tyldesley
You are a totally DIY band, what are the benefits, and also the challenges of that?
No one tells us what to do. No one is there to help us. We drove ourselves there and made all the meals during our album session. Full on commitment from us on no budget. Not enough forward planning from us.
How does it feel to be punching through and have magazines like Q, and Music Week writing about you?
It’s brilliant, and helps with profile and album sales we hope. Then we are frustrated that we can’t get the kind of gigs and tour we should have to promote the album. And we worry because how will we find the money for the next one?
What do you think needs to change about the music business?
People need to stop forming snap, lazy opinions about bands based on outdated preconceptions. We were just told last week that we could not expect anyone from the world of music tv or film to come out to an album launch gig on a Sunday evening. We replied that this is a compromise we had to make to play a decent venue for once. Is rock ‘n’ roll not 24/7? Obviously they don’t go out after their Sunday lunch. We find the music business complacent, unadventurous, ageist and sexist. It may get on better if it actually started supporting great music.
What are your plans and aims for this year?
It would be great if we could get Tracks of Wire licensed by a proper label for release in different territories this year. It would be really cool to tour the album. And we are both dying to concentrate on our new songs!
• ‘Tracks of Wire’ is available on Bandcamp and other DL stores