Cut, Paste & Jam: An Interview With Gallops
, January 22nd, 2013 06:43
John Freeman finds out how Gallops’ debut album Yours Sincerely, Dr Hardcore was inspired by both Vangelis and Sonic the Hedgehog and forged by Wrexham pride
It's a Sunday night in a cavernous but decidedly empty Wetherspoons pub in Wrexham, accompanied by three-quarters of instrumentalists Gallops: Mark Huckridge who plays guitar and keyboards, Paul Maurice who contributes sequencer and keyboards, and guitarist Brad Whyte. Their absent drummer, Dave Morait, completes the line-up.
We've gathered primarily to discuss Gallops' impressive debut album Yours Sincerely, Dr Hardcore but – huddled together in a booth - we also manage to cover the band's recent tour of China ("it was insane," admits the affable Huckridge) and the perils of inadvertently wandering into a Liverpudlian vegetarian café-cum-recording studio with a chicken sandwich. "And a battery chicken at that," admits Maurice. "I was asked to leave the premises."
Pleasantries aside, we get down to the serious business of describing the genesis of Yours Sincerely, Dr Hardcore. I'd previously interviewed Gallops in 2009 around the time of their self-titled debut EP. Back then their sound was demarcated along punchy math-rock rhythms that evoked constant comparisons to bands such as Battles and Errors. However, on an impressively sprawling album (produced by Three Trapped Tigers' Matt Calvert), Gallops have expanded their range on a set of songs informed by everything from BEAK>, Vangelis and Van Halen to the Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack.
So, over a round of refreshingly cheap drinks, Mark, Brad and Paul accept the task of explaining the motivation behind their dazzling debut and an unlikely set of inspirations.
Musically, there is a huge leap between your first EP and the album. What is your view of – excuse the crassness of the following phrase - your sonic evolution?
Brad Whyte: When we first did the EP, we were only just starting out as a band. We fell into the trap of making sure everything was perfect – we weren't trying to reproduce what we sounded like live. We tried to make all of our parts as clean as possible, whereas with the album we made the conscious decision to leave any slight mistakes in - if they sounded right and fitted well – to make things sound more organic. That differentiates the EP from the album. But, the album is a lot less in-your-face than what it would be if we played it live, as there are overtones and subtleties on the album which we wouldn't be able to convey live. Live is more of a wall-of-noise experience, whereas the album is more intricate.
So did you set out with an initial vision for how you wanted Yours Sincerely, Dr Hardcore to sound?
Mark Huckridge: No. We have just built enough songs that we like enough to put on an album. We tend to let our songs develop naturally. We don't give ourselves deadlines.
BW: By example of that, the first ever demo we did as a band was a three-minute song and it has evolved into a ten-and-a-half minute, album-ending track ['Crutches']. It was a happy accident really, where we did this kind of jam piece and everyone loved it and then we slowly integrated it into becoming part of the song. Now, it ends our sets – but it wasn't pre-meditated.
Are most of your songs created from jamming sessions?
MH: Some of our songs develop from jamming and others are done in a linear way. I think we've achieved something within our music in that the sound shift-shapes and changes often enough to keep it interesting. A big element of our sound is we will cut and paste bits of songs that we have – but aren't released – which opens up new possibilities. We are kind of sampling our own music. Take 'G Is For Jaile', the track is basically three songs in one – they work together even if they shouldn't do. I dare say that the songs on the album will have evolved further when we play them in a year's time.
With these endless possibilities, how do you know when a song is 'done'?
Paul Maurice: Being a instrumental band means it is very easy to go over the top. It can be limitless and we do need a limit to make music that people can relate to. It is harder to find that balance in instrumental music, because with traditional songs you always have the vocals as a centrepoint. If I was a solo artist, I would be buggered as I would never be able to finish a song. With Gallops, we force ourselves to say 'stop'.
The album was produced by Matt Calvert. What influence did he have?
MH: We chose Matt because he is on the same wavelength as us musically. As for his input, it was more about him telling us to take things out – almost like trimming the fat. It was great to have an outside opinion as well. That's particularly handy for knowing when a song is finished. We could just go round in circles.
By the end of Yours Sincerely, Dr Hardcore the songs sound like a war between synthesisers and guitars. Was that your intention?
MH: We often get comments that there are 'duelling guitars and synths', as if there is some kind of battle, but I think that works. The fact they are pitched against each other can make it quite intense and exciting. We haven't got lyrics so we have to convey that intensity with abstract noises.
When I spoke to you last, someone mentioned loving Michael Jackson's Bad as a child. Fast-forwarding closer to the present day, what music were you listening to while making the album?
MH: That was me. Bad was the first album I bought. Personally, I've been getting into quite minimalist music and listening to repetitions. That has come across in some of the tracks on the album, as there was a point where we were trying to be too complicated with our music.
BW: When we started out jamming 'G Is For Jaile' that was the first time I got into BEAK> and there is influence from 80s soundtracks like John Carpenter and Vangelis. Also, we all grew up on Nintendo and Sega and would listen to the music on games. When you are a kid you spend a lot of time subconciously listening to the music on computer games.
I think I might have previously described a track of your debut EP - 'Miami Spider' - as a "pissed-up Sonic the Hedgehog."
MH: [laughs] That's good – we take that as a compliment. Some soundtracks to computer games are as good as film soundtracks. Although that makes us sound like massive geeks, though.
Sections of music from certain computer games are incredibly, and immediately. recognisable.
PM: Absoloutely. I also love TV themes – I love The Crystal Maze theme and The Bill theme. They are instantly recognisable. For us, we have to make an impact quickly – as we have no vocals – otherwise people are just waiting for some singing to start. We need to get our hooks out quick. We have to have at least four hooks in our songs so people can stay interested.
Is the tension between the freedom of creating music from experimental jams and keeping things interesting for an audience a big factor for Gallops?
MH: It really is. We've been trying to hold back on the complicated time signatures as this album is based a lot more on groove. It shows, because when we play the songs live we see a lot more head-nodding nowadays as opposed to chin-stroking. It is easy to get into a role where you love the music for yourself but you have to think of your audience and their enjoyment. Now, by the end of the set, people are dancing.
How much has being from Wrexham shaped the album?
MH: Wrexham is a huge part of Gallops. It's a sort of 'nowhere' town without too much going on. There isn't much opportunity for work, so you almost have to try really hard to get your music outside of here. People seem to put more passion into music. Being here has managed to make us stay quite unique, I think. I quite like the fact we are cut off from any scene.
BW: One of the things we have taken is that there is a really strong work ethic in bands from Wrexham. It seems that before a band plays outside of Wrexham, there is a certain standard they set themselves. They will only play elsewhere when they feel they are good enough. Promoters have said to us that every band they've booked from Wrexham have been really tight and well rehearsed. It's not that everyone is Jimi Hendrix; it's the fact thay have a standard. They won't just form a band, learn to play the guitar for five minutes and then go off and play a load of awful shows.
Finally, how might the Gallops sound develop in the future?
MH: I can see us getting more and more minimal. The new songs we have jammed recently are not as heavy and there is a lot less traditional guitar.
PM: Nah - we will sound like Bon Jovi. Definitely. Even if we did have a few Van Halen bits on the album and they all mysteriously disappeared.
Yours Sincerely, Dr Hardcore is out now via Blood And Biscuits. Gallops tour the UK next month - full list of tour dates below.
8th - Chester, Telfords Warehouse
10th - Glasgow, King Tuts
11th - Edinburgh, Electric Circus
12th - York, Fibbers
13th - Leicester, Firebug
14th - Birmingham, Flapper
15th - Bristol, Start The Bus
16th - Cardiff, Buffalo Bar
20th - Liverpool, Shipping Forecast
21th - London, Lexington
27th - Leeds, Brudenell
28th - Hartlepool Studio
20th - Manchester Sound Control
21st - Colchester, Arts Centre
22nd - Worcester, Marrs Bar