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LISTEN: A Sunny Day In Glasgow's New LP
Laurie Tuffrey , July 28th, 2014 14:09

Full play of Sea When Absent, out in the UK next week; plus we talk to the band's Ben Daniels and Jen Goma

Next Monday, August 4, Lefse Records release A Sunny Day In Glasgow's fourth album, Sea When Absent, in the UK, and have given us a first play-through of the record in full. With the band's six members based variously in the U.S. and Australia, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Sydney to be specific, the album was constructed from individual parts sent via e-mail. The end-result is an album of burnished layers, built around the intertwined vocals of Annie Fredrickson and Jen Goma, which pivot and vault over the band's dream-pop. Clashes of gently abrasive noise work against each other on opener 'Bye Bye, Big Ocean (The End)', with the vocals, unheard recitations in the verse, rising up and breaking through for the chorus hook, shifting through ambient, cello-lined washes in 'The Things They Do To Me' and the octave-leaping, acoustic cycles of 'Never Nothing (It's Alright [It's Ok])'. For an album put together over two continents, it taps a brilliant consistency, with the songs caught by an undertow of strobing electronic matter or buried orchestral arrangements, making for a kind of exultant sonic heat haze whole.

We talked to Goma and the band's founder and Australia-dwelling contingent Ben Daniels over e-mail to get an update, so listen to the album above and read their answers below. Also, if you're quick off the mark, you'll be able to pick up a copy of the record packaged with a limited edition, hand-stamped EP, NO DEATH, featuring two new tracks, 'Almost Like Emotion (The Drop)' and 'I'll Be Signal (Sad Songs)', and remixes from The Buddy System, Fang Island and Ice Choir (listen to the latter's below). The EP will only come with the first few copies of the album stocked in independent record shops, though you can also order the LP on its own from Lefse's website.

You're just coming to the end of a US tour - how was that? Give us your high- and lowlights.

Ben Daniels: This is tough. Lowlight was probably the drive from Arizona to Kansas (too long, though it was pretty). Highlight for me was passing Peter Buck on the street in Seattle.

Jen Goma: Yeah, 12-14 hours in a van without air conditioning is definitely the lowlight. But, the highlights for me were definitely the laughs. We have a lot of jokes, you gotta have a good sense of humour if you're surviving on Combos® in oven-like heat.

Were there any particular influences, musical or non-musical, that had a steer on Sea When Absent?

BD: Sure, there were loads of influences. Musically, the big things for me were Janet Jackson circa 'Rhythm Nation', The-Dream, Enya, Smokey Robinson and loads of things I can't remember right now. Non-musically the photos of Daidō Moriyama and Masahisa Fukase were very big for me. Also just living by the ocean and going there regularly.

JG: I do remember Ben writing a guitar part that he wanted to sound like palm trees waving. And there were visual/non-musical references for the melodic content for me as well. It's hard to remember what they all were specifically. But I remember there was a vocal line that I really wanted to sound like a guitar solo and just the idea of rhythm in general was big. I really wanted the melodies to communicate rhythm.

The record has an almost relentlessly upbeat feel - what's making you feel most happy at the moment?

BD: The thought that I can sleep in a bed in a quiet room in a few days.

JG: At the moment playing shows is really fun. We had a great show in NY and our last show was in Philly last night. Right now the shows are making us happy but the thought of home, creature comforts and not having to load and unload the van three times a day is a pretty joyous one!

A frequent response to the album is that it's an all-out summer record - is that how you view it? What images does it conjure up when you listen yourself?

BD: It's funny because that is not at all how I hear it, but I am also way too close to it to really know. I feel like people have really heard a joy in this record. I think there is joy in there, but I also feel a darkness more than maybe most people have? It makes me think of noir films shot in southern California or maybe Blue Velvet?

JG: Haha, I don't think it has quite the darkness of Blue Velvet as a whole, but I see some of the scenes being good examples, like in the beginning when they're walking in the suburbs. It's half funny, half weird, half ominous. Or when she's singing 'Blue Velvet' in the nightclub. Those suspended moments of togetherness between moments of real darkness. Blue Velvet shows the darkness, I don't think you ever actually meet a Frank Booth on the album, but maybe you find an ear.

The fact that you're based all over the world initially seems like it would throw up all manner of problems, but did it have any unexpected benefits?

BD: It's not an ideal situation but it does maybe force a patience on you and the process. When sending ideas back and forth, you had to be clear about what you thought and you had to make sure you recorded your idea how you wanted it to sound. There was a discipline in that that is usually lacking when it's just people in a room together.

JG: It is hard to say how the distance made it better but, I think it's certain that had we made it any other way it would have been a very different album.

Given that recording over e-mail has yielded such good results, do you think you'll keep up the process for future albums?

BD: Well, I'll be in Australia for at least the next three to four years. Necessity will probably keep some version of this going. But I don't think anyone wants to do another album in exactly the same way we made this one. Definitely not recommended.

JG: Yes, we won't do it in exactly this way again. And I think a lot of ideas will go into writing new songs, but also into figuring out how to make those songs.

Finally, are you watching the Commonwealth Games, currently taking place on some very sunny days in Glasgow?

BD: Haha, of course not! No one outside of the Commonwealth nations has any idea what the Commonwealth Games are. I only know because of time spent in the UK and now Australia. But I think this is how the rest of the world views American baseball. You only really care if you are an American.

JG: This is funny because in the van just a moment ago we were trying to figure out if baseball was even happening right now. I don't think we're a very sporty band.

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