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A Quietus Interview

Sound In Space: Paul Smith & Peter Brewis Interviewed
Nick Hutchings , December 17th, 2014 12:24

An arts festival commission has become a new album with a bit of Maxïmo Park, a bit of Field Music and a lot of string quartet. Before they play three dates this week, Nick Hutchings investigates

Photograph courtesy of Andy Martin

Newcastle's Paul Smith, frontman of Maxïmo Park, is well-known for his impassioned soliloquies to various people he has loved and lost, over relentless guitar hooks. Until now he has never recorded a love letter to a landscape or a personal postcard to a place.

Sunderland's Peter Brewis, of Field Music, is renowned for his unusual lopsided take on quintessentially English melodious pop, often featuring unusual arrangements but until now almost always in the realms of the three-to-four-minute song.

If there were a Mount Rushmore-style monument to northeastern music (maybe on the coast at Saltburn), both their mugs would be sandblasted into it, and yet this is the first time they have worked together formally. And rather than just have their heads in the hills, or even in the clouds, Smith & Brewis have taken a little piece of local charm and lyrical whimsy on a trip around the world.

The words for their unusual collaboration have been taken from prose written by Smith in a travel journal mostly jotted in during his day job, touring and recording around the world with Maxïmo Park. Brewis has often displayed a yen for chamber music, but now he has a full string quartet with which to score Smith's internationally flavoured snapshots and make art-pop Polaroids. In summary: two guys from indie bands make a string-quartet concept record. If that sounds unedifying or indulgent, pack up your misconceptions in an old kit bag and try, try, try because this is a record that's beguiling, benevolent and often beautiful.

The album title Frozen By Sight describes perfectly these part-composed, part-improvised pieces about cities from Budapest and Bunbury to Santa Monica and Sunderland. They aren't really travelogues, more frozen moments in time, everyday details in sometimes exotic places (and Sunderland) captured by Smith's sight, committed to paper and now to record, all thanks to a commission by the inaugural Festival Of The North East last year. Scenarios include an ageing couple swirling circles in the sand ('Santa Monica'), a street cleaner on the sidewalk where the paving slabs reach up to his shins ('LA Street Cleaner'), a man perched on a pedestal nervously flipping a phone ('Hyde Park Towers'), and a blowhole through which you can see the sea ('Trevone'). The music that propels these personal studies ranges from bossa novas to waltzes, but the direction is never obvious, always arresting.

Smith is clearly enamoured of the writings of Frank O'Hara, and Brewis has avowedly been listening to Bartók and Profokiev, but the coming together of Peter and Paul is not pretentious. It is far more avant garde than their usual work, but there is more than a touch of charm about the compositions and their camaraderie. It's an album that mirrors the world around us, where the devil is in the detail, and it's best listened to in a moment of quiet reflection.

I had the chance to record Paul Smith and Peter Brewis in conversation, reflecting on Frozen By Sight. So was this the music they've always wanted to make, was it the start of a beautiful friendship, or would my eavesdropping and pertinent prompting see me become their relationship counsellor?

When did the sun start smiling on this melodious union?

Paul Smith: I was in Los Angeles recording the third Maxïmo Park record and I spent a month in LA, basically in the suburbs not doing much. I can't drive so I had to rely on other people in the band to get anywhere, in one of these rented cars that we'd got. So I wandered around the suburbs, and obviously I went to the cinemas and bookshops and Amoeba Records and to Santa Monica, which you can hear on the record. I actually got lost in Santa Monica, on the beach. You wouldn't think you could get lost on a beach. I could see the pier, I could see the ferris wheel in the background, it was dusk and the rest of the lads walked on and I was taking Polaroid photos of little things on the beach, little objects or shapes or whatever, and the sun was setting and before I knew it, the beach was so big that they were just dots in the distance. And when I caught up with them, it was the wrong dots. And again I had time on my own, slightly concerned about getting back to our studio in the suburbs somewhere, and I was a bit stuck. So I went back to the car and put a note on the windshield and just said, "Help! Don't leave and I'll meet you back here at 10 o'clock." Then I went and got some food. I found them eventually in this seafood restaurant. Yeah, this is the genesis of a lot of the songs on the record, me just wandering around by myself when I should be probably doing something less dangerous.

'LA Street Cleaner' is just based on being in a cafe watching the world go by. The funny thing is a lot of these songs aren't really much to do with the place in particular – they're more to do with scenarios that occurred or little things that caught my eye. It's not like you can get a sense of what Santa Monica is like from this song, it's more about a beach and symbols and metaphors that pop out of the waves and the people walking past. The same with 'LA Street Cleaner' really. It's just about unusual small details. I didn't know that palm trees had hairs on them until I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles. You go past palm trees on a regular basis rather than just seeing them from a car window on your way to a festival site in Spain or something. It was a little bit of extra time which allows a little bit of extra reflection. Being in the studio of [Toto's] Jeff Porcaro, who is obviously now deceased, recording an album – it allowed me a little extra time to take note of my surroundings – so thanks to Jeff's studio, which is called Seedy Underbelly. I don't know if he gave it that name or it's got that name since then. It's basically his garage. You stay in the house and you all bunk together and go in the garage and record, and there's a swimming pool outside. It's quite a pleasant way to make a record, I have to say.

Peter, how does that compare with your experience of making records?

Peter Brewis: We don't have a swimming pool at our studio. We have a sink!

How do you capture the exoticism of some of Paul's writing in the Field Music studio?

PB: Er, that's a good question. I don't really. I have been to some of these places but very briefly. Although they're all set in particular places and all the titles are places, we didn't want it to be about the place – which, now I think of it, seems odd. The titles are of a place but they're kind of not about the place.

PS: The titles are more of a clue.

PB: They are really, and the music was hopefully more influenced by the words and the scenarios rather than the places, otherwise I could have stuck a didgeridoo on 'Perth to Bunbury' or something like that. Probably wouldn't have worked. I wanted to avoid that kind of thing.

PS: I suppose subconsciously there are always links between what you've done with the arrangements and what the words are about. You sent me the music for 'LA Street Cleaner' and I thought it seemed to fit with that particular set of words. I have no idea why I thought that but if I reflect on it now the record's finished, I do think it's a very light, plucked waltzy thing.

PB: Can you imagine him waltzing with his brush?

PS: Hopefully not. It's getting a bit Jack Vettriano now – we could make a fortune with that scenario. It's just the bleached-out light of Los Angeles… We were there in October and it rained one day and the rest were all sunny, and it's this idea that the light of your music influenced me with what I chose from my notebooks to fit with that particular tune.

How did it work, did you look in Paul's notebook and choose what got used?

PB: No, not really. There wasn't really a formula to it other than Paul had the words and I wanted to make sure that the words were the prime focus. That was what led the whole thing. Having said that I threw musical ideas over to Paul, but this was once we'd done the first three or four things really. Once I had an idea of what the music could sound like and how it was working, I would throw bits of music Paul's way, rather than me just arranging stuff around Paul's words. Sometimes Paul would bring almost finished songs. There was no real formula other than just making the words dictate the form of everything, which is why there aren't many choruses in the album, because unless we thought something necessitated a repeat we just didn't do it.

PS: I would just sit at my guitar and think, What do these words mean musically? So in 'Santa Monica' where it goes "softly softly", I thought that was the tune of the words. I'd send sketchy guitar things to Peter and he would arrange those for the strings and for the band we had. So we were just sending ourselves musical postcards via email and coming up with the record like that. It was quite nice in that respect, going back and forth so that it wasn't musically driven by just one of us.

PB: No, no.

PS: It's a very collaborative thing so if you'd have had 12 of my guitar-led things it might get a bit samey or boring. I'm sure that vice versa it wouldn't get boring because I have a lot of respect for Peter as a musician.

PB: And I have complete respect for your guitar-playing, of course! The other thing I was thinking was that we didn't intend to make a record of this. I don't know about you, Paul, but because it was initially out of a commission I felt we didn't have to do all the things we'd usually do with a record and worry about whether people liked it. Basically we got paid a little bit of money to do it, so if nobody likes it who cares? We could do something kind of silly. We had a lot of fun with it. I hope a little bit of that comes across with the record. For me, it meant we could be self-consciously arty but silly as well, because we never thought we'd make a record of it and then have to go through the whole thing of hoping that somebody likes it and wants to review it and gives it a decent review, and seeing if a label wants to release it. Obviously there's a cost associated with making a record as well. It was only after we'd made it all and done the show that we thought this could make us a record. I think if we'd set out to make it as a record it might not have been like this.

PS: I dunno. I always think of everything in terms of records, so I'm kind of the opposite. As soon as I start writing I think, Could this be extended into a suite of songs? Obviously once we'd got five or six then we could do the performance, it was sounding good. The more we wrote the more I was thinking it could be a record. The performance was the record in the end. We recorded the performance and thought, Let's see what happens with this. The only thing on the record that survives from that live recording is 'Budapest' which is a more freeform, abstract song compared to the others. But I think when we set out, yeah, we didn't want to be too serious about it – I was thinking, Two guys from bands get together and make a record with a string quartet…

PB: Sounds terrible.

What's the artiest and silliest?

PB: 'Budapest' is probably both the artiest and the silliest.

PS: We played that song live and people started laughing and I was thinking, This is the weird one, how is this getting this sort of reaction? Obviously the opening line is "T-Mobile Tower" and, in the hushed environs of Hall 2 at Sage Gateshead with a string quartet backing us, people weren't necessarily going to expect that sort of thing. We hadn't played anyone any of the music, we hadn't streamed it in advance of the concert. When we came to mixing the record we had to get rid of some of the laughter off the microphones.

PB: There was a lot of laughter actually. There was around about 200 people there and if I'd been in the audience and I'd heard Paul say "T-Mobile Tower" so tenderly I wouldn't have been able to contain my laughter either. You know, it had never even occurred to me that that was funny.

PS: I knew it was unusual because it was a brand name in a song. Anytime you mention anything like that… I'd lost sight of that and I just thought of the words, the alliteration, the idea of this tower in the middle of a city, standing out silvery, reflective. After I'd sang that and people were laughing I started having a smirk to myself that I couldn't help either so the rest of the song eased back more into a light character sketch rather than something heavy and portentous. It had a lightness that helped it be more digestible I think

You mentioned something on Twitter, Paul, about how funny it would be if 'Budapest' was Match Of The Day's 'Goal Of The Month' music. What was the context of that?

PS: Maxïmo Park's new song had been played at the Emirates before the start of Arsenal's Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund and Jack Howson, who is Mary Anne Hobbs' producer, tweeted me saying, "Great to hear your new single at the Emirates before the start of the game." Matt Maxey, who does press for us, tweeted back saying, "Which one are they playing – 'Santa Monica' or 'Trevone'?"

PB: None of that rubbish!

PS: Obviously having a bit of a laugh. So I was like, Let's get 'Budapest' on 'Goals Of The Month'. Get it on Match Of The Day.

Stranger things have happened. I remember they used to have The Charlatans' 'Then' as the music…

PB: Yeah, and was it not 'Life of Riley' by The Lightning Seeds for ages?

PS: They did have a Maxïmo Park song 'Questing Not Coasting' on Match Of The Day 2 for a whole month in the montage bit. I was quite proud of that.

PB: That's what we need. You know they've got Match Of The Day 3 now – we need it to get to about Match Of The Day 6 and then we can get some of our stuff on.

PS: We've found our niche.

You hadn't recorded together properly before had you - what have you found out about each other?

PB: We haven't done anything major like this, but we've known each other for ten or 12 years and we've recorded bits of Maxïmo Park stuff in the very early days.

PS: You recorded MeandthetwinS, my instrumental band, which I haven't put out yet. We've never mixed it.

PB: We've always done things together, it's just that we've never actually finished any of them.

PS: It's probably just reiterated what we know about each other.

PB: Paul underrates himself as a guitar player and it's quite boring actually, him being so down on his guitar playing.

PS: Now I won't be able to mention it but I'll still feel bad about it.

PB: There's more guitar solos on this record than there are on a Field Music record, of which there are quite a lot. And we kept them all. Did a bit of judicious editing.

PS: This is it, the bits where it goes quite weird in the middle I couldn't hear those on the record. Have you mixed them down?

PB: I don't know what happened to them.

PS: I always knew Peter was a great string arranger, from what I've heard on Field Music.

PB: I'm not, and I know I'm not but I'm getting better and that's the main thing. As long as I'm getting better that's fine. But this is the most arranging I've done for strings ever. For the last ten years I've dabbled in it, but this is as good as I've got thus far.

PS: This is good, this is good. You know you're a self-deprecating man.

PB: No I'm not.

PS: Yes you are. And this is the thing, I feel like we've achieved something together and I didn't know we'd be able to work together. There might have been some point where it just broke down or our ideas were different to each other but I'm very glad to say it's probably the easiest record that I've made. Everything else has its own little challenges. I suppose you've done the lion's share of the work.

PB: Hasn't been easy for me. Hasn't been easy.

PS: This is it. Once I'd written my bits and my bits of the music, you've done a lot of the work.

PB: Well, not really. From a technical point of view it's been quite difficult, because I never really know what I'm doing, but in terms of working with somebody… We have to remember that it wasn't just me and you. It mainly was just me and you writing the things but we also had – and this is unlike anything I've ever done with Field Music – we actually had a proper band. It's the first time in a long time that I've been in a proper band, since I was playing blues covers when I was 17. The string quartet has been great and they've been very enthusiastic and supportive of us as well, getting the best out of us. And of course my brother David [Brewis, also in Field Music], not only did he engineer the record but when we were rehearsing for the show he came up with a lot of ideas of how we could play it. Like 'Philly' for instance, Dave's drumbeat turned it into a bit of a groovy soul ballad. And obviously John Pope's bass playing was important because we gave him pretty much free rein to do whatever he wanted to do. That's one of the things that's been really good about this, we haven't said no to very much.

Photograph courtesy of Andy Martin

How do you know when you've finished on a song?

PS: All the stuff I sent to Peter, I didn't know if it was finished or not. The words are finished so that's it. 'Budapest' was the first thing that I sent through and I thought it was going to change radically and it didn't, the structure is the same. The same with stuff like 'Santa Monica' or 'Barcelona (At Eye Level)'. I sent those over thinking, What will you make of these? But the song's there. Even on 'Barcelona', which is bookended by musical ideas that you've had and it's totally enhanced what was there. I assumed we would have more chopping and changing of the arrangements, probably because that's what I'm used to with my other band. I'm used to lots of refining until you've got the structure spot-on and it feels watertight.

PB: If with Maxïmo Park you do a lot of editing in terms of the form and composition of the song, in Field Music we just start adding and adding loads and loads of instruments until you can't hear what was going on in the first place. With this album, we didn't add that much because once the instrumentalist had done their part that was it really. We couldn't say, "You know what else we should put on? A few synths."

PS: It was good because we had the blueprint. This is our ensemble, nine max – me playing the guitar and singing, you doing the piano and vocals, and everybody had their own role. It's a pretty big band even though we've worked with it in a minimal way on certain points of the record. There's only a few grander moments, like the end of 'Trevone', there aren't loads of swelling string moments that people might expect from two guys in a band make a string quartet record. We've defied that because we've had a template saying the words are gonna drive it, that's them sorted. No need to refine them further than they've already been refined and the same with the music. These are our players, each song is going to have it's own flavour – so the drums might lead 'Perth to Bunbury', the guitar might lead 'Barcelona (At Eye Level)' and again the bass comes in takes over from that towards the end and it becomes almost a jazz thing.

PB: We set our own brief, but having that framework and those tight self-imposed limitations actually made it really easy. Obviously writing out string parts is difficult for someone like me – I read music as well as I read French, which is terribly. I just have to try and translate, but the actual decision-making processes were all very easy. Really there just wasn't a lot riding on it. Making the record doesn't even cost that much because Field Music have our own studio. I think if you take all of that out of the equation it probably cost £700 to make the record. Then again, should probably add…

PS: Without adding the engineer.

PB: Well we don't pay any of those guys…

PS: You spend a lot of time on something and you know it's not going to make loads of money. In that scenario you have to keep the costs as low as possible because you know you're not going to reap any commercial dividends. Which is fine, and I think all records should be made like that. Whether they are or not is a different issue and there are loads of pressures.

PB: Well I want to go to Jeff Porcaro's garage for the next one.

PS: The only reason we went there was because the dollar was so weak against the pound. It was actually cheaper to record in Los Angeles than it was here. And again we all lived in the same house, which came with the studio, and we cooked every night for each other. I say that, I'm not sure how many I cooked…

PB: Pot Noodles!

PS: I wasn't at the helm. I was loafing, dangling my toes in the pool. I wrote a short story then as well. I was busy! But not necessarily communally busy. We don't need to mention that. This is the funny thing, you're always looking at ways of keeping those costs down and not thinking about overheads, just trying to create. Obviously with Maxïmo Park I'm trying to create pop songs that move as many people as possible and there's always going to be a limit on that, that you don't realise and you can't gauge, whereas with this one the limits are probably a lot bigger. There are more constraints on who would be open to listening to this record. Even just from a description of it, whether they've heard it or not and found that it was quite a pleasant and melodic record, people would just be like, "Nah, not interested in this." Some people have even thought that the concept was too unwieldy, but it's just 12 songs about different places and that's it really. And even the exoticism of somewhere like Los Angeles is counterbalanced by Sunderland.

PB: Eh? What you saying!?

PS: I wrote the last song on the way to the studio while we were writing the record, which we didn't know was going to be a record. It was still evolving at that point, and there were a couple of songs that we could still add, and Peter had a little piano piece that we were wondering what to do with. The final words on the record are, "I come here to work with you, when does a view become a view." I was wondering, When does anything I write about a place become a song? When does it become worthy of inclusion in this particular album or set of songs we're writing? And because it was quite a fluid process, we could just slot that line in. It worked as quickly as the others and therefore you could include it on the record. There's a moment of self-reflection about the record on the record, about the walk to Peter's studio. Which is less than glamorous, although once you get in there it's a very pleasant working environment.

PB: Dip your toes in the swimming pool!

PS: Two little heaters, once they get going it's just like Los Angeles.

Peter did you ever catch Paul sloping off writing?

PB: There was a couple of little 'sandwich trips' I think. But not really because we recorded it and wrote it pretty quick. Although it took eight months to record, in those eight months we probably only had ten or 12 days where we actually recorded. So there wasn't a lot of time, there never is. Because all the decisions were made by me and Paul, with David as well, there were never any times where we didn't both need to be there. Yeah, there were some bits where Dave might have done a little bit of mixing. In fact, for the record, Dave probably put in more work than we did.

His name's not on it. Is that a bone of contention?

PB: He was only pressing buttons and stuff, y'know. Can't give him too much credit.

PS: He's like Steve Albini – he doesn't want to be called a producer.

PB: Actually I can't remember how we credited him now?

PS: "A Field Music Production".

PB: Which basically means Dave did all the work.

PS: These guys know what the buttons do, and I stand there and say, "It sounds good!" In many ways the record sounds as I assumed it would. Dave's got a very nice natural sound from the rooms and one of my concerns was that it might sound like a Field Music record.

PB: Which it doesn't actually.

PS: No, it doesn't. I wanted it to sound like a Peter Brewis & Paul Smith record. I wanted it to have its own distinct flavour, it's own distinct sonic identity. Although it has elements of Field Music, as that's the nature of us working together, it has elements of things I've written in the past in terms of descriptive everyday things that are hopefully elevated into something different through the act of creation. However you want to turn it. I'm getting a bit fancy now. To me it sounds like its own thing. You can tell a Field Music song from the drum sound, or the way they doubletrack the vocals or the guitars, and it doesn't sound like that.

Field Music have done more experimental arrangements before, but for you Paul, from your work with Maxïmo Park, this seems like you've stepped into the world of the avant garde a bit more…

PB: You wanna hear the other bands that he's been in! This is a step back.

PS: I'm getting back to my roots!

PB: One of the first things I heard Paul do was a cover version of the entire album of Hounds Of Love on a Dictaphone, just him and a guitar.

That's the kind of thing The Flaming Lips would do…

PS: They're not using Dictaphones, mate. I wish I was a penny behind them lot. This is the funny thing: this record represents my interests a lot more than Maxïmo Park's music does. But Maxïmo Park, the music that we make as a band, is probably some of the only rock from Britain that I would listen to if I wasn't in Maxïmo Park. I'd be like, "This is right up my street." The stuff I feel affinity to is, I dunno, more American bands. I love pop music, I love simple songs, and I love emotional lyrics. Stuff like Mark Kozelek or Red House Painters is where I'm coming from as a lyricist in Maxïmo Park, but we're making more straightforward pop music. And I'm influenced by early REM or The Smiths, things like that – it's a thin strand that I pick from and that I associate with our band. And obviously when your records get out there, especially when our first record got into the charts, it takes you away from where you might be. Let's imagine a place where Maxïmo Park didn't sell any records…

PB: Where's that?

PS: Finland. Let's imagine we're in Finland. We'd still be playing in 100-200 capacity venues and I'd still be doing the same thing, I'd like to think, and that would be one strand of my musical interest and maybe people would go, "They're an underground pop band," and we probably wouldn't have got into a studio with more expensive gear and all that sort of stuff. Once you've had a certain amount of mainstream success it's quite difficult to do something outside of it without it being seen as a bit weird. I'm sure a lot of people who like our music probably don't like Frozen By Sight. Which is fine. I like pop music but I also like listening to Scott Walker or Mark Hollis or David Sylvian and I'd probably be more likely to put on one of their records than something by somebody you might consider to be one of our peers. It's very natural to make this kind of music and I don't see it as too different, because for me Maxïmo Park is built around melody, about how many hooks we can fit into this song without it bursting and this is a very melodic record too. The subject matter is different and the structures are different, it goes across different genres throughout the record, and yet for me it has this link to what I'm always interested in as a writer.

PB: Yeah I would say so.

Have you been privy to Paul's diaries beyond the travel writing?

PB: Oh god no.

PS: Nobody wants to see that.

PB: I'm far too nervous a guy to want to see in anyone's diary. I dunno what Paul's been saying about me.

PS: Everything I sent Peter he put on the record and everything he sent me I put words to and he was happy with them, so there is no bonus material. They all had their own personality in terms of being a song. I'd like to continue to write about places or describing things in the same way I do on this record because it doesn't feel as limiting as what you might term travel writing or songs about places. They are songs about place in a very loose sense. I'd like to see where else it could go and focus on particular places.

I want to make stupid pop records, which I don't think Maxïmo Park's record are. I want to find a way of doing that and I want to make instrumental records, without me singing. And I want to play the guitar more.

PB: We all wanna do it all, really. Sometimes we want to be inside a Stock, Aitken & Waterman record.

PS: That's the next one.

PB: Sometimes we wanna be Jimi Hendrix. Miles Davis. In a way that was kind of the idea with Field Music when we first started but it's not been like that because we've slipped into ways of doing things and realised that none of us plays the trumpet. I do have a trumpet, but I'm not very good at blowing it. I did play 'Little Donkey' on it one Christmas but I upset a lot of people. It wasn't some radical reworking, I just played it completely wrong. I'm fortunate and unfortunate that Field Music aren't very successful, commercially speaking, so when I do get round to being an amazing trumpeter I'll stick that on the next Field Music record because we don't have as many expectations. Although there are people out there who really want it to sound like "XTC, like all your other records", or Gentle Giant, or something strange like that. People have their expectations and I even try to confound those people's expectations.

PS: Then you become known as the person that confounds people's expectations.

PB: I've confounded my own by making it sound the same as it was before.

PS: This is it. You end up thinking to yourself, This is me, or, if you're in a band, That's our sound. You can spend a lot of time running away from who you are because you think other people sound like you or something. And you still can't. Especially in a group, it's kind of the sum of all of those people and you have to respect that. There are only so many elements where the interests overlap and so the end product is always a compromise. In a very nice way. You're always trying to find some way of subverting that without losing your identity. After making music with Maxïmo Park for ten years, there are certain ways that we work and we try and shift that around a bit but ultimately it's still got to please the people in the band. We have our influences, and if I suddenly wanted to make this kind of record I would be basically annoying four other people.

PB: Instead of just one.

PS: Exactly! There's much less anger at my idiosyncrasies in this band.

PB: So you'd think.

PS: This is it, it's over. This is a live break-up.

PB: We'll do the gigs first.

How are the gigs going to go?

PS: We've had a little dry run. We've played a couple of sessions for Marc Riley and Lauren Laverne, and that gets you used to the idea of listening closely, especially on the radio where every single mistake will be picked up. With a larger number of people in a room, maybe some of my guitar flubs will go under the radar. Which doesn't make you any less nervous about them. But I feel we're fairly well prepped in terms of nerves and things. I'm looking forward to just playing, trying to get into the mindset of the record. After a couple of songs you're in a different zone to the one you were in before you stepped on stage, and this is a different kind of music to what I'm used to playing which is good. We'll get a lot out of it because of the challenge we've set ourselves by making something quite different. It's just interesting to hear sound in space – I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but it's just hearing the record breathe in a different way to the recording which is now set forever. We'll try and do a few things slightly differently…

You'll get to do your guitar solos without the judicious editing…

PB: That's gonna be better I think – there'll be a lot more performance in there.

PS: This is the biggest incentive for people to come to the concerts – to see if I nail the solos or not. Come and watch a man fail! If it's avant garde then it's going to get really avant garde.

Paul, you talked about living in LA with Maxïmo Park during recording. If you'd been living with Peter during this recording, how do you think it would be different?

PB: Well, I've got a family, I've got a wife and child. Paul would have to get in there and start changing nappies and being around the general smell of nappies really and baby smells, which are progressing onto toddler smells.

PS: When Maxïmo Park are away, anyone in the band who has kids is away from their families, so we might see a wilder side of Peter Brewis if he were trapped in a house away from his family for a month. I'm not sure what might happen…

Frozen By Sight is out now via Memphis Industries. Brewis and Smith play the following dates this week:

Thu 18 - Band On The Wall, Manchester
Fri 19 - St Giles-in-the-Fields, London
Sat 20 - Sage, Gateshead