Alistair from Leeds seven-piece, Tomorrow We Sail, chatted with us about StrangeForms and their debut LP.
*StrangeForms Festival takes place over the Easter Bank Holiday (19th & 20th April) at Wharf Chambers and features sixteen post-rock, post-metal and math rock acts.*
BAD OWL PRESENTS: You recently released your debut album 'For Those Who Caught The Sun In Flight' which is a thing of real beauty and has met with some fantastic reviews. Whilst many of the lyrics are sad and melancholy the songs have an uplifting and rebellious quality to them - was it your intention to marry these dichotomies together or did that just come out naturally in the song writing process?
ALISTAIR: Firstly, thank you very much for the kind words! And it's really interesting that you picked up on that fact; I think that's very much how we would see the dichotomy within the songs. The majority of our songs are inspired by real-life events, often historical, though by no means always. And whilst there's undoubtedly a melancholic quality in many of these stories the thing that really inspires us is the strength of character so many people show in these extraordinary situations - such as die Weiße Rose, who were the inspiration for The White Rose. And that's very much what we wanted the title of the album to encapsulate - it's about ordinary people responding to extraordinary circumstances and the courage and strength of character that they show. Hopefully this defiance and refusal to go gently is also reflected in some of the songs!
BOP: One of the things we love about the whole post-rock (etc!) scene is just how diverse it can be - last year you found yourselves sharing a stage in Leeds with Humanfly and Caspian, all of you plying very different variations of that style of music yet not at all seeming out of place playing together - do you find yourselves drawing any particular influences from your peers or, indeed, any artists we might be more surprised by?
A: That's a really interesting question. Although we're often seen as a post-rock band (probably something to do with having 13 minute long songs!) and whilst we're undoubtedly influenced by a lot of post-rock music, particularly in terms of the atmosphere of our songs and the soundscapes we look to create, we're probably more overtly influenced by other types of music - classical, folk and many more. I think the folk influence is a particularly strong one as at heart we're much more focused on writing what we hope are great songs, that can be stripped down to an acoustic guitar or piano and still performed with the same sort of impact, than we are on writing complex instrumental sections or ambient passages. We often perform much barer, more stripped-down sets - sometimes with all of us and sometimes with only a few, and we really enjoy the atmosphere at these sorts of shows as hopefully it gives the songs a chance to breathe, without all of the instrumental layers that they usually have.
Also, in terms of our songwriting we're probably as heavily influenced by non-musical creative forms - poetry, literature, artwork - as we are by other bands. For example, the central trilogy of songs on the album - 'Never Goodbye', 'December' and 'Testament' - is based loosely on Vera Brittain's writing about the lost generation after World War One, and especially her autobiography 'Testament Of Youth'. We often find that we'll start with a loose idea for a song, perhaps a guitar riff or a piano line, and then find a theme for the song - from there the two develop hand in hand, with each hopefully complementing the other as they progress.
BOP: There are seven of you in the band (one of our current worries is how we're going to fit you all on the stage!), in what way, if any, do you find that this hinders/helps the song-writing process?
A: It certainly creates a very different dynamic from a more traditional three or four-piece band. The fact that there are seven of us, along with the fact that we often move between instruments, means that the inspiration from a song can come from almost anywhere, which personally I feel is a real strength. And because we've been playing together for so long now we tend to intuitively know what everyone else is going to do, which is a fantastic place to be in as a band. And more important than anything else, the fact there are seven of us who are all such good friends means that band practices frequently turn into extended social events - our Sailor Breakfasts have been become a thing of legend........
BOP: Tomorrow We Sail will be playing on the Sunday at StrangeForms - are you planning on sticking around for the day or weekend and, if so, who are you looking forward to seeing?
A: We're really looking forward to seeing as many of the other bands as we can at StrangeForms - it's not often you have the opportunity to see such a great line-up of bands in the same place! Unfortunately, we're on tour either side of the festival, so it's going to be a challenge to make it along for as long as we'd of liked sadly. We're actually playing a show in Belgium on Monday night so that's going to be quite a drive after we've played........
BOP: Tomorrow We Sail are asked to curate their own gig - what four bands, past or present, would you have on the bill?
A: Well, I'm afraid we had to cheat slightly in the interests of democracy and so chose seven artists for our gig.........
Ella - The Antlers
Angela - Arcade Fire
Matt - Pink Floyd
Alistair - Jeff Buckley
Tim - Leonard Cohen
Tom - Thee Silver Mount Zion
Ramsay - Rage Against The Machine
BOP: And finally, other than StrangeForms, what are Tomorrow We Sail's plans for the rest of 2014?
A: At the moment we're still concentrating on promoting our debut album 'For Those Who Caught The Sun In Flight', which is available on Gizeh Records, and we're touring the UK and EU in April; you can find a full list of the dates we're playing on the Gizeh website. But we've been busy working on some new material too, some of which should hopefully see the light of day on tour, so it'll be great to have chance to concentrate on finishing more of these songs once the tour's finished. We've a couple of collaborations we've been working on on-and-off for a while now too, so we're hoping to find time to finish those off as well once the tour's finished! And we'll hopefully be touring the UK in autumn again, so keep an eye on our website, Facebook and Twitter for details!
Tomorrow We Sail are due to play StrangeForms on Sunday 20th April at 5pm.
Weekend tickets cost £15 from Jumbo, Crash & Wharf Chambers.
Day tickets cost £9 from WeGotTickets.com/f/7245