Never has SUPERSWEET’s Band Notes feature been this lengthy! But what else do you expect from Youthmovies, the band that’s done a 12 minute video back in the day when they were still called Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies? Sometimes things that aren’t concise don’t mean they’re not important. Here singer/guitarist Andrew Mears talks about the soon-to-be-released album Good Nature song by song. Is more is more? You decide!
1) MAGDALEN BRIDGE
There’s a day, every year in our town, where dilettantes and literati chuck themselves from this bridge. In the best case they’re impaled on submerged shopping carts or find the river bed more sudden than expected. It’s a full-on pudding club type of a deal, sort of a right of passage for tuxedo dripped Oxford types jumped up on bucks fizz and whatever else they’ve seen drank by inner circle quaffers. This song’s about that more or less, vaguely, or about the kind of friendships you don’t have to bear out with ranking and gestures; both.
Being vexed most of the time we’re kind of drone junkies; so the intro to the song, the record, is thick with the bowed guitars, spaced-out synth, tape loops and thirty strong choir… it’s satisfying for us! We got the choir together over the internet, made up of kids that follow our band and wanted to be a part of the record in some way. Mostly strangers, some familiar faces… We had fears - What if they’re tone deaf? What if they’re total tweakers? What if they pilfer the studio? We tend to figure things will work out and this time they did. They were diamonds, doing three part harmonies and shit, it was wild. Solid gold. Humbling too, a lot of these guys had been travelling from 5 A.M to get there for recording, we didn’t even reimburse their travel. It's astonishing that there are people willing to support us in that way.
Out of the murmurs come what’s probably our poppiest song to date, it’s a way of introducing a lot of things about the record - a new attention to melody, the trumpet (a single take of improvisation), and those things sitting in with the irregular timings (rather than being at odds with, as was the case in our earlier stuff) and unorthodox choices that have always been characteristic in what we do.
There's also a version of Magdalen Bridge on our friends' Jonquil's album. We have a lot of ties with this band (sharing a member, releasing their records on our guitarist’s Try Harder label, them releasing my solo stuff on their Crossword label and having an eleven piece band together 'vertical montanas'). Though they're very different versions it's still a strange to thing to do I guess. It just seemed right to mark our ties, and the importance that collaboration holds for us; it has been, and always will be, a big part of what we're about.
2) THE NAUGHTIEST GIRL IS A MONITOR
This was the first song we wrote for the record, and has since become the single. It was something that I’d been playing on acoustic guitar for ages and perhaps didn’t really consider bringing it to the band. It’s maybe not immediately ‘that Youthmovies’ if your going to be glib about it, but what’s always been most important to us is doing what comes naturally, and this is the song that came out.
I suppose the emphasis in this one’s on the words, they’ve become much more important part of the music - we’ve made room for them. When we were making our earlier records, we were kind of hoodlums and vandals. We we’re enjoying being punk (by which I mean fighting fights we can’t win), smashing and politicking what we could, spray painting our name around, getting constant fines for fly posting; we were self satisfied about being ‘DIY’. Naturally this came through musically and lyrically, the words were more direct and sloganeering; they’re more narrative these days. Now, we’re comfortable with being the things that we think of as punk and consider it to be more of the way that we work, rather than a badge of honour; we feel as though we don’t need to force it on people anymore. For me, I’ve got the love that I’m in and I‘m optimistic about the future because of it, and that’s what’s come through in the new material - it’s a record on love, but not in a Luther Vandross - bump bump - sweat and chocolates kind of way. I guess this one’s about how puberty makes you full to brim of it.
3) SOANDSO AND SOANDSO
Really the only prerequisite for the album was to write songs that were more intricate and more technically demanding, but for it to not immediately feel that way on listening. The time has passed, for us, where we get off on crassly crowbarred together ‘mathy’ sections, we still want the challenge but wanted make something finer.
I'm going to try and avoid laying out the lyrics about on the whole, hopefully part of listening to our band is putting it all together yourself in whatever way suits. That said, I'm going to skim a couple...this song is about writing music and the ball game around it, in a way, and feeling lucky to be in the company of the bands we’ve been fortunate enough to be associated with through our ‘career’. 65daysofstatic, Foals, Jonquil, Adam Gnade, Tired Irie, Redjetson, it’s long list so I won’t go on, needless to say a large part of what‘s formative for a band is who their peers are. Point is it’s sort of a thank you to those guys for giving us things that’ll last, that are precious. Because it’s more or less for those people, there’s a bunch of stuff in the track that we thought might make them laugh, not least the math disco and the back to back soloing at the end. That kind of shit’s funny to us anyway; when we’re writing we have a pretty essential “why not?” policy.
4) THE LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS
The only song on the record with a bit of a political flavour, the caveat though is that there’s no need to furrow your brow just because it’s about some ‘heavy shit’. There's mischief here. It’s easily the one that makes us laugh the hardest, it’s definitely not earnest at any rate. See, it begins with pretty schlocking hair metal, then goes sort of jazz, then pop, then dance (with arpeggiated guitar and fat synth), ending with a distorted climax accompanied by the melody of ‘Jerusalem’ (the song that closes the actual last night of the proms) played on brass, it’s goofy, but kind of convincing hopefully.
We went into the studio not really knowing what we were going to do with ‘Cannula’, it was just a simple dit on acoustic. All we knew was we we’re going to fuck with it and try some ideas that studio time’s not allowed us to in the past. We mic’d up boxes, full ashtrays, our drummers body, Chinese ornaments (note: we recorded in the beautiful Seamus Wong studios, which is like a Bohemian penthouse, if there’s such a thing, so ethnic paraphernalia were in abundance), orchestral tuners, instrument cases, a magnetic fishing game, a pouch, gravel etc, and waved a magic wand over it. This is what the beats are made up of. We added violin and cello courtesy of our friends Tim Barrow and Mike Siddell (formerly of Hope Of The States). It was only really worked on when we hit a wall with whatever else we were doing at the time, it was pretty much always tinkered with at dawn.
6) IF YOU'D SEEN A BATTLEFIELD
Really pleased with the drum sound here.
An astute friend of ours once said that, “Some dreams are deathly”, this is about the limbo just before you realise that the sickness of the dream is progressive. The words come from a much longer piece called ‘Ghosts of Cowley’ which is going to be on my Plosives record (Andrew’s other project) Pump the Midscene. It was written at a time when I was living in a bed-sit with the lover. It was basically a converted garage, and everything - her paintings, our records, my guitar, photographs, books, even our bed became rife with this pervasive mould and damp - we could have afforded better if it wasn’t for us being dreamers, but that’s what dreams do, it’s a choice, it’s most likely a bad choice - but we’re asleep!
7) SHH! YOU'LL WAKE IT
In an earlier incarnation this was going to be on our Hurrah!… mini-album, but with only four days to finish the whole record we just didn’t have the time. It’s probably just as well that it didn’t get done, it’s developed a lot since then, and it definitely benefits from the addition of brass, Sam wasn’t with us in those days. Plus the ‘Broken throats’ choir make another appearance which makes the end for me. Look out for references to all the lyrics in the artwork for the record, yes.
8) SOMETHING FOR THE GHOSTS
We wanted to bring some of what we do at our improvised shows and film sound tracking to the record. So, we wrote the beginning and the end of '...Ghosts' and deliberately left the middle unfinished. We got on the ether and pushed it out in one take, when we finished we didn’t know whether we’d been playing for four minutes or thirty, that’s generally how the improvised shows go too, you only know it’s time to stop when you glance over at the stage manager and they look they’re going to bust a gland. That’s what happens when you have your sea legs on.
9) ARCHIVE IT EVERYWHERE
Is about my girlfriend, she has asthma.
The first few days of recording were heartbreak and seething at circuits and switches. We’d come directly from tour to recording so a lot of our gear was addled and bust up, we still hadn’t recorded a note on day four (a testament to our producer Ant Theaker’s patience and skill. Whilst we were all going out of our minds, he remained completely on task and got us through it). This was the first song we approached. First, I think, because we thought it would take the most time, or that we had ideas about it that we were likely to forget if we didn’t get straight on it.
Surtsey is a new island, it broke the surface in the seventies I think, off Iceland. The whole thing’s a conceit, a pretty verbose metaphor; I’ll leave it at that.
Photography: Eleanor Harvey