Released last month, ‘Impressions’ is the follow-up to Tall Ships’ acclaimed debut album, 2012’s ‘Everything Touching’, which saw the band championed by the BBC and NME, selling out shows across the UK including London’s Scala, and headlining the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds Festival.
The record is also the result of a tumultuous journey that’s brought them back after a few years in the (metaphorical) wilderness. Since ‘Everything Touching’ the band have found themselves with no management and no label, forced to confront the fact it all could’ve been a false start. A lesser band would have packed it in and moved on; that band would not be Tall Ships and ‘Impressions’ is a triumphant return.
Ahead of their Portland Arms show (May 3rd, tickets) we caught up with frontman Ric Phethean to discuss the record and the last few years…
‘Impressions’ is now out in the world, how have you found its reception?
Pretty overwhelming! We were nervous about putting the album out as it’s pretty intense but peoples responses to the songs and the themes have been really positive which was a relief
The reviews have been very positive, is this something as a band you may much attention to?
We try not to pay too much attention to them but we definitely do read them. It’s always a hard to read reviews that are negative but it’s always fascinating to see people react and write about the songs in depth whether praise or criticism.
What was the hardest track on the album to finish and why?
‘Home’. It took so long to get the right structure and flow to the song. There are so many different sections and parts to it that we really struggled to knit together in a way that made sense. We recorded about 5 different versions which all felt completely different before arriving at the arrangement we have now. When we did finally get it right though it felt so so so good!
Which new tracks do you most enjoy playing live?
It’s got to be Home. It’s got a chugging build up in the middle and an OTT guitar solo at the end too. It’s our most self-indulgent ‘rock’ song and we all love a good rock out.
The new record saw you take on a more DIY aesthetic, was this by choice and would you do so again?
It was necessity. We’d have loved to make the record in a big studio with loads of amazing gear but we didn’t have any money to record with! In the end the album was definitely better for the fact that we self produced and just recorded it in our own time. I think if we were under pressure to finish it quickly it definitely wouldn’t have been as good. We’d definitely do it again but next time we’d like to work with someone else as working on it ourselves was pretty intense.
Is the second record harder to make?
It definitely was for us! With the first album we were recording all the songs we had kicking around for years, but with the second we were starting from scratch and with that comes the opportunity to over think and analyse everything too much. We spent a very long time talking and thinking about what sort of music we wanted to make which got in the way of actually making it!
The last few years haven’t been easy for you as a band, did you ever question continuing with the band and what did you learn from this period?
Definitely. There were some real lows during the period between the two albums where we really found ourselves questioning why we were doing it. There was a whole host of pressures, disappointments and tensions that made the band be an unhealthy thing mentally for us. After a particularly difficult period though we came out the other side with a much healthier and positive mind set. We boiled it down to why we make music in the first place which is because we enjoy it, and as obvious as that may sound, we shifted our focus on to simply doing that and then the album quickly took shape after that.
How has the past five years and what the band has gone through affected the music you write?
It really has. Lyrically I write from experience (whether it be my own or friends and family) and lots of difficult and positive things happened during that period which informed the themes and lyrics of the album. Thematically the album is quite heavy and sombre but I like to think there is some hope and light in there also.
Will we have to wait five years for the next album?
Haha! Hopefully not, but don’t quote me on that…
Tall Ships play The Portland Arms on May 3rd
‘Impressions’ is out now
Tall Ships live dates
May 2nd Hare and Hounds, Birmingham
May 3rd Portland Arms, Cambridge
May 4th Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
May 5th Bush Hall, London
May 6th The Haunt, Brighton