Underscore Part 3 first came across We Never Learned To Live on the bill for Holy Roar Records 10th birthday bash a few years ago, an all-dayer, split across two stages in the heart of London alongside label mates Departures, Hang The Bastard and others. They were one of those great unexpected finds who we’ve followed since. So naturally when we heard they were dropping their first full length (an album we rated 7/10), we had to get in touch…
Hi, how are you? It’s been four years since your last record, Silently We Threw Them Skyward was released and it’s evident in the complexity of your sound on new single ‘Luma Non Luma‘ that the time has not been spent idle. What have you and the band spending your time doing since we last heard new music from you?
Hi, very well thanks! Excited mostly to get some new music out there finally- We’ve definitely taken our time with this one! As it was our first full length we ended up touring ‘Silently…’ for quite a long time, and as we reached the point where we probably should have releasing the follow up real life just caught up with us and the writing process just naturally slowed down to accommodate that. Myself and Seán both got married, Seán also had a daughter, Mark and Gary have written and released a bunch of music with Earth Moves, and Brett joined Employed To Serve to tour ‘Warmth’ and record bass on their new album. So we’ve all been pretty busy for sure! We didn’t ever stop writing or working on WNLTL, but we also had the freedom of not working towards a particular deadline or release date for a lot of that time, so it certainly gave us a chance to be more methodical with how we approached the record and be really critical of the material we kept and worked on.
‘Luma Non Luma‘ built our excitement for the new record, so we had to get in touch; tell us about any particular moments in this album where you felt on writing it that you’d really taken a step forward?
‘There was a stage in writing where we more or less agreed to scrap most of what we had and start again’ David on the writing process for the new album.
I think for a while, certainly when we were still touring ‘Silently‘ we had a bunch of material waiting in the wings which we started to work on, a lot of it had come from our recorded improvised jams – and while we really liked it, at the same time felt like we were heading towards just a remake of our debut, and none of us wanted that.
There was a stage in writing where we more or less agreed to scrap most of what we had and start again with a fresh focus. Brett had a load of riffs waiting and some almost complete song outlines, and he started to upload them. I remember hearing what became Human Antenna for the first time, and that was a moment for me where the ‘sound’ for the new record really clicked. That stripped back middle section even just as a demo with Brett and Gary gave the rest of us goosebumps and felt like a real step up- and that became the new benchmark for all new material, everything had to be up to that standard or it didn’t make the cut.
You chose to release ‘Luma Non Luma‘ as a single from this album which is arguably farthest removed from your previous work; how does this choice of track reflect the shape of things to come for WNLTL? Where is the sound of WNLTL heading?
‘We love bands that change things up every record and really want to be the sort of band that has a catalogue that feels like each record represents a different ‘era’ for the band and not just make the same record again and again.’
We actually initially had ‘Luma‘ and ‘Android’ swapped around on the release schedule, and it was Alex (at Holy Roar) who first suggested the swap to put Luma first, but we all instantly agreed.
With ‘Silently…’ we released ‘Shadows in Hibernation‘ first, and while its become a bit of a favourite, it was a big change in sound for those fans that followed our Self Titled EP… and I think we liked the thought of doing that again. We’d been away for so long – by today’s standards – that we wanted to make a real statement of intent with the first track, and from our perspective we felt just about any song could have become a single so we through why not lead with a bit of a surprise.
The album itself has loads of twists and turns, from long sprawling post rock epics, to short and catchy tracks like Luma, or some of the heavier darker tracks… and hopefully the variety of what we produce is part of what keeps people interested, and its certainly a true reflection of the variety of influences we have as a collective. In terms of what’s next who knows? We’ve started writing again, and already its sounding different from ‘The Sleepwalk Transmissions‘ so we’ll just keep doing our thing and see what comes out! We love bands that change things up every record and really want to be the sort of band that has a catalogue that feels like each record represents a different ‘era’ for the band and not just make the same record again and again.
Your lyrics are often quite cryptic in places, using a lot of metaphor and fragments of scenes that all contain and create a certain emotive response.What inspires you to write? What tracks on your previous work or what tracks on the new album are the most personal or emotionally difficult to write and why?
‘I think my favourite lyricists are those that write lyrics that are written from that same raw, genuine place but are written in a way that they’re open to interpretation.’ Sean
All of my previous lyrics have been very self-focused and written about specific days or feelings or memories. But I think my favourite lyricists are those that write lyrics that are written from that same raw, genuine place but are written in a way that they’re open to interpretation. I really wanted the lyrics on this album to have that kind of balance of mystery and relatable, so I used some short story ideas I had to project those same emotions and intensity but into a more fictional, metaphoric landscape. I am in a very different headspace on this record to where I’ve ever been before, so I’d say my writing has reflected that.
I think Kepler from our self-titled EP is probably the most raw thing I have ever written. I would sometimes get pretty worked up performing it to a point where I realised it really wasn’t emotionally healthy for me to be doing so on a regular basis, and I never wanted that song to become worn and me having to ‘put on’ that emotion live, so we stopped playing it live pretty quickly. But truthfully I never sit down and just write lyrics, occasionally I jot down ideas but I normally just write in the moment with the guys when we are working on new songs, that forms the basis and themes of the lyrics and then I work on it from there.
What made you choose to highlight the lyrics contained within From The Sixth Floor in the manner that you did and can you give us further understanding of what you meant by doing this?
‘I think it’s just about finding beauty in a moment of chaos.’ Seán on track The Sixth Floor.
The album has a narrative arc to it and we really wanted a song that just paused the action for one moment, like an audible representation of coming up for air. This song was a rare occasion where I did have the lyrics already written. When Dave and I sat down to write this song, that melody and words were the first thing to come out. I actually think it’s one of those lyrics that other people’s interpretations of it might be a more telling analysis of my thoughts than my own.
But I think it’s just about finding beauty in a moment of chaos. We wrote the song shortly after finding out I was becoming a dad. I was obviously both ecstatically happy and shitting myself in equal measure, it wasn’t a direct inspiration for the song but there’s probably a parallel to be drawn there.
With a new album about to drop and a smattering of tour dates so far; what’s next for WNLTL? Will we be seeing WNLTL appearing on festival bills this summer and what other touring plans do you have this year?
We’ve got some festivals coming up this summer, including a return to Arc Tan Gent which we are incredibly excited about- the line up is arguably puts it up there as of the best festivals in the world this year! Then we’ll be back out on some longer tours later in the year in to the autumn. So loads coming up including a few things that we can’t announce just yet- but watch this space!
We at Underscore Part 3 are always trying to get to the heart of what’s inspiring bands can you tell us some of the upcoming gems you’ve learned of recently?
This is a bit of a sweeping statement, but a lot of the music which is really doing something inventive and inspirational tends to come from the slightly more underground bands on independent labels. We’re lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of those bands at Holy Roar, many of which we count as good friends as well as label mates. The level of consistency from bands on the roster is incredible, and they just keep upping the game each time. We released Silently as the class of 2015 alongside debut’s from Employed To Serve & Svalbard and a return by Rolo Tomassi, so their follow ups mostly came out last year or before, then you add in some of the new signings like Conjurer and Pijn it just keeps putting up the bar for what is required for a Holy Roar release – so in that sense we all just keep pushing each other to release better and better music, even though we’re all playing very different sounds. Plus Brighton itself is just bursting with great music too – Personal favourites are Wild Cat Strike and Delta Sleep – there’s no shortage of super inspiring underground bands doing their own thing.
Questions: Ben Mercer