An interview with Arcane Roots
After seeing their incredible set at The Arts Club the night before, Rachael caught up with Arcane Roots’ guitarist Andrew to discuss their newest album, influences and gigging!
Rachael: Obviously you came to Liverpool last night, but what’s the year been like for you as a whole?
Andrew: …Busy! It’s certainly been a very busy year. Obviously during the run up to the release of the album and behind the scenes, there were lots of things to be made: to present an album and present a live show the way we wanted to. It’s also been a relief though that the ideas that we had and the things that we thought (that were good) were the way that we decided to take the album. And the way that it’s received by people was always an afterthought for us, but we’re really grateful that everyone has followed us along on our journey and are willing to accept where we wanna take things and accept that kind of challenge for us.
Rachael: You have just released your new album, what were your influences on it?
Andrew: I think there were a mix of influences that are also a part of learning a lot of things that we wanted to bring into the album. It’s kind of like when you’re learning to play the guitar, you can’t really avoid people like Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page because they are the masters. So whether or not it’s the music you’d listen to, you still listen to it as homework in a way. So certainly people like James Blake, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Venetian Snares and these kinds of artists who are heritage artists, but definitely masters of their craft. Certainly we wanted to bring in a lot of these electronic influences, and a part of that was learning how to speak in that language as such. People like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Everything Everything, and those kinds of artists are often leading the way. There was a lot of soundtrack that we listened to, like Johan Johannsson, Olafer Arnalds and anything we could get our hands on really, to excite us and try and open our filter a little more and to show what band we really wanted to be.
Rachael: Do you find that your own personal musical icons are often part of your influences on the band or do they differ?
Andrew: Yeah, I think they shift with my interests. If there’s something that I’m wanting to learn, or if I don’t feel like I’m very good at then I’ll shift my music taste to try and assimilate whatever I can! Certainly with the amount of music that’s available to you, you’re always spoilt for choice I think. Whenever I run out of music then I always end up turning a corner and then there’s more music than I can afford!
Rachael: What kind of music at the moment are you listening to ? What captures your interest?
Andrew: On this tour [I’ve been listening to] Everything Everything‘s new album: that’s definitely been one of my all time favourites, I’ve been into those guys for a really long time and I was really excited as always for their new record, I certainly believed in them. That trust in an artist and knowing that they’ll produce something great every time is worth it when you listen to the album and its absolutely phenomenal. But even on this tour, we have a new sound guy, Greg, and we’ve been stealing bits of music from him as a kind of new person in the family as such! I’m really enjoying Joe Goddard‘s Hot Chip, I’ve been trying to steal his album from Greg haha! I think one of the best feelings is when your ears prick up and you’re like “ahh what’s that? It sounds amazing.” I’m certainly excited for the new Bjork album because The Gate looks absolutely incredible. I also like a guy called Matt Robertson who also did a lot of collaboration with Bjork, he’s a producer but he finally did his own record, and that’s a nice crossover record of electronica, soundtrack and strings and piano. It’s very nice.
Rachael: For those who haven’t listened to your album before, is it fair to say that there is a mix of electronic and keyboard, but can also get dark and heavy as well?
Andrew: Yeah, yeah!
Rachael: I think that one of my favourites off the album is quite different from a lot of your music and that is ‘Fireflies’: I think it’s incredibly pretty. Do you agree that some people think it might blow up as big as Owl City’s hit?
Andrew: Hahaha! It’s funny actually, the song popped in my head, but actually I was just messing around with a little piano keyboard thing, and I was trying to write a patch, but the patch that was already on there was called ‘Fireflies’ and I just never bothered to change the name! The song was probably the last one to be written on the record. It was one where we had finally achieved the fluency in the language that we wanted to and in the new way of doing things for us. We now had this blend of electronica and classical music, and we decided that this was the song that should just be electronica, to try and see if we felt competent enough to pull that off. But that’s really nice to hear, I really like that song and wrote it in the last month or so of the record. For me the bridge of that song is probably my favourite bit of the record, since it took me the longest time to program and get the strings right. It really feels like a whirlwind when I listen to it.
Rachael: Lyric-wise, some of your songs can be interpreted as politically damning, certainly in ‘Off the Floor’, is that the vibe you were going for?
Andrew: I think it was definitely a choice as to whether or not we were going to be as forward with the political side of things. Previously speaking, I think it can be a bit… not embarrassing, but garish… When watching a political band, it can sometimes feel like I could just hear the music and not the politics. But I don’t know, with this record this topic has become unavoidable and I think that everyone is aware of that and I think that where we used to think that politics was some ‘far away’ thing that mums and dads dealt with, it now feels like it’s really on your doorstep. Especially during the writing of the record, it was horrible and it still is… even worse in fact. So yeah it seems to be all around us, and that song was one of the few songs that took forever. I’m not even sure how the chorus came about, it just did. I tried to channel people like Rou from Enter Shikari or Rich O’Flynn from All We Are, and I really enjoy the way that they sing about things. It was the one song that I did think we could get away with being a little more open, something that felt a bit more universal. It definitely seems that our age group feel the same way about the way things are going in the world and the shock of what’s transpiring. I hope it’s come across evenly, and not too political, but it’s certainly there.
Rachael: Last night you played at the Arts Club in Liverpool, but you’ve also played at a few festivals in the past too. Do you prefer performing to a massive festival crowd or do you prefer a smaller more intimate venue?
Andrew: I think on a whole, a smaller venue. Especially if it’s our show. I like the feel of setting the tone for the evening, and that we’re taking over this venue; this small space for a night. I like the idea that we’re in control of the dimmer switch, so to speak. We can sort of get the mood and our message across, and perform the way we want to perform. Festivals are really, really fun but they’re very transactional, like you’re there and then you’re not. But crowds really lose their inhibitions at festivals and I think people are a bit more willing to get involved, I suppose. But I think I do prefer it when we can address the venue and create an evening. That’s when we feel like we’re doing our job the best.
Rachael: I suppose that the feeling at one of your own gigs must feel exciting to know that all of those people have come for just you?
Andrew: Yeah! I have nothing but high praise for our fans. I really, really enjoy seeing them and the familiar faces and speaking to them, and we’re always so proud of them! They’re always very polite, moral, they all look after each other, I mean we’ve never had to tell anyone off particularly. I like the fact that people of all age groups can come to our shows and people respect each other. It’s certainly nice to know that we’re surrounded by them. Another thing is that more often than not, when we’re doing this every day, we can get either sick or very tired or anything could have happened to you in that day. And so many times, our fans get us through those things. When were not feeling 100% or we’ve had a tough day, tough week or tough tour, even, and the second you step on the stage and we see everyone smiling and singing, those things disappear, and you just concentrate on giving them the best version of yourself that evening. Even in times when we thought we were going to have a really bad gig, they’ve ended up being some of the best gigs we’ve ever played, so the credit is to them!
Rachael: So finally, after your tour has finished, what are your plans for the future?
Andrew: Sleeping. A lot of sleeping! But it’s onwards and upwards I suppose! The way we’ve finished this record was to leave it fairly open ended, we couldn’t really finalise an ending as such in our minds. So we’re keen to expand on some of the ideas and to keep progressing the tours, the light show, the way it’s presented and to keep growing to add more elements to ourselves and really push on. The plan is to hopefully do some slightly more exciting gigs, and maybe do some shows in some unusual places and showcase the album in a different way. We’d like to look at some alternate versions of stuff. I think we’ll probably be touring right into next year and then maybe make some appearances at festivals and that kind of thing. So we’re certainly excited to keep working. The plan was always to keep moulding it, keep working on it. I like the idea of bootlegging where we play alternate versions, or we perform it in a different way, and we play in a certain way for a tour or in a certain way at an exhibition or in a church or a chapel or something like that. They are the magical moments where those feelings happen, I think that’s nice.
You can watch the video for Arcane Roots’ single ‘Off The Floor’ below.