*yawns* Wake up everyone. A nice cuppa and some refreshing music are the best fix for the hump day of the week. If you allow me to choose your morning soundtrack, I’d suggest you try the groovy-rock of Draw Me Stories with their Cocoon Machina, out on Glasstone Records. This album of so-called “second reinvention” mixes electric vibe, Animal Collective-like tribal percussions (and bass guitar) and not-so-subtle electro-beat – just have a go with the introduction of Birdsongs, absolutely brilliant. When asked to describe it in 5 words, Draw Me Stories chose “Minimalist, expansive, rhythmic, percussive, lyrical.”
Cocoon Machina merges in an ultra-fine contrast between the synthy bases and traditional instruments (Kaleidoscope), creating an uplifting lyrical atmosphere, also thanks to Carl’s vocals (which sometimes remind me of early Elbows, but it may just be my inner love for them). Although the electro-twist was already experimented with in the remixes of the earlier Double A Side by You Love Her Cos She’s Dead and Tex Taiwan, synths and pads simply became a tool to enrich what was already hinted at in the music: “it was a natural progression for us as we’ve always admired the extra depth and atmosphere electronic instruments can add to more traditional guitar/drum based music.” The electro-hints swing into the mystical acid rock a là Doors in songs such as Animals and A Place Behind Locked Doors adding keyboards, finger picking and shamanic percussions. Moreover, the producer Charlie Francis gave a sensible contribution to make the album the aforementioned “second reinvention”: “He’s a very honest gentleman and had some great ideas and contributions to add to the record. Double-tracking the drums on Birdsong was one of his ideas which gave the song exactly the sort of tribal-ness we wanted it to portray. He also added some instrumentation, for example the organ breakdown on We Saw Things (Without Our Faces) and the piano at the end of Black Water Cave pt2.”
Similar Artist: Honeybird and the Birdies, King of the Opera
03. Our Whole Bodies
05. Black Water Cave pt.1
06. Black Water Cave pt.2
07. Human Machine
09. A Place Behind Locked Doors/Refined Nostalgic Fool
11. We Saw Things (Without Our Faces)
12. Blood Follows Grain, Grain Follows BloodThe album is the hybrid child of traditional rock and breakthrough synth-rock, being quite attentive in never becoming too electronic. Now it’s time to go a bit more in depth with the interview.
Cocoon Machina: where does the name come from?
The album title is really a meeting of two concepts. The ‘cocoon’ aspect refers to the fact that this is a rebirth, or reinvention, of our musical approach. ‘Machina’ is the latin for machine, so, as a whole, the title loosely translates as ‘the machine of creation’, or something like that. There is also something inherent in the words that seems to suit the sounds and colours of the album.
How did the band evolve from being a trio in 2008, to the introduction of Joanne in the line-up later on?
Having recorded the album as a trio we realised – after adding a certain amount of synth/percussive/vocal layers on top of what we’d been performing during the writing process – that we weren’t going to be able to completely reproduce this sound on stage. We therefore decided that a fourth member would be beneficial to our live shows, and drafted in a friend; Jo.
How much had it shifted since the folk-driven EP The Sky and the Mirror (2009)?
In terms of our sound, we’ve become much more rhythm orientated, with our songs having an underlying atmosphere created by synth and samples. The way we wrote the songs on Cocoon Machina was a much more holistic approach, with the three of us creating the tracks together from scratch. Certain songs on The Sky and The Mirror hint at the sound on Cocoon Machina; i.e. very lyrical, rhythmic undertones, percussive, expansive…
Was the Double A Side release a way to experiment before Cocoon Machina?
In a sense it was, but I think more so it was just part of the process of finding the sound we wanted for an album that we knew we wanted to create further down the line. I think we perhaps shifted a little too far to the experimental/trip-hop end of the spectrum, but I think this was useful for us in order to ‘rein it in’ and find the right balance of folk/lyricism, and expansive/experimentalism.
Carl said that the record borrows “more from a ﬁlm soundtrack than the traditional indie album”. Are there any ﬁlms you can think of as an example?
I think this is a symbolic thing really. In a film soundtrack you might have a bunch of songs (or pieces) that sound quite dissimilar but are held together by the fact that they play a part in the whole, or in telling the story. I feel that a lot of albums stay within a defined sound space (which is important for creating something consistent etc) but I think we wanted songs to move around more. As an example, I guess something like ‘The Graduate’ by Simon & Garfunkel, or compiled soundtracks in the vain of Tarantino and Danny Boyle.
Is there any ﬁlm that you think would ﬁt with the new album?
Good question! To be honest, I’m not sure. I think there is something raw and energising about the music on the album, so I think the film would have to be quite raw and emotive too – maybe violent? Maybe epic? I’ll let you decide 🙂
Playing around Europe supporting bands as Born Rufﬁans, Alessi’s Ark, Eric Chenaux. How was the experience? Did you learn anything by playing with these bands?
It was a fantastic experience. I’m not sure we can claim to have played ‘around Europe’, but we did a mini-tour of France, which was great fun. Playing with those bands mentioned was a pleasure too. They were all lovely people and it’s a real learning curve performing amongst such established acts – it really makes you focus in on your own performance.
You also played some gigs with Bath-based Port Erin (I am currently living in Bath, and I am a keen customer of Rueben at Raves From The Grave). How was it sharing the stage with them?
Port Erin have been good friends of ours for many years now. We’ve done quite a number of gigs with them and we’re big fans of their sound – they’re gifted musicians and its apparent in their music, which is refreshing to see in a band these days. Lovely chaps too, great hair, great beards.
Which would be in your opinion the main difference between the French and the UK live scene?
I think the main difference is that Brits are really into music. You can tell by the number of bands and live venues in UK. But there are still some amazing bands from France like Phoenix, Air, Daft Punk…however the French music scene respects artists more. In the UK you are made to feel lucky just for playing certain venues (and you don’t get paid for playing original material until you reach a certain level).
Is there any other country you’d like to play in the future?
We’d hope we’d be well received anywhere in Europe – we have a sound that we’d imagine would go down well over there. Places like Germany or Belgium, or Sweden or Denmark for example would be great to play.
The apocalypse is coming and you have to put one track into a time capsule to preserve for future generations, what would it be?
4th Time Around – Bob Dylan.
Which are the main appointments in your agenda for the this 2013?
Album launch party – 15th March, Cardiff.
Playing around the UK in support of the album release.
Hopefully getting on to some festival bills.
Generally hyping the album as much as possible.
Having a baby.