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Glimmer Kids - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 19 / 2 / 2009

Glimmer Kids - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to Richard Knox and Elly May Irving from Leeds-based post-rock group Glissando at a gig in Edinburgh about how the end of their relationship inspired and gave them the focus they needed, after years of unsuccessful recording, to record their band's debut album

It is a night of frigid, shivering conditions in Edinburgh in early February. Much of Great Britain has been blighted by the worst weather it has seen in almost two decades. While Central Scotland has escaped the brunt of it, fifty or so miles to both the North and South of Edinburgh schools have closed and transport has ground to a halt as a hard snow has wiped large segments of the country to a standstill. Even here, however, this early Friday evening, five days after the snow began to first fall, it remains harshly, bitterly cold. Richard Knox, the guitarist, and Elly May Irving, the vocalist and pianist and central duo, in the Leeds-based post rock group Glissando are sipping hot tea in the cafe/bar of the Filmhouse, one of Edinburgh’s cinemas, and talking to Pennyblackmusic. They are in Scotland to play a gig later tonight at the Edinburgh Art College, a short, brisk five minute walk away, on what is the penultimate show of a week-long British tour. They were briefly caught in the treacherous weather as they travelled up from Brighton to London and became stuck as a result on the M25. They too, however, have escaped most of the snow, moving on from venue to venue and town to town before it struck like nomads escaping a war. “It is always a bit like that though on the M25,” quips Richard, and Elly laughs. They are a close couple, finishing each other’s sentences, bolstering one another up, sharing jokes. That easy sense of intimacy has, however, been hard earned and comes at a price. While they were once partners and lived together, they broke up two years ago. ‘With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’, Glissando’s official debut album, was recorded in a sudden crescendo of energy that arrived after their relationship had gone wrong. “Over the years the problem was that we never got it together enough to do something that we were really happy with,” says Richard about Glissando which had existed all the years that he and Elly had been together and since the beginning of the decade. “Then when our relationship broke down that was going to be pretty much the end of the band. We had never made anything solid, but we decided to carry it on and made the decision that if we were going to do this we had to do it properly. “ “We booked the recording studio in October or November 2007 for January and then had the album finished off by the end of February. Then we put it out in June and went with it. This has been our third tour of the UK and we have also been to Europe. There has been a real momentum to things over the last year and a half.” ‘With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’ was recorded partly recorded in Loughborough near Leicester with co-producer Tom Morris whose own band Her Name is Calla have recently released a mini album, ‘The Heritage’, on Gizeh Records, Richard’s record label. Richard and Elly also have their own studio, Cloud Blunt Moon, which is in the basement of the house that they once shared and in which Elly continues to live. the remainder of the album was recorded there by themselves. “We were never really massively focused,” continues Richard. “We played around a lot in the studio, but we were never really together enough, were we ?” “We were always frightened to finish,” adds Elly. “I never see a song as finished, but we were always scared to put them on record and to say that is the version we are going to put on record as a release. I don’t know if was out of shyness.” “It was lack of confidence”, says Richard. “Yeah, there was a lack of confidence”, says Elly. “There was also an element of perfectionism there as well.” ‘With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’ follows on from ‘Love are Like Empires’, a compilation of the few recordings that Glissando managed to complete between 2002 and 2007, and which was released at the time of their break-up when Richard and Elly thought that the band would not continue. Ambient but also orchestral, ‘With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’, which has come out on Gizeh, features several members of the Fleeting Glimpse Ensemble, a rotating collective of musicians that Richard and Elly use depending on their availability and what they require. Four of the Ensemble, Sophie Barnes (violin), Lauren Smith (cello), Paul Elam (guitar) and Thomas Carah (trombone), have joined them for this latest tour. A collection of Gothic textures, spiralling studio effects and drone soundscapes, the nine tracks on ‘With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’ last between one and fifteen minutes. It is a melancholy record, one of stark, minimalistic lyrics and brooding sounds, but, in Elly’s celestial vocals which always have a sense of the otherworldly and hope to them, never an album which descends into total darkness. An indication perhaps of the state of the former couple’s relationship at the time it was recorded, the overall impression it suggests is a horror and hurt at what has been lost, but also a sense of wonder at what has been saved. “I am always interested in the idea that humans will self-destruct naturally,” says Elly about the title of the album, which Richard came up with and which, despite its apocalyptic imagery, also implies a strange kind of warped happiness. “We all have to have something, no matter what happens to us or where we are in our lives, that has to be a problem or a bad thing. If things are going well then you can sometimes get frightened and the ways in which people deal with that and whether they deal with it in a positive or a negative way is fascinating.” Like all of Gizeh’s nineteen releases to date, ‘With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’ is sumptuously packaged. Its front cover photograph shows a cluster of birds scattering panicked in all directions and a montage of photos inside, which are all designed by the same artist who designed the cover,Fernando Lopez-De-Victoria, reveal a series of empty coastlines, run-down beaches, and dilapidated buildings. “We searched around for a long time trying different things with the artwork,” reflects Richard. “After we had come up with the title I was at Elly’s house one day and I typed it into Google to see what it came up with and this guy ‘s photos came up on the photograph site Flickr. It had a photograph which had a similar title and some of the same words in it. As soon as it appeared, I was like, 'Oh my God. Check this out, Elly.' All his photos and everything that was on his page were exactly what we wanted and so we e-mailed him and licensed the photos. I have worked with him on the layout. He lives in Puerto Rico, so it has been a little bit difficult to communicate with him sometimes and it has taken a while, but he has really got into it. He would send something over and I would say, 'That is amazing' and he would e-mail me back and say, 'I don’t really like it. I am going to slightly change this.' It was really good and it worked out really well.” With several new songs already written, Glissando are now working on a second album. They plan to continue writing it and rehearsing over the coming months, before recording it in the autumn. They hope to release it early next year. “I think that you like the idea that you are controlling what is going to happen,” says Elly to Richard reflecting on both Glissando and Gizeh’s do-it-yourself approach. “You know that you can do it better yourself and you can do it exactly how you want to do it.” “That is true, but, if a label I really like would want to release the next album, I would prefer not to release the next album myself,” muses Richard, who, now having run Gizeh Records for several years, has also recently set up his own small PR company, Sleep Sound, for other bands not on the label. “It is really difficult to do the press for your own stuff. You have got to completely change your outlet of how you are going to set about it. You have to think of it as not your record. You write the press release and you then have to try to sell your own record which is really difficult. I had worked on the label for so long that it seemed the right thing to do to release this first album on Gizeh Records, but I think I will look for a different label to release the next one.” In the time since they had broken up, Richard and Elly’s whole approach towards making music has much changed. “We used to kind of dip in and out of making music,” says Elly. “But now we are able to focus for much longer periods at a time.” “The problem with being together and living together was our studio was in the basement of the house and my office was in the top bedroom,” recollects Richard. “Everything was contained in one place.” “It was chaotic,” Elly reflects. “Things would just spill over,” says Richard. “If we fell out during the day because someone hadn’t done the washing up or something and then we were writing or rehearsing in the basement and one of us said, ‘I don’t like that bit’ then suddenly that would turn into a full-scale argument after what had built up during the day.” “It was difficult to separate,” Elly recalls. “There was no separation between the two things whereas now...,” says Richard “You come around and it is a designated period of time in which you are there,” adds Elly. “It is definitely more focused now. It has helped with both the whole art of making music and certainly as well in the recording,” concludes Richard. “We can record all day without any arguments or bad feeling. There is nothing bad now in our relationship now.” ‘With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’ was begun out of loss and sorrow. A tribute to the enduring nature of both Richard Knox and Elly May Irving’s against-the-odds continued friendship and the survival and growth of their band, it is a testimony to optimism and hope as much as it is to pain.

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Glimmer Kids - Interview

Glimmer Kids - Interview

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