Today, Dry Cleaning release a new single, ‘Anna Calls From The Arctic’, from their highly-anticipated second album, Stumpwork, out on 21 October.
On ‘Anna Calls From The Arctic’, Florence Shaw narrates an off-kilter conversation with a distant friend. The track is whacked-out and otherworldly. “The lyrics were partly inspired by phone calls with a friend who was living and working in the Arctic,” explains the band. ”The song developed from a keyboard, bass and clarinet jam. This then took shape during our pre-recording sessions with John Parish and Joe Jones in Bristol and finalized at Rockfield studios a month later, with some musical inspiration coming from the dramatic scores of John Barry. The song is observational and sensual.” Today’s visualizer features the band’s drummer, Nick Buxton, displaying perfect form skating backwards on an ice rink.
Listen to 'Anna Calls From The Arctic' BELOW:
Having already started writing their second record before 2021’s acclaimed debut New Long Leg was released, Nick Buxton, Tom Dowse, Lewis Maynard and Florence Shaw proposed to producer John Parish that they spend twice as much time on the follow-up. Listen to the album and you can feel that increased boldness - vocals which coil tightly around deft and complex riffs, great meshes of instrumental texture and the willingness to launch into full-on abstraction. It is a heady mix that is entirely Dry Cleaning’s own, distinguishing it from their contemporaries.
Shaw demonstrated increased spontaneity in the studio, improvising many of her lyrics straight onto the album. The lyrics are almost entirely observational. There is one quote from the artist Maggi Hambling on the woozy title track, text from an old Macintosh computer virus on ‘Don’t Press Me’, and snippets from the press cuttings library of archivist Edda Tasiemka scattered throughout, but the use of ‘found lyrics’ employed in the band’s early years is now far in the past.
“I wrote about the things that preoccupied me over this period, like loss, masculinity, feminism, my mum, being separated from my partner for little stretches in the lockdown, lust,” she continues, preoccupations from which wider political and social commentary emerges. “I think if you make something observational, which I think I do, it’s political,” Shaw says. “There were two murders of women in London that were extensively covered on the news, and the specific details of one of those murders were reported on whilst we were at Rockfield. That coverage influenced some of my writing and my state of mind.” The band’s instrumentation, too, may well reflect our increasingly bleak socio-political landscape, the way it can pick up intense and urgent momentum, or zone out into icy detachment.
The band’s loss of a number of loved family members over the last year would also have an impact on Stumpwork. Among them was bassist Lewis Maynard’s mother Susan, at whose home the band rehearsed in their early days, the location of which inspired the name of their debut EP Boundary Road Snacks And Drinks. On the day that the band appeared on Later With Jools Holland, she was in hospital and unable to receive visitors due to coronavirus restrictions. “It felt special that what we had achieved from the first record, could still entertain her and communicate with her while no one could see her,” says Maynard. New Long Leg was released a week before she passed away, so she was able to see it reach number four in the charts. “The success of the band became a distraction for the whole family while grieving. And it gave even more importance to what we are doing,” Maynard adds.
Stumpwork was made in the aftermath – they were in the studio writing the day before Susan died – but from their grief they found fuel for the record’s most joyous elements. “I see the album as a celebration of what she gave us and a reflection of how fortunate we were to know her,” says Buxton. Guitarist Tom Dowse also lost his grandfather who was extremely proud of the band's success. “It’s of course devastating to lose close family members but their legacy in Dry Cleaning is wholly positive,” he says. “The moments in the songs which are upbeat and joyful made me think of them both the most.”
The breadth of influences on Stumpwork is dizzying, a definitive rebuke to those who might reduce Dry Cleaning as a post-punk band. Their music is bolder and more expansive, Shaw’s lyrics explore not only loss and detachment but all the twists and turns, simple joys and minor gripes of human experience too. Ultimately, what emerges from it all is a subtle but assertive optimism and a lesson in the value of curiosity. As Shaw sings on ‘Kwenchy Kups’, “Things are shit, but they’re gonna be OK.”
DRY CLEANING TOUR DATES
29 July – CO. WATERFORD, IE, All Together Now
31 July – THIRSK, GB, Deer Shed Festival
6 August – KATOWICE, PO, OFF Festival
11 August – HALDERN, DE, Haldern Pop Festival
19 August – CRICKHOWELL, GB, Green Man Festival
25 August – LONDON, GB, All Points East
27 August – MANCHESTER, GB, Mayfield Depot w/ The National
17 September – SOLANA BEACH, CA, USA, Belly Up Tavern
18 September – LOS ANGELES, CA, USA, Primavera Sound LA
20 September – SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA, The Chapel
22 September – BIG SUR, CA, USA, Henry Miller Memorial Library
8 November – PARIS, FR, Le Trabendo
9 November – COLOGNE, DE, Club Volta
11 November – UTRECHT, NL, Le Guess Who? Festival
12 November – KORTRIJK, BE, Sonic City