Today, Gentle Sinners - the new project from Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap) and James Graham (The Twilight Sad) - share a second taster of their incoming debut album, These Actions Cannot Be Undone. It's released this Friday digitally and on CD, with a vinyl edition to follow in September, via Rock Action.
It's the album's cathartic, rousing finale 'Landfill' seeing release today - built from rolling, toppling drums and flashes of synths and strings as atop it all layers of intersecting vocals from Graham explore addressing your mental health head-on and the conflicting emotions it can bring: "Pull yourself together," he declares repeatedly and emphatically, while equally confessing, "you're an accident waiting to happen."
Of the track's genesis, Graham offers: "My mental health was at the worst it’s ever been. It was starting to physically manifest and for, the first time in my life, I needed medication to help me. I had resisted it for years as I thought I would be failing my family, but that was so wrong of me. There should be no stigma in seeking medical help for your mental health. I wanted to address those stigmas. I wanted to address the anxieties about asking for help. I grew up in a society where talking openly about mental health was something that just didn’t happen. People who were brave enough to speak about their problems were instantly judged. That needs to change. The brain is an organ just like any other part of your body and will react to stress like any other organ or muscle. Realising it wasn’t my fault and that there is no shame was a massive thing for me. This song is the manifestation of those feelings."
'Landfill' comes accompanied by a video, directed by Kieran Howe, that perfectly encapsulates the claustrophobic, often uphill struggle to tackle these feelings. Speaking about its concept, Howe explains: "This incredible track reminded me of a recurring dream I have where I'm running, yet unable to move. Often these dreams are plagued with memories of better times, memories that are all too painful to re-experience. These are the things that keep me up at night, and to be able to express them visually was a wholly cathartic experience. The music is so full of sobering honesty, as a director I felt I couldn't shy away from my inner most feelings. Hopefully we captured something that conveys how it feels to be in pain, and to be struggling with your mental health. In the same way that James and Aidan have inspired me to express these feelings, I hope this video might do the same for others. It's been a thrill to work with them on this music video."
Watch the video for 'Landfill' - BELOW:
'Landfill' follows recent single 'Face To Fire (After Nyman)', which was released in March alongside word of These Actions Cannot Be Undone - it's a fuzzed-out behemoth anchored around Graham's repeated "fearlessly terrified" oxymoron and a central plea of "tell me what's wrong inside of me." Moffat, who's on music and production duties across the album, matches Graham punch-for-punch with swathes of orchestration and playful guitar lines that elevate proceedings to a place of euphoria that transcends the song's anxious core.
Revisit 'Face To Fire (After Nyman)' - BELOW:
"Fearlessly terrified," in fact, is a pretty apt summation of These Actions Cannot Be Undone as a whole: across its ten tracks, Moffat and Graham navigate themes of mental health, medication, love, the abuse of power, lies, accountability, defiance and hope, but with the results equally exhilarating, singular and playful. Not surprising when you consider the duo draw their name from a bawdy phrase in Romeo & Juliet but twist it into a knowing double-meaning. As Moffat explains: "'Gentle sin' is a wee phrase I've always liked. In the play it's part of a flirtatious kiss, where the rules of etiquette are broken with a cheeky wink, sort of like a Shakespearean Sid James moment. But with a different kind of sinning in mind, I thought it really suited the songs we were making too, i.e. mistakes and disasters without pity or malice."
The pair, who've been friends for years, can trace the roots of Gentle Sinners back to the dark days of February 2021 when the UK was in the thick of its third lockdown, case numbers remaining sky-high and the future of live music persistently precarious. Graham was in the throes of uprooting his life in his long-term residence of Glasgow to move to North-East Scotland but met Moffat shortly before upping sticks. He recalls:
"A couple of days before I left Aidan and I met up and walked around Queens Park. I mentioned to him I wanted to do something outside of the band but had no idea on how to go about it. I wasn’t expecting him to suggest working together, I was just looking for some advice as I’ve loved everything he’s done in his solo career. Hearing what he’d done inside and outside of Arab Strap, I could see that they both complimented each other and helped him exercise different ways of writing. I wanted that. I wanted to try new things, I wanted to see what else was inside me. He suggested we work together and that he had some music he could send me. I said yes straight away."
This sentiment of pursuing new creative avenues is echoed by Moffat, "I really wanted to try something I'd never done before, which is make music for other people to sing to, and that sort of became a theme of the album," he offers. "If we hadn't done it before, we should definitely do it now. So you can hear a lot more range in James's voice than usual, for instance." With the pair having - as Moffat puts it - "no idea whether or when we'd play live again, or when any of our other bands' next plans could happen," they immersed themselves in a process of writing remotely. Sending music and vocal tracks back and forth, the duo worked quickly and built a defiant, explorative set of songs that stands quite apart from their esteemed work with Arab Strap and The Twilight Sad.
“The subject matter was hard but writing it was easy," Graham summarises. "Working with Aidan has been a dream. Most of these songs were written and recorded within days. It all just came very naturally and I never questioned the words or the feelings that came out of me." Fearlessly terrified, indeed.
Gentle Sinners - These Actions Cannot Be Undone // Rock Action - 13/05/22
1. Waiting For Nothing
2. Killing This Time
3. Let Them Rot (ft. AKG)
4. The Cries
5. Date & Sign
6. Rent Free
7. Shores of Anhedonia
8. Face To Fire (After Nyman)
9. Don't Say Goodnight