Scottish alternative rock outfit Fatherson release their third album Sum Of All Your Parts on September 14th. The band have established themselves as a potent live force, having sold out Glasgow’s Barrowlands as well as London’s Scala on their previous run of dates. Together with blistering shows and a rabid fanbase Fatherson operate in a distinctly Scottish plane of sentimentally – it is no coincidence they have previously toured with the likes of Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro and Idlewild.
Mark Millar caught up with Marc Strain (Bass) to talk about the new album and upcoming UK tour which begins Tuesday 2nd October in popular Belfast venue Voodoo.
You will soon release your third album Sum of All Your Parts in September. Did you go into the recording with any preconceived ideas how it would sound and the kind of songs you wanted to write about?
Going into your third album is an interesting experience because you have 'difficult album syndrome' with the second album. Where we really had to think about it and put a lot of pressure on ourselves but with this one, we took a bit more time. We knew we wanted it to sound different from what we had done before, but we didn’t want to do anything too crazy. We set up a studio in Glasgow and were in there for five or six days a week for eight hours a day writing in the room together. And then it took another few months to work out what we wanted to do and look at what kind of songs we had come up with. We had about thirty or forty songs from that process of trying to get an idea. It ended up that being in the room and playing together shaped the sound of the album. We recorded the album live with the three of us in the room which went against the way a lot of music is made nowadays where you sit on a computer and layer up hundreds of sounds - It was more organic I guess.
The songs are more direct lyrically than the previous two records. What inspired this approach?
I think lyrically with Ross Leighton (guitar/vocals) he was kind of laying things a bit barer. Whenever we are writing songs, inspiration comes in a lot of different ways. Maybe Ross will sit in his bedroom with an acoustic guitar and write a song, or it will happen in the spare of the moment. I think with this album because we were in the studio and had a lot more time he had a lot of space to sit and think about what he wanted to say and what he wanted to put across for each of the songs. It was quite nice because we could leave him to go and spend time working on his words and we could get the music done.
Check out the video for ‘Charm School’ – BELOW:
Is there a particular song on the new album that you thought “This is why we are doing this”?
The first song that we had for the album was Making Waves which is the first single we put out and that was easy. It was another case of Ross sat with an acoustic guitar and coming up with that song pretty much as it is now and that was right at the beginning of last year before we went into the studio and before we started thinking about doing a third album. That song was kind of a safety net we thought "Ok we've got that and now we know where we are going now." There are a few tracks on the album that were key songs throughout the whole process of getting the album together. The song Building a Wall that finishes the record was one that we did spend a lot of time on and was built upon loops and stuff. That song was written very differently to anything we had done before, but it came together and made sense when we started playing it again.
The thing with this album was we knew the ten songs that were going to be on it before we went into the studio and we knew the order that they were going to be in and the title of the album. We knew everything because we took the time and really thought about it. Then we recorded everything in order. I know loads of bands say this but its definitely an album that's meant to be listened to from start to finish. We didn’t even send it to our management or record label until we had all ten songs mixed and then we let them listen to it from start to finish - It was essential for us to get it that way.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is Nothing to No One. Who is the female vocalist on that song?
It is a girl called Sarah Howells she plays in a band called Bryde. We had written that song, and when we demoed it, we called it ‘Girl Vocal Second Verse .' We were in the studio saying to each other "We've got to find a female vocalist." So we decided to leave that section blank and then send it to a couple of people and get them to put some vocals down on it, and Sarah's were the best. She went into a studio down in London and sent it over. We didn't meet her until we played a show in London just after we put Making Waves out and they were supporting, and she came on and sang that with us – which was quite a sweet moment.
Was it an enjoyable experience recording the new album?
Yeah, it was great we did the first two albums with a producer called Bruce Rintoul who is one of our best friends. Bruce had recorded everything we had ever done but coming up to the third album we got to the point where we felt too comfortable, and we knew each other too well. So we decided to find a completely different producer. We had a few suggestions for a producer, and we sent some demos out to them and a guy called Claudius Mittendorfer (Arctic Monkeys, Interpol, Weezer) who is based in New York seemed to get what we were going for. He flew over, and we went down to Leeds and recorded the album with him. It was one of those risky ones because we usually never record with anyone else. We had spoken to him on Skype, but we had never met until the day we went into the studio to record and luckily he ended up becoming one of our best pals. We were well prepared, and there weren't any massive catastrophes when we were in the studio. It was just like the four of us hanging out and recording the album over the space of a month. We have never had anything too horrendous happen when we are recording but this time it was quite a nice and inclusive process – everyone got on with it.
You’re UK, and European tour kicks off in Belfast in October. Do you enjoy coming to the city to play to the Belfast crowd?
I love playing Belfast we have played a few times now, and we've got Blue Americans supporting us on all of the UK dates who are from Belfast. We have been pals with those guys for ages, so I think it will be nice to go over and kick the tour off in Belfast with them playing with us as well.
Check out the video for ‘Making Waves’ – BELOW:
What changes about how you work together as a band from tour to tour?
I guess you get a little bit more experience from being away for long periods of time in quite a close proximity and you start to get a bit better at it. I think for the first couple of tours if you're away for a month or longer you have to realise that you don't have to be on top of each other all of the time and when someone is in a pissed off mood you have to leave them alone for a bit. The last tour we did was at the end of promoting our second album Open Book. By the end of it, we got into a rhythm, and we started to learn about the cities and what the gig is going to be like and how to start the setlist and how it is different when we are in Europe and what the fans expect and want in different places. Its one of those things when practice makes perfect I think.
This has probably been the most prolonged period that we've not been on a headlining tour because we have been spending so long getting this album perfect. We have been at home for too long, so we are all very excited to get out and play some gigs - I think this tour is going to be very special.
What are you most grateful for about being able to be a musician every day?
I think we are grateful that we are getting to release a third album and that this is our job at the moment. It’s amazing because we have never been a big hyped band its been a slow trajectory and progression for us. We have got the luxury of spending six to eight months hanging out in a studio and working on an album and not having work around people working in pubs or anything like that. I think that fed into the sound and making of the album.
What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?
Death Cab for Cutie just released a new album, so I've been going back and listening to loads of them. I have been listening to them from when I was in school, and they are a band that influenced us quite a bit. I don’t know if there is a particular album that I always go back to but they have been going on doing their thing and they are quite a good benchmark.
Check out the video for ‘Reflection’ (Live) – BELOW:
02 Oct – Belfast, Voodoo
03 Oct – Dublin, Whelans
04 Oct – Leeds, Hyde Park Book Club
05 Oct – Manchester, Night People
06 Oct – Birmingham, Sunflower Lounge
08 Oct – Nottingham, Rock City
09 Oct – London, Scala
10 Oct – Norwich, Waterfront Studio
11 Oct – Brighton, Patterns
28 Oct – Newcastle University
02 Nov – Glasgow, Barrowland
Fatherson are: Ross Leighton – Guitar/Vocals, Marc Strain – Bass, Greg Walkinshaw – Drums