The swirling, melodic rock and the miraculous existence of ‘Britain’s most northerly band’, NEON WALTZ is celebrated in celestial style with the release of the band’s recent debut album, Strange Hymns out now on Ignition Records. Following three, acclaimed singles and thousands of road miles meeting public demand for their breathlessly crystalline, chiming, guitar-forward pop, the John O’Groats six-piece has turned picturesque isolation into something truly beautiful in the form of their first long-player which the XS team have been playing non-stop.
Gathering influences from rain-soaked indie to Californian sunshine-flecked psychedelia, Neon Waltz has transcended the geography that keeps them in splendid seclusion, tucked away in the Scottish Highlands, with a set of intricately crafted songs. Needle-sharp lyrics riven through Neon Waltz’ wall of sound evoke the freedom and fury in the world that surrounds them, the ideals of youth, expansive ideas of small town romantics and the lifeline brought to all of us through simple, yet often elusive, hope. Mark Millar caught up with Neon Waltz frontman Jordan Shearer for a chat.
XS: Neon Waltz has recently released your debut album Strange Hymns which has been very well received. You must be really chuffed with the feedback.
JS: Oh yes! That's all we have been really aiming for since we started. As I said earlier, we never really planned for the band to go massive, but we always had a plan to record an album because we knew we could write good songs and we loved the idea of having our own album and a body of work we could take to our grave. It feels a bit surreal now that it's out, it feels like its been a long time coming. It's basically three years in the making. We are already looking at album number two now.
XS: Where was the album recorded?
JS: It's kind of been recorded all over the place, to be honest over a space of one and a half years. We recorded some of it in a studio just outside Glasgow, We recorded one song in Dublin a couple of tracks in London and the last four songs were finished in Eastbourne. It was quite weird as well because it's on the opposite end of the country from where we are from. It's kind of all over the place it's not like in a conventional way a band records an album but the album was mixed by the same guy so to us it sounds like it's the same body of work.
XS: Did you work with different producers?
JS: Yes, we had quite a few. These guys produced certain or a few the songs on the album: Mikey Rowe and Andy Britton, Jamie Savage, Howie Payne, Rob Kirwan and Can Blackwood.
XS: Did you go into the record with any ideas of how it should sound?
JS: Yes. We had a pretty strong idea of how we sound as a band anyway and we liked the idea of it sounding close to how we sound live. We recorded the band live on every track and I would do an overdubbed vocal on it so it sounds pretty close to how we sound live and that what works best for us.
XS: Does the whole band share songwriting duties?
JS: Yes between the six of us. We each write separately and then show the songs to the rest of the band and then we all work on them as a band.
XS: Do you have any particular favourite songs on the album?
JS: I like all the songs I think they have all got their own charm. There are certain songs we have all had to live with a lot longer and you forget how good it is. There is a song on the album called "You And Me" which we had never recorded before and we nailed it in a day in the studio and it came out really good. That's the song I always feel really proud about. It's probably because it seems fresher than say Sombre Fayre or Perfect Frame. We don't think any one song stands out to others.
XS: What would like people to take away from listening to the album?
JS: Just to be affected by it in some way. Even if people hate it I don't really care. I just want people to feel something. Obviously id rather people love it, there is nothing worse than a band that nobody cares about. I think music should be divisive.
XS: Is there a scene in John O'Groats for new bands?
JS: Not really but I have noticed there has been a few 14-15-year-old bands starting. Just like cover bands doing the same thing we were doing when we were that age. I think it's something to do with the fact they know a band locally who are doing quite well. I kind of take a bit of pleasure from it. It's good to see there are more bands starting now from a really young age.
XS: How do you like to listen to music – CD, vinyl or download?
JS: I prefer to listen to vinyl although I haven't bought any vinyl in the last month so I have had to rely on Spotify. Spotify gets quite heavily nailed on the road in our tour van.
XS: Do you have a favourite record that you always return to?
JS: Probably The Velvet Underground and Nico. That's one album I always come back to.
XS: Is there anything you have been listening to recently you could recommend?
JS: There is a new band from Edinburgh called Bluebirds, they are a really intense psyche punk band. I don’t think they have got much of a following but I have seen them twice live accidentally. They released an EP a few months ago it's called "There Is No God". I would recommend listening to them. I have also been listening to the album by The Lemon Twigs, I'm really into that record. And Young Fathers from Edinburgh.
XS: Has the new album gone down well live on your recent gigs?
JS: We did an instore gig in Glasgow on the first date of our tour at dinner time and a mutual friend who owns a club in Glasgow was at it and asked if we would do a last minute gig in his 100 capacity club and said we could keep the door money. We played at midnight and it was rammed and it was the perfect way to kick off the tour. Glasgow crowds are magic. We are really noticing that people know all the words to the songs which is quite surreal.
XS: So whats next for Neon Waltz?
JS: Hopefully a lot more touring and we want to get back to releasing more music as soon as possible. We'd like to release an EP or single at the end of this year because it took so long for the first album to be recorded and put out there. We have been writing that whole time for the second album and have loads of songs ready pretty much. We are in quite a good position in that way and id like to start releasing it reasonably soon.
Neon Waltz debut album "Strange Hymns" is out now.
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