INTERVIEW: Guillemots – Nov 2011

Guillemots first came to our attention back in 2006 with their critically acclaimed, and Mercury Prize nominated debut album Through The Windowpane. Since then, they’ve released the follow up ‘Red,’ which hit the top ten in 2008, and album number three (Walk The River) came earlier this year. On Saturday night, they played Liverpool’s Stanley Theatre. Just before they took to the stage, our man Deke Hardman caught up with Fyfe Dangerfield, and percussionist Greig Stewart.

Good evening gentlemen, it’s nice to have you back! How is it being back on the road as a band?
Fyfe Dangerfield: It doesn’t feel like we’ve been away really. We had a four-month break about two years ago, but we’ve been writing since April 2009.

So doing the solo album didn’t detract any attention from the group then?
FD: I was hardly away. We’d already had a break arranged, and I think that went on for a month longer than we said, then the record came out about eight months after it was finished by which time we were right in the middle of writing and I just went off for a few weeks here and there.

And the rest of the group have also been doing other things?
Greig Stewart: Yeah we were all busy doing projects – films, I did a bit of dance music. Even before Guillemots we were doing all kinds of things.

Through The Windowpane was released in 2006, so only five years ago. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but it seems like you’ve been around for a lot longer than that. Would you agree?
FD: I don’t know how to judge it publicly, but it definitely seems like longer than five years for us. Then again it feels like nothing so it’s a bit weird.
GS: The first few years were mad. Its hard trying to recall what even happened.

And after the second album (Red) you said it was the end of the first part of Guillemots.
FD: I did say that, but now I feel like now is the end of the first part. I keep feeling like everything we do is the end of the first part.

Does Walk The River feel like a new era for the band?
FD: It was in a way, but actually now it feels like they’re all part of the same chapter. I feel a bit more enlightened now. Walk The River and Red were quite difficult to make but I’m really proud of both. And we’ve been doing some new recording, which feels like the best we’ve ever done (Greig agrees). Were all playing so eagerly and we’ve lost any desire to prove any points about ourselves. We’re doing what we do because we love it, not just for ourselves – its lovely to know other people like it too. Were at a position now where we know we’re not going to run out of ideas and there’s people who will want to hear them. With Red we wanted to surprise people to a degree. With Walk The River we didn’t want to do anything too crazy.

Am I right in saying that Red was a little bit rushed?
FD: The recording process wasn’t rushed, but it was rushed in the sense that I think we could have done with a few months off before we started making it.

So does it feel like you’ve done this album more on your own terms?
FD: Yeah. I didn’t want to start recorded till I knew we were ready. The first album had songs that I’d been writing for about five years. So I knew I wanted at least a year of writing and getting stuff together. The result of that was we got loads together, way more than enough for just one album. There’s loads of stuff that we wrote before Walk The River that were just starting to record now.

Did the rush to get working on the second album come from pressure from the recording company?
FD: I don’t know really. We didn’t really question it at the time, it was just like ‘Now you’re gonna start making your second record’ and no one really thought anything of it. Its only when you look back you wonder if you would have done anything differently. But, everything feeds into making a record. I really like the record but I can see it confused some people but I like it. I’m really happy with the process of how we made this album (Walk The River). Working with David Kosten was fantastic; he’s a great producer. I think your aspirations just change. Because Red was quite hard to make it felt almost as if we needed a neutral referee for Walk The River to have a perspective on it.

I have to ask Fyfe, was your choice of clothing a conscious one? (A remarkable Beatles T-Shirt)
FD: I do actually wear this T-Shirt a lot, but I suppose it is quite apt.

And yourself and Paul McCartney are fans of each other’s work I hear? Is it true you offered to do some strings for him, and did that ever come about?
FD: He actually left me a voice mail. It was while we were making Red. I saw the phone ringing with a number I didn’t recognize and I was eating pizza… I did meet him last year though; he came to watch me play. I was playing Fool On The Hill in the set too.

What did he say about that?
He said he really liked it and was considering nicking the idea, although he did say I took a bit of a liberty with the chord progression.

Will there be a nod to the Fab Four tonight?
FD: Well we won’t be doing any covers, but I think there’s always a nod to the Beatles in everything I do.

Little over an hour later the band took to the stage with a rousing version of Kriss Kross. With boundless energy, they stormed through favourites from all three albums. The rest of the group left the stage about an hour in, leaving the enigmatic front man alone with his acoustic guitar to play new song ‘Southern Winds’ which was arguably the moment of the night. For a band that create such a party atmosphere on stage, to have complete silence whilst airing new material was quite something. You could have heard a pin drop if it weren’t for Dangerfield’s quite extraordinary vocal.

The full band returned to the stage with gusto, belting out crowd favourites Annie Let’s Not Wait and Trains To Brazil, and ending with the life-affirming Yesterday Is Dead, before returning to the stage reviving the carnival with Get Over It (another highlight) and Sao Paolo.

Whilst the city was alit with fireworks, you would have been pushed to find a more electrifying atmosphere than in the Stanley Theatre. And with the promise of new material on the way, we hopefully won’t have to long to wait to see them again.


Leave a Reply