TSDOLE, The Strange Death Of Liberal England
Bill Cummings 20/09/2010
Emerging a few years ago as flag bearing, preaching post rockers from Southsea: The Strange Death of Liberal England were hyped by some and derided by others when they released their debut mini album 'Forward March' and played a series of eye catching shows across the country. Eighteen months on from their last single 'Angelou' TSDOLE return with their finest work yet, a debut long player entitled 'Drown Your Heart Again' (out now) an epic orchestral rock album imbued with a renewed intensity and focus. Vocalist Adam Woolway rattling out existential metaphors of coastal environments and drowning, above sweeping folk tinged percussion, soaring strings, mariachi bass provided by The Richard P Horne Youth Orchestra at Old Blacksmith's studio in Portsmouth. Songs like their recent single 'Rising Sea', 'Flagships' and 'Lighthouse' are of such a sky scraping scale that they're reminiscent of Talking Heads, British Sea Power's 'Do I Like Rock Music?' and Hope of the States awesome debut long player.
Recorded with respected producer Dave Allen (The Cure and Depeche Mode) has clearly focussed minds, and honed a sound that makes good on the promise of their early work and takes it up to another level. On the eve of their extensive UK tour planned for October and November in support of the new album. We caught up with TSDOLE members (Adam Woolway, Andrew E. Wright, Kelly Jones, Will Charlton, David Lindsay) to delve a little deeper into the inspiration and formation of their new album..
Hey there how are you?! Could you tell us where the name The Strange Death of Liberal England came from, a history book or does it have another meaning for you? If there any irony in the fact that the Liberal democrats are now in power in a coalition or are we talking liberal with a small 'l'?
Its the name of a book and we stole it because we thought it sounded like a good band name. Its as superficial as that, but its not to say that we're not going to attempt to claim having foresaw a meltdown of centre-left, liberal politics at the same time that we release our debut album. I wouldn't want really want people to try to analyse our music in political terms and I'm fed up correcting gig posters (Strange Death of Liberia being the best mistake...) but I still think its a great band name.
Was there a sense of taking a step back from the acclaim you received initially (with your debut mini album and tour) in a sense to take a step forward with your debut album?
Yes. Initial acclaim is always a little unsettling because it is mostly based on hype and people trying to second-guess a band's 'potential'. It's like a stock exchange for the press. Everything rides on how you follow it up and the important thing is to put your fingers in your ears, shut the doors and record what you want to hear. We did that by adapting more traditional song structures which surprised a lot of people who thought we were just eccentrics with a stupid band name.
Your new album 'Drown Your Heart Again' shows a pleasing ambition both sonically and in song writing terms. How do you think you've developed as songwriters and a band since you're formation?
Its more traditional, our songs now are more regular and restrained in structure which means we can let go in other places. With David M Allen we realised that making music that sounded clever was a dumb, vacuous idea and that the harder thing is to right a pop song which carries emotion and chaos within it. That way you can really communicate with people and that, I suppose, is what we're trying to do as a band. We've also learnt to play our instruments. That's probably a major influence on our song writing...
Is there a balance within TSDOLE between experimentation and stretching yourselves and your songs and seeing how epic you can sound on record?
Yeah, I suppose you could call it contained chaos. Give people a rhythm to get into and they'll listen. Then, hopefully, they'll start to unfold the depth of the album. I'd like people to hear something new in the album every time they listen and, thanks to Dave Allen's production, and his encouragement for experimenting, I think people will, whether thats the lyrics, orchestrations or the music.
Where did you record the album? And how did working with producer Dave Allen(The Cure, Depeche Mode) work? Were the sessions quite intense? I read that Dave lived in a camper van outside the studio for the duration of the sessions, now that's commitment!?
We recorded at The Old Blacksmiths Studio where we have spent so many years rehearsing it almost feels like home. Dave really made this record, he shook us into the band he knew we could be and was always very honest (sometimes too honest!) with us. They were intense sessions especially because, due to lack of recording budget, we all had to work and hold onto jobs at the same time. It amazes me how focused we were on the record for the whole month of December and I think that is what gives the album its intense sound - it such an ambitious thing to do but, my God, we seem to have pulled it off. And Dave did have his camper van in the car park (the van has since been stolen and used to hijack a Nissan garage but that's a story for another time!). He worked with us because he liked us, we became friends and he knew we were broke. He just wanted to be part of the project, I guess, and we were all very grateful for his direction.
There's a lot of naturalistic imagery and metaphors used as ways of reflecting emotional places on the album do you think that's a reflection of your surroundings and experience?
Definitely. We come from a very densely populated city but live on the coastline where, suddenly, you can see for miles and miles across the sea. Its sets a real catharsis that gets the heart racing and makes you want to escape away from the city, but you can't. The sea may look inviting but, really, it's a border that keeps you stuck on dry land. There are so many contradicting emotions around the sea that it seems to be an apt metaphor for the human psyche. There isn't a feeling that can't be represented in there somewhere.
Can you tell us about the Richard P Horn Youth Orchestra, and why did you ask them to get involved in the records was this an attempt to make an even grander sounding record this time round?
Its not everyday you meet an orchestra willing to work with you, I suppose it would have seemed a missed opportunity! Richard P Horn is a drinking friend of some members of the band, he loves music and we love him. It seemed like a perfect match!
Was there an attempt to try and distil some elements of your live sound on record? Or was it entirely a studio record?
Because it was recorded in such an intense, short period of time a lot of the parts had to be recorded with a live sound. This isn't to say, however, that we would have done it otherwise given the option. We are primarily a live band, we've always put everything into our live shows and we really wanted this energy to come across on the record.
What are the specific influences on the record: be they from your own lives, books, art, films, the music of other bands?
The music was inspired by our hard work then David M Allen telling us to rip it all up and start again(!). I suppose you are always going to be influenced by the things you read, hear and see in your life but we all lead quite separate lives outside of the band so it must be mix of all our thoughts. The sea is definitely a unifying feature to our lives and the albums and the lyrics are mostly about thoughts and feelings I would have running through my head when I walk along the beach late at night looking at the lights on a distant horizon.
Why did you choose Rising Sea as the lead single, and was any of it's lyrics inspired by any specific events?
Its just a great song and one of the most accessible from the album. All of my lyrics are about things I feel, they may not necessarily have happened exactly like that. Everyone has arguments and fall-outs with the people closest to them, if you do that on a bench with a dedication like a grave stone facing a vacuum of the sea melting into sky then that seems
like a pretty good time to write a song.
The Strange Death of Liberal England's first single from this album 'Rising sea' was released on August the 23rd.
Are you looking forward to touring this record, and do you have any banners or stage props this time?
Yes I cant't wait, playing live is the reason we write the songs in the first place. That and the free beer you get on
a rider. We have a few flags to take with us and a battered transit van, and we may have a few surprises up our sleeve...
Are there any artists or albums that you're enjoying currently?!
We are currently enjoying The National, just like everybody else out there. Those guys are far too sucessful and are
surely overdue a backlash..!
Many thanks for answering our questions and good luck with the album, I think its awesome!
The Strange Death of Liberal England have confirmed they will release a new single 'Lighthouse' on November 1st. Their album 'Drown Your Heart Again' is out now on Republic of music. TSDOLE play the following dates over the next two months.
Monday 11 Leeds, Milo
Tuesday 12 Aberdeen, Tunnels (supporting The Delays)
Wednesday 13 Dundee, Dexters
Thursday 14 Sunderland, Plugged in
Friday 15 Glasgow, Maggie Mays
Saturday 16 Bathgate, Attic
Sunday 17 Inverness, Hootananny
Monday 18 York, Stereo
Wednesday 20 Liverpool, Masque
Thursday 21 Sheffield, The Hub
Friday 22 Leicester, Firebug
Monday 25 London, Lexington
Tuesday 26 Bristol, The Lanes
Wednesday 27 Birmingham, The Flapper
Thursday 28 Manchester, Ruby Lounge
Friday 29 Exeter, Time Piece
Saturday 30 Truro, Wig and Pen
Monday 1 Cardiff, Buffalo Bar
Tuesday 2 Brighton, Hydrant
Wednesday 3 Stoke, Sugarmill