Bill Cummings 08/07/2008
It's that rare thing in music, an album that can completely envelop you, an emotional experience that will reach deep and try to touch you, but that's what Leeds duo Glissando (Elly May Irving and Richard Knox.) have produced with their debut long playing record 'With our arms wide open we march towards the sea'(out now on Gizeh). It is an album of almost unbearable heartbroken beauty that dunks your head in the waters of haunting sadness and propels you across waves of emotion built upon piano motifs, guitar drones and rising and falling rhythms that ache towards the post rock of an early Sigur Ros or the darkness of Mogwai. To cap things off, it's sprinkled with Elly's elegant, at times desolate, vocal tone and occasionally Richard's brooding accompaniment. There are moments where these tracks recall the likes of Bjork or Low.
After a tumultuous eighteen months that included a breakdown of their relationship, the reinvigoration of the act came when they were asked to open for Stars of the Lid in Leeds' Holy Trinity Church and culminated in the recording of their new album. I caught up with Richard, one half of Glissando and head of Gizeh records in the middle of his current UK tour for a chat.
Hi there, how are you today?
Pretty good thanks, we're just about to head off to Birmingham for the third date of the tour with Her Name is Calla, it's a little wet but I think we're all doing just fine.
How did you meet each other?
We actually met in sixth form, Glissando was born a few years later.
When did the original idea for Glissando come from? Where does the name originate?
I was playing in another band and I wasn't very happy with the way things were going so Elly and I started writing a bit of music together and realized we were onto something.
The name comes from a musical term for a slide between notes but it was more the feel of the name seems to suit what we were doing at the time.
Can you briefly talk us through the history of Glissando up to now?
We spent the first few years pretty much just doing improv shows and getting different people to play with us each show. That was cool for a while but we decided we needed to settle down a bit more into something more solid and we spent some time writing more structured pieces of music which eventually brought us to doing the new record.
What kind of influences you both as an act (whether they be literary, musical, or performance wise)?
We both have a lot of influences, most of which you won't even hear in the music.
Would it be fair to say that your experiences as an act, and previously as a couple have shaped the way your sound has emerged?
Well we nearly didn't even make it this far so now we have a much different outlook to what we are doing. It's been tough for the past 18 months but we're in a better place now so hopefully the future is a bit brighter!
At times your new album 'With our arms wide open we march towards the sea' sounds almost heartbroken yet with a faint light of hope at the end of a long tunnel was this intentional or just a reflection of how you both felt at the time?
I think its just what comes out naturally, we've been working on that record for quite some time now and we've been through a hell of a lot together in that period. We never sit down and say "lets write a sad song", it's just what we seem to be better at.
Its rare to hear a record that attempts to connect with the listener on a emotional almost subconscious level do you think the length of your tracks allow you that space to delve deeper than your average three minute pop song?
Maybe. It's different for every listener I guess. There is definitely more space to explore within the songs and time to reflect on the sounds and what is happening. I spent a lot of time getting the flow of the record right so it feels almost seamless, enabling you to get a little more lost in there.
It a very dark, intricate, brooding sound, someone said your new mini album was best listened to at night with headphones on, is that the kind of atmosphere you wanted to create? And what are your favourite headphone records?
It's something I've worked on for while - to create a record that you can listen to in bed and drift into nothingness but at the same time have enough emotional content to be able to relate to it in a lot of ways. Most of the melody comes from Elly and I try to piece it all together somehow.
As for Headphone Records - Godspeed's "Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada" is certainly up there, I listen to a lot of music while I travel, Tom Waits always makes me happy in that way. For bedtime listening i tend to go for more droney stuff like Deaf Center, Stars of the Lid, Labradford etc..
How long did it take you to record? Where was it recorded?
We actually recorded it quite quickly. Probably in a couple of months. We went to Leicester in January to record the basics with Tom from Her Name is Calla in a studio down there. The rest we did in our own studio in the following weeks and the I mixed it in a couple of weeks.
How does the songwriting divide between you both? Who writes the words, and music?
Elly generally comes up with a starting point and we work around that, most of the drones and soundscape-type stuff I tend to write and then everything else is sort of shared around.
There are a lot of naturalistic images in your song lyrics (ie illusions to floods and storms) you didn't get caught up in last year's downpours did you?
Ha! I think Elly would be better at answering that.
Elly has a stunning voice, is she classically trained or is this natural skill she has developed through practice?
She's never had any lessons or training. In fact neither of us have, everything is self taught from writing/playing music through to recording and mixing.
You've got some guests on this album including members of iLIKETRAiNS, What's the thinking behind bringing in different voices and ideas?
We are quite limited in a lot of ways with there only being two of us and we've always worked with others in the past so it was something I had in mind for the record. Also I like to get people involved who have helped us down the years and people who have been friends for a long time... it's nice to extend the family a little.
When and why did you start your label Gizeh?
It's being going for a few years now. Originally I started it to put out a couple of Glissando CDr's and it' grown into something I never thought possible. It's been hard work but when you get to a point where you can release two records that you believe in so much in the space of a couple of weeks it becomes quite a rewarding experience.
What's been your most treasured live experience so far in Glissando?
That's easy. We opened for Stars of the Lid in Leeds last year in a beautiful church. It was going to be our last show ever but it turned out to be just the start.
What attracts you to an act like HNIC? Will you be putting out any more records by other artists?
I think you only need to listen to 'Calla to understand why I want to put their records out. They are an amazing band with massive potential. I have a few plans for the rest of the year but I can't really say to much yet as nothing is signed and sealed!
How does your live set up work? Does it differ much from your recorded sound? Do you have guests on stage, and do you play older material?
On this tour there is just the two of us and it's fairly stripped down, it works though and I think it's sounding better than it ever has. We're not playing anything older on this tour. We have a tour booked for September and we'll be taking a couple of extra members with us to make things a little more interesting for the people who have seen us a few times already.
What are your future plans?
Pretty much to tour as much as possible for the rest of the year andget the new record across to as many people as possible. We'll start on some new material later in the year and see where that takes us!
Since my site is called God Is In The TV zine what's your favourite TV programme?
I never really watch TV so that's difficult.... Family Guy usually
makes me happy though.
Good luck and best wishes GIITTV
Thanks... looking forward to playing Cardiff for you!
See Glissando/ Her Name Is Calla and Kutosis at GIITTV's gig this Wednesday(9th of July)@ Ten Feet Tall- doors 8pm entry £5