We Cut Corners - Interview
Interview with We Cut Corners February 2014
Dublin duo We Cut Corners caught up with us to talk about the release of their second album 'Think Nothing'. Their latest offering further adapts the sound of We Cut Corners' distinct lyrical rawness with some heavy guitar chords and fierce drum beats. Mix that with some soft acoustic harmonies and the two ex-primary school teachers are ready to deliver another dose to the fans. Taking much influence from their homeland of Ireland, as well as bands like Vampire Weekend, the band are happy to remain as a two-piece and bring their sound to the festivals and stages of the UK and Ireland throughout the year.
Contactmusic.com: Hi Conall, how are you?
Conall O'Breachain: I'm OK, thank you. I'm very busy getting prepared for the release of the second album. We are just at the stage of getting together videos and planning our tour.
CM: The new album is called 'Think Nothing' what can you tell us about it?
CB: We started recording the album last summer. We had about ten demos and we took them to Tommy Mclachlan who plays guitar in The Villagers, he has a studio up in Donegal so we went up to stay with him and started ripping apart the songs. We spent a few weeks recording with him and then we went to London, to mix the album with Ben Hillier who has worked with Depeche Mode and Blur. It's now at the stage where it's pretty much done!
The first album was sonically kind of minimalist in the sense that it was just drums, guitars and two voices, this time, we wanted to expand the sonic palette and so we brought strings in, and we got a prolific kind of Irish, contemporary classical composer to arrange the strings on three of the tracks. They were recorded in a church here in Dublin and then sent over to Ben. We are very excited that it's coming out soon.
CM: Did you have much of a break between albums one and two?
CB: We never really had a break from the song writing; literally, from the minute we finished album one we were writing for the next album. We never said, 'Right, we need time to gather our thoughts' or anything, we just started writing songs again. It was just a natural and organic progression through to the next album.
CM: Who were you listening to whilst writing the album?
CB: It's kind of a difficult question to answer just due to the protracted process. We were listening to Vampire Weekend, especially 'Modern Vampires Of The City', and then towards the latter part of the album, Fiona Apple's 'The Idler Wheel.'. We were also listening to Angel Olsen's 'Half-Way Home'; quite a lot of female rock, actually. I loved the atmosphere related to that album, and there was also Majical Cloudz 'Impersonator'. This album just brought the minimalist and production-honest, moody vocals. We have always listened to people like Fionn Regan, who's a phenomenal singer/songwriter, and obviously we were working with Tommy from The Villagers; we were listening to very early mixes of The Villagers so that was seeping in. There were even more albums whilst we were demo-ing. It made for an interesting sort of mix.
CM: You mentioned Ben Hiller mixed the album, were you always set on him mixing it?
CB: We had been big fans of Ben since he recorded an album for another Irish singer called Cathy Davey. He recorded an album of hers (10-13 years ago) and we were always huge fans of the sound of that album; it just sounded really vibie but very present as well. I remember listening to it and it making a huge impact on me. I also remember looking at the record for who produced it and seeing Ben's name. He then did Blur's 'Think-Tank' album in 2003, and that for the same reason really. It had this really atmospheric sound that you can really associate with a particular place and time. And, just by some sort of serendipity, we realised that Ben had mixed The Villagers' first album, so it was one of those lucky things. We asked Tommy what it was like working with Ben and of course he was very complimentary of Ben's work and we immediately asked if we could get him to work with us. We were absolutely delighted to work with someone we had admired for so long.
CM: You guys had regular jobs last year - are you still working in those jobs or are you able to work full time in the band?
CB: Yeah, we did, we are both primary school teachers. It's coming up to the time where we are able to take a break or a sabbatical so the album should be out sometime in April, so we are looking to making that leap after the release.
CM: Did you feel that working around the album hindered anything creatively or practically?
CB: I don't think it would have hindered us creatively, to be honest; we have written songs together for a while now and at the same time we have always worked. It's always been the scenario of coming home from work and picking up the guitar or heading off to meet at the studio. What it does hinder is your ability to commit to tours abroad, that's the main problem we had. We've had opportunities to tour the UK and the USA and we have had times where we have had to decline because we have been working.
CM: Can you tell us a little about the new single 'Best Friend'?
CB: The sound of 'Best Friend' literally comes from a guitar, vocals and the drums. We just used Tommy and Ben's skills to try and get the most out of those elements. We really just play as two people with our music. I play the drums and sing, John plays the guitar and he sings and I also play the synth whilst John sings. We just try and maximise what both of us can do at any given time.
The new video is done by Kijek/Adamski and we are very excited; they have done another animation, wildly different to the one for 'A Pirates Life' and that is really impressive, which we got to see last week. It's more minimalist but every bit as effective.
CM: When you play live do you have additional members or is it just you and John?
CB: Yeah, we just keep it me and John even when we play live. It's funny because, the way in which the songs are written and built, they are made around us on drums, guitars and two voices so there doesn't tend to be a huge leap from when we play it live. We sort of write and arrange around those fundamentals and components of our sound, and then bringing it to a live setting just seems kind of natural.
CM: Was it always intentional that John and yourself would work as a duo or is that just the way it worked out?
CB: I guess, it's just what kind of happens with the band. When we first started playing, singing and writing together, it just seemed to click. Our voices just seemed to suit each other and it all fell into place. We have just developed our sound over time and we never had that conversation of 'Well, shall we get a bass player now?' you know? We have always just sort of done what we have done and that's not to say that we would never consider getting more members or anything, were not against that, it's just what feels right and that's the comfortable stage for us right now.
CM: The two-person music scene is a lot more common these days as well.
CB: Yeah, it is bands like Blood Red Shoes and Japandroids who are two-piece bands. I think there's a certain dynamic that happens between two people. There's a particular way in which the songs end up being crafted when they are being developed around just the basics of drums, guitars and vocals.
CM: Your first single 'YKK' received a lot of attention from the likes of XFM and BBC Northern Ireland; do you feel that radio play is as beneficial to bands now as it used to be in the 90s?
CB: To be honest with you, I guess, yeah. The longer we have been doing this, the longer we have realised that it's actually crucial. I mean, obviously blogs and that sort of outlet is huge now and there's no denying it. But it just seems that if you still want a larger cross-over or just reach the general population then radio is essential. For our first album, we had a video made for our song 'A Pirates life' made by Kijek and Ademski. That was huge and they had their work featured on loads of platforms. But it just seems that when you get a good reception from radio, then you get a very sudden uptake from people. I feel that radio really is a vital tool still.
CM: As with the creative side of your work; do you guys handle that or have an eye for these things?
CB: Especially for the first album, John would get in contact with video makers and spend a lot of time researching them and looking at loads of different videos. The energy is sort of expanded on that part, and then when you see the track-record and the creativity of people on the same wave-length then you can put it in their hands. And I think that's the kind of tact that we have taken; when we choose people to do our videos and things, we want them to be passionate about it as much as we are. I feel that when you take the direction from them, it makes it more of a job for them rather than their creative project. Our videos are thought of as collaboration with our song to create a piece of art.
CM: You recently played with BellX1 on home territory, is there a close knit music scene in Ireland?
CB: I guess so. I guess a lot of the bands will see each other along the road because the road is so short. We have been lucky enough to play with The Villagers and BellX1 and these are big bands on the Irish scene that are well renowned. One of the most important things for us when we put on our own shows is to get support acts that we can see are up-and-coming or those that are doing something interesting. That's kind of a nice way for the community to sort of knit together. Ireland, musically, is a very fertile place and there's a variety of really good and interesting bands at the moment; it's really nice to be a part of that.
CM: What does the rest of 2014 hold for We Cut Corners?
CB: I guess the beauty of doing this is you never know what will happen. We have been working on this album for quite a while now and yet we have no idea how it's going to be received when it comes out. That's definitely one of the most exciting parts - it's daunting as well which makes it that even more exciting. What we know will happen is we are going to put out our next single in March and we are going to put out our next album in April and we hope that we can get to play more gigs in Ireland and the UK. We have started getting booked for festivals. As regards to a tour, we are just sort of finalising dates and stuff, but hopefully that will sort of be in the April to May months and then you are into your festival months. We are hoping to tour Ireland & the UK in the autumn months too.
CB: That's brilliant, thank you very much for the interview, Conall.
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