Noise Annoys: And So I Watch You From Afar quizzed on The Endless Shimmering
Ireland's premier exponents of aggressive/progressive post rock And So I Watch You From Afar play their first Belfast gig in two years next weekend. Guitarist Rory Friers answers a few questions about their new album and recent activities...
THE Endless Shimmering: Where did you record it, who was at the controls and what was the recording process like?
We’re really happy with how it turned out. We recorded it in a studio in Pawtucket, Rhode Island called Machines With Magnets in April with the incredible Seth Manchester and Keith Souza.
It was an extremely enjoyable experience and quite intense too. The studio has a full living area where we stayed. We were actually snowed in for a week so we ate, slept and breathed the record every day.
It was the kind of immersive experience we really hoped for and it felt like the album benefited from that kind of intensity. We had two weeks booked in to the studio but ended up tracking and mixing the whole thing in just nine days. It was a really amazing trip.
The drums have got that classic Steve Albini-esque rhythmic ‘thump’ to them. Was that something you intentionally focused on this time?
Yeah, that was a big reason for our choice of studio. We made an album that we wanted to capture entirely live and we’d written drum parts that needed lots of life and dynamic to the way they were recorded.
The drum room at Machines With Magnets and the set up in which they capture those sounds were exactly what we wanted from the session. Seth and Keith are masters in that realm.
I heard you started off with around 30 songs written for this record, how difficult was it to whittle that all the way down to nine?
It's actually usually not too difficult, it sort of self manages itself in a way, we write all these songs and the ones that feel right just seem to hang around, the others just sometimes sink back into the ether.
I used to give myself a hard time about how many songs I was writing and then discarding. I would become heavily attached to certain ideas and it would make me constantly over analyse things, but what I’ve learned is that those ideas that don’t make it are just as important as the ones that do – because they are all part of the process of getting to that final collection of songs.
It’s just like sketches or early prototypes of any finished project. I’m much more at ease with that side of things these days.
This is guitarist Niall's second album – what impact has he had on the songwriting, recording process and band dynamic in general?
I think Niall would agree this record feels like a completely different beast all together from [last album] Heirs, we wrote this one more as a live concept rather than a studio thing, so Niall really got to experience the band writing in that very raw way.
We’d be standing in a room together for hours really making things come to life rather than going to the safety of demoing or working separately on stuff.
I was really happy that we could have that collective experience and it's only further strengthened our dynamic and made us closer musically as a result.
He’s a total music head, I'm very lucky to have him to knock ideas off; he always has a good perspective on songs and is a great writing partner.
Five albums in, what's the most important lesson you've learned about making records?
I've learnt not be afraid to step away from what people expect of you if you feel like its something that's going to be fulfilling. As long as you have a good barometer of good music and bad music, it's OK to make new noises.
How do you feel TES has been received? Are you pleased with the reviews and fan feedback you’ve been getting so far?
It's been amazingly received, especially by our fans. It’s also the first time we’ve had people at shows calling out for new songs rather than old.
That's been a pretty cool feeling, and although not strictly as important, it's been very well received critically too, so we feel we got across what we wanted to say and it's resonated with people, we’re feeling happy about that.
Though, we’re used to splitting opinion and upsetting more people a little more, so I’m simultaneously delighted and annoyed!
How was your most recent tour of Europe and GB, any particularly memorable shows and/or incidents? The pics from the London gig at Koko looked class.
I'm literally just home to my apartment as I’m writing this: it seems strange that tour is suddenly something I’m casting my mind back to rather than currently happening.
I think the whole thing was a lot for us to take in, it was six weeks long with three days off and the shows were just incredible.
There were so many sold-out rooms and passionate crowds, it felt like a real privilege to be able to get to do that every night.
There was a 1,400 mile overnight drive which I won’t forget in a hurry, but it was followed by our first day off in a cottage in Provence in the south of France, so that kind of levelled it back again.
And yeah, Koko really was one of those unforgettable moments for us – the stature of that room when you’re standing on stage looking at a crowd full of people, the noise and atmosphere was just so much to take in, it’s definitely one I'll never forget.
You’ve put a great bill together for the Belfast show, with support from Touts, Catalan! and Calling All Horses. Are you looking forward to it?
Of course, absolutely, its such a big deal for us to play in Belfast, it's where we get to be with family and loved ones and play in the place that has nurtured and supported us through all our time as a band and that isn’t something we take lightly.
We have endless respect for the people in this city who continue to make these shows so special and to now get to play in somewhere as monumental and epic as The Telegraph Building, let alone be the first show in there, is so exciting.
We’re going to make sure its one to remember.
You and Niall are in the running for MusicRadar/TotalGuitar’s 'Best Prog Guitarist' award at the moment, alongside the likes of the Radiohead lads, Steve Hackett out of Genesis, Steve Wilson from Porcupine Tree and the guy from Dream Theater. If you had to lose to any of them who would it be – and which song would you play to convince voters that the crown is rightfully yours?
Haha, I'd be happy to lose to anyone, it's a bit of a daft concept really but I’m more than flattered that they nominated us.
I’d play the entire Eric Bell solo from Thin Lizzy’s The Rocker.
Finally, what do you want for Christmas?
Probably to be able to play the entire Eric Bell solo from Thin Lizzy’s The Rocker!
:: Tickets £16 via Shine.net and Ticketmaster outlets.