Revolution: The Shoegaze Revival – Behind The Songs Part One

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Revolution the shoegaze revival interview

As we reported earlier in the week, Welsh/Canadian record label Ear To Ear Records and Indonesian label Gerpfast Kolektif have joined forces to release a pretty stellar mix of new shoegaze tunes. The compilation, titled Revolution – The Shoegaze Revival, is a heady mix of shoegaze, dreampop, and nugaze and brings together 30 bands from 16 countries and 5 continents. The entire project is a testament to the positive power the internet can have when people manage to stop freaking out about the colour of dresses, cats, and Kim Kardashian’s photoshopped ass.

This is the first part in a three part feature, in which we ask each band to tell us about the song they contributed to the compilation. What is clear from the answers is that shoegaze has become a global entity, loved from Hong Kong to Pakistan to Brazil to its home in the UK. Many thanks to Shauna McLarnon of Ear To Ear Records, Ummagma, and Shameless Promotion PR for coordinating the interviews. Legend.

Overblown: What inspired you to write the song you have featured on this compilation and what is it about? How did the songwriting process take place?

‘Hipgnosis’, like all the songs on our album Out Of Your Ego, emerged as a result of some long, trippy and free jamming during rehearsals. We record every rehearsal session so that we can listen to it later and find out if there’s something we need to develop. Sometimes a song comes out almost complete and structured from these improvisations. At other times, we isolate a single riff or section, a melody, a sound, a noise, everything that seems interesting, and then we try to expand it into a more complete form. This was exactly what happened with ‘Hipgnosis’: everything started with that groovy filtered and delayed bass line, and then drums, guitar and synthesizers were added while continuing to jam. The lyrics came last and are focused on alienated feelings and in a dark mood that fits well with the song’s atmosphere.

Mario Lo Faro, Clustersun (on ‘Hipgnosis’)

One day, when I was taking a stroll in the park at daybreak, I saw shiny stars in the sky. It was so beautiful. It inspired me to find the melody for this song and the idea of this guitar sound. Here are the lyrics for ‘Morning Star’: “I sitting on the night garden / You looking up stars, birds fly away / I’m waiting at the night garden / You believe sadness fade away / Walking, I’m walking on the starry sky / So, maybe I was dreaming that night / Feeling lonely, but pray / Winds blowing, winds blowing blue light waves shines on you / Winds blowing, winds blowing / Springtime and morning star”.

Tomo Iwashita, Ether Feels (on ‘Morning Star’)

‘El Maresme’ is inspired by sultry Barcelona afternoons, when the heat steams off the pavement. It’s named for a tram stop in the city which is near the site of the Primavera Festival. So I guess it’s inspired by and about sunshine and trams!

We came up with the guitar riff and a huge swirly sound as a starting point and then we just threw it in the Wozniak blender! I clearly remember the first time we played it all through – it was just so massive  and I had a huge grin on my face.

Sarah Cuthbert-Kerr, Wozniak (on ‘El Maresme’)

It was just a doodle I played around with for months, can’t really remember how long ago. I was thinking about some of my favourite King Crimson stuff and some of my favourite Cure albums, that much I do know, so it most likely developed over a longer period. I never had much time for writing music for myself as I spent much of my time recording other bands and artists, so I would just grab any spare time to myself in the studio and, with a pocket full of riffs, I put ‘Theme 1’ together and after one or two more tracks (‘Theme 2’ and ‘Theme 3’ lol). I labelled the whole project Theme. No idea where our band name Lights That Change came from, but it was my idea. Some years later, I started to put the tracks on Soundcloud, and at this point, I got contact details from Fran Ashcroft about a session drummer Will Jones, who played drums on the track and it became Theme 1 Stage 2, I had asked Rebecca Palin (from Golden Fable) to sing something on ‘Theme 1’, and she said she would but they had started touring and became to busy that I asked my friend Lisa instead if she would like to give it a go. So then it became ‘Theme 1 Stage 3’.

Marc Joy, Lights That Change (on ‘Theme 1 Stage 3’)

Some of us started playing together, jamming to some Cure tunes, and all of us have a lot of respect for this mythic band. We chose The Funeral Party because we found this challenging, which was fun. We tried to keep the same spirit, but also wanted to make it ours by adding more energy and brightness in this very introspective song. Our friend Baptiste Bruzi engineered the production at Green Valley Records studio. He knows how we sound live and we worked together to achieve a wall of sound.

Atef, Hermetic Delight (on ‘Funeral Party’)

The two songs on our debut album In Memory of.. that really go hand in hand with one another are ‘Opening’ (track 1) and ‘The Wolf’ (track 10) . ‘Opening’ primarily being about waking from a blissful dream (the dream being each of the stories on the album colliding into one) and entering the reality that you no longer want to be a part of and ‘The Wolf’ being about accepting the fact that you can’t change who you are and truly embracing it’s meaning. The songs are almost like a parenthesis to each other in which even the chord progressions at the start of ‘Opening’ and the end of ‘The Wolf’ are exactly the same, but completely different.  Like each of the songs on the album, it was inspired by a collection of ghost stories that I had written in order to cope with my father’s passing several years prior. ‘Opening’ was probably my favorite song on the album to work on. I tried to make every repetition grow a little more as if you were falling deeper and deeper into sleep. With over 40 guitar tracks, multiple orchestral & percussion parts and dozens of vocal tracks it was easily the biggest production on the album and I feel that it really captured what I was trying to express.

Brian Caesar, Slow Motion Picture (on ‘Opening’)

At the lyrical core, ‘Pets’ is simply a love song. However, in spite of that, it is actually more complex than meets the ear. The interior is simple but it is encompassed by a deliberate compound of contradicting elements – Fabrication, Fact and Metaphor. Because of this particular lyrical structure, Pet’s can actually be interpreted in three different ways. The song is a contradiction and I believe that this is an exemplary expression of my subjective understanding of a situation that I experienced.

Chris and I were rehearsing for a covers gig and he just so happened to start playing three chords over and over. I was immediately intrigued as they reminded me of the song ‘Road to Joy,’ featured on the Bright Eyes album – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. I asked him what he was playing and he said it was just something he had been mucking around with. I felt that it had potential to be one of our own songs, so Chris took the initiative to turn it into a draft. He brought the draft to our next practice and the musical puzzle pieces naturally began to fall into place, which is a good sign that the song will work.

Alana West, Hideous Towns (on ‘Pets’)

Nostalgia was what inspired me for this song. Something unusual happened. It was a Sunday and I was lying in bed, when the guitar riff popped into my head… what inspires me with all music is everyday situations, yearning and both the “good times and bad”. One day a girl called me and told me that my friend Alex Medeiros was hospitalized. Just two days before that, we were happy with our new band – our rehearsals were incredible. But 4 days later, we buried him to the sound of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Femme Fatale’. Alex was a formidable man, beautiful inside and out, and always happy. He was the second friend I lost in one year. My heart was so full of longing and a certain bitterness … I missed him greatly and dedicated this song to him. It was the most I could do, besides hold the handle of his coffin.

Robson Gomes, Robsongs (on ‘Essa Grande de Falta de Voce’)

We simply wanted to make a perfect pop song with a catchy refrain but also with all the shoegaze elements: distorted guitars, a wall of delay and a bass guitar played like a guitar. The title ‘Isabeau’ was inspired by the character of Isabeu d’Anjou, played by Michelle Pfeiffer (for me, she is a perfect example of ideal beauty) in the 1984 fantasy movie Ladyhawke… one of my favorite movies… Often our song titles have female names: Isabeau, Marianne, Anais, Shohet…  Again about ‘Isabeau’:, the song talks about the inability to express feelings, the first verse goes “whenever you are looking for silence, come back to me…” This clearly explains my intention about the process: usually I start to play the guitar and the band follows me and this is the case here too. For ‘Isabeau’, we started with the guitar chords. Then Giacomo composed his bassline…. about the lyrics: well thanks to the guitar melody, the lyrics came out automatically…

Dario Torres, Stella Diana (on ‘Isabeau’)

We won’t go too specific into the meaning as we like to leave that to the imagination, but there are some clear themes in the lyrics. It’s a dark song; sort of an angry song depending from which angle you view it. Writing it was the norm for us really – we’ll start with an idea, usually a riff, and then develop on it. So everything is collaboration really. Recording was a varied process…it’s pretty raw though. It took a while to figure out how the guitars needed to sound, but I think the time we took was worth it.

Tom Williams, Blood Lips (on ‘Heartbeats’)

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  • FreneticGeek

    Just listened to this last night. It’s a beautiful thing.

  • Shauna McLarnon

    Thanks again for featuring this article! You ROCK!