Heartbreakers is out now.
Do you like angular, aggressive rhythms and the children’s literary scarecrow Wurzel Gummidge? Well then, you’re essentially bound to like this Galway noise rock/post-hardcore trio who have taken the name of the beloved character and made it their own. They’ve been in the game since 2010, releasing a four song EP called Sick Again in October 2012 and their debut album Heartbreakers on October 1st of last year. Exploring the raw and pointed confrontations of the likes of Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu, the trio are a brusque and spirited proposition who do not shy away from chugging, busy riffs and shouted, but melodic, vocals.
They took us through Heartbreakers track by track. We learned that they are quite irreverent and seem to believe that Kate Bush has invented time travel.
1. Caribbean Swing Dance
This was one of the first songs we wrote for the album, quite a long time ago in fact. We put it first on the album cause it has a bit of everything, a good introduction to what’s to come I suppose. We have a few different ways of writing songs. Sometimes one of us will come in with almost finished song, sometimes just a few riffs or sometimes jams. I think this one was a mix of jams and some riffs brought from home. The lyrics are about anxiety and panic attacks, something that features a lot on the album in various ways. Without belittling war I was trying to say that the inside of the mind of someone suffering from a panic attack is kinda like a warzone. We have tried to play it first at gigs a good few times but for some unknown reason it doesn’t work. It has it’s chance to shine now!
2. Kissy Kiss Indicator
We have a habit of giving songs silly titles that have nothing to do with the song. This is a good example, it was called Heartbreakers (after a Musical Youth song) but then we wanted to call the album that so changed around a few things. Mental Horse Ghost was originally Kissy Kiss Indicator before recording but then changed (more on that later) so that left Kissy Kiss Indicator free for this song. Confused? Yeah me too. Imagine looking at one of our set lists. Like some of that other songs it’s all about the main bass riff, then trying to find stuff to go with it. Myself and Gab (bass) write parts for each other, I think he wrote guitar for this one. Except the solo, never thought I’d get to play a rock solo in Gummidge. The lyrics are about how your mind moves from one relationship (romantic, friendship, band, work, etc) to the next. It’s also filled out with nonsensical stuff. This is the only song with double tracked vocals. I wanted all vocals and guitar to be just one track, keep it more like a live feel. On the verses I tried two different ways of doing the vocals and when I heard the two together I thought it sounded cool so decided to keep it. I ended up doubling the solo too.
3. I Took One In The Crown
This one is a band favourite It’s great fun to play live, the super loud to the super quiet. And the guitar is really easy, the bass and drums take the lead much more. We tend to write songs in batches of 2/3 at a time, this was from the second last batch before we recorded I think. Ken (drums) doesn’t write guitar or bass parts but takes a very active role in song writing and structure. This song has an awful lot to do with him. The lyrics are about how destructive alcohol can be and trying to control it. Or trying to give it up and still be a normal person in Ireland… When we recorded I wanted to do all the guitars live with the drums. I managed to do it and was happy with all the takes. But when we were listening back there was an electrical noise going through all the guitar tracks. It wasn’t audible when music was loud but whenever the music was quiet it was really obvious. We tried everything possible to get rid of it but it was there no matter what we did. So I ended up having to rerecorded all the quiet guitar tracks when I was recording the vocals in another studio. Initially I was annoyed cause I liked the idea of getting all the guitars done in one take with the drums. But I suppose at the end of the day the finished product is what matters. It would have been awful if we left that horrible electrical noise in.
4. Shane Scanlon
This song had the working title Shame and Scandal, when Stephen asked what it’s called he heard Shane Scanlon, seemed only right to stick with it. It the song we usually start gigs with. I think because of this there was talk of putting it first on the album. Sometimes it makes sense to do the same things on an album as you do at a gig, put songs in a certain order, use the same guitar sounds etc. And that probably happens a lot with part-timers like us. But you don’t have to. I suppose this was us not doing the album the same as the gig. It’s fun to do things on an album that you’ll never be able to do at a gig. But at the same time for a band like us it’s important that we can recreate what we do an the album at a gig. It’s about finding the balance really isn’t it? Musically it feels a bit different from some of the other songs. It came from a riff I had wrote years ago so maybe that explains the difference. It still feels like a Gummidge song. The lyrics are about not letting fear or a lack of confidence stopping you from doing what you want. I wrote them a long time ago when I was doing the Camino. Hopefully I’ve taken the message on board.
This was wrote at the same time as Caribbean Swing Dance, so quite an old song. It obviously started with that bass line. We spent a lot of time trying to find other stuff to go with it. It’s all based around that riff. The lyrics are about the disgusting practice of humans creating diseases and giving them to animals, humans are bad. I can remember Gab recording the bass, which we did in our freezing cold practice room. He was trying to it all in one take, which for a complicated riff that’s played a lot of times in a row is quite hard. Anyway, I fell asleep for a while and when I woke up it was done, don’t know if he knows I fell asleep… I remember when we were mixing / editing some serious work had to be done on the guitar and vocals in this one. The vocals because some parts are very quiet and talky and had to be balanced. And the quiet and loud guitar tracks weren’t sitting right together. Stephen (engineer) is a bit of a genius. His understanding of sound is unparalleled. I’ve been making music with him since we were teenagers. He is also very laid back which I find makes for a relaxed time in the studio.
6. Sky Berry Hill
This is another one that was wrote a long time before the album, we’ve actually stopped playing it live. I suppose it doesn’t fit in as well as the rest of the songs, it’s more like our older songs. And we mess up the middle bit at practice too much. We recorded twelve songs with the idea that we’d release the ones we were happiest with. This one almost didn’t make the cut. I’m not really selling it am I? But the “Oh Baby” at the end of the second chorus made us have to keep it. When we started recording we didn’t have an exact plan in place of how it was going to go so ended up recording in 3 different places over about 6 weekends. Drums and loud guitar in our good friend Dan’s studio. A great place, thanks Dan. Bass in our practice room. And vocals and quiet guitar in Stephen’s Dad’s studio, Dwansound in Ballina. I think because of this it gave time to think about things, it never felt rushed. I wouldn’t be super confident with the vocals so it was a good to have some extra time. The lyrics are about Sky burial (Sky Berry Hill…) This is where dead bodies are left on top of mountains to decompose and get eaten by animals. I think it’s what I’d like to be done to me.
7. Running Up That Hill
I can’t believe Kate Bush robbed our song title… And 30 years earlier too, the cheek. I think this is Gab’s favourite. It’s the kind of song when we play it well live it has a really good feel and it’s still fairly new to the set. Took us a while to write it even though it’s quite simple. And it took me an age to write the lyrics. I’m happy enough writing a few lines at a time but this was a challenge, the first verse is like four normal verses for me. The lyrics are about depression and trying to live with it. They were wrote before I found mindfulness. Our second album is gonna be some kind of guided meditation. I mentioned earlier that I was disappointed when I had to rerecord all the quiet guitar tracks but on this song it worked in my favour. On the original takes I hadn’t put any effects on but when I was rerecording I tried a really fast delay on this. I’ve ended up using it on a few more parts of the album and loads of stuff since. I’m always trying different pedals and sounds and amp arrangements and never really settle. But this sound I am very happy with. It’s funny how bad things can sometimes work in your favour.
8. Mental Horse Ghost
Another new-ish song. This one came from a jam that sounded exactly like a Jackbeast song. We changed it a little bit so it’s not a total rip off. The name! It came from the recording. When I started recording vocals there was a lot of sounds bouncing around the studio so we had to build a vocal booth with mic stands and blankets. It ended looking like a mental horse ghost, how could you not use that title. I remember when we were recording there was a good example of what it’s like to record on a budget. In one part of the song I got every guitar hit really tight with the drums. When that bit came around again I didn’t get it quite as tight. We had a few listens and it wasn’t bad so we stuck with it. If we had loads of money and time I would have done it over and over until it was perfect. But when you don’t you make calls on these things. The lyrics are about being in a relationship, trying to keep a sense of independence while at the same time experiencing things with two sets of senses. Myself and Gab share lyric writing, I’ll let ye guess which songs are by whom.
9. Vagina Machine Gun
This is the oldest song on the album, it almost made it on to our first EP. Unlike other songs that came from jams and we’re changed and added to this was just a jam and has stayed the same ever since. The night we wrote it I was staying with a friend, we were watching a Lady Gaga video and he said, “Look it’s a Vagina Machinegun”. Another silly song name sorted. There aren’t lyrics, live it’s usually the last song so I get to shout like a raving lunatic, it’s good for the soul. I found it strange to record vocals like that, trying to create a live feel in the middle of the day in a room on my own. But I didn’t want to write lyrics just for the album and never sing them live. So it’s just me shouting and wailing. I suppose it’s another example of the difference between playing a gig and recording an album. If we recorded it for the first EP I probably would have wrote lyrics.
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