“There were a lot of bats that came in at the same time every night and flew around our heads while we were recording, and you could hear them swishing around when you listened back to the recordings”
enough songs and seen them on record enough to know that the way I feel about a song is going to change, and there’s nothing worth protecting. No matter how attached I feel to a song, it’s just a product of how I felt at a particular moment. You have to look at them dispassionately. I try to write all the time, I try to write a song or part of a song every day to stay in practice, but I throw out most of the stuff.”
Thirty songs were written and considered for Smart Flesh, but only 11 made it. “We just cut away the ones which didn’t feel relevant or even felt too relevant. There were some songs which were too direct, and tied up some of the questions and ideas in a way that hurt the other songs because they were so magnetic.
“The word ‘wire’ occurs in a few of the other songs, and there was one song which answered all the questions of the meaning of the imagery, and instead of it being an open thing it began to damage the other songs. We carved that one out, which was unbelievable to us and everyone who worked on the album because we thought it was the central song. But in the end it was getting in the way instead of adding something.”
Is it difficult for a writer to let go of his creations like that, to banish some of his children? “When you put it like that it sounds biblical,” laughs the songwriter. “But even though I write all the songs, we’re a band, and the ones which make the cut and make sense are the ones which are not confessional.
“Certain songs got cut because they were too personal to me and they didn’t make sense in the context of the band or the album. Along the way it became a very sparse record which has a lot of suggestion and unfinished ideas. There’s a fog to it. It’s a shorter record than we thought it was going to be too.”
Perhaps the unconventional spaces they chose to record in had a bearing on the sound of the album, such as the former Porino pasta sauce factory in Central Falls, an abandoned 4,000sq ft building with huge 20ft walls.
“We thought it was haunted at the time. It was all dark and crumbling and decaying, with broken glass everywhere and these old rusted bay windows banging in the wind. The only working bathroom was five minutes away from where we were working,