“We wrote the al­bum in Dal­ston, the epi­cen­tre of that whole hip­ster scene. It was slightly re­volt­ing, but also en­er­gis­ing”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

by the knowl­edge that they’d un­earthed a new au­di­ence with the off­beat sounds on Two Dancers. Recorded in the wilds of Snow­do­nia with for­mer Space­men 3 col­lab­o­ra­tor Richard Formby, Smother’s sonic shift wasn’t down to any strate­gic de­sign, but a sub­tle change of mind­set and a cau­tious sense of self-con­fi­dence.

“I think it’s fair to say we felt em­pow­ered by the fact that peo­ple are lis­ten­ing, whereas be­fore­hand we had to take a bat­ter­ing ram to the door to make peo­ple lis­ten – so in that sense you can look for­ward to mak­ing things a bit deeper,” agrees Thorpe. “You don’t have to spend so much time on the su­per­fi­cial things. You know peo­ple are go­ing to give it time to un­der­stand the deeper lay­ers. And that was a re­ally em­pow­er­ing, cre­ative tool – to know that you have an au­di­ence who know your meth­ods, who know your di­a­logue.”

“We don’t have to jus­tify why we ex­ist any more,” agrees Flem­ing. “There’s an el­e­ment of ‘okay, you’re on your third al­bum, maybe you weren’t chanc­ing it’. And I think this record is a very pos­i­tive record – they’re pretty much love songs. The sonic change is just our in­ter­ests chang­ing. With the first record, we thought it was con­tro­ver­sial to even use a piano, but the sec­ond one was a bit more re­laxed about things like that. And now we’re just des­per­ate to ex­tend that pal­ette and just throw these kind of ab­stract things in. A lot of the sounds on this al­bum are recog­nis­able, oth­ers not so much. It’s worth say­ing that ev­ery­thing is very much at our fin­ger­tips, though; there’s very lit­tle pro­gram­ming, as such – ev­ery in­stru­ment and sound is played.”

Ar­dent fans used to the band’s en­dear­ing ec­cen­tric­i­ties needn’t be trou­bled by the fact that Smother is fo­cused on mat­ters of the heart. Songs such as the se­duc­tive Play­thing (“New squeeze, take off your chemise and I’ll do as I please”), Reach a Bit Fur­ther (“You were dev­as­tat­ingly beau­ti­ful, I was crude, I was lewd, I was rude”) and Bed of Nails (“I want my lips to blis­ter when we kiss”) pay tes­ta­ment to Wild Beasts’ shun­ning of con­ven­tional cheesy love paeans. Yet the re­sult of air­ing such per­sonal sen­ti­ments via such un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally can­did lyrics is that the two writers have ex­posed their per­son­al­i­ties like never be­fore with this al­bum. Thorpe, in par­tic­u­lar, has writ­ten pos­si­bly his most hon­est track ever: skele­tal opener Lion’s Share.

“I think too of­ten love songs are these slick, all-en­com­pass­ing bea­cons of ‘love is won­der­ful, love is great’, which I don’t think en­gages peo­ple truth­fully. Per­son­ally, when I hear those sort of songs I just think, ‘Why are you ly­ing to me?’,” he says with a shy smile. “You can be in love with some­one but still hate them. We have this re­spon­si­bil­ity to be hon­est, I think – and it pays to be hon­est. At the end of the day, we have to ex­plain our­selves and jus­tify what we’re do­ing, and we had the op­tion to make a big kalei­do­scopic record about go­ing around the world and see­ing all these amaz­ing things, but that would be an empty ges­ture, and a hard thing for peo­ple to re­late to.”

“Yeah, I think some­thing like Ra­zorlight’s Amer­ica is the ab­so­lute nadir of what not to do,” laughs Flem­ing. “I sup­pose it’s a credit to Domino that they trust us at this stage, but they have done since the be­gin­ning, re­ally. It seems like Lau­rence [Bell, Domino Records founder]’s ap­proach to us is: ‘Here’s your


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