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SPIRES: PRETENTIOUS OR FRAY BENTOS? - THE LUCID ABSTRACTIONS OF SPIRES - INTERVIEW BY ANDY BARNES

Of the excellent murder of metal bands currently based in Manchester, Spires are perhaps furthest forward in terms of record sales and both national / international recognition. Their debut album “Spiral to Ascension” sneaked out D.I.Y fashion at the back end of 2010, initially under the radar, although by enlisting the assistance of a P.R / Management company Skratch the Surface, it’s rise, whilst perhaps not meteoric, has certainly been gradual and extremely impressive.  Having just revealed a new acoustic based EP will be available in April, Mudkiss met with the band in their regular stomping ground of Grand Central on Oxford Road in Manchester, a venue committed to the promotion of local metal talent.      

ANDY: You’ve just announced the release of a new EP in April, the, in your words, pretentiously titled “Lucid Abstractions”  can you tell us a bit about that?

PAUL S: My own words yeah (laughing) ……it’s going to be four new tracks and an acoustic version of the title track from our debut album, “Spiral to Ascension” …….it’s just going to be something completely different to what we’ve done so far….there’s moments on Spiral that have kinda hinted at it…..but it’s going to be really sort of chilled, mellow kind of EP…..soothing, I suppose, but still dark you know……it’s not going to be pan pipes or anything (Laughter)……it’s going to have some cello and female vocals, it’s going to be quite different.

ANDY: Who’s the female vocalist on the record?

PAUL. C: My wife…..Mrs Gone Til Winter……… Talena Cuthbert.

ANDY: I did wonder if that might be the case, either Talena or Jessie J, as she seems to be everywhere at the moment.

PAUL S: No, you can’t get away from her.

CHRIS: We did think of Nicky Minaj as well but, I dunno, that’s a bit rad for us. (Laughing)

ANDY: Will the four new tracks form part of your second album in electric form?

PAUL S: We’re not sure yet….

PAUL C: Probably not.

PAUL S: There’s one of them which potentially might make an intro but it depends how starved of ideas we are when it comes to it (laughing)……..which is probably quite an honest answer to be fair (more laughter)……..I don’t think they are, I think it’s going to be a stand-alone thing, we’ve already got quite a bit of stuff for the second album already and then lots of ideas floating around we’ve not really worked on properly yet, so we should have ……...

PAUL C: An abundance of new material.

ANDY: That must be a good position to be in, four new tracks for the EP and different material in the pipeline for the album?

PAUL C: That’s four hours worth of music (laughter) 

ANDY: At least, I would have thought, at least (also laughing)…..Are you hoping to have the second album completed this year?

PAUL C: Fingers crossed, it would be nice……… we’re planning on it.

PAUL S: It’s an optimistic kind of viewpoint, we’d like to, but it might not happen.

PAUL C:  We’re going to try our best to……maybe not, but there is a chance .

CHRIS: The biggest problem we have is that Mr Sadler can’t leave things alone so we perfect songs and we get it to a point where we think, right, that’s brilliant…. he comes in at the next practise and goes, ah, I’ve changed it……..you know that bit where it does that….well it doesn’t anymore….and then it goes to there and then we might go to that bit after but I’ve not decided yet (Laughing)

PAUL S: We start off with four minute, radio friendly unit shifters and then they get blown out of proportion (laughing)

CHRIS: Ideally, towards the end of this year but it might be the start of next year….I mean it’s quite weird, I look at the bigger signed bands and they seem to release albums every three or four years but at our level when you are playing local gigs, month in and month out you can’t rely on the same material over and over again…..so it’d really be nice to put an album out every year (laughter)…..our problem is we’re a bit fussy.

PAUL .S: We do work pretty slowly you know with stuff and we are all a bit perfectionist about everything.

ANDY: So it is all of you who are perfectionists.

PAUL. S: Yeah, it’s not just me.

CHRIS : One of the things if you asked any of us, or any of the other bands that we’ve played with……once you start to force things, that’s when it can tend to take a bit of wrong turn….what we tend to do is just let what happens, happen  and yeah it does take a bit longer, but..

AL:  The other thing we do, we rehearse stuff to play it live, we don’t like go away and decide what we’re going to do, then record it and then learn to do it live…….we play it live first and then know that we can do it on record afterwards.

PAUL. C: Keeping everything minimal so it’s actually doable.

PAUL . S: And then expanding on it for the recording I guess, you’ve got to decide……

PAUL. C: There’s only relatively small amounts of garnish on the record….there isn’t any padding out everywhere to make it sound massive on record….that’s pretty much how it is.

CHRIS: It can always be a bit disappointing if you go to see a band who’s got the best studio sound ever on a record and then you see em live and it just sounds empty because they’ve put so many layers on it.

AL: And the drummer can’t play the fills and stuff like that (laughter)

CHRIS: But beggars can’t be choosers, so you’ve got to put up with somebody. (More laughter)

PAUL. C: Good answer (more laughter)

ANDY: When you are writing songs, for example Broken Hourglass, do you set off with the idea of a thirteen minute epic…

PAUL. C: Yeah.

ANDY: (laughing,) Well that answers that one then, you don’t start out from humbler beginnings and then it just progresses.

PAUL: No, thirteen minutes in my mind (laughing)

ANDY: (also laughing) And then it’s just a case of filling that thirteen minutes.

PAUL. S: To be fair it’s kinda like……..sometimes you go out to write a long song and you don’t know how long it’s going to be….the thing is with that tune for instance, it’s three minutes before the vocals come in, so you’re thinking, well by the time you’ve got that far in, it’s not going to be a five minute affair……..and even though they’re long songs, you still like to have a bit of a structure to em, what you might call a verse or maybe a chorus…….not so much on that one, it’s a bit more one thing and then another….. you still want to bring those ideas back in so it just ends up you can’t really help it after a while……and hopefully it doesn’t get boring (Laughing)

ANDY: And how about the lyrical aspect, where do the influences come for those.

CHRIS: From bits of paper we find in the street.

ANDY: (laughing) Ah, so it’s the Bowie syndrome, just taking random words and sticking them together?   

CHRIS: Yeah, yeah, exactly that…..it’s whatever we find in the street pretty much.

PAUL . S:  It’s you know, ingredients lists and stuff like that, modified chicken starch, 20%...just anything we can find really.

ANDY: You know I’m going to re-evaluate everything based on that and can’t wait for the song called Kentucky Fried Dog Shit (laughing)

PAUL. C: That’s on the third album (also laughing)

PAUL. S: The difficult third album (more laughter)………..the lyrics are just about anything really, most of it’s got a slightly sort of….I don’t know…… deals in spirituality and religion and stuff….. from a sort of atheistic slant, we’re not a Christian band (Laughing)

CHRIS: Are we not…….I’m off (more laughter)  

PAUL. S: So that’s what a lot of it’s about, it’s kind of hard to explain….they’re all about different things to an extent but that tends to be a central theme if you know what I mean……we’re not going to deeply into it (Laughing.)   

ANDY: You’re currently in the middle of a short run of acoustic gigs, are they a refreshing change from the full electric shows?

PAUL. C : It’s a nice change….it’s good,  it’s just remembering the arrangements…….once you’ve got a concrete arrangement of the songs we do from the album, you’ve got obviously the full version and you can’t do all the electric parts acoustically…...not that you can’t do em….

PAUL. S: Heavy riffs and stuff don’t really work.

PAUL. C: They don’t sound that great, no…..It’s playing them in a different way or re-arranging things to make it better for acoustic.

PAUL. S: I find I’m more nervous doing this, you get used to hiding behind a big wall of distortion and stuff like that…..this is more stripped back so I find it more nerve racking.

ANDY: Do you psyche yourself up differently for an acoustic gig, rather than listening to Death and a couple of pints before the electric versions, do you relax with a couple of  gauloises and a caramel latte?

PAUL. S: Not really no, we’re generally pretty chilled you know, we just kinda turn up and play…. we don’t do squats or anything before we go on. (laughing)

AL: I like a nice interview before I go out……..an interview to get me in the mood (laughing)

ANDY: Just to get you nice and wound up (also laughing)

PAUL. S: We played with this band from Canada a while ago…..not going to say who they were but they were all literally doing like star jumps, squats and stuff in the dressing room (laughing) we were like that’s such a different attitude, that part of the world really gets into it…..were we just go up and play some tunes (laughing)

PAUL. C: We’re usually outside having a fag (laughter)

CHRIS: It’s absolutely paramount you’ve got to have a pie of some description……definitely a pie….. for me anyway.

ANDY: Does it have to be a certain filling, or as long as it’s pastry, doesn’t that matter?

CHRIS: The cheapest meat possible……for me yeah.

ANDY: Anybody else like to partake in a pie before the gig?

AL: Crab sticks………

PAUL. C: I don’t mind a good pie yeah…. only a Fray Bentos Chicken and Mushroom pie…..

PAUL. S: Can’t really bring that out with you though.

PAUL. C:  Yeah, it’s a bit hard to come by in’t it……when we get a rider I’m going to ask for Fray Bentos Chicken and Mushroom pies….from the tin.

ANDY: That would be living the dream (Laughing)……..I see you have three dates in Ireland booked with Betraeus.

PAUL. S: Yeah, that’s right……….

ANDY: How did those come about?

PAUL. S: I don’t really know……you kind of dealt with it more than I did (to Paul. C)

Paul. C: We’re all pretty good mates with Betraeus….me and the lead singer, Chris, were talking about it and we just made it happen…..we just had a chat and said we’d love to do something together at some point, so we thought neither of us have done it before so why don’t we do it together……..and they got their P.R people and manager involved and everything so it came together quite easily.

CHRIS: It’s been quite a long friendship with Betraeus but nothings really happened before……back in 2010 we did the Metal to the Masses thing for Bloodstock, they were in our first heat and they were in our final and they won it, and since then, I mean massive respect to em for doing that and getting on…..we’ve always had a respect for them since then and there’s always been the potential that our band and their band would do something together because the music just fits. It seems like we’re sorta copying them, they did Bloodstock, we did Bloodstock (laughing) but, it just sort of seems to work together, so I’m really looking forward to it. Like I say we’ve played competition gigs if you will with them before but we’ve never done specific gigs with them, aside from like all dayers, where you don’t really see some of the other bands cos they might be playing at the same time as you in a different room and that’s always been the case with Betraeus, so I think from our point of view and I hope from their point of view as well, we’ve kinda always wanted this sort of thing to happen  because the two bands work really well together………and looking at some of the dates we’ve got in Ireland, I know one of them in particular is like a six band line-up and there’s quite a little bit of buzz about it. I’ve never been to Ireland before so I’m looking forward to the trip but the gigs are going to be really good as well hopefully. ……..yeah, it’s sort of something that’s potentially been happening for about two years now.

ANDY: There seems to be a connection and good relationship with the metal bands in Manchester generally, so I guess it’s an extension of that also.

PAUL. C: Definitely, yeah, definitely.

CHRIS: The Manchester metal scene is really good…..sort of a big thing about it is, you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours kinda thing……you do get the odd little rivalry, you do get the odd little argument but for the majority of it…….

PAUL. C:  We pretty much stay out of it to be honest (laughing)

CHRIS: Pretty much every band we’ve played with seems to respect the other bands, they seem to just get on with what they want to do, there’s no why is this band doing this, why can’t we do that……it just seems to be that everybody gets on.

ANDY: And what about for the rest of the year, is that going to be taken up with writing and recording the 2nd album or will you be trying to fit in festivals, other tours etc?

PAUL. C: We going to try and see what we can do basically. 

PAUL. S:  We’ve got a few Scottish gigs coming up… one on the 23rd. We’ve got the Hark to Towler on the 22nd of February.

ANDY: I noticed you had a gig in Edinburgh.

PAUL. S: Yeah, that’s the one on the 23rd…….and then some stuff with Talanas again up in Scotland…….which actually that’s not been announced yet, you can have that one. (laughter)

CHRIS: Nothings a hundred per cent concrete…… but it’s looking pretty likely.

PAUL. C: So there’s that, Ireland with Betraeus….. S.O.S fest in Summer an acoustic set.

CHRIS: It’s a similar answer to the last one, whatever happens, happens.

PAUL. S: There’s going to be a lot of writing tunes, that’s going to be the focus.

ANDY: Are you starting to feel a real buzz around Spires, which has tended to grow towards the end of last year and beginning of this?

PAUL. C: I think so yes…..I mean we’ve sold a lot of albums, which is quite frightening…….to say we’re four idiots from Yorkshire (laughter and indignation from Chris and Al)…….well two idiots from Yorkshire.

CHRIS: There’s the Yorkshire idiot that can’t count. (More laughter)

PAUL. S : But yeah there is and for a band at our level we’ve sold quite a lot of albums which is really good…….doing Bloodstock helps……I don’t know why it is really…

PAUL. C : Without sounding horrible or quirky or owt, we’re doing sommat a bit different and yeah we’ve got our main influences and you can tell what they are but there aren’t many U.K bands doing what we do.

ANDY: And let’s be perfectly honest, “Spiral to Ascension” is an album full of great material, so that definitely helps.

PAUL. S : It’s be nice to think the product we’re selling is good (laughing)

CHRIS:  We’re massively proud of it…….we’ve very proud of it.

PAUL. C: But we’re not the type of people who’d expect people to be into the same things we’re into so you don’t think, that’ll sell well, when we’re writing it if you know what I mean.

CHRIS: One of the things I always find….we released the album like fifteen months ago and we’re still getting reviews coming through as though it’s a new album and it’s really refreshing to see there are people out there who get what we’re about.

PAUL. S : That’s cos when we released it, we didn’t really release it if you know what I mean , we just kinda went, oh you can get it now you know (laughing) so it never really had a release as such it was just kinda trickling out……and then we got this guy doing PR and stuff for us, Noz at Skratch the Surface and he sort of pushed it and got loads of reviews, blah , blah…..and it’s still getting discovered……cos we’re all big headed and whatever we’ll occasionally Google it and see if owt’s coming up and it’s like, oh look, we got  five new reviews, so it’s being treated like a new album even though it’s over a year old.

ANDY: I think that’s one of the keys to it, the album just keeps on cropping up and being highlighted to another potential new audience.

CHRIS: I think one good thing for us I quite like at the moment, is we’re getting reviews from a lot of different areas….I mean, we’ve had a lot of U.K press because we’re a U.K band, it’s what you want, but when you get a review that comes in from Germany, Holland, Finland and even further afield, America……it’s good to know, like Paul said earlier, two guys from Yorkshire, two guys from Lancashire can make music that can….. is getting recognition worldwide…..in this situation you want to get the ball rolling and at the moment like you said at the end of 2011 and the start of 2012 it seems to be that ball is rolling further and further…..and who knows what might happen.

PAUL. S:  We’re not like massively ambitious type of people…..obviously we want to do well with it, but….

PAUL. C: We want to write music that does summat for us.

CHRIS: There’s no point putting an album out you don’t enjoy.

ANDY: Definitely not…….and I see you have a track that’s going to be included on the Rock Band network.

PAUL. S: Yeah, God knows how that happened (laughing)

ANDY : (also laughing) Well that was the question, how the hell did that happen?

PAUL. S: Well, this guy got in touch with us who’s part of a publishing company or summat that does Rock Band and said, oh, do you want one of your tracks to be used…… and we were like, well…. alright, whatever dude (laughing)…….. can you get it for the Wii?

CHRIS: None of us have got the game (laughing) you can’t get it on the Wii it’s for the X Box 360 and PS3……apparently it’s in development.

PAUL. S: It’s going to be out in a couple of weeks apparently.    

CHRIS: What I found really, really mad…The Infinite Descent which is probably the heaviest track on the album has got the most screamy vocals……so you can just imagine these people, possibly never heard the track before…let’s buy it for however much it is as a download, let’s buy it and just screaming at the tele….in the comfort of your own home, let’s just yell at your tele, it’s mad but it’s really good. Stuff like that, who knows what doors it might open, maybe none, maybe a few.

PAUL. C:  Lot’s of Mams and Dads going what the bloody hell’s that, turn that off, Jesus Christ……our little Johnny’s only five (laughing.)

And on that note, Spires frightening Adele worshipping parents to death through Rock Band, the lads disperse around Grand Central, preparing for their acoustic gig tonight. Not a squat or a star jump in sight, just a couple of beers and a quick smoke outside.  Exactly the way it should be.       

Interview and video by Andy Barnes
Photographs by Jamie Dunning.