The Sound Cafe
A Conversation With Manchester Four Piece, Friends Of Our Youth, About Debut Album 'That Was Then'
'That Was Then'. The scuffed and shiny debut album from Manchester-birthed four piece Friends of Our Youth, bringing transcendent sounds from a differently-shaped constellation where human problems have long coalesced into bright spheres of beauty and love. That Was Then drapes a garment of shimmering polyphonic fibre, glorious guitars and deeply haunting vocals over propulsive drums and bass, celebrating too the gashes in that fabric, dark cosmology and fuzzy logic in which the most profound things are born. Nuclear heart of that serene, faraway star. The result is triumphant and tearful. You’ll hold your sleeves to your eyes and your loved ones close.
That Was Then, produced by Olly Betts (The Duke Spirit/Furs/Oh800) is available on vinyl.
Seán Crossey asked the band about the making of the album
About The Lyrics:
I have difficulty with the term lyrics, it suggests a succinct set of words expressing a particular feeling or telling a brief story. Maybe what I write appears on the page more like sentences to frame a moment, a feeling, a situation and so on; vignettes. I suppose the hope is that all these vignettes eventually collide and act as a narration to a bigger picture, or mood or whatever. Everything that is happening around us or to us causes a reaction, there are always questions, puzzles or shit that needs calling out. Maybe they connect with people in the way I think of them, maybe they do another way, or maybe they don’t. There are definitely things I’ve tried to write about, even if it's been a little cryptic or metaphorical, that's just a confidence thing, worrying that I’m incapable of articulating serious matters very well. Maybe also it’s because that's how my brain works, how I process the world, something could be serious or simple or sad or funny, and I’ll translate it or reshape it in words that make sense to me. Who knows.
Tell Us About The Recording:
Interesting process. It was drawn out; many small sessions over a year or so. I don’t think we intended or realised we wanted to make an album at the start. We weren’t, still aren’t completely sure what the best thing to do is in terms of output; the best way to present our songs, is there something other than what we are doing that would be better?
Some songs were old, written and previously recorded about 10 years ago, which never properly saw the light of day, although gained interest from a few independents. Some were written in the years in between then and this band and some written in the rehearsal room with the band. We chose Olly and his studio because it mattered to us, someone who would understand what we were trying to achieve (even if we didn’t) someone we felt at ease with, the right gear, the right vibe etc. With the studio being in London, it meant that we were away from day to day things, and fully absorbed in the process, sleeping on the studio floor for two nights, long intense days recording and so on. With it being done over numerous sessions, the biggest part of the recording session, ultimately, was mixing the songs. Having decided on making an LP we had to find a way to bring all the songs together, to make them occupy the same sonic space, for them all to support each other. Sleepless nights, never ending back and forth of tweak this, try that. The doubts, the highs, all par for the course as they say.
Olly Allowed us just the right amount of experimentation combined with gently cracking the whip. We had limited time so wanted to do as much as we could, hence long days, but also wanted time and opportunity to try things other than what we had come up with in rehearsals. But also, you don’t want to get lost in a rabbit hole of experimentation, well we didn't at that stage anyway, we wanted to capture the initial excitement and energy we felt for the songs. We were a new band and still coming up with songs, so this album, with it being already partly written in a way, we just wanted to get it done and out there.
Recording is tricky innit, the big cliche. We’re never going to be fully happy with the outcome. I personally feel that if I can get enough of some ideas down then I can follow that up on the next recording, that's the journey. You also have ideas before you start, which might sound great, as you wanted, or pants, why did you even pursue it and sometimes you just stumble on an idea, and it sparks another and the next minute you have a new song, and it’s the best thing you’ve ever done.
What's The Meaning:
Title says it all, doesn’t it? That’s that, that was then, where am I going now, where have I been, do I really care, what the fuck is going on, let’s keep moving, let’s not forget.
We try to exist in the world, it gets increasingly more weird, confusing and scary and absurd. We summon up sounds and words as a kind of vessel in which to navigate it all, maybe to hide behind. That's what it means. I can’t possibly imagine living without being able to make a noise, even if no one buys anything. That's what it means. It’s being able to laugh at yourself, at others, at bullshit, to cry and open yourself up, to get mad and kick back. That's what it means.
Where Does The Vibe & Inspiration Come From:
Inspiration comes from everything. Vibe changes with each listen. We are not bound to just other musical artists when it comes to creating, that doesn't make sense to me. Of course we listen to loads and think, fuck that’s amazing we need some of that magic. But we also see something, watch something and it evokes something from deep inside somewhere, which then needs to come out somehow, it just so happens that our way of projecting or translating that is with sound. I’d hope that one might get a different vibe each listen, depending on what mood you’re in; there is joy and celebration, there is a bit of wit, dry cynicism, melancholia, anger and so on.