The Blinders have been a band on a raucous rise, having just released their second album I caught up with bassist Charlie to discuss the influences for the new record, as well as the album launch gig the band live streamed for fans the night before.
Hi Charlie, how was the gig last night?
It was good man, it went down really well. With it we didn’t want to try and recreate a gig, we wanted to do it as live session, we could’ve done it in a venue and pretend there was a crowd there, but that would’ve felt disingenuous I suppose. We wanted to give slightly different experience to the fans, something they’ve not seen before, and hopefully it was a positive one.
I noticed you increased your lineup to a six piece for the set, is that something we can expect to see in the future?
I think that it’s an ideal setup for the new songs, whether that’s gonna be possible every gig, maybe not. I do think the live band will expand, maybe not always to six, but the songs on this new album have expanded, and to do some of them justice they do need that extra guitar line or that extra bit of keys, just to fill the sound out.
I mean we’ve always been a three piece so it was an experience with six, and it does change the way you play and the way you perform. But that’s the nature of being creative, keeping moving forwards and finding something new.
So, onto the album, Fantasies of a Stay at Home Psychopath, were you prepared for how applicable that title would be to the world when you first thought it up?
Haha, no not at all, the title actually comes from a discarded track that ended up featuring a bit in the interlude. It felt like an album title that really brought together each of the songs, i’ve spoken before about how it didn’t feel like we had a body of work, we struggled to see how some of the songs fit together. That title helped us develop a narrative and see the links.
But, the songs do come from places of isolation and I feel like a lot of the feelings and attitudes that people have developed during lockdown, you can hear them in the album, and it’s been an interesting prism to revisit the album during lockdown and see the songs again with a slightly newer mind.
It seems like lyrics and narrative are quite important to you, as you do reference literature quite a lot in your music, is it a big inspiration?
Definitely yeah, writing lyrics is our way of expressing ourselves. I think we express ourselves more through the lyrics than the music. The way I look at it is the music is there to elevate the lyrics. The band has always been a way of having a voice, and politics has always been big aspect of the band. We see it as a way of looking how we can have an effect on society and doing what we do, we have the platform that you need and the lyrics become part of that.
In terms of developing narrative, it is important to me, but Rob our producer was quite keen for us to drop the narrative a little bit. Me and Tom get quite hung up on the lyrics and Rob was keen to tell to us how the narrative only really matters to you two, this is not a concept album, the songs come first and it’s got to sound good. At the end of the day if the song doesn’t sound good then no-one is going to take the time to delve deeper into the context of the narrative, and even though lyrics do come first for us, it was a case of giving the music the attention it obviously deserves.
I feel like on Colombia, you guys were emulating the blistering pace of your live gigs, but on Fantasies it feels very much more like a studio album, would you agree?
It is yeah, we were keen to road test quite a few of the songs, but they change quite a lot in the studio. I think part of it was we became a lot more comfortable in the studio and as musicians with this album. With Colombia, a lot of the songs had been written a long time before, so they did turn into live songs and it was difficult to let that go.
Even though we had played a few from Fantasies live beforehand, they were still pretty freeform, so when someone like Rob comes in and takes them apart a little bit, we weren’t protective over the songs or the sound I suppose. We were quite happy to let him and let ourselves push the sound in a different ways, and like you say, make it feel more like a studio album.
When your working in somewhere like Eve Studios the equipment that’s on offer, its daft if you try ignore it. We’d done that live thing with the first one and captured that sound as a band so we didn’t need to do another Colombia, that’s probably why it sounds the way it does.
You’ve spoke a lot about Rob Ellis, would you say he’s had a big influence on the album?
Absolutely, when we were looking for producers, we weren’t adamant on working with someone different, but we wanted to see what the options were and everyone we spoke to about the album we learnt something invaluable from, but Rob was the right choice in the end. He got us very quickly and got what we were trying to do.
The way we write is in a natural live setting, so it’s sometimes difficult to take set back from the tunes, so we find it valuable when someone does come in, takes that step back and says that works, that doesn’t work, take that bit out. Sometimes even taking 30 seconds out of a song can make it a hell of a lot better, so he was certainly a big influence in the studio.
Coming back to the lyrics on the album, I feel like they’ve also made a shift from Colombia and become a lot more introspective, would you say the same?
Absolutely yeah, it feels like a much more personal album, maybe some of the most introspective songs we’ve ever done. But, I feel like it was important for us to do that. The songs are still sort of blown up versions of ourselves, they’re still sort of caricatures. I suppose letting ourselves be within the songs is still something we are developing, its difficult because you don’t want yourself to be heard during the song, it easier mask it in characters and narratives.
But, yeah we definitely do look at ourselves and tackle our own personal relationships more, even on the songs about world politics, I feel like its our own anxieties, the effect it’s having on us instead of just the world as a whole.
I also want to touch on the album cover and where the influence for it came from, it’s like a gothic Definitely Maybe, can it similarly be examined under a microscope?
Yeah, Definitely Maybe was an influence, Bringing It Back Home by Dylan as well. But, the early influence was an exhibition Manchester by a photographer called Martin Parr, who is a street and social photographer. He’d done this series titled Coronation Street, it was like family portraits from the 60s/70s, black and white, working class families shot in their house. We saw it as quite a comical idea, everyone sat around the fireplace. But it wasn’t until the album title was decided that the idea came back. So, we tried to recreate that kind of family photo and it developed from that really.
There are little bits in the photo like the times on the clocks being the time of our births, you’ve got Colombia on there, you’ve got some of the books that influenced the album and the woman in the painting was in the studio courtyard and was the first thing you saw as you arrived, there are little bits like that and you can inspect it. That being said there are also some things that are there just because they look good.
It has been great talking to you, last question, do you have a favourite track off the record?
I think Black Glass, is certainly some of our best work and it’s fun to play, but we might have to start doing it at the start of the set because it’s a bit of a stretch to play.
From Nothing to Abundance is also one that I’m very proud of lyrically and is one I think the audiences will really get into, so yeah definitely them two.
Fantasies of a Stay at Home Psychopath was released on 17th July and is out on all platforms.
Image: Sonic PR