Aereogramme covers the musical scope of mind-bending brilliance, incorporating an array of emotions, enabling them to turn on you without warning. Sometimes their sound could be compared to an explosion produced from a shockwave wave of guitar driven brutality, guarded in white noise, wrapped with the sharp piercing screams from singer Craig Bís reflective lyrics; then after things have finally reached their peak, Craig is able to blend his timid falsetto voice into a serene sedation which can come across as a barley audible whisper, so soft, it exhibits childlike simplicity and sureness. Itís almost incomparable as they change in an instant, weaving a gentle embrace as to astonish and enchant the listener into a humble guise of breathtaking complications, not only through the tender strum from a guitar, but the vast wall-to-wall blankets of cinematic orchestral maneuvers and programmed mechanical noises -all without blinking. It is some of the most astonishing music I have ever heard.
Formed in 1998 by ex-Ganger guitarist Craig B., along with drummer Martin Scott, bassist Campbell McNeil, and guitarist/programming primo Iain Cook, Aereogramme have become a combustive ensemble making subtle waves in other parts of the globe, with little label support, and have generally remained "undiscovered" here in the US,
comparatively speaking. Germany or their hometown of Glasgow, Scotland and parts across Europe, seem to be the bands hot stops when they toured with the likes of Low, ex-Chemikal Underground label mates Delgados, (also home to indie giants Arab Strap) and they even did a stint with hot rockers Thursday.
With the band moving on from their one-time Chemikal Underground label, Aereogramme found a new home with Undergroove Records but still no disturber for their new album, Seclusion, here in the US. I caught up with lead
Aerogrammer, Craig B. To discuss label issues, their new "mini" album, and their future plans.
LAS: I recently received your new "mini" album, Seclusion, from you new home, Undergroove Records, and wanted to start off with what exactly happened with Chemikal Underground, your US distributor Matador, and the reasoning on why you are no longer on their current rosters?
Craig B: The contract with Chemikal ran out and we decided to try a label that was more rock orientated to see if that made any difference. Chemikal had no magic wand to help us, so we thought a change would be the right move to make. Matador is Matador no longer. It was taken over by the Beggar's Group ages ago and all the people we knew left. Our contract was on an album to album basis and they decided not to take up the offer of the new one. Their
LAS: How is Undergroove treating you guys?
CB: Very well. Itís a very small label at the moment but we have a good relationship with Darren
[who runs Undergroove] and we have a similar love for music which makes up for the lack of money involved!
LAS: Seclusion is a much darker and more progressive sounding record than
A Story in White and Sleep and Release. The mechanical, almost industrial, side is clearer as well. Even the way the album was recorded seems to make a huge difference. Is this a new direction the band is taking? I mean, why such a departure from the first two albums?
CB: Well, the departure you hear is probably to do with the fact that we were forced to record the album ourselves, and you have to make slight changes because we can't afford fancy recording studios, but the results were very encouraging to us. Campbell and Iain are the tech heads of the band and they realized early on that we could get good enough results if we recorded it ourselves on the computer instead of shelling out a lot more money for less studio time. There are advantages and disadvantages to this but it allows for a hell of a lot of creative freedom and "The
Unraveling" was born out of this because it was conceived and written on the computer. The albums before were far more studio based whereas
Seclusion was more of an experiment with what we could do on our own.
LAS: Tell me about the short film that you scored, which appears on
Seclusion, and the man who directed it. Is this something you have always been interested in doing with Aereogramme?
CB: Everyone in Aereogramme loves films and it has always played a part in what we do. For example, the string section in "Post Tour..." from the first album was inspired by the bit in E.T. when he flies in front of the moon. There is also a Poltergeist reference and a Shining reference but Iím not telling you where. The idea for the
Seclusion short film was written to coincide with "Dreams and Bridges". I was lying in my bed suffering from a horrible bout of insomnia trying to figure out what would scare me the most and it struck me that your ability to keep sane is a very fragile thing. I imagined the lampshade outside my room moving very slowly across the ceiling and I shat myself (not literally). The idea for the video was thought up around this because it related to what "Dreams and Bridges" is about. Iain then wrote an evil alternate score to make it even more intense. Itís been a strange birth, but Steven Morrison was a mutual friend who had a similar love for horror films and a lot of experience with his own short films so we asked him to direct and I think he did a fine job. I never thought it would all come together but I'm glad to have been so wrong.
LAS: What sort of films have inspired or interested you?
CB: Iím a huge fan of the Asian extreme film festivals that have been put on lately. I have a huge respect for film makers like Takeshi Miike; "Beat," Takeshi Kitano, Hideo Nikata and such films like "The Isle" and "Tale of Two Sisters". It was only when I started to watch these films that I realized, for the first time in years, I was scared/shocked/excited by incredible filmmaking that I hadn't got from Hollywood in decades. Iím a huge fan of anyone trying to do something different so people like David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky, and even Scottish directors like Peter Mulan all hold my interest much longer than anyone else.
LAS: Very few bands, if any, are creating such quizzical music compositions like you guys do. I find them to bee so incredibly fascinating. How does Aereogramme work in the song writing area?
CB: Well, usually I write the bare bones of the song on an acoustic at home, bring it to the band, and we rip it apart and put it back together again. On "The
Unraveling" however, we changed that process as an experiment so Iain wrote most of the song on his computer and we attacked it after that. It was very refreshing for me to be able to sing along to something someone else had written and I think we will use this process alongside the old process in the future. It wasn't the easiest of rides but we got there in the end.
LAS: Where do your lyrics come from?
CB: My sad little brain. I have always loved heavy/intense music but I have also been inspired by singer songwriters like Mark Eitzel
[American Music Club], Mark Kozelek [Red House Painters]. Sometimes Iím very proud of my lyrics and sometimes they are purest shite, but there is always a genuine emotional attachment to them even when I couldnít put it properly into words. Howís that for a cop out? They mean everything to me but I don't like explaining myself because it takes away from the listenerís interpretation. Do you really need to know how fucked up I was when I wrote the lyrics to "Descending"? No, but if the song makes you feel secure in the knowledge that someone else has similar feeling to what you yourself are going through then that whatís counts, in my view.
LAS: I feel that Aereogramme is not getting the attention and recognition you rightfully deserve here in the states. Why do you think that is?
CB: It could be many, many reasons. I think that the U.S. is more receptive to bands touring constantly, and we have not been there for a couple of years now because there is no money to do that, which is a huge pain in the buttocks because the tours we have done there will always stay in my memory till the day I snuff it. We have no hype in the U.K. and no money to tour the states. It bugs the hell out of me but I have to just be patient.
LAS: You guys have done a couple of cover songs. On your EP,
Liver and Lungs, you covered Jockoís song "Thriller". Are you a fan or was it sort off a joke? I don't mind telling you that I own that record and I do like to put it in every now and again.
CB: No joke. There was a perverse desire to cover a song that was as far removed from what Aereogramme does musically as we could possibly get. I also grew up listening to that record and I was gob smacked at the footsteps going from speaker to speaker during the start of "Thriller". When I was a kid I was touched by Michael
Jackson - Hmm, maybe I should re-word that sentence...
LAS: On Seclusion you redid the Flaming Lips song, "Lightning Strikes the Postman". What kind of influence do the Lips have on you?
CB: They are the one band that everyone in Aereogramme agrees on. I also do not listen to uplifting music but the Flips manage to make inspiring, uplifting songs that genuinely move me. They are also very weird. I recommend Transmissions from the Satellite Heart to anyone.
LAS: Tell me about this fireworks incident involving Wayne Coyne.
CB: There wasn't one. Press people love to cook up a story to try and get journalists interested. We went to a fireworks factory so we could "Blow shit up" (tm) and the Flips were there. Thatís it. Exciting eh? What happened afterwards was far more interesting
- involving fireworks in a sound engineer's eye and running from the
cops - but you never asked about that!
LAS: What's next for Aereogramme?
CB: We tour with Hell is for Heroes, and then mainland Europe in December then we work towards the triple concept album next year.
I may be joking but Iím not sure.
LAS: Do you know what Am gonna redup noo an'gaw fera bevy means?
CB: You are going to get pissed arenít you? Good boy. Do you know what "Ma baws are doin ma nut in. Thur aw bloated an mingin"
means? Good luck.
Mark Taylor, a staff writer for LAS, lives in Belmont, North Carolina, where he combines historic ambience with easy access to metropolitan
Charlotte to do all sorts of unpronounceable things.