Back with a bang: There Will Be Fireworks on making album #2, their comeback Christmas show and the lure of the 'banjitar'
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Words: Nick Mitchell
Photos: © The Pop Cop
Howling gales, bitter cold, driving snow. The weather might be causing havoc across Scotland, but it feels strangely appropriate that it coincides with the return of a band whose music seems to tap into winter's sharper qualities.
Back in 2009 There Will Be Fireworks stood out from the glut of pretenders threatening to break out of Scotland. With their self-titled debut album, the Glasgow-based band forged a style of heartfelt indie-rock that raised goosebumps and rumbled eardrums in equal measure. Despite strong sales and favourable write-ups, that breakthrough somehow never quite materialised and they remain unsigned, and utterly self-sufficient.
Undeterred - and probably quite content to work without the pressures of a record deal - they simply kept pushing forward, as drummer Adam Ketterer recalls. "After the album launch – which was a great gig, loads of mates and a general good time – we played a few gigs in Scotland and in London. Then we were writing again almost straight away."
The band - completed by Nicky McMcManus (vocals/guitars), Gibran Farrah (guitar), David Madden (bass) and Stuart Dobbie (piano) - are hard-working guys with careers outside of music to think about, so inevitably the second album would never be a swift, seamless affair.
"A few songs that we started to record after a month or two will be on the next album, so the record will have been written over a good couple of years," Ketterer continues. "But in general we took things slow as we had other university and work commitments. We’ve all moved round a bit, between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oban and London, so we’ve not been practicing and writing every week like at one time. Which means the second record has been written a bit differently, but it’s been a good experience doing it this way."
And the stop-start nature of its genesis had an effect on the outcome, Ketterer confirms. "Because these songs have been written often in parts, either with each of us in different places or with us all meeting up at longer intervals, we’ve lived with them for much longer than we did the songs on the first album," he says. "Those were often literally written one night and recorded the next morning. Plus, we recorded the first one live and did some overdubs; this one is being recorded track by track, so it will be a slicker, tighter final product. Hopefully."
The five-piece holed themselves up in the Old Mill Studios in Strathaven to record the as-yet-untitled LP, where they found inspiration just lying around on the floor. "Recently we found a 'banjitar' which, as some of you may know, is a bastard child hybrid of a banjo with a guitar neck ... or a guitar with a banjo body, or something," Ketterer says. "Whatever it is, it’s a glorious musical chimera which will no doubt feature on the album.
"We also found a poisonous toad, but we didn’t use it. We didn’t wanna go down the hip-hop route ... ba dum tish. But no, seriously, there was a toad."
The few tracks to emerge in recent months are assuringly restless; without resorting to a patronising word like "maturation" (looks like we did anyway), songs like 'South Street' and 'This Feels Like' (streaming now on The Pop Cop blog) show a willingness to try out new forms of rhythm and more inventive lyricism without ransacking their original appeal.
There Will Be Fireworks - South Street (demo)
Ketterer acknowledges this: "To some extent we’ve moved on from our early post-rock influences, although we do still love a meaty heavy bit, and we still use the quiet/loud dynamic a lot. So there’s still a fair bit of rocking out, but there’s more of the other extreme, too, with a good serving of stripped back acoustic guitar and voice. A bit more of a coherent song-writing style, almost. And a good bit of folky indie pop in between!"
To satisfy fans' hunger for new Fireworks material, there will be a four-track EP to whet the appetite ahead of the album. Titled 'Because, Because', it will be available at the band's comeback show at Stereo in Glasgow on Sunday night and will include a remastered version of their glorious festive number 'In Exelsis Deo'. "It lets us give an airing to some of the tracks that won’t make it on the album, not because they’re not good enough but because they don’t quite fit with the feel," Ketterer explains.
While he says their only ambitions are to "carry on making music and having fun", there is a discernible sense that the band are just as excited about their return as their followers are. Bearing in mind the fact that their only show this year was a complete sell-out, that anticipation is likely to come to a head in a packed Stereo for their Christmas comeback.
What can we expect, aside from the new material? "We’re playing with a couple of great bands – Friends in America and people, places, maps," Ketterer says. "Should be great. We might even dress up in ridiculous festive costumes. It’ll be good to test some of the newest tracks ... better get practicing. It’s been a while since we took to the stage!"
There Will Be Fireworks - In Excelsis Deo
There Will Be Fireworks play Stereo, Glasgow on Sunday (18 Dec). Tickets (£5) are available in advance.
The second album is due for release in early 2012. The debut is still available on iTunes.
There Will Be Fireworks recently recorded a studio session for the Danger is Everywhere blog, who have more clips on their site...
Posted by Nick Mitchell