In September, Arcane Roots released their second album, Melancholia Hymns. Rob Anderson sits down to speak with drummer Jack Wrench ahead of their Mash House gig on October 18th.
Your new album Melancholia Hymns seems very different tonally than the last one. What were the main differences in the writing process?
“I think when we’re on the road together – which was two years for the last EP – there were a lot of more left-field influences thrown into the mix. Andrew especially was listening to a lot of electronica. We’re all into that and we all like a bit of jazz, a little soul. . . We were so busy touring we didn’t really have time to think about the actual writing process. It was only when the final bell was struck and we finished that we could sit down and say “what are we going to do?”
Andrew sat down and said that he’d written a few songs on piano. He wasn’t even sure whether you could label it an Arcane Roots song, but we all really liked it. The whole thing felt exciting, it felt like a natural path to go down. . . We just do whatever feels exciting. We were like, that sounds great: let’s do that.”
What are some of the main themes, and what do you hope people take away from it?
“Lyrically, it went through a process of its own. It ended up being fairly dark. We were just trying to get this recorded and, in the process, we felt that every time we turned on the news and looked at what was going on around us there was just constant beat-down. The album’s message almost became a struggle in itself. We were just trying to write and record an album in a time when there’s so much going on to just knock everyone down and we were trying to get through this and find the light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s supposed to feel like a journey. . . and it ended up being that naturally.”
The move towards songs like ‘Curtains’ and ‘Indigo’ feel reminiscent of Radiohead. Was this transition deliberate?
“Not at all – we all really like Radiohead and the freedom they have to do what they want, and I think that’s the main influence we took from it. We always have an idea of what we want things to sound like, but it always ends up sounding different. I think the plan going forward is just to keep taking in as many influences as we can and keep an open mind.”
How has moving towards electronica sounds affected your relationship with analogue synths?
“This recording process more than anything was a huge learning curve for us. It made us realise how much there is to learn about what it is that you’re doing. Most of the process was getting a moment of clarity about a sound and realising we’d set the bar, and would have to go back and record everything else now [laughs].
That’s what’s been nice now that we’re on tour, we have the ability to make whatever we want: we have the gear in front of us. We’re not bound to any .wav file, we can just do it as and when we please. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
It sounds like you’re all quite technical minded – have you all got that background?
“Every day’s a school day for me. But when you open your eyes to it, there’s a lot of really cool things you can do. The power of your own show in your own hands.”
Do you think that thinking in this way affects your music?
“I definitely think after those two years of touring . . . You see these bands who are incredible, and you just think ‘I wish we had a moment like that!’ It rubs off on you and when you go into the writing room you can’t help but think about the lights and things. I think it’s really healthy in terms of writing.”
So you’re playing up in Scotland soon. What can people expect by coming to a live show of yours?
“We wanted it to be that already having been to an Arcane Roots show is no excuse, it’s completely different. We’ve found a way to program in all the lights ourselves so we can have an all-singing, all-dancing show. All this stuff we’ve spent all our time perfecting musically we now have replicated in the lights. It’s definitely way more of a performance.”
IMAGE: James Wallace, Pomona PR