(Enraptured Records)


The U.K. pop-rock band Coldharbourstores released their first album in 2002 and many years later they’re back with a 2017 release called Wilderness. The album is filled with dreamy, post-rock sounds accentuated by the superb vocals of Lucy Castro, who is backed up by her bandmates—David Read, Michael McCabe and Liam Greany—all topped off by the splendid production of Graham Sutton. Filled with surreal soundscapes and over-the-top production, the experimental sounding rock album is currently being heralded as one of the year's best indy rock albums. Speaking about the chemistry of Coldharbourstores, group guitarist Michael McCabe explains, “An important aspect of the group is that there aren’t particularly fixed roles on tracks; we all play whatever we feel like”, with group drummer Liam Greany adding, “The chemistry is interesting! We have always got on well, but I was for a long while conscious that I was joining an established band. The friendships have taken a long time to develop, but that can be a good thing and over the years has become something we are all proud of.” With its myriad of postmodern rock influences looming over the sonic landscape, it’s plain to see that there’s plenty of worthy sonic treasure here worth mining as you play and re-play the Coldharbourstores CD. / presents an interview with

: Coldharbourstores started in the late 1990s. Where is the band from originally and where are they based now? How has your sound changed since 1999 and can you tell us some of your musical influences?

David Read: The band was pretty much formed in East London, although no members are actually from London originally. We are currently spread over the country from Kent to Yorkshire.

Michael McCabe: Also at various points during the making of Wilderness we had members dispersed across the globe – France, Egypt, Argentina…so that made things interesting to say the least!

David Read: Musically I feel like we've become better at writing coldharbourstores songs, but I don't see any massive shift in musical style. I've never felt talented enough to purposely take on any influences, but there are musicians I'd love to look like or be, that's probably the teenager in me. I'd be happy to be as talented as John McEntire, have the song writing ability of Jeff Tweedy, and look as cool with a guitar as Isaac Brock.

Liam Greany: I think we can all appreciate a well-constructed pop song, but collectively we seem to dislike similar things too. A terribly cynical approach to most things has probably shaped how we sound more than we think.

Michael McCabe: My influences for Wilderness were Erotica era Madonna, Virginia Astley, Human League, Augustus Pablo, Angelo Badalamenti and Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night.

Lucy Castro: Pivotal influences for me have been early Madonna, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Throwing Muses, The Pixies, Bjork, Cocteau Twins, Julee Cruise, R.E.M., Neil Young and The Cure.

mwe3: How did the addition of singer Lucy Castro and drummer Liam Greany change the Coldharbourstores sound? Who is in the current band and who plays what instruments and what is the band chemistry like?

David Read: This in no way takes anything away from Lucy and Liam's contribution to the band, but I would say our sound changed more when Sam and Dan left rather than when Lucy and Liam joined.

Michael McCabe: An important aspect of the group is that there aren’t particularly fixed roles on tracks; we all play whatever we feel like. Yes, Lucy is the lead singer and lyricist but she plays piano and synths sometimes, Liam is the drummer but he sometimes sings too. Myself and David used all kinds of guitars, basses, keys, melodica, samplers, synths, drum machines and sequencers etc on this album, but it never has been, nor will it ever be set in stone. Graham Sutton, the producer plays whatever else is necessary sometimes… it's an important ethos of the group.

Liam Greany: The chemistry is interesting! We have always got on well, but I was for a long while conscious that I was joining an established band. The friendships have taken a long time to develop, but that can be a good thing and over the years has become something we are all proud of.

Lucy Castro: Band chemistry equals understated un-entangled love.

mwe3: Tell us about the Wilderness CD? How long did it take to write and record the CD and is there a single from the album? Who wrote the music and lyrics?

Liam Greany: Years!

Michael McCabe: With the exception of the song ‘Wilderness’, we began recording with Graham at my house in 2007. That was “The Antidote”, “Genie” and “Kissing’”... although we recorded the drums at the Premises in Hackney.

David Read: The oldest song on the album is "Wilderness", and that was recorded 11 years ago, I think that was the last thing we did as the original line up. We liked the recording too much to bin it after Sam and Dan’s departure, so we stripped the vocals and Lucy wrote new lyrics and sang new vocals over the top. Other than that the song hasn't changed since the recording session.

The rest of the record was recorded in Hackney in 2009 with additional vocals recorded sporadically between then and now. The same happened with “Sightless”. That started as an idea from Michael, then I went to his house and we finished off the music. Lucy added her vocals, and then we approached Scott Heim to do something.

Michael McCabe: Scott ended up writing and performing a prose piece for the middle section with the
12-String guitar part, it works really well, he recorded that in Boston and sent it over. We were aware of his work through seeing the Gregg Araki film Mysterious Skin, which is an adaptation of his book, although we actually met him because he asked David and I to contribute to his book on The Cocteau Twins.

Lucy Castro: The first single was “Genie”. We write quite quickly, when we have an idea we all like. The recording can take a bit more organizing, though we move fast when we've the inspiration and opportunity. Michael and David initiated the musical direction on this album, sending me loads of outlines and ideas, and I see what I respond to and focus in on it.

I can enter into the zone and bang out the lyrics if I'm really feeling the vibe of a track. Sometimes the melody and lyrics come out in little unexpected snippets over time, and I have to keep an ear out, waiting for the story to unfold. The process always surprises me… I kind of follow the thread and usually find out what the songs are about in retrospect. I love that aspect.

mwe3: What did producer Graham Sutton bring to the sound of the Coldharbourstores album and who else was behind getting such a great sound on the CD? How long has Graham worked with Coldharbourstores?

David Read: Graham has been on board since our first album More Than The Other, I think I've said this before, and perhaps it's a labored metaphor, but he's our George Martin.

Lucy Castro: Graham brings in a divine synthesis to all the parts. He has this amazing capacity to sit back and see the whole picture and to weave his own magic throughout. It's quite an experience to have his input. All the guys have got an ear for the intricacies of sound in a way that I find fascinating… I've learnt a lot from that.

mwe3: Tell us about the track “The Antidote”. Who wrote the track and is there a cool story behind it?

Lucy Castro: I do remember lying down one afternoon, looking up from out of my window in West Hampstead… there was this majestic old tree in the garden that I was always transfixed by. It was summer 2007 and there was a balmy feel in the air, and I was listening to some demos David and Michael had sent me.

When the opening chords of what became “The Antidote” started, I felt this rush of blissful excitement rise up and I knew something magical was happening, so I went with it and wrote the song. It really captured the essence of what I was feeling… a rebirth. Dave and Michael added some crazy guitars, and then Graham got his hands on it and it transformed again.

David Read: “The Antidote” is one of those songs that sounds nothing like the original demo. I was really into the first Ladyhawke album and I loved all those arpeggios on the Korg Microkorg. Michael bought one and we put that on. The guitars were all strummed pretty traditionally and then cut up in the studio, and I think the ending was us, just letting Lucy go off on her own. Unfortunately for Liam he came on board after most of the tracks were written so he found himself drumming along to drum machines.

Michael McCabe: It’s a great track, the only problem being that it’s almost impossible to play live, and it's the same with the song “Cost You Dear.”

mwe3: “Cost You Dear” is another great song from Wilderness. Who’s playing what on that track? Where do you get your lyric inspirations?

Lucy Castro: I love that track... I remember being in my living room, on the sofa during the afternoon. It was raining outside and I was listening to the outlines of 'Cost You Dear'. Michael had given the demo that name, and I loved the incongruity of it - and the absurdity of those words in this landscape of lush sound. I knew I wanted to fit the song around that title somehow. I was experiencing heartbreak and wanted to communicate something, but I didn't know how - or who to tell, or what to say even really. So I put it all in the song. It was like the whole crushingly beautiful thing in the one song, from start to end.

Michael McCabe: At the time I was really bored of guitars, so I wanted to write something with synthesizers and I was also really into 1 or 2 note bass lines, inspired by ‘Justify My Love’ and ‘Erotica’ by Madonna, and those songs are also quite slow, so I had this 75 BPM drum loop and basically a mood. At the same time, David was into this concept of slowing real drums down and had written a really slow guitar part and these 2 things somehow gelled together.

David Read: I love 'Slowcore' and I'd read that Mark Kozelek would slow down the Red House Painters drum tracks after they were recorded to get a really lethargic sound. I think I'd purposely made it slow so we could do that in the studio, but I think the rest of the band vetoed that idea?

Michael McCabe: Well in the end, we also ditched the drum loop and Graham decided to make Liam physically play it really, really slowly on a real kit.

Liam Greany: I played probably the simplest drumbeat ever known to man, and yet found it painfully difficult to actually do. It literally sounds like a 3 year old did it, but I couldn't stop myself trying to add in fills etc!

David Read: Lucy's brother Leo played trombone on that track, I think Graham was pleased with not having to mix in yet another guitar part, but I seem to recall the studio was a bit small and he had trouble mic-ing up the room.

mwe3: What studio did you record Wilderness in and would you consider the album to be state of the art sounding? Do you have some special studio effects or sonic devices to help you get such a great sound on CD? Also can you tell us about your guitars and amps?

Lucy Castro: We recorded anywhere we could depending on what was needed, I remember laying down vocals in my living room in West London.

David Read: Most of the 2009 recording session for Wilderness was recorded at The Premises, Michael, Lucy and I would listen to Fleetwood Mac while we waited for Graham to show up.

Michael McCabe: The track “Wilderness” was recorded in the middle of the night in a bomb shelter in Essex, out in the middle of nowhere, which definitely added to the atmosphere, it was absolutely freezing in mid winter and also helped by the odd acoustics in there.

David Read: I think Underworld were in a room next door to us. We stayed up all night recording, with John Lee Hooker playing in the background.

Graham Sutton: Its just down to using your ears… you don't need flashy or "special" hardware. A hammer is a hammer… its all just tools. So long as it gets the job done and doesn't break on you.

David Read: I mainly just used clean guitars straight into the desk with effects added later. I did use a Marshall Stack that was left in the bomb shelter for the song “Wilderness”, but it was in another room from the desk, and because there was no talkback I'd have to run from room to room with Graham giving me 30 seconds to get ready before he hit record. We used a Korg Elektribe ER-1 Rhythm Sequencer, which is about as technical as I can manage, and I used a Mexican Telecaster for most of my guitar tracks.

Michael McCabe: In the studio I used Graham’s Fender Jazzmaster and Gibson ES 295. My own main guitar is a Japanese Fender Jaguar HH Special, but I only use that live, most recently at our album launch through a Fender 65 Twin Reverb with David using a Fender Hotrod Deluxe 3, but I also like to use Vox and Orange amps.

Pedal-wise I currently use a Boss DD3, which I consider to be a perfect delay, a TC electronic Flashback and an XVive, which can blend a chorus and vibrato together, but like David, in the studio I used clean guitars straight into the desk with all the effects done later and occasionally I used a Vox AD50 amp too.

mwe3: What plans do Coldharbourstores have for 2017 as far as writing and recording new music and live performances?

Michael McCabe: Well, we just worked on a track for Waywords and Meansigns Open Door Edition which is an online collaborative thing, setting James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake to music, but that was a very strange one-off.

David Read: We're about to go into the studio with Graham again in a month or so. After the wait between recording and release of ‘Wilderness’, I think the band is keen to capitalize on the current momentum.

Lucy Castro: We've been writing loads in the last couple of years. I'm really excited about the new songs and where they might lead.

Liam Greany: Some gigs, please!

Michael McCabe: I think the songs from ‘Wilderness’ sound really good live, so we want to keep performing them and also start playing some of the new songs in the set.

Lucy Castro: I'd love to do more live performances when the opportunity occurs… I think we all realized that after the high of playing at the Wilderness album launch at Rough Trade East in London. That was an unexpected bonus, as none of us normally gravitate towards being in the spot light.


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