Exit Calm : interview with great young band
A band that announced their arrival 2yrs ago with some of the most accomplished set of songs I’d heard in a long time have begun on their follow-up record- and if it has any of the magic their first release possessed we should all be in for a proper treat. Equipped with songs like ‘Higher Learning and ‘We’re On Our Own’ Exit Calm’s self titled debut laid the foundation for the south Yorkshire group to take it all the way so LTW talked to lead singer Nicky Smith about doing it all again for album number 2…
Welcome Nicky,…personally speaking your debut was probably the best debut album I’ve heard in some time from any new British group but looking over it again I didn’t realise its now 2yrs since its release, feels like months ago to me but whats it been like for you during that time
Thank you, that’s a very kind thing to say, I am grateful you noticed. And you are correct – time has flown by.
Its just the way it has to be. I think people that are with us understand any wait will be worth it, but we wont take the piss out of their patience. We wont take forever. It is happening.
Two years is too long a time for me to sum up here. Its had its periods of intense ups and downs, but also periods of complete inertia. I dealt with the slow periods for some reason filling my head with all sorts of nonsense off the internet, and then when things are moving then I’m getting stuck in. Personally Ive been living two different lives because as a band we have had to adjust from writing and rehearsing 24/7 – to fitting it in when we can. So that has probably affected our sound a little. Not in a negative way, but just in a way of some songs being written outside of the live environment.
You mention the net, is it still the main PR tool for bands in the UK, for Exit Calm,
It’s the main pr tool for everything now is it not? and I can’t see its progression slowing down. I must admit that I would like to consider myself an optimist. But with the looming technological singularity – that is fast approaching – I find it hard to not think we are all fucked and utter chaos is just around the corner. I just hope that when the age of abundance does arrive – probably close to within our life time – our technology saves us from it’s own destruction. Ha! and yes, we tweet! I’ll see you at the bar..
Songs like ‘Were on our Own’ and ‘Reference’ have won Exit Calm many fans in the last 2yrs, establishing yourselves with an album that’s really stood up since its release…
I would hope it will carry on doing so. That album was definitely written with longevity in mind. If one person somewhere in five years can still discover it – truly blowing their minds, then that is success to me. Not whether Fearne Cotton is tweeting the words to Reference. Obviously we want it to reach everyone that it should reach. I’m just trying to say what I think truly matters to us, beyond any comparisons. And I suppose that until a band has had a concrete career of a few albums they will always be compared to someone else. Then when their development and growth is tangible, their own sound is more perceptible and is accepted. So realistically its early for Exit Calm’s own sound to be recognised and realised completely. What can be frustrating is that most people seem to not want to find out for them selves any more, or certainly less and less. People want it tweeted into their hands. They want to already be telling all their friends on facebook how Plan B is the greatest living artist, before they have even considered and realised that he is dog shit. Information is being moved so quickly now that its getting easier and easier for soulless acts backed by huge marketing campaigns to drown out the good stuff. That is why there is a complete division between Radio one and 6 music now a days. Kids are saturated with mindless shit and they are lapping it up. They don’t seem to question what they are told about anything. Not as a whole anyway. Otherwise why would that Example bloke be in the charts four times a week? Nonsense. And Ed Sheerans not exactly Dylan is he?
Would you say the band are more focused on getting the new material together right now, rather than playing and touring at the moment
We’re always busy in one form or another though I agree on the gig front- but were still at it writing when not playing live.
Yeah we’ve been negotiating with different mixing engineers after recording back in spring. We are very happy with what put down. – I have to say this actually.. Were just as frustrated as anyone else waiting are ya know?! We would have our music out there tomorrow if we could. I only just got off the phone with Rob about this very subject. So i hope when I say to be patient with us people can try and appreciate that its not purely in our hands… (sorry should have said that earlier)
The recording process this time was different. We went in with flexibility in arrangements and structure. We found someone that we trust in this process because he has known Exit Calm from birth, we supported his band when we started out years ago. So he is familiar and just genuinely wants to help us and work with us. Rob Mcvey has a massive career in production ahead of him and we are fortunate to be involved with him now.
Has it proved quite hard in getting the sound you want, is it a case of sticking it out for what your ultimately after
I don’t think we are being so perfectionist this time round, not as we were with the debut anyway. That’s not to say our standards have dropped at all. That cant really happen with us because finding faults is too embedded in our natural way to make music. I mean in the obsessiveness of things we cant really control. You can become lost in whether a snare is too low in the mix and miss out on why you are in a band – to make music. So this time there is a conscious effort to let go once our job is done.
What do the new songs sounding like
Closer to ‘Hearts and Minds’ than ‘Reference’, the beats have come through more – not just in sound but in the writing. Big choruses that are more subtle in melody than before but still anthemic. From a vocal perspective I approached the melodies differently, because of less time in the room playing tunes over and over I wrote to recordings at home. People wont realise but when we started out I was singing through a tiny guitar amp. A tiny amp with one of the loudest bands in the country in a tiny room. So a lot of the vocals reflect this – like the opening line to ‘were on our own’ (not literally). So with these tunes it was going to be more about ‘now we have your attention… this is what we want to say’. but I think we still want to grab the listener and pull them in and these tunes that we have done first are more of the ‘grabbing’ kind.
Any new influences or sounds on the new material
What we listen to currently hasn’t shaped any new material. Otherwise my vocal would sound like Dead Skeletons and Simon would only play bass lines like The Oscillation. When exit calm began its influences were already deeply en-grained in us as people growing up listening to the bands we did. We have listened to so much different stuff now that it would just come out like mush if it were not honed.
What did you think to comebacks of groups that in no doubt inspired and influenced what Exit Calm do, more preciously The Stone Roses comeback shows and Heaton Park, were you there
The Verve’s comeback seems almost forgotten now, but I saw them in Blackpool and they were brilliant. They played the stuff that they were good at – Lifes an Ocean and Slide away etc but it seemed to fall on deaf ears who just wanted Ashcroft’s Sonnet and Drugs Dont Work in the stadiums.
As for the Roses I was very lucky in that a close friend got me a ticket for Heaton Park on the Friday. I had only seen them without Reni as I was just too young the first time around. I saw them at Bridlington Spa in 95′ – It was the closest to where I grew up in Hull, I was about seventeen and in that year I saw Oasis, Verve and The Stone Roses – and that shaped me.
I’ve read bad reviews of that Brid gig but I was there and the atmosphere to have them back after so long, even without Reni was completely electric. ‘I wanna be adored’ took the roof off like you can not imagine! . I didn’t know what to expect at Heaton park. Reni made the difference though – which I didn’t expect after him gutting me with Stewart Copeland in their press conference. But it was clear to see how he still centres the other three. ‘Fools Gold’ into ‘Shoot You Down’ was amazing! I hear people full of criticism about the money but it was always going to be big bucks involved in such a comeback, so I reserve judgement until I hear some new stuff. Heaton park was more of a celebration than a gig, but I’m glad I was at such a monumental moment in the history of one of my favourite ever bands.
You’ve just recently finished headlining The Coalfields Festival and your gearing up for two shows this weekend, London and Sheffield,..Exit Calm are definitely a live band aren’t they, having built up a rep for some magic performances
We played in Wigan the night before Coalfields. It was good to see the new stuff going down well to a very loyal crowd who travelled from all over to see us. Its humbling when I have barely left the country and people travel from as far as Madrid and the USA to hear us play live. The same crowd met again the next day in Barnsley and although (ignorantly) I never tell them – it is amazing to think that people have met from all over the world and become friends through our music. I guess when that kind of connection is happening in the crowd and we are all having it on stage, then that is all is needed to build any kind of reputation.
So early days on the album still Nicky but are hopes high with the new tunes, and will it grab us all like the debut ‘Exit Calm’ did
I have high hopes for everything we do other wise I wouldn’t do it. Its hard to talk about an album when half of it hasn’t been recorded, but the session we’ve had would indicate the rhythm section will be more prominent than it has been before. It was understated how good Si and Scott are on our debut. Their weight has to be more audible. It wont be as long – 45 to 50 mins this time, but it will still be us. And what we can truly do is yet be seen or heard by its deserved eyes and ears.