Chased By Wolves is the new album from Flight Brigade (our review here), the seven-piece band whose career path has racked up an impressive stack of EPs that led to their debut Our Friends Our Enemies which appeared in 2016. Ahead of the release of the new record, Ollie Baines and Thomas Pink from the band called to give Louder Than War a fuller picture of its evolution.
So, three years on from Our Friends Our Enemies, what’s been the series of events since the first album? “We’ve been playing loads of gigs,” said Ollie, “as well as writing material that’s appearing on the album. I suppose when you play so much you need to get into a different space to write but we were fortunate to get this opportunity to record with Chris Porter which was an amazing experience.” The name may be familiar to fans of George Michael, Elton John and Bowie and it involved quite a convoluted connection between managers, friends and people who knew people who met at parties. In a nutshell, “Chris found out about us, came to gigs and liked what he heard.”
“He saw us in Manchester and in Southampton,” added Tom, and so things worked out perfectly. For Ollie, it was a case of, “Everything seemed to come together timing-wise and it was an absolute treat, even though Mim (Baines who also plays in the band) had just had our second boy when we were due to go into the studio so that made it interesting!”
“He was the perfect producer for us with quite an old school approach in some ways,” is how Ollie described Porter’s contribution to the album. “The fact that we were recording at Visconti Studios afforded us the luxury of recording live in a massive room. What he did was to come to rehearsals beforehand and check the arrangements were right and he would only make suggestions if he felt something wasn’t right while keeping the essence of who we were. He didn’t want to change anything that wasn’t broken.” He made some really significant suggestions too – “one of my favourite songs on the album, Alligators wouldn’t be in existence if it wasn’t for Chris. I only had a rough demo of it and we’d hardly ever played it.”
Indeed, the pair talked about creating a great atmosphere with everyone having a good time and nothing technical getting in the way although not without its moments after waiting for months to go into the studio. “Our bass player – the other Tom – though was very sick! He was in hospital when we started and just came in the next day. Somehow we managed to get some rhythm tracks out of him in-between lying on the sofa and getting some meds!” So a very old school approach to Chased By Wolves with a band playing live and together and capturing the energy of a particular performance rather than recording at home – something which Flight Brigade have done before – or sending the contributions down a high-speed line.
While songs such as Alligators were developed in the studio, Sirens has been around for what seems like an age, first appearing on the Shaw Court Sessions EP in 2011 and first heard when I discovered Flight Brigade in a tent in Gloucestershire in the Summer of 2012. “One of the first, in fact, the first song that started to feel like ‘this is Flight Brigade’” recalled Ollie. “I remember rehearsing it and listening to a recording and thinking that I loved the sound and it was the first song like that we’d written and it brought our sound into the world. The version on the album is a mixture of the different recordings, so some parts will be from when we did the first album and elements that have come together in this one but with new drums and synths. It’s a real Frankenstein of a song!”
“It may be a bit of a surprise how it sounds to people who know the song as it certainly surprised us,” explained Tom. “It’s different!” he said in talking about simplifying the song from a rhythmical point of view and there’s also a pretty special stop motion video for it – “we’re going to release that after the album comes out so it will be nice to give that option and of course when a song is written well you can treat it lots of different ways including the Eighties influence that’s on the album, so it was good to do a version that feels fresh to us as well as keeping in with the album as a whole.”
The very last song on the album, Creature is also a song from a very long time ago. “Not as old as Sirens but written before the first album and played live but when we were getting ready for the second album, it was Neil (Blandford – drummer) who brought it up again and it turned out to be the most fun to record in the studio in that setting. Perhaps it’s the space in it so you can enjoy the ambience of the room and I remember that being a special feeling. Chris also made a good call with the tempo on that number and felt very strongly that we should keep it a slower tempo which is bang on.”
The title track is about the cutthroat nature of the music business – “about being shit scared” is the quote on the press release. Was that anything worth elaborating on? The reply, “ermmmm…how can I put it?” heads off a typical example of the sometimes challenging nature of being a musician and not a businessman. “We were given advice from people who were supposed to be looking after us and ended up in a situation that was so stressful. It was a lot to navigate through and you can see the reasons a lot of bands fall apart being dragged into a completely different world and you don’t have the tools to deal with it properly. One of the things about being in a big band is that the different skill sets come into play and we got through it as Jonny is such a bright guy who was able to understand a lot of legal stuff and Mim is good at keeping a straight head so it turned out being one of the things that if it doesn’t break you it makes you stronger.” It was perhaps one of those rites of passage almost that in hindsight was something to experience and come through positively and make the band less naive and more wary.
“At least we got a good song out of it!” cracked Tom and he’s spot-on as ultimately it’s led to a record packed with songs which have a strong personal touch but with a universally positive message.
Flight Brigade in full, erm, flight at Ramsbottom Festival in 2015
And finally, in touring news, a short set of dates at the start of October that began in Manchester, will see the band heading around the country showcasing the new album and hopefully not chased by wolves.
All words (and live photography) by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive.