Southward
Will Southward of Wasuremono

Wasuremono release their new album – Let’s Talk, Pt.1 – digitally on 23rd April. Part two is due later in 2021. Jon Kean met up with lead man Will Southward in his native Bradford on Avon and sat on a wall beside its historic Tithebarn to talk through the tracks on the new album.

As Southward and keyboard player, Madelaine Ryan co-habit, she could participate freely in the production of the album. Drummer Isaac Phillips was able to commit some drum tracks to record before lockdown. Other than that, Let’s Talk, Pt.1 is a testament to some epic music production nerdism in Southward’s studio shed at the end of his garden and to his manifold musical skills.

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To begin in a distinctly Partridge-like fashion – Let’s Talk. Tell us about the album, kicking off with the title track.

Track 1: Let’s Talk

I think, with that song, I was listening to a lot of Genesis at the time. It’s quite a progressive, proggy song. It’s got a lot of different parts strung together and this kind of wonky, bluesy piano line, which actually started off as a synth bass line that I’d written. On this album, there are quite a lot of long songs, which some people (especially radio) are going to hate, because they go on for five-and-a-half minutes.

Let’s Talk was a string of ideas. More often than not, every verse of our songs is very different. I like to keep everything interesting. Writing something that changes and evolves all the time is easier on my brain. That tune is quite different from the others on the album. It’s ended up with a little of the vocal sound of Everything Everything.

Also the title of that song, Let’s Talk – there was this whole press thing around Are You Ok? from a quote that I put out, probably just thinking at the time, “Oh, that sounds cool,” without really thinking about it. So Are You OK? became associated with mental health. I didn’t write this song with its title in mind. I always write songs as ‘gobbledygook’ which I’m laying down over riffs and synth parts.

The title came about with “Let’s talk” fitting and kicking in repetitively at the end, which is strange how everything comes back to a theme, but I’m not really intending it to happen. But I like that. When you’re writing things sub-consciously, it’s almost like you’re not writing it, but it’s writing itself.

It still felt like it ran on from the last album for me, not like it just repeated what came before, but it felt like a bridge from that album to this.

It’s definitely got a similar sound, for sure. I think that’s because I’m still writing to the drum machine patterns, the Linn Drum. What’s changed on this one is that I’ve gone into more depth on some of the songs. There are more parts, more layers. I think some of the songs could have been three separate tracks, but I’ve just put them together

Are you singing with yourself a lot of the time?

Most of the time. The only other person who sings on the album is Madelaine. She’ll layer on some backing vocals. The high-pitched stuff you’re hearing is me.

And will she take some of your vocal lines when you take the songs out live?

Yeah. They’ll transform quite a bit when we play them live. We’ll get into the studio and work out how to play them.

Track 2: Big Big Smiles

We started with both of the wonky songs. Yet again it’s a crazy Linn Drum beat and then I think I wrote the guitar part first, the intro riff. It’s always a bit of a challenge to come up with a catchy chorus to go with a wonky riff, but luckily that one came around quite quickly. It’s got kind of weird, scratchy-sounding choruses which then open up onto choral verses. Again, every verse is completely different. It’s one of the shorter songs, but I got a lot in in the time.

How far back in time are we going in terms of the composition of these songs?

I initially wrote fifteen tracks, which are complete now. We had a tour booked, not last October but the October before. Was it that October? I’ve lost track of time. Anyway, we had a tour booked to play the songs from the album. That didn’t happen. Then we decided to split the album in two, because we didn’t want to be sitting on songs for so long. So, why not write some more songs and split it into a double album?

It’s now going to be two ten-track albums. One of my all-time favourite albums is Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins and that’s a double album. I’ve always wanted to do it myself and this seemed the perfect time.

Are we going back two years with some of the songs?

I think so, but I do keep getting the years mixed up. The songs are quite old now. I’ve just come back from the studio, though, and I’m working on demos for the next part, which will be coming out later this year. I’m building some strong tunes, from which I can pick my favourites.

Were you straight onto this album after Are You OK?

Pretty much straight after. It’s nice to have something fresh. It never stops. I think I might sometimes have a couple of weeks off, but then I start thinking that the pressure’s going to be on when I need more music, so I think “why not do it in a more relaxed manner?” Which is why I end up with songs that are six minutes long, because I’ve had a long time to work on them.

Track 3: I Feel Fine (Hallelujah!)

Gosh, that’s a funny one, with the “Hallelujah!” ending on it. I’m not religious at all, but this one is…

Gospel?

Exactly – there are quite a few endings on songs that are gospel-y and I don’t know where that comes from. It’s quite a brooding kind of song. Part 1 seems to start with the more experimental, weirder tracks and then it goes into the poppier stuff towards the end. I’m always on the quest for pop hooks.

When I was listening, I kept trying to work out how much drum versus Linn Drum there was.

On this album, there’s a lot more acoustic drum. All of the songs are written to the Linn Drum, but then Isaac (Phillips) will lay down beats around it afterwards. On I Feel Fine, the Linn is more prominent than the drums, apart from the ending, where there’s more of a drum ride going on. But it’s good, because Isaac compliments the Linn Drum, playing some quite different things. I think it works well.

Track 4: An Ordinary Life

Your most recent release…

That’s five-and-a-half minutes long. I know I keep banging on about length here, I don’t know why.

You can still feel the quality, as well as the length.

Perhaps it’s because I know how hard it was to do a radio edit for that song. I only managed to get it down to four minutes thirty-seven or something. That’s another one with a lot of different parts in it. I even managed to get ‘oxytocin’ into it, which I was pleased about, in “fill the tanks with oxytocin.” I was going to have my kid in that music video, but then I thought I might freak her out with that giant head I wore, that I managed to buy on eBay. That song’s a big, long dream really. I think it was partly supposed to have an end-of-the-world vibe, but then also the idea of settling down to live an ordinary life, which is what we all largely do here in Bradford on Avon as country bumpkins.

I like the simple aspirations in the song. It’s like the opposite of 21st Century social media living. Quite near the end of the song, there’s a melody that repeats. What’s making that sound?

I actually play all the string parts on my guitar. I use a cello bow. If I layer the sounds, it stacks and sounds more scratchy than a string section. I like that. The first time I put that to use was back on For All The Bears with that jangly string thing.

Track 5: Rain

That’s a ballad that I wrote when we were expecting our daughter. I wrote it as a kind of lullaby, but if you listen to the lyrics, some of it is a bit bleak.

A lullaby sung by a bloke wearing a scary massive fake head from eBay. The sort of lullaby you should definitely hear with your eyes closed? Why did it go so bleak?

I don’t know. It almost sounds like it comes from me, in case I’m ever not there. That does sound bleak…

A ghostly lullaby – especially with you singing with yourself again.

Yes.

Track 6: Up In Space

It kind of reminds me of Ziggy Stardust themes. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that tune. I’m pleased with how that one’s turned out. It’s one of my favourites on the album. It’s got a kind of ‘living in a new world’ or in ‘nirvana’ as it says at the end. There nothing very deep and meaningful about that one. It’s got more of those ‘string sections’ on my guitar.

But you go from there straight into Goodnight England. They feel like a pair of ‘fleeing’ songs.

Track 7: Goodnight England

When I think about that song, I think about fairy tales and phrases like “Goodnight, children,” with the idea of things coming to an end.

And was anything coming to an end for you when you wrote it?

I don’t think I was writing about anything in particular. The chorus has that line, “Looking for that holy place that I can call home.” I think at the time there were all those stories and images of people trying to get to the UK on boats. It does sound dark.

Track 8: Sunflower Fields

That was from an old family photo that we had of us all as kids in the fields of sunflowers. I like the summery vibe. Isaac really likes that tune too. It’s an optimistic, dreamy set of memories that are really personal to me.

Track 9: I Woke Up On The Moon

That’s a top tune. The chorus is “I will always love you,” so I had to change the song title from that, because it was already taken.

I Will Always Love You would be a cover and a half!

It’s one of my favourite songs on the album. I’m a sucker for a good pop tune, but as a writer, it’s much harder to come up with a pop tune than something quirky. Some of the lyrics are nonsensical in that tune, but it has a great, upbeat vibe.

Is it the case then that the music always comes first and the lyrics then somehow find their way in?

I’m always on the search for hooks. Normally I’ll lay down some sort of beat, because it’s more interesting to be writing to a beat than a metronome, and then I’ll write riffs around it and then finding the words and how they connect to those synth parts. Normally, in the better tunes, the lyrics come really quickly. I’ll hear something in the music and it’ll sound like I’m singing something and that’ll be what the song becomes.

The more I think about lyrics, the worse they are. I’m not the kind of person who’s sitting there with a jotter writing meaningful poetry. I’ll listen to tunes over and over and over and lyrics just pop out. I do try and connect up the lyrics and find some kind of meaning eventually, but to get me going, it’s always that way.

Track 10: Feeling Like An Animal

Parts of it feel a bit Saharan. Bits of it feel a bit Graceland-y (in the Paul Simon sense). It’s a good album finisher. It’s got a great ending and it’s going to be a fun one to play live.

You get to shout “GO!” too.

I had to get that in there.

That moment felt like the cumulation of a year of being indoors, or like when a five-year-old needs to get out of the front door and burn off some energy – a proper ‘release the beast’ moment. Was that always going to be the final track?

No. I think because it was initially going to be a fifteen-track thing, the closing track would have been different. We kept flipping between different ones. Goodnight England was the closer at one point. I like how the heavy ending on Feeling Like An Animal hopefully leaves you wanting part two. It’s tough, if you’ve got fifteen tracks, to get a good running order. I always realise that I haven’t written enough ballads, slower ones. The second half of the album, after Rain, is rather energetic.

And that’s it – your own double album!

And because we’re having a double vinyl, we can have sides A, B, C, & D. We’ll bring it all out at the same time. There were all sorts of delays with the pressing of vinyl, due to COVID. So even if we were intending to release this one on vinyl separately, it would probably have been delayed anyway because of the waiting times. It makes sense to do this release online and then, later in the year, release the whole thing as one album.

You’ve hinted that you’re sitting on an additional shitload of new music after a year of lockdown.

I’m trying to whittle things down, to choose my favourite ten tracks to go on the second half of this album, and then I guess once we’ve released a double album, the next release is going to be an EP after this, for my own sanity. It’s nice to release the current songs in two halves. It feels fresher, creatively.

And unleash the tracks onto paying audiences in October?

It’s going to be strange. We’ll have a lot of new tracks to play. I haven’t seen the band for a long time.

What does a year of largely having to avoid each other do to a band?

I don’t know. It probably makes us appreciate live music more because we have missed it. We’ll be getting together as soon as we’re allowed to. It has been weird: a kind of time warp.

Let’s Talk, Pt.1 is out on April 23rd via The Wilderness Records.

You can find Wasuremono on: BandcampSoundCloudFacebookTwitter and Instagram. Their website is here.

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All words by Jon Kean. More writing by Jon on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. He tweets as @keanotherapy.

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An afternoon drinking with Noel Redding meant that I probably peaked at fifteen. Lowering the tone since 1974. Music was my first love and it will be my last.

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