Photo: Morgan Sinclair

Interview: Tall Ships

Five years after their debut album, Brighton indie rockers Tall Ships are touring their new album Impressions. Following the success of their debut Everything Touching I was excited for the opportunity to talk to frontman Ric Phethean about what they’d been up to.

After playing the first show of the new tour, Tall Ships are enthusiastic about returning to touring: “It’s so much fun, we just love playing live. It’s the first tour we’ve done where we’ve had songs out from the new album so we get to play them and see people singing along and enjoying the new stuff which is such a buzz!” The band are no strangers to touring: after Everything Touching exploded they’ve had no shortage of shows, playing festivals and supporting a variety of bands.

However after the initial swell of attention the band somewhat dropped off the radar. Ric says the band felt “emotionally, physically and financially spent”. I ask what the band has been up to in the last five years. “We’ve been doing a variety of things. Firstly, the album took a long time to put together — we did about five different demos of each of the songs so that took a while to come together. After that we’ve been working, playing in other bands as well. And just normal life really, everyday stuff.”

Discussing the subject of the new album Ric says: “It’s been a difficult few years for us all really. We’ve had different things going on in our lives. People passing away and being kinda ill. The usual stuff that everybody goes through. A lot of those experiences have influenced the lyrics and the writing. In particular the lyrics tend to focus on the bad things that we’ve gone through as individuals and ways of trying to cope and deal with them.”

It’s clear from the already-released tracks that the album will be an emotionally charged affair. ‘Petrichor’ has a sound that is unmistakably Tall Ships, but with an anthemic flavour that wasn’t present on their debut.

Like their first albumImpressions has been self-produced. “We were actually hoping to do the album with a producer in the studio. In the end we couldn’t afford it so we sort of did it out of necessity. But it’s also a way that we’re really comfortable working. Our keyboard player Jamie does all the production and engineering.” Complete control does have its drawbacks, though, Ric explains: “The process can go on indefinitely. You’re always thinking about it, tweaking certain bits and wanting to redo a certain vocal take. Until it’s set in stone it always feels unfinished.”

Tall Ships have always been tied up to the math rock scene, despite their music having stronger indie characteristics to it. I ask how they got the label. “It was kind of coincidence. The first gig we ever played was with a band called Tubelord. They were signed to Big Scary Monsters records and they basically got us on some more shows with them and introduced us to the record label. That label is pretty big in the math rock scene. That’s how we got that tag. It’s something that we’ve not always felt fit too well. We’ve always felt more like a indie band or a rock band really.”

“But now the new stuff is so far away from that loopy and math rock stuff it feels like we’re a completely different band really,” he adds. This was an inevitable transition, Ric tells me. “Things change and your tastes change. We’ve been a band for ten years now, and what you’re into changes. We’ve all got older and have been inspired by different things. The biggest change was singing. When we started we were mostly instrumental. And now there’s singing on every track and the lyrics are a much bigger part of it.” It certainly sounds like Tall Ships are becoming a more confident band and we can expect great things from the upcoming album.

Finally, I ask what’s next for the band. “More touring! Hopefully we’ll get to Europe and do some shows there. And start writing so the next album doesn’t take another five years, hopefully.” I couldn’t agree more.

Tall Ships will play Deaf Institute on Tuesday the 7th of March. Supporting them is Waylor, the project of Dry The Rivers’ frontman Matt, whose music Ric describes as “sexy” and not to be missed.

Impressions is released on 31st March.

Tags: Deaf Institue, Everything Touching, Impressions, indie, Math, Rock, tall ships

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