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Several years ago, a young band by the name of it hugs back released a handful of singles. The sounds found on these little slabs of vinyl were hazy, mellow indie rock along the lines of Stereolab and Luna. A little gritty, a little poppy. but charmingly melodic. An album soon followed, Inside Your Guitar, and the rockier elements were honed down to a gentle, somewhat countrified rock. It was a charming record, and one that showed great promise. Unfortunately, their label, 4AD, didn’t agree, and the band was quietly dropped from the roster. Like many young bands who find themselves in that situation, it appeared that the group would become a one-album curiosity, the victim of business practices that doomed them to that obscurity.
But a funny thing happened. Leader Matthew Sims took a respite, played a few solo gigs, joined Wire as a touring guitarist, and after a healthy break, recorded album number two. While there are moments that hint at the loveliness of their debut, the album has a much rawer, electric feel, one that echoes the sound of their earliest releases. Mr. Sims was kind enough to answer a few questions electronically about his band, the hassles that kept the band in limbo, and the making of their excellent sophomore album.
It seems a bit interesting that you start the album with a huge, fifteen minute jam session.
MATTHEW SIMS: I think that song is the best thing it hugs back has done so far! The idea of putting it first seemed odd at first, but when putting together an order that was a good listen all the way through—and one that included two ten minute plus songs—it seemed to me the perfect opener. On vinyl it has its own side. I find long records work better on vinyl, split into four more manageable chunks!
Tell me about the making of this record—it seems to have been a long time coming. After a brief tenure at 4AD, you’re back on your own. What happened? Did the relationship affect your creativity or desire to continue to make music?
MS: This record was made over a year, from summer 2010 to summer 2011 in my small home studio (the record room). It’s the same place we made our first record, and everything else the band has ever recorded. The release of our first album was a bit of kick in the shins for the band as a whole. I’m proud of it, but there are things that in hindsight we should have done differently.
We didn’t really sign to 4AD, though. In 2008 we signed to one our favorite labels at the time, Too Pure, who released a 7” and a E.P (the last ever Too Pure release!) and half way through recording our first album, we had a phone call to say Too Pure was no more. We were told that our record would still come out, but it would be on 4AD At time I was just excited about it being released, But I don’t think anyone at 4AD really liked us, and in the end maybe it did band more harm than good. I don’t know, though—a few months after the album was released and just as we started working on songs for the next album, the past years frustrations outweighed the positives. We had little label support, our original drummer quit and we didn’t know what the future was or if there was one. The following week, we got a letter ending our record contract. I didn’t think it hugs back would make another record. I did a solo tour, recorded new songs, but I didn’t really speak to the others for six months or so. In the one rehearsal we did have, in December 2009, Paul came up with the bass line to “Melting,” and that bass line reformed the band!
The tone here is much louder than Inside Your Guitar, yet aren’t new, in that they hearken back to your early singles. Was that intentional? Were you satisfied with the album’s production?
MS:The production was intentional to a point, while also being influenced by our small space and non existent budget. I’m really pleased with how it sounds. I don’t think it sounds too much like a band recorded in a garage, but at the same time retains an overall character that recording in more unusual spaces helps create. I did a lot more experimenting with how we set up, going against conventions for this record, lots of things are recording by putting microphones in the room pointing away from the sound source or pointing at the ceiling. It helps gives the album a more lively, interesting sound. It’s interesting you say it harkens back to earlier singles, though—I hadn’t thought about that. The band is very different now; we interact differently, get along better and think positively! We couldn’t have made a song like “The Big E” before, but I guess it does kind of pick up from were “Other Cars Go” got off.
With the release of the album, what’s next for you?
MS: As I write this, I’m listening to the first mixes of two new songs we finished yesterday. I’m hopeful album three will take a lot less time to appear than album two!
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