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When we spoke with Matthew Simms last year, the leader of British-based it hugs back, one couldn’t help feeling that he was a bit battle-weary. Having been one of the last signings to the esteemed Too Pure label, that label’s merging with 4AD seemingly would be an ideal situation many bands would dream of. Unfortunately, the label had little interest in their merger-acquired signing, and the band soon found themselves without a label shortly after releasing their excellent debut, Inside Your Guitar. Their story would have—nay, should have—ended with the band dying in obscurity. Justifiably weary and tired from the stresses of the year, Simms took a break from his band and accepted a lucrative gig as touring guitarist for punk legends Wire. Some downtime led him and his bandmates back together for the raw, rough Laughing Party, a fine record in its own right, but one that was quite different from its predecessors.
Jump to 2013, and Simms’ prediction in that interview that the band would release a new album much quicker has come true. The band’s third album, Recommended Record is a very succinct, tight record. It’s clear that the band’s identity crisis has been cured, as the band sounds revitalized—and, more importantly, like a band. As you can read in the following interview, Simms sounds positively upbeat, excited about his new record, and the confidence that comes from having a stable band situation and a clear understanding of their band’s identity.
Big Takeover is proud to present an exclusive American debut of their forthcoming album, Recommended Record, which will be released May 5, 2013, via Safe & Sound Records.
BT: The last time we spoke, you had just started working on what would become Recommended Record. Considering the backstory of what went on with Laughing Party, did you find that the making of this album was an easier, more assured, smoother process?
Matthew Simms: This time, it was a smoother experience. I feel that this record successfully represents the current band. Our last record was made in such a way that I just wanted to keep us moving forward and playing together, try to stop us drifting apart.That album had tracks where it’s me playing drums and Jack( Theedom, drummer) on bass, tracks made of little loops and songs formed more out of jams. I loved the results, but it was different. This album is all fully formed songs bought to band in rehearsal and played live in our tiny studio. Will (Blackaby, drummer) has bought a lot of positivity to the band, musically and personally, I think he and Paul (Michael, bassist) finally get a chance to shine on this new album, which is great, and although I write and produce the recordings I’m definitely most happy when each member takes the songs somewhere I never could have, that’s the reason why I want to play with this band, and it happens instinctively. Paul plays the most amazing bass lines straight off, having never heard the tune before, and then forgets everything he has ever played, but instinct is the most powerful tool a musician has I reckon!
BT: This time around, your songs are even tighter and much more taut than what came before. I was impressed; it was a pleasant surprise!
MS: That’s good to hear! It’s all a process of improvement. We are very d.i.y and practice makes perfect! I was pleased with the sound of this recording. I worked hard to make it represent the power and vibrancy of the band live. I think our recordings, when looking back, were perhaps overly worked, probably as we didn’t have the confidence we have now. We’ve been together seven years now, although scarily I’ve been making music with Paul for twice that. It’s a good aim to try and keep getting better and keep things interesting. Jack bought in these mellotron parts that really excited me and I got him to play over everything. I never thought we’d have so many string parts on a record!
BT: You’ve maintained a second gig as a guitarist for Wire, and for the first time, I really hear that influence in your sound. How has working with them influenced you? Do you feel that influence on your work? What kind of advice and knowledge have you gained from working with one of the founding bands of punk rock?
MS: I started playing in Wire the year after the first it hugs back album, and last year I made my first record with them. Musically I feel they have helped me become a better guitarist, and as a result I feel more self-assured as a musician. Witnessing and experiencing their level of enthusiasm and commitment to their art is inspiring and I’ve definitely tried to translate and install that in to everything else I’m involved with. It sounds mad, but being a self employed as a musician isn’t always so easy and seeing how Wire make things work is as a business is impressive and is a good lesson to a lot of bands I would fight hard to not let any financial implication effect anything creative, but still there are lots of ways to save money in a band if you are smart and up for a bit more work, especially on tour!
BT: What are your plans now? Any plans to come to the U.S.?
MS: We’re actually five tracks into a new album! We had a bit of time two weeks back and made the most of it. I’m working on getting us to get up to the heady heights of Thee Oh Sees’ creativity/ output / quality! But a lot of my time this year is touring the new Wire album, we’re over U.S. in July. it hugs back will make it over eventually. We’ve been close a number of times but it always falls through. Know anyone that would have us? We’re a friendly sort!
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