Friday, 19 March 2010

Studio report and interview: Dark Captain Light Captain

The oft repeated cliché is that bands have 20 years to write a debut album and 12 months to write the second. Some bands however do buck the trend and take a little longer on their follow up. One such example is London’s folky Dark Captain, Light Captain who released the critically acclaimed Miracle Kicker in 2008. This album really captured my imagination when I heard it as it seemed to take the ‘nu folk’ sound of recent years onto a more sonic plain with clear krautrock and beta band influences. The meloncholy lyrics also touched a nerve as they somehow seemed to be both heartfelt and uplifting at the same time.

Stand out track Jealous Enemies was a single of the week on Itunes and the album was listed in the Guardian critics choice of the year. The success since of bands such as Grizzly Bear and Noah and the Whale suggests the band have clear commercial crossover potential. I was intrigued to know what they are going to do next so got in touch with vocalist/guitarist Dan Carney to find out what’s going on and when we can expect to hear some new material.

So, how’s the new album coming along?

Slowly but surely. We've got about 8 or 9 tracks coming together, and about 4 or 5 which we've demoed and are mostly ready to go. We're funding it ourselves this time round, which is another reason why we're chipping away gradually! But whether we're in the studio or not, there's a lot of creativity when we get together, so all is generally highly satisfactory.

Who’s written the songs this time – it was a collaborate effort between you and Neil last time right?

The last album was myself, Neil, Giles and Chin (drummer) mainly - since then, we've become a six-piece, so it's more collaborative. I still write most of the words and a few clumsily executed guitar lines, Giles writes countless killer cascading riffs like some sort of unstoppable, gentlemanly machine, Neil takes care of the psychedelia in the style of a frisky electronic wizard, and everybody else adds little bits of magic once the structures and general themes are in place. Mike (bass player) has been loads more involved this time as well, with demoing, songwriting etc... Chin and Laura (brass) pretty much take care of their own parts as well, and superb they are too.

Where are you recording and who is producing?

As with the last album, we're recording mainly at Golden Hum in Stoke Newington with a marvellous chap called Daniel Lea. He released a great album a couple of years back under the name By The Fireside - check it out if you haven't already - and now does more soundtrack-type stuff as Land. We're also doing some bits and pieces at home.

How does it sound compared to Miracle Kicker?

Not ultimately sure yet - it's still developing. I've still not quite mastered the art of writing a happy song, so if you liked the melancholy feel of the last album I've a feeling you won't be disappointed. Musically it's bigger and better. We've spent a bit more time this album fine-tuning structures, words and stuff, so I think the songs are more coherent and are better at saying what they need to say. There's better choruses too. And it's probably a bit more varied in terms of different moods. That last sentence was taken from page one, chapter one of 'Things Absolutely Everyone Says About Their Second Album', available from all good bookshops.

What would you say are your main influences right now?

Musically I seem to have developed an aversion to any music recorded in my lifetime. Elvis, Neil Young, Velvet Underground, Fela Kuti, The Saints, old r&b and garage/acid rock, Fleetwood Mac, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, things like that right at present. In more up-to-date terms, Robert Wyatt, Jonathan Richman (big recent discovery for me), Alex Tucker, Caribou are all pretty constant. And I remain dangerously obsessed with Elliott Smith in all his forms. I'm also really enjoying Hatfield & The North as well, a reasonably bonkers (by my standards anyway) experimental prog/jazz/rock band from the Canterbury scene, active in the early '70s which featured members of Gong, Caravan etc... I seem pathologically unable to dislike anything with even the most indirect connection to Robert Wyatt! As I hurtle towards all-too irreversible old age I'm getting satisfyingly 'proggy'. But it's changeable as ever. Some days I just listen to hip-hop. When we're right in the middle of a few songwriting/recording sessions I find it helps if I listen to absolutely nothing though! We don't really sound like any of the people I've mentioned though, to be fair. Maybe a couple. So I guess this is more "stuff I like".

Non-musically, my lovely little girl, bad weather, tobacco, disappointment, endless reading, Walthamstow, drinking unhealthy amounts of proper coffee, hoping beyond hope that Tottenham Hotspur sign the Brazilian defensive midfielder Sandro even though I've never really seen him play, guilt, good and bad dreams, looking forward to this year's World Snooker Championship a lot more than I should be, getting distracted from working by great photography and art blogs, films, wanting to move far, far away and general trepidation about ever doing so.

Any new instrumentation?

Not strictly, but Neil's making a few new strange and unfamiliar noises with his laptop, plus we're getting pretty clarinet-happy at the moment, courtesy of Mike and Neil. Laura's lovely warm, comforting flugelhorn sound is much more of a feature this time around as well. It was only on a couple of the songs last time around, which was a shame because everything she does sounds bloody marvellous. We still use the same guitar tuning, but if I revealed what that was I'd have to kill you, before devoting my life to travelling around and picking off your readers, one by one.

Any plans for live dates?

Not at the moment - still in the last throes of songwriting/demoing, then we're hopefully back into the studio April-June to put the bloody thing to bed.

Got a name yet?

There are two names that I like, but in a fit of misplaced self-importance tinged with slight superstition, I'm not giving anything away I'm afraid.

When are we going to see it?

Not sure yet. Maybe by the year's end, but no-one's as yet agreed to put it out. The time felt right to get on with it though, so we'll have to wait and see. Couple of things cooking away - I'm sure we'll launch ourselves at the music industry when the time comes.

Describe the new album in 3 words

I don't know. "Some new songs"? No, too boring. "Quite new songs" will have to do for now.

If you’ve not heard anything by Dark Captain Light Captain I urge you to do so – here’s a taster and you can find their previous releases on Spotify and at your local record shop...

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