Archie Bronson Outfit, Interview

27 September 2010

Interview with Archie Bronson Outfit

Interview with Archie Bronson Outfit

Bath natives and current London dwellers Archie Bronson Outfit have been making music together for the best part of a decade now. Having released their first album 'Fur' back in 2004, the art rock trio have gradually honed their sound and unique style of songwriting to the point where they can wholeheartedly claim to be one of a kind in a superfluously saturated market.

Earlier this year saw the release of their third album 'Coconut' to a fanfare of critical acclaim almost certainly guaranteeing it a high placing in many end of year 'Best Of' lists and if there's any justice, a nomination in 2011's Mercury Prize list.

Having literally just arrived on site prior to their late night slot on the Saturday night at this year's Bestival, Contactmusic tracked down drummer and songwriter Mark Cleveland minutes before the band were due to go onstage.

So, Bestival then. Is this your first time here at this festival?
No. We played back in 2006, so this will be our second appearance here.

You've played quite a few festivals this summer, both in the UK and abroad. Which has been your most enjoyable one so far?
I've enjoyed most of them to be honest. Field Day was great, Melt in Berlin too. OFF Festival in Poland was another that stands out. We're quite looking forward to this actually as its our very last one of the year.

I remember seeing the Field Day set and there seemed to be a few sound issues, certainly out front at any rate?
People were saying that to us afterwards, but then apparently the whole tent was like that all day. Its something we're blissfully unaware of when we're playing on stage. It's a shame I guess that people didn't get the full sound they were expecting.

Your current album 'Coconut' has received widespread praise from just about every corner of the media. Were you expecting such a response?
No, I mean you don't know what to expect really, do you? We thought we'd try and do something a bit different with this record so we didn't have a clue how anyone would react to it. We're obviously really pleased that people seem to like it, but it's not something I'd ever take for granted either.

Are you satisfied with the record to the point where you'd describe it as the band's most definitive body of work so far?
I guess so. We've certainly explored a few new areas for us. It feels like we've opened up a lot of new avenues to try out in the future as well, so I suppose from that aspect it would be our most definitive album to date. I think its given us the scope to veer off in even more undiscovered territories for the next record too.

Your sound has been described as 'Clinic been fed through a cement mixer by Throbbing Gristle'. How would you define it?
Ha Ha, I'd go along with's possibly the best description I've ever heard! We're actually really big fans of Clinic. We toured with them a few years ago and Throbbing Gristle are amazing too, possibly one of the biggest influences on what we're about so, yeah, that description is fairly accurate. Certainly with the newer elements such as the drones and the filth.

A lot of your lyrics are indecipherable. Would it be fair to say you put more emphasis on the sounds within your songs than any deep meaning that may be conveyed through the words?
Sometimes. I'd certainly spend a lot longer working on that than the actual songwriting stuff because our main aim is to put the songs across in an immediate yet confrontational manner. Even when it comes to recording if there's something else we've picked up on in the studio it could filter its way in at the end. We're pretty loose when it comes to that kind of thing. I write the lyrics so in some ways it can be frustrating when people struggle to work out what Sam (Windett, vocalist) is singing but ultimately Archie Bronson Outfit is about the overall sound not just one individual element. If you listen back to our previous two albums the vocals are a lot higher in the mix but 'Coconut' was built around delays and creating new ideas for sound so I wouldn't say they're inaudible on purpose, but at the same time I think it works better as a whole.

I guess from the perspective of the listener it's a good thing as they can draw their own interpretation of the songs.
Most of the lyrics are meant to be quite harsh, nihilistic even, which I guess probably comes across if not legibly through the words certainly does within a lot of the music. I guess our angle is not to expect people to read that much into the lyrics, but more about the emotive aspects of the whole thing. The words are quite personal to me in many ways but they're quite abstract and cut up and occasionally Sam will reduce and jumble them around even more so it can become something else by the time we get to recording them. Sometimes they do end up quite different to what I've initially sat down and written.

In terms of your live show, how do you agree on which songs to include in the set, particularly with all three albums being so different?
We were actually quite worried at first when we started playing the new songs that the whole set wouldn't fit together, but fortunately that wasn't the case so we're quite relaxed now about what we play from show to show. We've brought a fourth member in for the live shows who takes care of the synths and drones - basically the electro side of our songs - so it means in many ways we can still concentrate on playing the way we always have as a three-piece. I guess looking back at the way we wrote the songs for our previous album 'Derdang Derdang', it hasn't really changed that much to the way we wrote 'Coconut'.

The end result is a lot different though. Did your listening tastes change over the interim period between the second and third records?
Definitely. I think that's possibly where the major change in direction - if that's the right word to use - came about. Our listening tastes have become more experimental over the past couple of years, which again I think is reflected on 'Coconut'.

Looking back at both 'Fur' and 'Derdang Derdang', is anything on there, which you'd change or even omit?
Yeah definitely, both I'd say in some cases. I think we've made mistakes in the past, which I'd like to think we've learnt from since, plus there's that old adage that you can always improve on something and make it better. If you're trying to push new boundaries I guess it's inevitable that occasionally you'll take a turn down a wrong avenue! Also, Archie Bronson Outfit is a democracy, and when you've three people with differing opinions there'll always be disagreements over what makes the final cut.

You've been with Domino now since your first record. Do you ever feel under any pressure from the label to emulate some of their more commercially successful artists?
No I wouldn't say they're like that at all. They completely let us do our own thing and don't impose any time constraints or restrictions. Its not like major where they give you a large advance payment or anything; I mean, they fund the records but it doesn't feel like a business or anything. I guess there is an inherent pressure to succeed because they've put together such a fantastic roster of artists but we've never really let that affect us.

Are there any plans in place yet for album number four?
There are, yes. We've got our own studio now so in between live shows and festivals we've kept ourselves busy writing away and it's starting to take shape. We're hoping to play some of the newer songs on our UK tour in October.

So far you've worked with Jamie Hince from The Kills and Tim Goldsworthy on your previous albums. Is there anyone in mind for the next album?
There's no one in mind as such as we haven't really got that far with it yet. There are a lot of people I would like to work with in the future, although I wouldn't mind having Tim (Goldsworthy) produce us again either. There's talk of us possibly collaborating on an album with Stephen Malkmus as well, which would be quite amazing if it happens.

The album 'Coconut' is out now on Domino Records.

Dom Gourlay

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