Back in 2012 south coast four-piece Tall Ships put out the incredible Everything Touching. Following on from a series of EPs that drilled their way in to your brain it was a perfect full length – packed from start to finish with intensely personal lyrics, lush instrumentation and just enough contrast in pace to keep things interesting whilst remaining a unified whole.
Almost half a decade on from that impressive debut, the band are back with their sophomore effort Impressions. Such a long break between records is a rare luxury, but usually means one of two contrasting things – writers block, or careful, patient productivity.
“The album took a really long time to bash in to shape with us demoing the songs numerous times before getting them right” explains Ric, the band’s guitarist and vocalist – immediately allaying any fears that this might be all they could muster. “We also needed the time off to earn some money to pay off some debts we’d accumulated whilst touring the first album, so laying patios, doing illustrations, managing care homes and recording other bands in-between working on the record. Real life mostly!”
The break has also seen them find a new home at Fat Cat – similarly south coast based and having given birth to at least a brace of the worlds collective favourite indie bands over the last ten years, It feels like a perfect fit? “Definitely.” Ric agrees “They’re a great Brighton based label whose ethics and ideas about music really align with ours. They’ve released some of our favourite records – like the first Sigur Ros album – so we feel honoured to be added to their roster.”
“I’d rather look back and feel slightly embarrassed by the openness of the lyrics than look back and feel like nothing’s been said at all.”
The band’s output to date has struck a chord with fans at least in part because of the introspective lyrics that are the backbone of their songs. It’s not an over statement to describe them as powerful. But is baring so much of your soul in a way that can never be taken back something Ric’s still comfortable with now there’s a bit of space between him and those early releases?
“I wouldn’t call it comfortable” he laughs. “It’s not a sense of feeling over-exposed or having said too much but there’s definitely a level of embarrassment when re-reading certain lines. They are what they are though and we still enjoy playing them live so it’s cool. I’d rather look back and feel slightly embarrassed by the openness of the lyrics than look back and feel like nothing’s been said at all. I think the best lyrics come from the moments when you really feel someone is putting themselves on the line, saying something embarrassing or revealing, I’d much rather listen to that than someone playing it safe and falling back on clichés and tired lines.”
So with Impressions on the horizon, how have things changed for a band that’s spent much of the last four years away from the limelight? “I’d hate to think that we hadn’t progressed! It’s impossible not to really. We’re all listening to new music, reading, watching, consuming culture and that feeds in to your own work for sure. That’s not to say the new album is a complete departure from the previous one – It takes some of the ideas explored within it and refines them slightly. On a personal level we’ve all changed too. Our relationships with ourselves, with each other, have also changed since the last album. It’s been 4 years and lot’s of things can happen which change you in many ways. This is definitely reflected in the lyrics. They quite literally explore and catalogue the things we’ve experienced over that time.”
“It feels to me like an exploration of how to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless life.”
So hindsight and Ric’s relationship with those early lyrics doesn’t seem to have dulled the intimacy that was so apparent on Everything Touching. Those personal stories and inner thoughts are still there in force. “The main thread that ties the themes together (on Impressions) is that they’re all drawn from personal experiences from the past 4 years.” he explains “Things like depression, loss, death, choices, love all are explored. On reflection, a loose theme is finding ways to cope with the sometimes-difficult act of existence. It feels to me like an exploration of how to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless life.”
That personal reflection is something that seems to find common ground with listeners. With depression and anxiety so prevalent in society these days, finding that commonality in music can be an escape, or at least a reminder that you’re not the only one struggling with those same battles. It’s something Ric is definitely aware of. “It means so much when people reach out to tell us that our music has helped them through a hard time, or been present and important during an important or transitional part of their life. We have quite a few people using our songs at their weddings, which is really great too.
“The lyrics mostly come from personal experience, whether that be my own or friends and family, and it tends to centre around the tougher and more challenging parts of life. When I write about it I suppose I’m trying to comfort them or myself in someway. I tend to be quite a depressive person who can’t express these feelings in conversation easily so it’s a cathartic process getting these ideas out there and exploring them. When other people take something from that it’s a real kick, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Tall Ships play The Cookie on 3rd March.