Wolf People's fantastic new album "Fain" is released April 29.
For those that want to hear a little more about the music that inspired "Fain", Wolf People's Jack Sharp and Joe Hollick have put together this illuminating, in-depth list of ten albums that inspired "Fain", as well as a corresponding mix of their favorite tracks from the albums.
Click on album covers for more info.
1. MIGHTY BABY - JUG OF LOVE
JACK: When we started making Fain, I had it in mind that I’d like it to be our ‘Jug of Love’; solidifying the spirit of the band, and maturing the music and lyrics to reflect the fact that we’ve been a working band for another two years.
We have collectively obsessed over the first Mighty Baby record since the beginning of the band and it’s always something we come back to, putting it on in the van and at parties, dancing round like loons to it at festivals. But this second record took a while to sink in. It’s nowhere near as immediate or incendiary as the first. Martin Stone swapped his fuzz for a volume pedal and they crept into more country rock territory, with lyrics that reflected their conversion to Sufism.
But once you get over the fact that you’re no longer listening to hedonistic rock music, Jug of Love is achingly beautiful, and deceptively complex. The songs seem simple, and you can sing along to them, but sit down with a guitar and you realize the chord changes and song structures are stunningly intricate.
They reigned in the jamming a lot for this record compared with their live set at the time, but it’s still there at the tail end of every song and their interplay is breathtaking (have a listen to the last half of Happiest Man in the Carnival, for example). That’s something you can only get from living together and playing night after night.
I don’t think we’ve ever even slightly reached the heights that Mighty Baby did with Jug of Love, but I like to think there is a thread of the spirit of this record at least, in Fain.
2. MECKI MARK MEN - RUNNING IN THE SUMMER NIGHT
JOE: Our Tom has been an avid collector of Scandinavian psych music over the years and I first heard the track “Future on the Road” on a comp CD he made a while ago. It blew my mind, it was the almost dream-like combo of Hendrix and Can in one band. This was also a band found through the obsession with Dungen; I had read in an interview that the super-jam “Mon Amour” on Tio Bitar was, to quote the article, “mecki music”. Therefore, to stem the salacious thirst waiting for new Dungen material, this band needed discovering, and it has gone straight in to my all time top list of records. You can hear the influence of Hendrix on them and in particular guitarist Kenny Hakansson, (earlier incarnation Baby Grandmothers supported the Experience in their native Sweden) and then onto Dungen. Hakansson’s guitar sounds are just superb, internet research has brought up that he used two fuzz faces, and goes someway to explaining the compressed, singing sustain on tracks such as the elegiac reiteration of the Baby Grandmothers 7” track “Being is More Than Life”. I love that the recordings are clearly the band playing live, but augmented with unusual overdubbed percussion and sound effects, you could say its “of its time”, but these idiosyncrasies provide a unique texture that elevates this album beyond a mere fuzz rock record. “Butterfly” has been a huge influence on us, and we’ve gone as far as jamming it on a regular basis, trying to cop the extreme fuzz and fluid bass. Wolf People never attempt to copy any of the influences (we’re frankly not skilled or attentive enough) but the waltz sections of “When the Fire is Dead in the Grate” are definitely our attempt at stealing some “mecki music”. We played this record in the van when touring Scandinavia in 2011. Watching the scenery fly by, it all made sense.
3. JOANNA NEWSOM - HAVE ONE ON ME
JACK: This is a personal indulgence and not something that has influenced the band as a whole at all, just me. I understand that Joanna Newsome’s voice and music is pretty divisive so I try not to evangelise about this album too much, but I can’t think of a record that has had more of an effect on the way I write lyrics or think about phrasing and delivery than this one.
Obviously, Joanna Newsome I ain’t, I’m a pretty limited vocalist. But listening to this definitely made me strive to tease out a bit more from the lyrics and delivery and ask myself if what I was doing was good enough all the time. I mean, who uses the word ‘etiolated’ in a song and makes it sound not only natural but beautiful?! (Not me btw, Joanna obviously).
‘You and Me Bess’ especially had a massive impact on me. I was bewildered that someone could write a song about Dick Turpin’s horse (I think) and give it a strong emotional centre that robbed it of the twee-ness it could so easily have had. The lyrics are so visual it’s like reading a book. Lines like “tangling tails like a sodden sheet/Dangling entrails from the gut of the sea” are of an alien brilliance that’s difficult to even aspire to.
I’m still in the process of discovering this album, and I’ve been listening to it for three years. This is grown up music, and that’s what we want to make.
4. DARK - AROUND THE EDGES
JACK: Hearing this for the first time was like a lightning bolt. YUP. Here we go. This is it.
Reine Fiske from Dungen made a chart for B-Music magazine years ago with this and some other amazing stuff on it, which is where we first heard it. This is one of those ridiculously priced holy grail records, but in this case the music almost justifies the price tag (not that I have a spare £8000 to get myself a copy!).
The songs tend to start with spindly thin guitar melodies, weird chords and oddball, slightly whiney lyrics, then all of a sudden they’ll morph into this unruly fuzz dragon burrowing its way to the centre of the earth.
Most bands would be happy to write three or four great riffs per album. Dark stick about 25 together at the end of each song, repeat them twice and never return to any of them.
One thing that makes this stand out from other cult albums that went nowhere, is that it SOUNDS AMAZING. Weighty drums, meaty fuzz, glassy clean guitar chords, big bottom bass. It sounds HAIRY. This sounds so much better than anything we’ve ever done, and it was recorded 40 years ago for nothing in a tiny studio in Northampton. Knowing that they never got anywhere makes you wonder what the point is. At least they’re getting a bit more recognition now.
5. THUNDER MOTHER / LIGHTYEARS AWAY - ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS
JACK: Every time we get asked to put a list together, I have to talk about this album. I’m starting to feel like a missionary for the church of Astral Navigations. The truth is I would totally understand if you listened to this and didn’t get on with it, or felt the hype was unnecessary, but to me it encapsulates so much that I look for in music. It’s humble yet ambitious, home made, strikingly unique and almost painfully British. The words either sound ancient and mystical, or just plain weird.
It’s ramshackle and budget-recorded, but obviously put together with huge amounts of love and hard work. It also has some of the best fuzz tones ever.
A friend gave me a cdr of this a long time ago* saying it sounded a bit like us. A massive compliment! At first I fell in love with the noisier side but soon got entranced by the Lightyears Away numbers on the A-side too. We always keep this record in mind when writing and recording, and if we ever get even close to the magic captured here, I’d be very happy indeed.
I learnt from a friend that David Smith, one of the members of Thunder Mother passed away recently. I really hope he knew just how highly regarded his music was.
*I since bought the full CD direct from Mike Levon the producer, who still runs
his own online shop! The original vinyl was pressed as a run of £250 at a loss and
copies currently change hands for around £1000.
6. TREES - ON THE SHORE
JACK: I think it’s fair to say that without Fairport Convention, there would be no Trees. But Trees took what Fairport had pioneered and steered it down a slightly different road. Where Fairport were majestic and graceful, Trees were a wilder, more rugged prospect, with longer jams, tight but ramshackle and a little more rough around the edges. Their treatment of traditional songs is fantastic but they also had a few original songs that were pretty peerless and deserve more attention. For us, Trees’ leaning towards heavier rock in their folk ballads just begs to be taken further. You ask yourself “What if the drums were louder and the guitars more distorted?” That question usually ends in one of our noisy attempts at folk rock.
We’ll keep trying.
7. DUNGEN - 4
JOE: Without exaggeration, this record changed my life. It became one of those albums that I can hold up alongside those influential and precious ones that I first heard when I was a kid. It has shaped how I feel about music, and how I experience it. For an entire year it sat glued to my turntable, merging with the machine to such an extent that I didn't have a record player anymore, I had only a Dungen 4 player.
Many others have waxed lyrical about this album, especially its stellar orchestration and production (notably the sumptous drum sound). I should add that you don't have to understand Swedish to be taken by the sheer beauty in "Det Tar Tid" (an entire piece could be written about the slight lift of the wah pedal that makes Reine's guitar "purr" in the intro alone) and how "Mina Damer Och Fasaner" contains the heaviest yet subtlest riff that never tires, the sheer weight and drama of the "Satt Att Se" intro, excetera excetara. The whole thing is both under and over played, on a knife edge that constantly tempts and teases the listener, just when you think it gives too much, it drops away and holds back. At times it sounds like Gershwin...incredible.
One track in particular has soundtracked everything I’ve done since its release, the instrumental "Samtidigt 2". Before "4" was released, Reine Fiske had already changed my outlook on the guitar, I was really in the doldrums playing wise, and seeing the band play at The Garage in 2006 was like having someone clang a giant bell above my head whilst shouting: "this is it, this is what you need to aspire towards". I’m nowhere near, and it gets me down. This particular track is part of two on the album, an edit of a longer improvised piece to fit the constraints of an LP (an unedited version exists on a tour only 12"). The way it glows in at the start still gives me goosebumps. Usually when you listen to a guitarist, you can imagine their hands on the fretboard, with Reine Fiske it's just a blur, I cannot "see" how he is doing it. It's the sound of someone thinking out loud, the language is just more than notes, its tiny changes in volume, tone, wah position and pickup selection. The nature of the circuit in a healthy fuzz face and octavia pedal mean they are very sensitive to the input volume that they receive, varying between 8 and 10 on the guitar’s volume yields a myriad of subtlety different tones and changes in attack. This is all on display, and it comes as natural as the note choice, adding a different voice to each phrase. It never pauses for thought, every riff is a melody. It is some of the most magical and inspiring guitar playing I’ve ever heard. For the uninitiated its akin to Hendrix, but if he had been born in a forest in Northern Europe, it doesn’t seem to fit with normal Western phrasing, and eschews all your tired blues licks yet still retains weight and power. I wish it would never end, I wish I could play like it.
8. GROUNDHOGS - THANK CHRIST FOR THE BOMB
JACK: The Groundhogs encapsulate a lot of what we think a band should be; hardworking, humble, great at playing but without showing off, ambitious but not pretentious, the ultimate underdogs. Often when I’m tying myself in knots trying to think of a lyric or come up with a clever chord change or something, I have to call on the ‘spirit Tony McPhee’ to remind me that simple and pure ideas come across a lot better than self consciously clever or complicated ones.
9. RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON - I WANT TO SEE THE BRIGHT LIGHTS TONIGHT
JACK: The way Richard Thompson uses traditional music to inform his songwriting is something we’ve started to look up to more and more over the last few years, and Fain is definitely the furthest we’ve gone into that territory. The sparsity of the songs and the bleakness of the lyrics are things I really hope have seeped into our music, at least in a small way.
Richard Thompson’s playing is one of the chief influences on the way that Joe has learnt to play guitar, and in turn I’ve taken on (stolen) some of those ideas over the years.
10. THE WAY WE LIVE - A CANDLE FOR JUDITH
JACK: Normal guys making freaky music on a shoestring. Brilliant. The thing I love about bands like Tractor, The Way We Live, Dark and Thunder Mother is you get a sense that this is pure escapism for them, it’s not a box ticking exercise to climb up the industry ladder (and that would have been a more realistic aim at the time), it’s just good msic for the sake of it. God bless John Peel for basically paying for this album.
Jim Milne’s playing and sound is something me and Joe talked about a lot while making Fain, but there’s some voodoo there that you just can’t recreate. We got in contact with him a while ago and he was going to come to a gig in Liverpool. Maybe he’ll appear on the next record!
"FAIN" is released April 29. BUY IT HERE ON : CD VINYL OR DIGITAL
Stream a playlist of tracks from these albums here:
"Steeple" by Wolf People was one of my favourites a couple of years ago. The "Ten Albums..." post by the Wolfies was great. I've just slipped Dungen 4 into my CD player (sorry I don't completely buy into this analogue/vinyl only BS - sorry Nathan, we'll talk about this later) and WOW!!!!!! I forgot how absolutely BRILLIANT and otherworldly this beast is!ReplyDelete