2006 saw the release of Peace Burial At Sea (Ghostwritten), the eponymous second album from, you guessed it, Peace Burial At Sea (that’s Jonny Longrigg (guitar/vocals), John Harrison (Bass), Alex Cole (Drums), and Rob Barker (synth/laptop)). Think back, if you will, to 2004; back to the days when the British quartet threatened to explode onto the 'post-rock' scene on the back of glowing reviews and a widespread positive reception.
However, something somewhere went wrong: their debut album This Is Such A Quiet Town (Captains Of Industry) sold poorly, prompting the label to drop the band, leaving them to find their own way with the second album.
Regardless, Peace Burial At Sea ploughed on with no regrets, and decided link up with dance duo Trafik to produce the second album. Peace Burial At Sea (DiS review) sees the band move away from the post-rock soundscapes explored on their debut to make way for electronic and B-movie influences. Additionally, the band is adopting a DIY ethic by releasing the album on its own label, Ghostwritten Recordings.
DiS managed to grab a few words with the quartet with via the medium of e-mail.
The new album, Peace Burial At Sea, for the most part defies any wholesome categorisation. Were you trying to move away from the 'post-rock' tag you attained with the debut?
The first album was never intentionally written to fit the post-rock mould, though some tracks certainly used the structures and dynamics of the genre – I guess that's inevitable when you listen to as much Slint as we were when we wrote it. The musical shift in the new album is a result of the natural development of the band, both in terms of more complex songwriting and a wider sphere of influences being brought in. We did set out to add more depth and texture to the new tracks but most of all, like most musicians, we wanted to keep progressing and developing. One of the main technical differences between the two albums is that for the new one the electronics were brought in at the songwriting stage rather then added as an afterthought, and that has affected the overall sound. As has the influence of Trafik in the production stage, as they primarily deal with electronic music.
Despite garnering a lot of attention from the press with the first album, it sold poorly. Do you have any idea why? Was it simply a case of bad luck?
Despite the good reviews we received very little radio play and couldn’t afford to market the record or tour as we would have liked. Having said that, perhaps it just wasn’t the kind of album that people wanted to listen to. We still love it!
The band was dropped by Captains Of on the grounds of being "not commercially viable". Are you resentful towards the label for not putting any effort into the second album?
After an initial gut reaction, no we were not resentful. We did question their mission statement, which is to release music without bowing to current marketing trends, but we do fully understand the economics of their situation and appreciate all the help they have given us.
Did the label drop slow down or hinder progress with the second album?
When Captains first signed the band they wanted to raise the band profile and so re-released This Is Such A Quiet Town and packed us off on tour. The new album had been written at that point, but by the time we’d finished gigging we’d realized we weren’t happy with mix we had. We approached Trafik to take on the production of the album. By the time this was done we had been dropped and were looking for another way to release it! Despite the extra time it’s taken, however, we’re happy that it now sounds and looks as good as it does.
The tracks on the second album seem dependent on themes and stories as much as the music behind it. How do you write the songs: do you go in with any fixed ideas for the basis of the tracks, or do they come naturally?
The way we write songs is pretty flexible. Sometimes we set out with a type of song in mind and other times just start with a riff or chord progression. The lyrics are generally written separately and we either adapt the music to them or shift them around the tune. We find the sound of the song comes naturally as a reaction to the words and story involved.
Are you influenced more by movies rather than music? There is a real B-movie presence that runs throughout Peace Burial At Sea.
The balance is probably about fifty-fifty. Our film influences, though, are perhaps more obvious and easy to spot than our musical ones. They’re evident in the lyrics, some of the synth sounds, and the slow cinematic build-ups on several of the tracks. While all of us have our different musical tastes, we’re fans of the same dodgy horror films!
How's the mentality within the band? Are you optimistic about the future of PBaS?
Despite the recent setback, we’re very optimistic about the future of the band. Primarily, we’re happy to be back in control of everything. The creation of Ghostwritten Recordings allows us to decide when we want to release our records. We know that our success, our sales and the promotion of PBaS is in our hands and that’s inspiring us to work harder than ever. We are optimistic, despite our miserablist lyrics.
What's the deal with you providing the score for the Zombie Undead film?
The director, Reese, recognised our B-movie influences and asked us to provide the score for his new film, Zombie Undead, currently in production. It’s something we’re very excited about, in no small part due to the promise of cameo roles as zombies. We’ll be providing some original band tracks alongside some more atmospheric, electronic-based material.
Is it hard to get gigs outside of the Newcastle area?
Initially, it can be difficult to get gigs, but as you gain contacts with like-minded promoters and bands this does become easier. Financially speaking, however, as a Newcastle-based band we cannot afford to take all the gigs we’d like to simply because of the costs involved.
What plans do you as a group have for 2007?
We’re currently focusing on promoting the new album, and trying to gig as often as possible. We have a third album written and ready to be taken to the studio which we’re hoping to release towards the back end of the year. We also have at least one film score to produce, and are hoping to expand the Ghostwritten catalogue.