"forcibly taking control.."
Writing songs within a band environment can perhaps be a longer process, it can also be very challenging too, dependent upon a myriad of factors such as, musical differences, or each contributor having different influences and wish the songs & the music to go in a different direction from other band members. Some bands may have a songwriter who takes care of it all, then songs are fleshed out in the rehearsal time, allowing each member to contribute to the arrangement/structure etc Sometimes fledgling bands material isn't particularly strong enough, as the band haven't spent much time playing & performing together, which is the glue for any band and it's sound, with strong material. Practice makes perfect as they say. It solidifies cohesion. Different bands will have different practices, methods and processes for creating new material, dealing with a variety of factors, which Singer-Songwriters might not have to deal with, in their pursuit of song creation. The real tricky part is finding the right components, the right band members to produce said works and to convey them in a live setting and in recordings, - the cogs with which the machine performs. A band is a machine. It functions, it ticks over, it throttles up like a well tuned engine when needed.
Edinburgh Indie Rock outfit "wrest" are a slick machine. They tick over beautifully and throttle up like a Scottish Ford Mustang GT when the need arises. They have the right cogs in place and have fine tuned and polished their output, with their current work proudly displayed on their website and on their Bandcamp under the moniker of "Coward of Us All", their latest album, which they released last year.
Take a listen - You won't be let down >>>
Stewart, Stephen, Craig & Jonny chat to us about their current album "Coward of Us All", released last in 2019, which has had rave reviews and they also discuss their songwriting processes and how the band unit bring their lyrical and guitar driven soundscapes to life.
Q: wrest - where did the band name come from ?
“The band name was something we stewed on for a while. It’s wrest, as in “to forcibly take control” - it ties in with the ideas we go for in our music, about taking your destiny in your hands, making the most of your own life on your own terms, picking yourself up and triumphing with hope through the darkest of days. We were keen to come up with something short that looked good written down, felt Scottish (but not too Scottish…), and after much deliberation we settled on ‘wrest’.
Still liking it, thankfully!”
Q: How long have you been together and why only a three piece (and are you all from Edinburgh) ?
“We’re actually a four piece - Stewart, Stephen, Craig and Jonny. The trio of Stewart, Stephen and Craig wrote Coward of Us All together in Edinburgh, which was the result of playing music together for years - with support on drums from John Alexander. We’ve kind of been in a band since around 2009, but only took a more serious approach to our music when we felt it was ‘good enough’ - which was probably 2017-18, though I’m not sure any of us were keeping track.The band as it stands now, is the product of an extended album writing process that probably began in 2013-14. Jonny came on board in late 2018 with drums, which set us up to play live shows once the album was finally ready, but the trio of Stewart, Stephen and Craig have been with the music throughout.
The three of us met living in Edinburgh, after moving there for university. Jonny still lives in Dumfries, which is where Steve and Craig are originally from, and it’s been a seamless fit since he joined.”
Q; Who takes on the songwriting task within the band - is it a combined process - How do new songs come into being, by jamming sessions in rehearsals and all contribute to the arrangement etc ?
“Usually Stewart will come up with lyrics, melody and basic structure for songs. They are then workshopped intensively in the band environment, and everyone contributes to shaping the songs, the parts and the arrangements until they’re ready to stand up. We really labour on the process and think of songs in their own right, but also in the context of albums. It took us a long time to get Coward of Us All to a place where we wanted it to be, and even then we were still writing in the studio to pull it all together. Having made music together for so long, it’s fair to say we often know where each other is heading and work effortlessly together to reach what we all think is the best outcome for the song. We’re very much a same-page band, so it’s not difficult to pull things together collectively when we know what we’re aiming for.”
Q: What are the main subject areas/topics within the songs on your album "Coward of Us All" and how did the album come about?
“We make music purely for the love of it and with an absolute passion for the creative process - the fact that people so far seem to have responded well to the album is an absolute bonus, but we’d honestly be doing it anyway regardless. I think we each enjoy the art form of it, and trying to write meaningful music that we, and hopefully others, can relate to in some way. In terms of themes, Coward of Us All is about finding comfort in the shared human experience - like common feelings, emotions and maybe anxieties that are shared by everyone, regardless of who you are, just by virtue of being a human being. It’s about reaching out through our songs, and people seem to connect with it which is fantastic.
Q: Mark Morrow (we know that name !!) produced the album - was it important for you guys to work with someone like Mark, given his Rock/Pop background and his Production skills ?
"Mark is really easy to work with and a significant asset to the creative process. We’ve found it’s not always easy to find a good fit in terms of working with other people, especially when we ourselves are so dedicated and passionate about the music. In Mark. we found someone who not only had the raw production skills and expertise (in abundance), but also got our music and what we were trying to do, which was a great help. We’re looking forward to recording more with Mark in the months to come and would recommend him to anyone - though ideally not until we’ve booked in our next batch of dates!"
Q: Were there any setbacks bringing the album into fruition, or during the recording process ?
“We wrote probably several albums worth in the period and laboured extensively on basically everything, so I guess you could say there were setbacks throughout. Coward of Us All was not a quick process, because the mission was to create what we considered to be the best representation of our sound and objectives at the time. But at the same time, you always feel like you’re learning something new, so your idea of what’s good constantly shifts upwards, as you’re writing and creating. In retrospect, we probably spent a little too long on the process and could have released sooner, but it was a massive learning curve and we feel it stands us in good stead now we’re out and about playing these songs in public.”
Q: As with probably a lot of 3-4 piece combos, production for songs during recording is scaled up, layered up guitars, vocals etc etc...bigger sound. Are you able to replicate the sound on the album as much as you can when playing live ?
“We’re keen to always sound as big as we can live and try to faithfully recreate the album production as much as possible through our live show - while also offering extra, going beyond what you can hear on the album. Obviously you’re limited in what you can do live in some respects, but I think we manage to replicate the sound to a large extent in the flesh…you’ll have to come and see us live to hear for yourself!”
Q: Who inspires you guys – what bands and songwriters floats yer boats, as it were ?
“We are all huge fans of Frightened Rabbit, The National, Bright Eyes, Coldplay and several other bands. In particular, Frightened Rabbit have been a huge influence, in terms of songwriting and vibe, but we admire strong songwriting and good music wherever we can find it.”
Q: If there''s any gig/concert you could have performed at, in any time period, who would that have been with ?
“Difficult to choose just one, but The National/Frightened Rabbit at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 2013 stands out as a dream billing, in a stunning location - would’ve loved to have been part of that show in some parallel universe.”
Q: For the production of the album, which albums/songs gave you a reference point for the overall sound and feel of the album - the vibe ?
“Honestly too many to list. We don’t really try to sound or feel like anyone else, but we do take inspiration from albums in a holistic way.
Albums we feel are solid, self-contained works that we ourselves would be proud to put out. In that list we count The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit, Parachutes by Coldplay, Digital Ash/Wide Awake It’s Morning by Bright Eyes, Sad Songs/Alligator/Boxer/High Violet by The National and dozens more.”
Q: Who are your main influences, for guitars, for bass and for drums....and also songwriting ?
Bass - Justin Chancellor, Steve Harris
Guitars - Jonny Buckland
Drums - Carter Beauford and Atom Willard.
Songwriting - Conor Oberst, Scott Hutchison, Matt Berninger/The National
Q: What's planned for 2020?
“A period of self-isolation, by the looks of things. Beyond that, we’ve got loads of really exciting live stuff coming up, though we’re unfortunately unable to share too much just yet….basically like 2019, but bigger and better, which we’re looking forward to immensely. We’re working on what’s coming next musically too, but if Coward of Us All is anything to go by, there’s still some work to be done…”
Q: Any interest from labels/publishers ?
“True to theme, we’re quite independently minded and at the moment remain unsigned and unattached. Everything we do is DIY and we kind of like it that way, at least for now. We have had various conversations, but we’re always keen to ensure we find people who are on the same page and can actually add value beyond what we can do ourselves. We each have useful skills towards promoting our music and while it would be good to get some help, we’ve yet to find the right parties we feel can support us in a meaningful way.
If you’re reading this and you’re up for it, the inbox is open…!”
Q: There is a strong Scottish feel to your sound, most notably the vocals. Is that important to you, tinged with our ain tongue as it were ?
“It is important to us, because we don’t ever want to pretend to be something we’re not - quite honestly, I don’t think we could sound anything other than Scottish and play with a straight face. It’s not that we set out to be a “Scottish band” or anything, but just want to give an honest, authentic output that’s representative of who we are and what we’re about. We don’t want to be thought of as a Scottish band - rather a band writing songs and making music to the best of their ability, that just so happens to be Scottish.”
Q: What advice would you give to young bands out there, going through the same development processes as you may have done and facing the band dynamic scenarios, or performing live or writing/recording ?
“Write as many songs as you can. Once you’ve written a song and you think you like it, write another 10. There’s always better to come. Have belief in your music, no matter what anyone else thinks and do what you can to get better every day - no one knows what they’re talking about any better than you do. Beyond that, find some like-minded pals and get to work.”
Wishing wrest awe the best in 2020 and beyond
By Pete Carroll (March 2020)