Music: Broken Records
A year after hotly-tipped debut album Until the Earth Begins to Part hit the shelves, local seven-piece Broken Records are back. Frontman Jamie Sutherland speaks for the first time about their new album, growing up and the pressures of being called “the Scottish Arcade Fire”
Broken Records have had a tumultuous journey over the past three years. Lauded as Scotland’s answer to Arcade Fire by critics who seemed to be fixated by little more than their seven-strong lineup and wide array of instrumentation, the Edinburgh indie-rock-folksters were tipped for big things on the back of internet demos, which have seen so many catapulted to super-stardom in the last few years.
Long before the band had begun recording their debut album, they were seen as the next Scottish act that would penetrate the music world, aided by their haunting sound and incredible musical diversity – what frontman Jamie Sutherland acknowledges was “press without having actually released anything.”
But it was the release of this debut—Until the Earth Begins to Part—that indicated that such associations were fanciful. Refusing to pander to the indie popularities of the day, the band were adamant that they would not be forced into a corner in which they were not comfortable. They wanted to make their own music – a sound that rendered comparison moot.
12 months later, recording for their second—as yet unnamed—album is finished. They are now free from the shackles of the hype that acted as a mixed blessing to a band looking to set themselves apart in a saturated musical scene. Equipped with a more mature sound, they are ready to unleash a plethora of new material on an ever-appreciative home crowd in the newly refurbished Liquid Room.
A brief walk from where the final touches are being applied to the venue which was left badly damaged after a fire in December 2008, Sutherland ponders the lessons of the past year. Having reflected on the impact of the pre-debut album hype that gave the band recognition two years ago, he admits that it was impossible to live up to the expectations, or imaginations, of a curious audience:
“We couldn’t. Some people were expecting Funeral [Arcade Fire’s debut album] part 2 or something like that from us, and we never wanted to do that. We made the record we wanted to make.
“I think the last album was almost trying too hard to be noticed. I guess it was like a spoilt younger child and this one’s more of a middle child album; it’s a lot quieter, a bit more nuanced, with a lot more guitar”
The abundance of instrumental input in their debut—accordion, violin and cello all featuring—gives the band the live intensity that attracts so many. The resulting orchestral feel is one that defined Until the Earth Beings to Part. The follow-up, however, will see them return to their roots.
“It’s not trying to blow your head off with every single tune,” Sutherland says.
“I was really pleased with how the last record came out but we kind of felt that the rock band element, it wasn’t lost, but it wasn’t as well represented on the first album as we would have liked.”
Sutherland seems relaxed. This is the first interview he has given about the new album, and he acknowledges that it was hard to think of a way to describe what fans should expect. It is clear, however, that the personal journey and challenges of the past year will take centre stage.
“I think it sounds very unsexy to spell it out, but it sums up a certain stage in your life. It was a realisation of what happens after – if this weren’t to happen anymore what would you do? Where can I get a job? There are the pressures of trying to keep a long-term girlfriend, a house, friends, family and it boils down to what’s happening around you. The record just deals with what I was going through at the time in a kind of self-indulgent way, but that’s what music is all about.”
Self-indulgence may not seem the most endearing trait, but Sutherland is not self-obsessed. Rather, there is a remarkable honesty and introspection – no doubt the by-product of six months in a recording studio and a desire to get back to playing to audiences.
“Music is, as with any other art, compulsion more than anything else,” he believes. “I can’t do this because I go crazy. The last six months have been horrible because you have to sit on your hands and you can’t play music to people, which is all I’ve done since I was 11 years old. That’s why you do it and you hope that people like it.”
This compulsion will be eased at the Edge Festival, where the band will play their first headline gig in the UK this year, before heading out on tour with the new album’s release imminent. It is hard to think of a more welcoming return for the band to unveil the new album – last year’s gig at the grand Queen’s Hall saw one of their largest headlining shows to date, and expectation will be high.
“I guess because it’s home you’ll always have the familiar and friendly faces in the crowd and it’s almost like you have to put on a better show than anywhere else. It’s your home crowd and they’re the most generous so when you get the two working together—the band trying really hard and the crowd really willing it to be a good show—you get great shows.”
Originally published at http://fest.theskinny.co.uk/article/99732-music-broken-records