Every weekday, DIY’s new music know-it-all Neu brings you one essential new release to get obsessed with. Today’s Neu Pick comes from Witching Waves.
Sugar-to-the-veins power-pop it may appear to be on first dip, but on new album ‘Crystal Cafe’, there’s a head behind Witching Waves’ instant rushes to the heart.
Whether it’s lyrically dismantling that oh-so-modern woe of gentrification on recent Neu Bulletin hit ‘Twister’ and the appropriately titled ‘The Threat’, or letting loose their more freeform influences to hypnotising effect on the likes of ‘Red Light Loop’ and ‘Anemone’, there’s a astute edge to the London group’s second full-length that digs deeper than any quick-fix hook.
Below, we’ve got the first play of ‘Crystal Cafe’, out this Friday (26th February) via Soft Power in the UK and Happy Happy Birthday To Me over Stateside. We also got word from vocalist/guitarist Mark Jasper (who recorded and mixed the record in his east London studio, Sound Savers) and drummer/vocalist Emma Wigham on the development, influences and inspirations that make ‘Crystal Cafe’ such a captivating second effort.
Mark: This song follows the theme of gentrification/urban sprawl from the last album! The first song we wrote for the album and something that I still like playing now. It’s in a weird tuning and it was one of the few things where I brought in the song beforehand.
Emma: When we wrote this song, I was thinking about the way the city keeps on growing, yet there seems to be so much empty space and spaces that can’t be used by a really significant proportion of people trying to live there. Cities naturally evolve and buildings come down and are replaced with shiny, new ones. It’s like a constantly evolving machine.
2. Seeing Double
Mark: One of those songs you start in practice and abandon half way through because you’re hungry. We didn’t think it worked. Then I remember listening to one of Emma’s phone demos and liking the chorus melody, which is one of Emma’s. We started working on it again and then came up with the middle section, which is one of my favourite bits of any of our songs.
Mark: Endlessly contentious, took ages to write and ages to write lyrics for. I was initially really unhappy about the song being critical of someone; I wanted to give the character some heart. I’m used to being critical in songs but all of it is usually about myself. When I say ‘Fuck You’, I usually mean ‘Fuck Me’! It worked out ok, but we still don’t play it live which is weird because I really like this one.
Emma: It’s not actually about a real person though. It’s a fictional figure who is a combination of lots of different things and people. I like how physical it feels to play and sing this song but it is sort of meditative too. When we play it live, the character we’re singing about becomes a conduit for whatever emotions I have at the time.
4. Red Light Loop
Mark: A Garageband demo made using a loop pedal. Initially I thought the song (‘Red Light’) was too boring. This was an attempt for me to come up with some kind of extra part underneath the existing riff. It was an abandoned idea, that I then looped and made in to a new track. I liked the idea of suggesting a song before it happens – the classic reprise!
Emma: I think this track reflects the different approach we took with this album. We wanted the songs on this album to be linked to each other, and for the album to feel like a whole.
5. Make It Up
Mark: One of the ‘fuck you’ songs directed at myself. Sometimes it really does baffle me why I try and make anything, and this song is about that. I have this thing about honesty, and how it can be kind of nauseating. I am too earnest nearly all of the time when I make things. Another song that was contentious, it seems too simple or something. It wormed its way on to the album.
Mark: One night, I set up the studio to record, but instead of us being in our usual places, we swapped around: Emma on bass, Ed on guitar, and me mucking about. I initially played drums but adding any rhythm seemed wrong and, to be honest, I’m happy with a bit of feedback and a delay pedal any day of the week. This was made at the same time as ‘Inoa’. I’m glad these tracks came about, I think the album would have sounded a bit two dimensional otherwise and I wanted to give the listener a little respite to the very structured song based nature of the LP.
Emma: Yeah, this was improvised on the night and goes back to this idea of linking the songs with more ambient sounds. It was just an experiment really but we really enjoyed the process.
7. The Threat
Mark: One of Emma’s songs. Halfway through writing a song that we didn’t care about we wrote this in about ten minutes. It has a two string riff at the beginning, and then there’s a bridge with me singing. I’ve realised this structure is something we do a lot! This song was written shortly after Emma and I had a stressful conversation about rent/money.
Emma: This song is definitely inspired by where we live. There’s a lot of contrasts in Hackney and it has changed a lot in the last few years. We couldn’t help feeling the presence of new blocks of flats that were going up around the time we wrote this. But it is also about the universal struggle and pressure of keeping up with the bills and the general cost of living.
8. Red LIght
Mark: Probably my second favourite song on the album. Emma and I wrote the initial part of this together and then Ed added his bass-line, which, aside from the vocals, is the best bit of the song. A song where I don’t sing and play one chord! There is some drama to this one, and it also feels really intense when we play it live. This meant that it was really hard to record/mix, as opposed to a song like Make It Up which just sort of fell in to place. It’s always the ones that you care about that are the toughest to capture.
Emma: For me, this song is really simple on the drums so all my attention is given to the vocals. I came up with the melody really quick, to go with Mark’s looping riff. The lyrics are quite abstract, I didn’t really want to say anything, I just wanted to imply a sense of danger and superstition. We usually play it last in the set because we haven’t found a way to follow it and it’s so intense it uses all our energy up!
Mark: This is another ‘fuck me’ - a song about an obsession I had in my 20s that I had with culturing myself as an end to itself. Essentially attempting to tick boxes of what I had watched, read and seen. A pointless, empty exercise in vanity, and one that made me very unhappy indeed; art, music, and all that stuff are great, but they need application and context. I had a demo of this song from one time we played it together, and I was obsessed with it but I could never figure out what I was playing. That demo haunted me! We practice in my recording studio but for some reason we record all our demos on to our phones.
Mark: Named after my Mum and Dad’s dog, a soppy Labrador with too much energy, and one from the swapping/improv session. In the first bit, there’s this sort of cracking noise, I made a mistake with one of the pedals. We did several takes and different versions, and when we listened back Ed and Emma pointed that out as their favourite bit. I think by nature I hide my mistakes, and that seems like a shame, when it could be the best bit.
Mark: My favourite song on the album. I’d been to France, at my parents’ house for Christmas, I’d gone running every day and been listening to Power, Corruption and Lies non-stop. I couldn’t believe how good it was. When I came home we started writing Flowers, and I realised I’d been singing some nonsense lyrics similar to The Village. I left them in. This songs structure doesn’t make sense, the lyrics don’t make sense, our vocals come in and out at different points, there is nothing coherent about it. It doesn’t even really sound like a Witching Waves song, we were lost, didn’t know what we were doing. Sometimes I think the best stuff is made when you’re just looking for it.