Features Patterns: ‘I Don’t Feel Constrained At All’

Ciaran McCauley discusses his band’s ‘Waking Lines’ record and why they dismissed compromise in the process.

Ever since their debut 'New Noise' surfaced back in 2011, Manchester's Patterns have – along with the likes of Young British Artists and Ghost Outfit - been among the leading lights of the city's burgeoning alternative musical community, and their subsequent signing to Melodic and attendant singles 'Induction' and 'Blood' showed a band both full of intent and continuing to deliver on that initial promise. It's a theme which has continued on their début long-player, 'Waking Lines', which combines the propulsive, muscular singles with great swathes of ambitious, heady, hazy dreampop liberally garnished with Ciaran McCauley's soaring vocals. Shortly before the release of 'Waking Lines' via Melodic, we sat down with McCauley to discuss the album's final stages of creation and the band's expectations for it into 2014.

How would you describe the record in your own words, and is it line with the expectations you had when you started to make it?
I think that's an interesting question because when we started making it I was very much assembling songs that we had and I was putting together the album that I wanted. There are some aesthetic choices that I've made which feature throughout the music – the shoegaze elements, the melodic elements – but the identity of the album really grew as I was making it. It was also very much a case of learning how to make an album as a process as well, because obviously this is the first one we've ever done, and so at the beginning everything was new but as it got more familiar that it started to come together. I think it was only when we got the artwork and the masters were finalised and I had it in my hand that I was able to relate to it as a finished piece of work. That was an absolutely crazy feeling. I'll never forget that feeling. Moving from something that had just been sat on my computer for so long and that we'd worked on for so long to something that's real and physical.

You touched on processes in your last answer. When we last spoke about the record in the summer of 2012 you were eschewing standard studio methods and were trying to do it yourselves. Was this fully realised? Did this goal impact on what ended up being made?
Oh yeah, that's how we carried on with it. Obviously there was a bit of a learning curve with it – learning how to use the equipment effectively and how to get a good sound in the room was difficult, especially with the vocals – but the level of freedom it gives you time-wise and as a consequence creativity-wise...it's incredible. We couldn't have made this record in a studio with those sorts of time and monetary constraints. It was nice to not have that sort of pressure of 'we're spending X amount an hour on this', and I think a lot of bands I've spoken to at our level working on their first record certainly did find those constraints. I think there were a couple of points where we started to worry in terms of 'is this approach going to produce an album that's professional enough sounding/is it going to produce a record that sounds like the albums that I like and enjoy?' But I'm really happy with it, and I think that it does and it justifies the time we've put in. It really worked for us and I think as a process it's going to continue.Again, last time we spoke you talked of how you'd recorded the different elements separately and there was the potential for the record to lose a sense of cohesiveness when piecing it together as a result. How was it eventually resolved?
I think it's more to do with the distinction between certain parts - we had the drums recorded in a proper studio whereas the rest was recorded at home and I think the worry was that it wouldn't be of the same quality. I do the production on the record for the most part and when I approach a track I don't think 'I want it sound like it was recorded in a studio or a space'. I think that's more suited to rock bands and indie rock 'n' roll bands where it sounds distorted but you can tell it's been recorded in a studio space and it's been nicely put together. I wanted to deliberately get away from that and when you listen to the record it doesn't sound like it's in any particular space, it almost sounds otherworldly and that was something that was important to me. If I wanted to set out to make something like, I don't know, a Gaz Coombes record – which I fucking don't want to do – then I wouldn't have been able to achieve that with what we've got but because of our insistence of our slightly electronic sound and experimental, sample-based music it was achievable. So I was very pleased with how in the end all these elements – these incredibly disparate elements – all came together cohesively to sound like legitimate piece of recorded music.

While you've produced the record, with Patterns working so well as a band both live and on record, what do you think the other members have brought to the table and how has that shaped the record?
I should probably clarify that although I've been talking about things in terms of my own artistic choices, our guitarist Laurence (Radford) writes an awful lot of stuff. He might think of something and record it in Ableton and then bring it to me and I might have some stuff of my own and then I'll sit down and start constructing from that, so in terms of this album it really was a writing partnership between me and Laurence. Alex (Hillhouse, bass) and Jamie (Lynch, drums) may perhaps have a lesser role in terms of the direct writing of songs but they write their own parts and in terms of the live side of things Alex is very much involved and adds vocals and helps to create that live sound. Jamie is just an incredible drummer who comes from this tech-y, prog-influenced King Crimson sort of direction so if he had his own way he'd probably just be riffing out constantly and creating these crazy things. But he's really honed that and one of the things I'm most proud of in terms of our sound both live and on record is the energy that he brings to it as well as his technical ability, which infuses the songs with a certain punch. We've never been a band that can write in a room together, which may sound peculiar but I think it works. Has making this record changed your perceptions as to what Patterns can achieve, and has it given you ideas as to what directions you want to take in the future?
Having spent so much time producing the record and having looked into all the possibilities we can explore through that production, it feels to me now that it's less a case of thinking about asking how we can play it live to begin with, but instead throwing everything at the song and then figuring out how we can do it live afterwards. There are songs on the record such as the title track, 'Waking Lines' and 'This Haze' which were composed through experimentation and pushing what we can do. As a vocalist I think I've developed both in terms of range and also what I'd like to do with my voice. . It's been a process of becoming more confident of what I'm capable of and putting my voice more to the front. I didn't want a detached, shoegaze vocal, it's more something involving ranges and going up high and it's exciting. We've had an awful lot of time to write a second record and now I just do whatever I want on the computer, I don't feel constrained at all and that's a great feeling, and it'll definitely inform the direction and the sound which we go in.

Finally, let's talk about your 2014 – what are your plans, what are you most looking forward to and what are your expectations for the record when it gets released?
It's really difficult, because we've never done this before. For me, if people like the record and it's scored well and considered well critically then for me it'll be worth it because it'll be a validation of all the hours spent crafting over it. In terms of what I'm looking forward, I'm getting excited about touring. We've got a really special show in February which I can't actually say any more about yet but there's all sorts of stuff going into and it'll be a totally new experience musically for me, and one of my dreams in a way. We're also looking forward to getting on with the next record because for me what I love the most is writing. We're just looking forward to playing songs and getting back out there and enjoying ourselves. Hopefully we'll play some festivals and play some shows in Europe too. Patterns' 'Waking Lines' is out now on Melodic.

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