News Patterns: ‘This Is The Perfect Amalgamation’

Gareth Ware sits down with Ciaran McCauley to talk about what the future has in store.

Patterns have a lot to cheer about. Having had their debut EP released through the respected tastemakers at Pull Yourself Together records, they’ve now released two singles through Melodic, and have nigh-on finished work on their first long-player. With their infectious, intricate and hypnotic, Chameleons-esque styling now rightly marking them out as ones to watch from the continually virile Manchester music scene, it seemed the perfect opportunity to sit down with Ciaran McAuley to talk about the progress to date, and what the future has in store.

Alright, so first things first: how’s the new record coming along?
So, at the moment all of the songs are done and most of the parts are recorded. I’ve actually got it all up on my laptop in front of me now, but I’d say it’s actually a few weeks off actually being finished. It really then just needs to be mixed, but we’re not sure exactly who’s actually going to mix it, although we’ve got a few people in mind. But the actual body of work, if you like, is there and finished. It’s a really weird feeling having these scraps of songs on various Ableton files and a few bits and bobs recorded live and ending up with a coherent album at the end of it. It’s definitely a bizarre experience. But good bizarre!

You touched upon some elements being done through Ableton files and other bits having been done live. Which elements fall into those categories?
The way we’ve gone about the album is to have the drums done in a studio – a friend of ours, George Atkins, did it there. So we did those over a weekend. Then, once we had all the drum parts confirmed, everything else has been done on a computer with the guitar parts and what have you being done in my room. We’ve tried to eliminate the normal studio processes as much as we can, really and a lot of what will be on the album has come directly from Ableton files onto the track itself. It’s a weird amalgamation, and a lot of the struggles for us was to make it all work cohesively. It’s got elements of bedroom electronica with other parts having been recorded in a really nice live space. But yeah, it sounds good, it sounds cohesive. I’m surprised! You get a lot of producers saying to you that if you don’t record everything in the same room then it’ll sound disconnected or weird. But I think that’s a bit of a myth, to a large extent.

Why was it that you wanted to eliminate the standard studio processes?
One side of it is the monetary side but above and beyond that, paying however many hundred a day I think puts an unnecessary amount of monetary pressure on the artistic process which I don’t think people need. Now that there is this technology in people’s hands – in the hands of the artist – it means that they can be a lot more free in terms of the creative process and allows them to make a more organic record. To me, it’s just about trying to keep the spirit of what we were doing initially alive. Sometimes you hear band say that they had something really good to begin with, and they you take it to the studio – and we’ve had this ourselves – and it gets ruined somehow. It gets trampled on or its doesn’t feel right out of context. So for us it’s about trying to keep as true to what we were initially doing as possible. A lot of the stuff has been recorded in the same room that we did our first EP in, albeit that we’ve now got better equipment behind us thanks to the money from touring. I think it’s just about having that freedom to try things without having to worry about studio time, and hearing back the results, I think that it just sounds so much better.

I’m guessing that you’ve never really known any better but is it a strange dynamic to have on a record, with part of it done yourself and part of it done in a studio?
Yeah, I mean our initial plan was to record it all in a studio but as we came to it we realised that we had one channel from a really expensive mixing desk, and one really good microphone. As long as you record everything one at a time you ultimately get the same result. It seemed like the most natural process because we did the EP, we did our first Melodic single – ‘Induction’ – in a studio and while it was a good process it just didn’t feel as comfortable. But this is the perfect amalgamation because we can get that deep drum sound and that epic-ness that we really want to play with and express in our music but at the same time we can work on our terms and still have that. It a slightly unconventional working method but it’s definitely one that I’d recommend. I was talking to another band who were having a similar problem – how to translate their bedroom electronica into a studio and I think they might go down the route that we’ve taken. It takes it out of the hands of that very hands-on production that you just don’t want.

Speaking of the EP, how do you feel you’ve developed musically since that?
I’ve definitely started feeling more comfortable with the sound of my voice and I’ve also become more comfortable with the electronics and software that I’m using so it’s opened up a lot more songwriting avenues. When you feel that you’ve a lot more freedom at your fingertips and also vocally, there’s just so much more space to do things, and I think people will find it interesting because a lot of what will be on the album is actually quite different to what we’ve done before. Not radically different, but I think it’s funny to think that a lot of people have probably only heard the last two singles and so they’ve got such a small snapshot of what you are as a band. Your proficiency with technology or the means at your disposal allows you to express the ideas that you’ve been working with. For me, that moment of achieving the sound that you had in your head is a really, really satisfying experience.

Talking to you now, it seems that a sense of creative self-sufficiency is very important. Is that something you’d agree with and would you say it gives you a sense of artistic empowerment?
I think we’ve been very lucky to have ended up working with the likes of Melodic, Loomer and 13 Artists. I think having those people around you and having that total freedom is incredibly liberating. You know, you’d have these bands in the 60s and 70s who’d essentially arrive as a live act, with all of their songs already written in a live environment in practice rooms or whatever, and then they’d bring it to the producer who’d make something fantastic out of it and would have this great vision for it. That’s why you had all of this experimental stuff from The Beatles or whatever. But now it’s so different – I can open up a bit of software on my computer and make the sounds myself. I mean, I came from a guitaring background but being able to play with all of these tools just makes it limitless, really. I think that’s being reflected in the kind of music that’s been surfacing on blogs and what have you, there’s a lot of this ‘one guy in a bedroom with a laptop’ and because of that you have so many acts - far, far more than ten years ago, it seems. The whole musical landscape has changed and I think that’s what the shift in technology has meant. But for us we wouldn’t have it any other way.

How do you think the band dynamic has changed since the EP?
With the EP, quite a lot of the material I’d written myself and recorded myself and there weren’t any live drums. Now you’ve the way the album has panned out has seen a far more equal split in terms of songwriting Laurence (Radford, guitar) and Jamie (Lynch, drums) have all had a far greater involvement. Then you’ve got Alex (Hillhouse, bass), and because he’s started singing live he’s had a far greater investment in that. So whereas the EP was just me mostly on my own playing with ideas, now the album is a much more full-band proposition and was always conceived that way.

Looking at how you’ve conceived the album, do you think that going down the ‘bedroom electronica’ route might have taken away the sense of magic or occasion that spending time in a studio might have created?
Not really. It’s an interesting one, that. I remember when the Youth Lagoon album came out last year – which I absolutely love – and everyone was talking about how it was a bedroom electronica record in the press and hat have you, and he had to come out several times and say that it wasn’t recorded in his bedroom, it was recorded by his friend in a studio and he wanted to give credit to him. I thought that was really interesting. I’m finding that there’s a greater sense of acceptance for the whole bedroom-type ethos than there was, and compared to say Oasis or whoever going into a massive studio for ages to record an album, people are actually quite excited by that aesthetic. At the end of the day, we’ve still got Melodic working on it so when the press cycle happens, it’ll still have a massive amount of promotion around it. I don’t think people care where the album was written, to be honest! But you still sometimes see weird articles on BBC News or whatever going “…and now, here are some people who make music purely in their bedroom!” but I think as a culture we’re far more accustomed to things like that now.

Going back to the EP, what difference do you feel it made to have it released through Pull Yourself Together (PYT) Records made? Was having a name on it as opposed to it seeming like a self release a boost?
I think it definitely was, and we’re so grateful for what Dan (Feeney) and Hannah (Bayfield, PYT founders/bosses) did for us, because through PYT and their fanzine and promotions and clubnight they’d had such great associations throughout Manchester that when they said they were going to start a record label a lot of people were interested. I think over time I’ve learnt more about how press works, and what I’ve found is that when people have an angle or to drop you into, it makes it far easier to write about you. So when you have that first paragraph that can maybe talk about PYT Records or whatever than that was certainly a help. I think it needs to be said that if it wasn’t for Dan we probably wouldn’t have put an EP out – when he rang me up and said, “We want to put an EP out of yours,” it meant that we had to write new songs and make sure that what we had already worked and got put together properly. It was a good experience for us, to have that kick up the arse of actually doing something.

Now, with Melodic, obviously, we now get professional support, which is massive. But there’s still a place for these labels, like PYT or SWAYS, there’s no multi-year or multi-album contracts so it gives you that flexibility. And these small labels almost always are doing it for the love – that’s certainly the case with PYT, people doing it simply to get good music out there, and hardly ever doing it to make any money. As a band, it’s a fantastic thing to have around you on its initial release. Just having that initial support can make the difference between a band going somewhere or just appearing on a few blogs and disappearing.

Turning to Manchester, it seems like it’s a battle between the new music community trying to get new material out there, and certain pockets of activity and the press insisting on continuing to ride the coat-tails of Factory. Is that something you feel still goes on in the city?
Yeah, but I think we almost inhabit different worlds. The old Manchester crowd going to Stone Roses gigs aren’t really discussing new Manchester music and likewise. As a scene, I don’t think anyone wants to explicitly associate themselves with that crowd. I don’t have anything against Stone Roses or any of the Factory bands, I think it’s fantastic music. It’s a mixed bag, you don’t want to be tarred or associated with Factory but on the other hand it doesn’t mean people aren’t looking to Manchester as a musical city. Their eyes are on Manchester for new acts and we’ve benefited from that as have some of the other bands. It’s very outside of our sphere of doing things and for the most part it remains separate but it can help as well as hinder.

When you look at clubs such as Underachievers Please Try Harder and other pockets of activity, would you say that Manchester has a great sense of community – possibly more so than other cities?
Yeah, we played Nottingham as part of Dot-To-Dot festival and met up with another Melodic band, Michael A. Grammar and they were talking about how in Nottingham the scene is just dogshit – there’s just no support, and no nights putting no bands. All that stuff. It’s easy to take it for granted, but the community in Manchester is just so strong and we’ve had so much support from the same people that we’ve already talked about – PYT, Underachievers, Loomer – people who’ve been there from the start and in it purely for the love of the music. I’m from London originally and I still know a lot of people around the Dalston and Shoreditch areas, and it just seems that there just isn’t the same kind of supportive community. It seems to me that there’s just so many things going on and so many bands that there just isn’t the same sort of warm community. It’s something that I feel we’re really lucky to have in Manchester, and it’s something I’ve always been surprised by – the way that every promoter we’ve worked with in this city has just been fantastic. It goes back to what we were saying earlier, that people think Manchester is a musical city. Even on a subconscious level, like when you choose to come to Manchester perhaps for university there might be something at the back of your head thinking, “I love music, Manchester is a musical city, let’s go,” and I think that may be why you get so many people like that here. That’s certainly been our experience.

What can people expect from both the record when it eventually arrives, and from Patterns for the rest of the year?
We’re really looking forward to Bestival in September. That’s really our next big thing after being pretty quiet over the summer save for a few shows due to finishing off the record. We’ve got some really interesting concepts and ideas for how our live show is going to evolve and for us now it’s about going to the next level and making every show something really special. When that album drops, and we don’t have any official date in mind but probably around next January, I think things will change because you’ll now get this much more complex view of our music and people will be able to appreciate the differences. I’m really looking forward to the record and there’s definitely some surprises coming up in the next few months.

Patterns’ new single ‘Blood’ is out now via Melodic. The band will be performing at this year’s Bestival, which takes place from 6th - 9th September.

Tags: Patterns, Neu

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