Interview Peggy Sue: ‘When We First Formed We Could Barely Play’

We send Martyn Young to have a chat with the band’s Katy Young, to find out more.

This coming Monday (12th September), London-based trio Peggy Sue will release their second album ‘Acrobats’. The first single from it, ‘Song & Dance’ - which you can listen to, along with the rest of the album, here - is out this week. We sent Martyn Young to have a chat with the band’s Katy Young, to find out more.

Can you tell us about the new album ‘Acrobats’? How does it differ from your debut, ‘Fossils and Other Phantoms’?
‘Fossils…’ was very concerned with absences – with the remainders of the past and the way those things haunt and comfort you. With ‘Acrobats’ we have tried to turn those ghosts into new things; they are still there but the album is about the movement of people, attempts at progression and new shapes. All the ingredients are still there – vocal harmonies, overlapping rhythms, blues and country influences, a focus on lyrics and story telling – but the songs were all written mostly together, as a three piece in a practice room in east London rather than in bedrooms and living rooms so the interplay between the elements has shifted. We have made more noise basically.

The album teaser, ‘Cut My Teeth’ is six minutes long and features a much more prominent electric guitar sound. Was this a result of a conscious decision to expand your sound for this album or did this come naturally?
There is actually quite a lot of electric guitar on Fossils… but it tends to take more of a back seat so I’d say it was more of a gradual transition. Rosa and I bought electric guitars that we loved and for the first time we had this proper practice space so we could make as much noise as we wanted when we were writing and arranging the songs. We had the freedom to make whatever sounds we wanted and I think we were all in a place where we wanted to make a bit of a racket. That said – Cut My Teeth and the rest of the album are still quite intricate compositions – there is still a lot of dynamics but perhaps our extremes are a little further apart.

Did you feel any pressure to push your sound forward on this album?
I think we were aware of not wanting to repeat ourselves but our sound tends to naturally change and progress anyway. If anything I think we feel pressure not to change completely, to maintain more of what we have done in the past. But we are becoming more skilled at our instruments all the time – when we first formed the band Rosa and I could barely play the guitar so we shaped our sound to suit our abilities which worked out great because we were really into lo-fi simple antifolk type music at a time. Now I think there are moments where we want to show off a little bit. There is a lot of the sound that has been carried forward from the first album though – Olly’s drumbeats are still unusual and sometimes very subtle but he’s allowed to have a bit more fun sometimes.

‘Acrobats’ was mostly written and recorded on the road touring America and Europe, how was this experience and how did it affect the album?
The experience of being on the road became a massive lyrical influence; that feeling of perpetual movement and stasis. Lots of the words are about considering our place in the moment in relation to the past and the future. Touring forces you to do that because it is so clear cut how far you have moved and how much time has past. Those arbitrary measurements of time and place are sometimes very oppressive but sometimes they are liberating, that freedom, hopefully both these feelings come across at different moments in the album. We didn’t record anything until we had stopped touring and for the first time we were in one place to do the whole thing. That was such an extravagance for us, to know we could just make this album non-stop for nearly a month It meant we could play around with sounds and stuff instead of just having to knuckle down and get as much done as possible.

What music were you listening to and inspired by during the recording of the album?
As always it was an amalgamation of everyone’s tastes mixed up together. Our friends She Keeps Bees played us an album called Blonde by The Love Story whilst we were touring with them – the sounds and the interplay of the instruments on that album is really cool. We were listening to a lot of Breeders again – mostly Title TK and Pod and also Sleater-Kinney and Throwing Muses – albums where the vocals and the words kind of fit around the guitars and there is so much going on but there is still so much room. At the same time lots of Leonard Cohen and also Gillian Welch – very lyric driven writers.

How was it working with John Parish and what did he bring to the record?
He was really great. We always kind of know what we want but not how to get it – he translated all our ineloquent explanations into interesting noises. We were recording in a really great little studio that he recommended called Toy Box. It’s in the cellar of a building in Bristol and it suited us perfectly because it was intimate but just a little bit creepy.

How do you think the album will come across live, and are you looking forward to showcasing new material?
Definitely looking forward to it. We’ve been very well behaved at not playing the songs to death so that they are still exciting. But then again there is still a guitar part I can only playing sitting down so we shall see.

Finally, what does the rest of the year hold for Peggy Sue?
We have some shows around the album release [check here for dates] and then the album comes out in America in October, so hopefully we’ll get to go back over there again in the Autumn. Then we’ll probably get restless and start working on album number three.

Peggy Sue’s new album ‘Acrobats’ will be released on 12th September via Wichita Recordings.

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