Interview Tall Ships: ‘I’ve Never Been Very Good At Making Things Up…’

When Tall Ships relocated to Brighton, they clearly had no problem settling in. Just over a year later and they’re on the verge of releasing their debut album. Words: Huw Oliver.

Photo Credit: Stacey Hatfield

Everyone loves songs about flocks of starlings and tectonic plates, right? One Direction, Maynard, Jeppo… they’re all on about it. And Tall Ships. Definitely Tall Ships. This is their thing, you must understand - they’re geeky, with a penchant for talking about the science of our surroundings.

“Lyrically, I’ve never been very good at making things up,” lead singer Ric explains, “so I’m incredibly influenced by real stuff like science. I like reading about it and then relating it to human experience because it’s facts. It’s a refreshing way of thinking about the world if you can take that stuff and use it.”

Lead singer Ric is sprightly, as well he should be - the group are on the verge of releasing their debut album. “The name ‘Everything Touching’ comes from the closing line of the opening track, ‘T Equals 0’, which is about the Big Bang. It’s a very literal reference to that point.

“When I was writing this album, I became really obsessed with the idea of the Big Bang and the fact that everything which exists was contained in this infinitesimal singularity and how it all kind of exploded from that. Every single particle and molecule was compressed into this one infinitely small point.”

See, there is it, that science stuff again.

Clearly, the band aren’t lacking in ambition - as if discussing the creation of the universe wasn’t grand enough, the ten songs here on ‘Everything Touching’ together make for one capricious yet enthralling listen. Put simply, it’s a virtually faultless indie-pop record.

Erring from poise and restraint through rawk riffage to blistering crescendos, here’s an album which leaves you thoroughly nonplussed but beatifically eager for more. Imagine the mighty exuberance of Biffy if hooked on the gangly irregularity of Minus The Bear and manifold harmonies of Midlake.

But don’t think about labelling them ‘math-rock’. “It winds me up quite a lot really. You’ve got bands like Don Caballero who really are, like, math-rock. It’s incredibly technical, breathtaking music which is absolutely amazing. It’s very mathematical in its structure and time signatures.

“But calling us math-rock does true math-rock bands an actual injustice. We use traditional song structures and timing; I think every song we’ve ever written has been in 4/4.” It’s a fair point, for sure, so we think we’ll stick with ‘encyclopaedo-pop’ (making sure, of course, no one truncates the term any further).

In fact, one song – second single ‘Gallop’ – anomalously sounds like The Smiths. Could they really be Smiths fans? “No, not at all, really. I, for one, am not really a fan, and none of us really are. I can definitely see the connection between the two though. I think it’s quite similar vocally.”

Having started out as an instrumental band, they still see themselves as a live act first and foremost, which perhaps explains the album’s heady, schizoid nature. “We really write songs for the live setting, so generally that does involve making these crescendos, build-ups and these big drops because live, that’s what we love doing. I think live music is when music is most powerful and engaging.”

Fame is a weird thing for most bands, and Tall Ships seem rather touched, almost stupefied, by the loyal fanbase they’ve steadily acquired, as their tweet following their headline performance on the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading Festival affirms: “READING THAT WAS UNBELIEVABLE. THANK YOU SO MUCH. HUGE LOVE TO @bbc_introducing AND ALL YOU BABES WHO SANG WITH US #TEENAGEDREAMSDOCOMETRUE.”

“We’re so used to doing support tours where there’s really no pressure at all. You just turn up, play and hope to steal a few fans,” Ric laughs. In reality though, they’ve toured the UK unrelentingly since their formation, playing heaps of headline gigs as well as shows with the likes of We Are Scientists and Three Trapped Tigers.

And this profound commitment of theirs is now paying off; the forthcoming autumn tour takes in their largest ever headline shows, including a date at the recently revamped XOYO in East London: “We’re incredibly excited but also incredibly nervous about this tour. It’s really nice slowly starting to play these new songs because they’re pretty different to the old ones, but we just hope that people turn up and people care. XOYO is going to be a really good night.”

We say absolutely, go ahead and pencil in a date with Tall Ships, leaving Ric to wrap up: “It’s taken a really, really long time for this to all come together. We’ve had an amazing journey getting to this point, but it definitely feels right about now.”

Tall Ships’ debut album ‘Everything Touching’ is out now via Big Scary Monsters.

Taken from the October 2012 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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