Words by Alice Rosenthal
Desperate Journalist, indie heroes, and melancholia magnets have just released their third album “In Search of the Miraculous”. It’s an atmospheric and accomplished release and has been getting a lot of love from press and fans alike. They say it “contains love songs, anti-love songs and other songs wandering about, lost in an in-between-daze”, I think it’s their best work to date (and thanks to bassist Simon, and guitarist Rob, the band can almost sort of be claimed as Brummie). So, I was delighted to catch up with drummer Caz Hellbent ahead of the start of their UK and Europe tour.
You say part of the concept for the album was Bas Jan Ader’s powerful/brave/naïve plan to cross the Atlantic in a small boat – do you think your boat would make the journey? Are there parallels between his trip and being in a fiercely DIY band?
Well, we wouldn’t even get on a boat altogether because Rob suffers from very bad sea sickness. You can probably draw a parallel in that it’s definitely us fighting against the elements (having a full-time job, paying the rent, the lack of any big financial support or of any possible mainstream success). It is hard work but I don’t think we can imagine ourselves doing anything else, and we have a lot of fun doing it. So far, our little boat is still going strong!
There’s been a lot of buzz about this release, does that increase the pressure?
Personally, I am not feeling any more pressure. Knowing people are liking the album and that there might be more of them coming to see us live makes it all very exciting, and definitely gives me more confidence in what we’re doing. I guess when you’re starting out and trying to create some buzz there’s pressure not to fuck up and when things are starting to go well you put a pressure on yourself to keep things up – so it’s a different kind – which comes with more excitement. Also, the fact that we pretty much do everything ourselves means that there isn’t really anyone above us pressuring us. It all just comes from ourselves and because we are all perfectionists.
When you’re writing songs are you primarily aiming to please yourselves or the audience?
Where we’re writing I think it’s firstly about doing something that we enjoy but we always try to avoid being too self-indulgent and to take more of a listener’s point of view, making music that we’d like to hear.
This album feels more like a complete work than some of your previous releases – was the writing process any different?
This album was definitely written as standalone piece. We wanted it to have a theme and not to feel like a collection of songs. We all listen to albums and I grew up with this romantic idea that a band had to go to a remote place for weeks/months to write an album. Unfortunately, because of the obvious lack of free time and budget we couldn’t do that, instead we took a bit of time off playing gigs and worked on a bunch of demos until they were all finished and ready to record. We then decided on the track listing and only recorded what would make it on the album. For our previous albums we would record more or less everything we had written in that period, sometimes going into the studio with unfinished tracks, and then decide on the album track listing after recording and mixing. So, there was an effort here to have more of a concept, and I’m glad that comes across.
You’re touring from the end of this week – do you have a favourite service station?
Tebay! It has a lake, ducks and an amazing farm shop with lots of delicious things (my favourite being the fresh rosemary and cherry tomato focaccia – very rock n roll, I know). It’s so good we are always happy to do a slight detour to stop there.
Who have you been listening to recently? Any recommendations?
The Twilight Sad’s new album and Better Oblivion Community Center. I’ve been listening to them on repeat since they were released and they will definitely make my best of 2019.
It’s unlikely but if you had to replace Rob and Simon with two other indie celebrities who would you ask first?
This will sound a bit cheesy but I don’t think the band could exist if you were to take away any of us. But my favourite indie guitarist is Johnny Greenwood and my favourite bassist is unsurprisingly Simon Gallup.
14th March – Birmingham – Hare and Hounds
15th March – Manchester – Deaf Institute
16th March – Glasgow – Broadcast
21st March – Bristol – Exchange
22nd March – Nottingham – Bodega
23rd March – Leeds – Lending Room
5th April – London – The Garage
8th May – Hamburg – Hafenklang
9th May – Cologne – MTC
10th May – Stuttgart – Merlin
11th May – Munster – Gleiss 22