Interview with Patrick (and a bit of Oliver)

A cut down version of this was just published in Loud And Quiet but I (Dan) thought that it was worth sharing this unedited version here since as Patrick took the time to write such LONG answers. Questions are by our BFFs SAUNA YOUTH.


Dan and OlI, when you get in the Cold-Pumas-swaying-stage-trance, are you feeling utter peace or complete tension?
OLIVER: The fundamental selfish aim for me in the “live arena” is to attain this state you speak of where I am no longer conscious of what I am doing, of people watching us, of “performing”…and along with this comes a lack of thought about which note to play or the actual physical actions involved in playing and it becomes seemingly instinctive, even though it isn’t, as the songs have been practiced and structured beforehand, but it feels natural and uncontrived. It’s rare that these things are concurrent; often some part of me is aware of something or ill at ease. I don’t naturally feel comfortable playing in front of people.

What was the biggest eureka moment of writing or recording the album?
There was never a eureka moment, as dull as that is. The record itself being finished, the aligning of writing, recording, artwork, titling, lyrics and all those other time-consuming micro-decisions is ultimately it. So, eureka today! It has in contrast been a process that has been forged through something other than a contrived or conceptual epiphany, but more a grinding reliance on the most organic pedantry that has driven us on, that and the fear of failure. Too grandiose perhaps?

Patrick’s voice is very dreamy. How do you write your lyrics and what do you write about? Has it been a conscious descision not to include lyrics with any of your releases so far?
Firstly, thank you. To summarise: in a turgidly unevocative manner, very much after the moment has gone, on a computer, in my bedroom, in silence. They basically all tend to focus on the classic subject of ole faithful. Occasionally I’ll write some tiring unrelenting ode to a past era as a very transparent metaphorical variation on the theme, but that’s really my one-track-minded remit. I think when we began this band (I mean musical journey), I wrote some turgidly meaningless tripe (see Exhibit A, Jela), most of which was contrived on a bench in Hoxton Square while Rory Bratwell was brewing up a nice cup of tea at halftime. Then we’d cake it so heavily in reverb, that it had ultimately been pointless writing anything other than a set of phonetic guidelines anyway. Oh the Golden Summer of Dude Culture.

In contrast, as part of 2012, The Year of Full Disclosure, I feel I should note that analysing all this makes me a little uncomfortable now. It’s obviously easier for you, SY, to enunciate your whole Greenday-meets-American Apparel social angst and come off with snotty nosed heads held high, but ultimately admitting that the lyrical directness of our album unfortunately follows the thematic focus of Bon Iver’s debut (minus the cabin) without sounding quite so deadly serious, is a ‘big ask’, as they say.  It is however accurate to say that I became as much frustrated with the relative shallowness of what I’d written before, as the music that preceded it, and my idealistically democratic 33.333r influence on what we sound like now is due to a correlation between those elements, and wanting to get to something less specifically experimental.

The reason why we’ve never put lyrics on any releases so far is as much to do with the above as it is with the fact that it’s relatively unusual to put lyrics on a 7” regardless. That’s what Oliver says anyway.

Sound-wise, how has CPs changed from ‘Jela’ era to now? To me, your songs are now a lot more concise and dare I say almost ‘pop’ sounding? Agree?
I would agree, but then I want to agree. I view it more that we went through a certain kind of initiation and began doing things in a certain kind of way (I don’t mean BIMM) but then as I have somewhat alluded to above, the focus changed in terms of what I wanted to do at least. I’m not afraid of the ‘pop’ moniker that you’ve applied, as I really don’t think we could ever be ‘pop’ in the traditional sense, not in that disappointing blandness that so many bands seem to aim to hit at just about the third album, where everything is covered in a lurid sheen and the saxophone or new keyboard member is wheeled out.

It was perhaps over a year before we even played a show when we first started, and in that foetal stage, legend has it we sounded like an endless loop of The Rapture, although such playschool hits like ‘Out In The Country’ exist only on our collective harddrives, so the truth shall never be known. Ultimately in all that time since our inception, in all that endless demoralising wait to release something grand and encompassing, it has been our dithering decision to not do so, because we weren’t at the stage where we knew what we were doing, or weren’t happy enough committing to anything more than a series of singles. It was perhaps that we weren’t thinking about it so much, rather we were merely riding a slice of pizza on a psychedelic wave, if you will. But that is by the by.

For my two penneth, it was that I felt myself becoming less engaged with something I couldn’t imagine listening to at home, and the bubble had burst with whatever we were doing at the beginning being so invigorating to play live. I no longer wanted to be a vaguely conceptual band that would be almost only useful to put on in the midst of a DJ set as something sonically or technically impressive, and so yes, I certainly pushed consciously for something that was more structured and varied and lyrically focused and less cold or clinical sounding; in essence a song in its most conventional form. Evidently it’s difficult doing that when the instrument you play has no specific notes and you and your brother (who has emerged from his cocoon into a punk) hate each other about 15% of the time in the practice room arena. But those conflicts, as much as the conflict of having an ingrained, perhaps default ‘sound’ from being around the block a little bit, really interested me as much as it frustrated. I’m queerly satisfied it was such hard work. (There’s a soundbite if you ever saw one, yuck)

Is this the definitive CP line up? You mentioned to me that you added keyboards to a lot of the songs on your album, would you consider adding that LIVE?
Yes. I’ve never been keen to get anyone else on a permanent contract. I obviously liked what you, SY, did at your launch show with working out to play something as unsuitable as A Town Called Distraction live. That idea of a one off completist display of an album from start to finish is a very special thing, and to be honest it seems that’s all anyone wants to do when they play ATP these days, so it’s evidently in demand. There were times when we considered, in moments of tonal frustration, of recruiting someone to play bass, but now the idea of having an entire other person with their own ridiculous things like opinions and tangents and frustrating habits to iron out until they become seen but not heard just seems like a lot of work. It’s much easier to have a splitter pedal. I simply wouldn’t change the peculiar dynamic of our awkward marriage for anything!

Is there an element of your sound that nobody ever picks up on – something essential that everybody seems to miss? What is it?
I suppose I could say the lyrics, but evidently I know why they’re missed live – unless the soundman is particularly stuck in the 80s, and you’ve already prompted me to navel gaze far beyond comfortable ground on that. So, for a real damp squib of an answer, no? Although, I do find it weird, and perhaps this is when the sound is so pummeling it dazes the listener, but I do hope there is a lot more depth to the album than you may be able to hear sometimes live. I really don’t mind if there is a separation between the two – although I know Oliver would disagree to an extent – but I sometimes think it works really well when bands are let’s say more cerebral on record and more visceral live, so hopefully people who’ve seen us far too many times already will see the current crop of songs in a different way after listening to them recorded.

You all have other bands, correct? What are they and how do they differ from CP in terms of sound / approach / personnel?
Oliver also plays in Tense Men. The main difference is that he sings and you (Richard James Phoenix) play drums, as you well know Richard. I’d hope that TM is a good outlet for Oliver to get all that Angry Young Man stuff out of his system and an opportunity to empower himself on stage with somebody that doesn’t constantly try to undermine him behind the drumkit.

Dan has recently released the very well received The Soft Walls album (out on Faux Discx and on tape on Suplex Cassettes) and in these glowing receptions they say things like Cold Pumas member and Faux Discx’s Gaffer or Head Honcho or Guru, which I think is rather nice. It’s called Ladies Egg (my mistake, it’s self-titled), but as XXJFG say the album “veers through Faust-ian pre-Industrial ambience, moments of Eno-like calm: fine repetition creating the impression of waves, private press late 60s folk darkness and No Wave guitar dirges. And lest we forget… House.”

I think Dan has found (and I may be misrepresenting him here) that the ability to create something solely on his own without the squabbling and deliberations of democracy has been a liberating experience. It’s also that fact of being able to do something at home, in one’s own time that appeals to him and also to me. I’m not currently doing anything myself, other than being a snide little so-and-so in telling you that thus your question is in fact incorrect, but I would like to play guitar again. It would interest me if I did do something that was an assumptive evolution of where a previous band The Light Sleepers left off, or would have, had we continued, how that would change what I felt toward where we should go next in CP. Anyway, a purely hypothetical slice of blah, so we’ll leave it at that.

Whats the plan for the album? When’s it coming out, who’s putting it out? What’s it called?
The album is released formally on the 5th of November between Faux Discx, Gringo Records and Italian Beach Babes on both vinyl and compact disc. It’s called Persistent Malaise, the wondrous artwork is by Flo Brooks and I’m excited that despite the arduous birthing process it is here, almost.
When Cold Pumas and Sauna Youth go on tour together in October and November, who are you most looking forward to being around every minute of the day?
The votes are in: unanimously it’s Murphy. A landslide it is. Hang on, what’s his pseudo-pretentious moniker SY? Mr Grog? Anyway, I can’t wait until the man with such lustrous hair is indeed grogged beyond reasonable bounds and his eyes look like the glassy stare of a dog waiting to seep happy tears.  If he bought his feline companion Gershwin that really would be an extender, so to speak. But I’m really looking forward to the tour with the whole gang – Londis, Iced Kahlua and the veritable Richard Penis too. Let’s hope it’s the barrel of laughs it promises to be and not simply a watershed in meltdowns and haggard stares. Could go either way.

Can you pinpoint a moment when you fell in love with repetition?
I think ‘in love’ is a bit rich. I suppose there were points, before we moved to Brighton even, when the relentlessness of bands like Ex-Models were definitely pushing us to something we tried doing in a bookshop and practice room-playing project named Oh Hell No in Exeter, ultimately the precursor to CP. And certainly repetition is something ingrained to the extent in what our default starting point is. It is natural to begin like that, but it’s never been a mantra or something that we’ve really pushed relentlessly in the manner of before. Perhaps it comes down to things like ‘the drop’ of a song and elongating a part until that arrives at a zenith of satisfaction when it finally drops, or some other absurdly named concept like ‘sad bass’ where the bass changes eventually underneath a repeated motif and it destroys you a little. But, for me now it is something I don’t even consider consciously – perhaps we are attracted to certain minimalisms and repetitions and kraut-aesthetics but it’s definitely not a grand concept in that sense anymore.

Posted 1 October 2012