in violet have re-emerged from a five-year absence to a world that looks entirely different. But have they changed along with it? We spoke to Jake from the band about the looming crisis and the approach to creating the band's unique sound in their new single "Cathedral Thinking".
Hi Jake. It's been five years since your last record. What's gone down in your life since then?
Jake: While the world seemed to lose its shit entirely, I slowly got mine together (more or less) and worked on this one song for about two of those. Despite feeling like I currently live in a poorly scripted episode of Black Mirror, I’m in a pretty good place and happy to be back. Thank you for having me.
Our pleasure! “Cathedral Thinking,” has a very unique sound. I wondered if you might walk me through how a song like that comes together.
Jake: ‘Cathedral Thinking’ actually started as a rhythmic pattern that was going around and around in my head while walking. As soon as I was able to, I recorded myself tapping the loop on my phone screen (best crush mic on the market) and loaded it into Ableton for processing to match the sound in my head.
From there I would work remotely or with individual contributors on putting down bits of ideas, based on what I needed to unlock the next piece of the puzzle. We’d take it into our practice space and develop ideas as a band, then eventually replace any parts that needed playing better or didn’t match the sound in my head.
Although founded in electronic music principle, it is as very much loud noisy band music, and weaving between these two worlds is what allows it to feel very smooth and organic. The shapes and dynamics are important to me, as is the production sound of each instrument, and colour of the final mix, which is why I dip in and out of certain roles, switching hats when necessary. Being aware that this can create obstruction, I have also learned to let go when in “writing mode” for example, understanding that fidelity is not always as important as feeling, so where I may once have been overly concerned with getting the right sound in advance, now I just drive to the right idea as fast as possible, then we rerecord later if the idea is pure but the sound is shit.
I have read that you've tried to rewire the approach as a middle ground between DJ and band. Can you tell us a bit more about this approach?
Jake: I suppose you could say the approach was a bit like a DJ. Although it sounds sort of like a live band, and the stage is very much the destination for the music we’ve been working on, ‘Cathedral Thinking’ was arranged out of loops and then sometimes replayed in that arrangement and rerecorded (eg the bass guitar). It’s a technique I read Jason Swinscoe used in the first (best) Cinematic Orchestra album: allegedly he’d been amassing loops that inspired him, which he then arranged into tracks much like a dance producer or DJ might, but instead of calling it done then took them to a band to then perform and reinterpret. The recordings of that were Motion.
I didn’t set out to steal Jason Swinscoe’s technique, but I do listen to a lot of dance music, and I do miss clubs as much as I do gig venues. All the music we’ve been working on and will be releasing has been approached using loops, samples and one shot performances arranged into a structure that we then play around with or on top of as a band, and that’s mainly just because it’s what makes sense to us at this moment in time. It feels fresh and exciting, and will hopefully translate well to whatever form of show we put on in the future, whether a gig or a DJ set, without people finding it totally incoherent. Both cultures are important to us.
Tell us a bit more how the song was recorded. Any funny stories during the recording process?
Jake: Besides making Chrisy record her drums three times in three different places because we just couldn’t match the feeling of the recording to what I had in my head, I can’t think of anything funny. I’m not sure she found that funny either. Rory and Sam both got cramps in their right arms while recording the end section; I found that pretty funny.
Who would you say your biggest influences are?
Jake: The people around me whom I hold dear.
Tell us a bit about the song's title "Cathedral Thinking". Am I right in thinking it might have something to do with the "Cathedral Thinking" required to tackle climate change as mentioned by Greta Thunberg?
Jake: Absolutely correct. It’s shameful that a then 16-year old girl had to give up any semblance of a “normal life” to speak truth to power on behalf of her generation. We have failed them, and continue to do so. She is more courageous, coherent and intelligent than any politician, and I have a huge amount of respect for her.
I can feel this apocalyptic energy in the song so tell us how do you think the world will change after the pandemic? Are we doomed? Is there hope for humanity? We may be doomed.
I hope not. There’s always hope, and I think that’s why it was important to title the song as a constructive, while highlighting the many issues we’re failing through in the lyrics and Greta samples. We are on the edge of a tipping point, and I do believe humans are most likely to change on the precipice than amid any semi-comfortable or convenient status quo, so we’ll just have to see if things improve.
It’s hard to say what adaptations we’ve made will be permanent after the pandemic, and no change is ever certain, but I hope things will change for the better. Join a union, shop local, eat vegetarian, check your privilege and get the fucking Tories out.
The visuals for the single is in this kind of psychadelic VHS style, which I really enjoyed as well. What was the idea behind that? How does that tie into the music?
Jake: The video was, in my mind, the main release for this song. Obviously having a theme of societal discourse, political accountability and climate change all on the rot is a lot to take in with few lyrics, so working with Steven McFarlane on the video was how we brought all that together.
Beyond those immediate themes, I wanted to communicate the sensory overload and information fatigue that has been bombarding us for the last few years. I’ve always spent a lot of time immersed in the news, and feel recently it’s become exhausting. People are burning out, it is creating tension in our society, and all to the benefit of those bad actors who control our narrative. How are people supposed to hold those who abuse power to account when they can’t keep up with the abuses and scandals? all the while in the background of this endless dizzying distraction, they are diverting our attention away from the bigger looming crisis. it is terrifying.
What's next for in violet? Have you got many gigs planned? Or any more releases on the horizon?
Jake: We have just announced our comeback show for our friends Portals, at the Victoria in Dalston August 30th. We’re also working to a tight deadline for the next single right now as I changed out the song from one that is about 90% finished for one we only really fleshed out while on a writing retreat at Shaken Oak Studios in March. After taking so long to get things going again, I’m enjoying the spontaneity of chasing ideas, and Glasshouse are good enough to trust me to deliver on what I believe will be the right logical follow-up to this single, so there’s a lot going on behind the scenes right now.
Check out the new single below and make sure to subscribe to the band's YouTube channel.