Sonic Cathedral will release ‘Dromes’, the long-awaited debut album by Younghusband, on September 16.
The album was produced by Nicolas Vernhes (Deerhunter, Wild Nothing) and features 12 tracks, including recent radio favourite ‘Comets Crossed’, new single ‘Silver Sisters’ and re-recorded versions of EP tracks ‘Reunion Message’ and ‘Constantly In Love’.
It’s an incredible record that mixes up the band’s disparate influences (they namecheck The Velvet Underground, Yo La Tengo, Television, The Modern Lovers, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Broadcast, Wire, Otis Redding, Thee Oh Sees, Can, Electrelane, Stereolab, Delia Derbyshire and Talking Heads among many, many others) into something that is at once experimental and accessible.
Short and sweetly psychedelic instrumentals give way to classic indie-pop that sounds a little bit like The House Of Love going paisley underground (‘Comets Crossed’, ‘Silver Sisters’). Loping Krautrock grooves (‘Reunion Message’, ‘Wavelength’) are countered by songs that could be My Bloody Valentine if they’d somehow ended up signed to Stax not Creation (‘Constantly In Love’).
It’s worth pointing out, too, that the music is perfectly reflected by the artwork, which has been painstakingly put together by Luke Frost at Heretic, who has previously worked on Tim Burgess’ recent solo album and also Sonic Cathedral’s ‘Psych For Sore Eyes’ EP.
The lyrics are loaded with themes of escape and water imagery. According to singer Euan Hinshelwood, “There is a lot about the passing of time. The lack of time. The abundance of time. The wasting of time. I wrote half the songs when I was living alone in a former drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre on the cheap. It was a strange time and a strange place. I didn’t think it was having an effect on me, but these things sometimes only become apparent later. I guess that explains the sense of detachment.”
After 40 all-too-brief minutes, the title track builds and builds to a noisy crescendo before collapsing under the weight of its own feedback and ‘Dromes’ is all over.
Euan sees the title as an almost onomatopoeic reflection of the band themselves: “Drones, dreams... It means, loosely, a large, specially prepared place. I like its link to the word aerodrome, like an area of departure, somewhere to take flight from.”
In Younghusband’s case, the place to take flight from was Watford. Euan, bassist Joe Chilton and drummer Pete Baker were all playing in different bands on the local scene (“Drinking in the same pub,” laughs Pete) and ended up gravitating first to east London and eventually together.
Initially, however, Euan got himself an eight-track, set it up in his bedroom and recorded and released several scratchy lo-fi solo recordings under the Younghusband moniker. “It was the surname of a character in a book I was reading years ago and it just stuck,” he recalls. “I just remember liking the way it looked like a ’90s band name, two words put together without a space.”
Then they met guitarist Adam Beach. His then girlfriend was in a band with Euan and they soon started hanging out. “It wasn’t really like being in a band at that point,” Adam recalls. “It was more like being in a gang. After a while Euan started to play me things that he had written, or that he and Joe had recorded. Some were songs, some were just Joe putting on accents and singing country and western tunes. Sorry, does this sound like the fucking Monkees’ biography?”
But those songs would be the start of Younghusband proper, and this gang recorded the double A-side single ‘Carousel’ and ‘Nothing Nothing’, which was released in June 2011 on Too Pure, got played to death on BBC 6 Music and forced them to play live as a real band for the first time.
“Adam always goes missing,” laughs Euan, “and he went missing just before one of our first shows together at Truck Festival. He was meant to meet us at a Travelodge the night before, but he didn’t turn up. In the morning we drove to the site and got stuck in a traffic jam. Then we realised he was sitting on the back of the tractor in front of us, with his guitar...”
“...stinking of rum and strawberries!” adds Joe.
“When the four of us first got together, we were still playing the stuff from the previous EPs that Euan had made, while mucking about with different sounds and styles to see what felt natural to move forward with,” says Pete. “There was no preconception of where it was going, it was just us playing together. It was a really exciting and creative period.”
“We all introduced each other to different records, hung out a lot, experimented with a shitload of musical and non-musical things,” clarifies Euan, who lists Younghusband’s favourite non-musical things as: “The night time. Travelling. Journeys. The sea. Drugs. People-watching (in a non freaky way). Girls. Walking through city chaos. Walking generally. Cities. Lo-fi culture. Mannerisms. Local customs. Daydreaming. Road movies. ‘Paris, Texas’. The films of John Waters.”
One of the first songs the band came up with together was ‘Constantly In Love’, now a highlight of ‘Dromes’, but an early version of which first saw the light of day on the band’s next release – and first for Sonic Cathedral – the ‘Crystal’ EP. This audacious double 7” came out in November 2011 and showcased all the elements of the band that have come to fruition on the album.
In the 18 months since, the band have recorded ‘Dromes’ and become a formidable live act having shared the stage with bands including Hookworms, The Oscillation and Spiral Stairs from Pavement. “I think we are just a lot more capable,” says Euan. “More capable live, more capable of making decisions when we are writing. Things just seem to happen quicker, musically. I still think we have a way to go to reach our full potential as a band, but I love the process. I guess it’s all a process, right? Nothing is ever finished. Regression can sometimes be seen as progress, too, and we have simplified certain elements of what we do, and we are better off for it.”
“There are less rules than before,” agrees Pete. “I hope there is more clarity and space in our sound now, we are less reliant on noise-making boxes and randomness. Much of that is down to the process of making the album. It cleared out the unimportant so we could focus on the vital.”
“I want to lose the idea of a logical expectation as we develop,” explains Euan. “I’ve always been a fan of bands with a lot of output, with varying styles, unexpected turns. Yo La Tengo are a great example of that, I think. It’s really hard to do that now and keep people’s attention. I’m just interested in putting out great records and continuing to do so. Exploring all of our ideas.”
“Fitting in doesn’t seem to figure much in the decision-making process,” concludes Pete. “We want to play bigger shows and push ourselves to make the best music we can. If there is a Younghusband shaped hole somewhere, we’ll fill it... if there isn’t we won’t change shape.”
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