Since their tenth anniversary gig Edinburgh-based Meursault have been teasing their fans with whispers of a new album, written and recorded, but yet to be mastered and duplicated, and for that have requested their listeners crowdfund, with several incentives, not just to merely satisfy their eager anticipation. Crow Hill, which is placed within the fictional setting of Crow Hill, focuses on the characters that reside there, offering a fictitious element to this record, which we don’t often see in music, and has been recorded in Edinburgh’s renowned Chamber Studios.
Neil Pennycook from the band spoke with The Fountain about his decision to opt for a narrative arc whilst also to use the crowdsourcing funding model, as well as hopes for this album.
TF: So you’ve written and recorded a new album titled Crow Hill and this is all surrounding the fictional town of Crow Hill with each song focusing on each character, how conceptual and intriguing, what inspired you to compile the album in this format?
Well, I don’t see it as particularly conceptual in the sense that the concepts that I am applying to this record is things that exist in varying different art forms. The narrative structure that I am applying to this record is something you would find in any collection of short stories or any vignette-driven movie, like Short Cuts and Pulp Fiction. It’s taking that approach and applying it to an album in a series of songs whereby they’re connected by the geography and the time. It’s a really loose framework but it does give you a very fixed position to write from.
TF: And how was the process for writing these songs, did you create the characters and develop them first and then form the songs from there?
Yeah, a lot of the time, I wouldn’t say it was the case for all of the songs but for a lot of the songs it would be the case where you would formulate a character living in this space. A lot of it was having the groundwork for what the town was, what Crow Hill was, and what kind of space that was, and what I was going to allow to happen in that space, in terms of how fanciful things can get. Is this a down-to-earth everyman’s story or is it going to be fantasy, urban-horror? It’s all based and grounded in reality but you have these Lovecraftian elements. I am not being shy at all with this record with the literary references that I am using.
I am fed up with vague lyrics at the moment, it seems to be a phase I am going through, I truly can’t be bothered with bigger, abstract lyricism and I just wanted to write something that had a real narrative arc to it. I didn’t want to create a piece of work that was going to mean something different to everyone, that kind of song writing. I particularly liked little bits and pieces from that last Seamus Fogarty record, his little really defined, self-contained stories. The fist time you hear Short Ballad for a Long Man, it sounds really abstract and when you check up the references and read into the lyrics a little bit more you realise he is telling a very linear story, from start to finish. It struck me a little bit that it’s weird that more people aren’t doing that, it’s obviously part of the folk genre, operas, musicals and things like that. I just find it really weird that people aren’t writing fiction, actual fiction within music.
TF: You released the album for a limited time on bandcamp, you’ve recorded and written these songs already. You recorded in Chamber Studios in Granton, how was that to record in?
Yeah, it was amazing, it was fantastic. It was the first studio I had ever recorded in as an eighteen year old and I’ve always wanted to go back, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s my favourite place to record so far, from all that I’ve made. Without going on too much, it’s a lovely space, Graeme Young’s a fantastic engineer, and it just made the whole process really easy, well that technical side of it anyway. Getting the songs down and recorded, everything was made easy. There is an element as well of when you are going into a space you want somewhere that is going to hold the songs, the songs have to have the space, and it all felt right, the songs being delivered in this claustrophobic space that is Chamber Studios. It really suited the delivery of what we were trying to bring to the songs.
TF: And you have opted for a crowdfunding approach, which is doing incredibly well, for the mastering and duplication, what influenced you to choose that funding model?
Well this record is the first that I put out that is not on Song by Toad, this is on a new label called Common Grounds, which has set up by Graeme from Chamber Studios and I am helping out there, and this is going to be the first release on that label. Because it is a collaborative effort, there is a lot of us putting our money where our mouths are, and especially with the mastering process with this album, it really justified with this recording that it should go to a particular mastering engineer. For that we are asking for crowdsourcing for a part of the album, it made complete sense with our approach as to how we are doing this.
TF: It sounds like an exciting project, and what do you hope for with Crow Hill?
The main hope is that the songs can be communicated to whoever is listening to them, whether it’s on the record or whether it’s from seeing the live shows, the hope is that the stories are heard and appreciated in the same respect as the music. I hope that there is an audience for it and that listeners are patient with it to an extent.
Photo courtesy of Laura Meek
With mere hours to make a pledge, do click on Meursault’s Crow Hill campaign here.