BEFORE STORIES are a spoken word rock band from Aberdeen, Scotland in the vein of Hotel Books, Listener and maybe a tiny bit of La Dispute. They refer to themselves as Minimalist Miserabilist Talk Rock, and today we’re pleased to give you the full stream of their new EP “The Next Reason To Breathe”, along with their special insights, track by track rundown, local scene commentary, and some 2020 records worth a check.
“We’ve been doing this for 5 years and haven’t even scratched the surface of the things we are very angry/upset about, or the decisions we’ve made that worked out badly for us.” – comments the duo.
“This EP was weird, recorded in our houses on our own with two overdub sessions together to record some additional vocals and guitar.” – adds Colin. “It’s coming out on Ripcord Records, Charlene @ Ripcord has been excellent and very easy to work with and we’re stoked to be associated with such a cool label.”
“Normally we work with Gav from Casper Heyzeus, he’s recorded our previous EP at his studios, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible this time – Jamie had a burst of creativity and made some demos I recorded into complete songs. Due to a fortunate misunderstanding on what we were doing he recorded all of his vocals and guitar (and some drums) and presented me with 5 almost completed songs to mix and master.”
For fans of: Listener, Hotel Books, Arab Strap, La Dispute.
Asked about the tech details behind the records, Jamie says that he “recorded all of 1 like = 1 prayer with the excellent Jan Stewart of Seas, Starry, keeping up our tradition of having one song one each EP that doesn’t feature both of us. We’ve taken turns, completely by accident.”
“We recorded everything direct to Ableton, we don’t use amps for recording or live – everything runs through our Line 6 Helixes (guitar player tomfoolery). The drums are mostly programmed in Addictive Drums also triggered by Ableton, although I played actual drums on Come to Pass, an electronic kit direct to Ableton. Live Colin plays drum loops from an iPad running Novation Launchpad software and we both play guitar. I do a lot of looping my guitar parts as we don’t like to sample anything we’ve recorded on guitar.”
Fender Jaguar Guitar
Line 6 Helix
Reverend Descent Baritone Guitar
Charvel DK22 guitar
Line 6 Helix
Looking back at live shows, Jamie recalls that their full gig setup fits in the boot of a Ford Focus. “If we play a gig where there’s no PA we can fit a pretty powerful one in and still get someone in the backseat.” – he laughs.
𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑎 𝑓𝑒𝑤 𝑙𝑜𝑐𝑎𝑙 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑚𝑜𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝐴𝑏𝑒𝑟𝑑𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑘 ℎ𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑝𝑢𝑡 𝑜𝑛 𝐷𝐼𝑌 𝑔𝑖𝑔𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑎 𝑓𝑒𝑤 𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡 𝑏𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑠, 𝑚𝑎𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑚𝑢𝑠𝑖𝑐 𝑠𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑁𝑜𝑟𝑡ℎ 𝐸𝑎𝑠𝑡 𝑎 𝑓𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑙𝑦 𝑓𝑢𝑛 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑐𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑠𝑒𝑒 𝑎 𝑏𝑎𝑛𝑑.
– says Colin. “Unfortunately, there aren’t many venues, and most of the promoters are in bands themselves. We put on shows as Punch Face Champion, other promoters in town are Laika Come Home, HITSWGF and Cool Your Jets – all lovely people in great bands.”
“Mostly it’s covers and singer songwriters doing acoustic nights in pubs and “battle of the bands” or tribute acts in the larger venues of Aberdeen, but there are a few of us working to get original DIY music out there.”
To conclude, Jamie gave us his top records of the year and both gentlemen sat down to give us a full track by track breakdown below!
Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone
Jamie Lenman – King Of Clubs
Stonethrower – Legacies
Min Diesel – Mints
Seas, Starry – Larsson Dreams Of Germans, Hey Koala
Casper Heyzeus- Thursday Night Lads Club
Alkanes – Make It Right
Pure Grief- Local To No Where, Loyal To No One
Paper Rifles – Traitors Hill
Michael Jewitt – Faultline
The Kimberley Steaks – Confessions of a Justified Cynic
Myles Manley – AAA
James Mackenzie – Hearts On Fire
Kapil Seshasayee – The Pink Mirror
Modern Sonder – Crisis Grace and Growth
David Delinquent – Better Yourself
Audiokicks – Stuck On Repeat
Poür Me – No One Asked For This But Here It Is
“Toe the Line”
Colin: This track is about as heavy as we get. I recorded a quick riff pretending to be Korn with the pounding drums and the octaves – I forgot to tell Jamie the BPM, and he sped it up and then arranged the whole thing as it is now, adding his guitar to the second half of the song.
Jamie: Lyrically it starts in familiar territory describing past failures via self-deprecation. There’s a lyrical nod towards the band Spanish Love Songs in “we’re so tired of explaining ourselves” one of many lines that connect with me and fit my own narrative perfectly without blatant plagiarism.
The overall theme runs from common human fragility leading into a conclusion that despite uncertainty, individuals can bring change for the better with belief, inspired by witnessing friends standing up for causes that they believed to be morally correct. Action towards good is better than inaction and criticism of those trying to help others.
“Born Below the Tide”
Colin: This song was recorded well before did any of the other songs and got onto the EP because we had only previously released it on a charity compilation and our own bandcamp – so adding it to the EP makes it accessible everywhere, also it’s a total banger.
Jamie: After our August 2019 tour we took a long break before meeting up again and this song was the product of our first evening back writing. Colin had a riff going and everything else fell into place immediately, so much so that the track itself was recorded fully in that same evening. It was the night before lockdown was announced.
The majority of lines were made on the night from bare bones of lyrical ideas I have stored in my phone detailing my thoughts on unemployment, anxiety, miscarriage, rising through constant hurdles and class disadvantages.
Colin: Until this EP we’ve pretty much written songs in two ways, either Jamie brings a complete song in and we tweak the guitars together, or we sit in my living room and I muck about on guitar until I hit on something that makes him go for his phone or notebook – that’s when I know I’ve got him and he’s got lyrics that have been waiting for the right riff. It was very difficult recording bits and bobs and then sending them off with no instant feedback.
Jamie: Titles built on in-jokes are bad, but we did it anyway and we’re not going to explain cause it’s definitely not funny to anyone who doesn’t know.
Colin: Hutl began as a demo track I sent to Jamie that was then cut and arranged by Jamie into the ABA format you can hear now, again I did not tell him the BPM so it’s sped up which leads to the wobbly sound of the guitar, I have no idea how we’ll replicate that live. There’s no other instrumentation added past the original guitar tracks and Jamie’s voice.
Jamie: Lyrically this comments on the depressing way of life that intense consumerism, lack of local development and investment has for those living payday to payday and how this affects individual ambition.
The middle section details the corruption and bare faced lying that is commonplace in British Politics. The line “Modern Macbeths hiding behind puppies” is a reference to Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth telling her husband to “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it” and relates to modern day public figures with their cynical abuse of symbols like the poppy to appeal to the masses.
The final part is about the desensitization of watching tragic events slowly normalise into everyday reality.
A Futilitarian is someone who believes that human striving is futile and therefore passive.
“1 Like = 1 Prayer”
Jamie: Everything bar the lyrics and vocals for this track is the work of Jan from Seas, Starry.
The blunt lyrics and vocal style are influenced by Patrick Kindlon of Self Defense Family/Drug Church – this is basically a massive rant about Facebook.
Ironically this track only happened because Jan posted on Facebook looking for a collaboration, someone to add lyrics and vocals to a track.
Jan had no preference for lyrics but said try to write them in an hour spontaneously and what came out was a pretty heavy rant about social media.
Colin: We started Before Stories after I posted an ad on Facebook, sometimes Jamie just likes to watch the world burn.
Jamie: This track began in a small period in lockdown where we were allowed in each other’s houses. I came up with the first riff during a jam and Colin quickly made drums and worked out the foundation of the verse parts. Once restrictions came in again I worked on the rest of the arrangement from home completing the other parts of the song.
I wrote the lyrics in 2012 and never found a home for them until now.
Colin: Working with a lyricist that writes everything down and keeps it = gold.
Jamie: The X99 is the bus Inverness to Wick, my home town. The first draft of these lyrics are about me being physically and mentally ill for a long period of time and deciding to leave college in Alness to go home in a snowstorm with no certainty of buses running.
I waited 45 mins for a bus I assumed had been cancelled but I felt I had no option but keep waiting and I was eventually picked up.
The lyrics take the view my time has passed and anything that follows from that point is going to be worse which is dramatic but I guess that’s how I felt at the time.
The final part was written as I felt the track needed more to it. After pulling out two lines that fit, I recorded guide vocals for both parts in the end with Colin taking the second vocal line later on.
Colin: This is the only time dual vocals appear, though we have used it on previous songs, most often on our last EP. I naturally sound very angry, and Jamie writes excellent lines that work with an angry shout.
“Come to Pass”
Colin: Just like Toe the Line and Hutl, Come To Pass started as a demo guitar track I sent to Jamie which he turned into a full song.
Jamie: This is the first time I’ve played drums and bass in a Before Stories track, in every other band I play with I either play drums or bass.
Colin: There is bass on one song from the first EP but I played it for some reason, who knows why – Jamie’s an awesome bassist and I’m the original root note pounder. I had wanted to have live drums on this EP but we had parked it because we had no access to a studio – I’m really happy we managed to do this on one song.
Jamie: Once the verse guitars were sorted I wrote a huge chorus, which sounds fairly normal for a Scottish band, but its incredibly rare for us to even think of writing a chorus.
The lyrics are the most current, poetry written during the first lockdown detailing the feeling of the brain shutting down or becoming absent through lack of use and limited experiences. The feeling of being helplessly disconnected rings throughout.