Interview: Arcane Roots
Hot on the heels of the physical release of their stunning album Left Fire, Arcane Roots are headed out on tour. We thought it was a perfect opportunity to get Andrew Groves on the phone and get an insight into their world.
Let's start with The Who,The How & The When of the band...
I met Daryl, our drummer, in college and we had another bassist, but he really likes trees, and wanted to become a tree surgeon. We auditioned and met Adam - that's when we agreed we'd better be serious about this now and do it properly. It's hard to find people who are serious and committed. We realised we had similar tastes, similar feelings on everything, we were both fairly frustrated with music and we felt no one was doing satisfying enough rock and pop for us, so we just wanted to set out and do it.
It sounds like you knew from an early age that you wanted to be a musician.
Yeah I was always fairly bold in that sense, I would always address my Mother with “Right, I’m going to be this, that's what I’m going to do with the rest of my life!” I actually wanted to be a drummer, but then my parents got me a guitar because it had volume knob... After a year or so it was, “Yeah, this is what I want to do”. It was the same for Daryl. We wanted to add something to the musical pie instead of churning out the same old tripe. When you write a song, you think “That's an okay song, I’m quite proud of that” and then you play it together and your band are like, “That's a wicked song!”, but it's a very weird thing to have people that mean something go “We love your song!”
Left Fire is stunning, it feels like you’ve made a real effort to craft an album, not just a collection of songs. I love the way many of the tracks merge seamlessly into the next. Was this a conscious decision?
I like the idea of challenging things - of making something and combining things. There's a reason why people like different genres of music and can relate to them. Sometimes you want to listen to an album the whole way through in your room, but then sometimes you just want to listen to a single track so that's why we cut some of it up. We only really had 5 tracks to show what we could do so we filled them with as many ideas as we could. I wanted it to work on two levels. One, technicality, and musicianship and energy - people who are into guitars etc can appreciate that, and two, so at the same time people that don't know about that side can just appreciate the melody and the song. You can stand on stage, sing really fast and play really hard things but there's a limit to that, it can alienate people. The fun thing is to make something that's really hard sound really easy.
I think a record should sound big and have the punch when it needs one, but I also love albums where you can just sit back and listen to the whole thing, you don't really dip in and out, you start at the beginning and see it through to the end. I'm really happy that the album can be accessed on those two levels.
Can you translate 'Aus Blauderen Verederen, Dus Moet Ik'? I’ve tried various online translation tools but I’m drawing a blank...
The album was written in various stages and I was in Holland at the time, just to get away from it all and have some fun. And I’ve always really liked Autumn, it's my favourite season, there's just such a great feeling in the air - its nearly stormy, but maybe not, and everything's changing. Our lives were changing at the time. It actually translates as 'As Leaves Change, So Do I'. The chorus of the next song, 'In This Town Of Such Weather', that's where that's come from, like a volta in a film, it's a change of scene. I’d got away and it was great to be in this beautiful town with the leaves falling and seeing the sights of Europe. I wrote Habibty there as well.
You're about to go on tour, what are the best and worst aspects for you? And do you have any pre-tour / pre-show rituals?
We’re pretty boring, we’re always just focused on what we're doing that night. There’s generally interviews, things like that. Usually something is broken that we somehow need to fix, but we always try to pencil in a good hour to sit and warm up and go through a lot of the harmonies, particularly the stuff off the new album. There’s denser harmonies, three part harmonies, so we practice and go through the setlist. It makes such a difference, we’ve had times where we’ve rushed on stage and the shows are never as good. We like to get to the venue early and acclimatise, the big thing for us is going to places we’ve never been before and meeting new people. We try to drive through the night so we can get there early and walk around. It’s lovely to bump into people that are coming to the show, to sit down and have a chat, we like that about being in a band. We like to watch the other bands we’re on tour with, we have a hand in picking them. I love seeing bands before we go on stage, it psychs me up to play a good show myself. We’re touring with ME at the moment and I’m excited to see them every night.
How do you feel about social media, is it a good thing or do you hate it? Who’s responsible for your Facebook & Twitter updates?
It's always us, at the end of the day I think people want a connection, I think people could tell if it was our management doing our updates. I like the fact that we can reply to fans, I look up to my heroes and I chat to them and now we’re starting to play with them. I got a postcard from Jamie from Reuben the other day and if I gave that postcard to my 16 year old self I’d have gone insane. When people buy a record they want an experience, to feel closer to the band. We try to come up with new ideas, we do all our own videos and our own artwork. If we do it ourselves it's an extension of our own ideas, not somebody else's interpretation. When we did the iTunes site for Left Fire we wanted to fill it with videos and pictures and as much information as possible, its like having a file in front of you and I love that about it. Whenever we play somewhere we always dress the venue and bring our own lights, to bring something to help try and drag you into our world.
The 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' cover you did for Kerrang! last year is great , how did it feel to be asked to cover such an iconic song and what kind of feedback did you get from both your own and Nirvana Fans?
We were playing Sonisphere and during an interview for Kerrang! they said “We’re doing this Nirvana compilation, the only song left is 'Smells like Teen Spirit', nobody wants it, would you do it?” I was like, of course, why would you not! I immediately thought, I want to absolutely turn it on its head, I want the beginning to be there so you think it'll be a straightforward cover, but then shake it up and make it a bit more interesting. I sang the first idea I had into my manager's ear, we wrote it in about 3 hours, and recorded it the next day. The comments have been incredible, about 70% have been really positive, the other 30% from hardcore Nirvana fans - death threats, wishing cancer on us and calling us faggots. But I’d be a bit upset if we hadn’t upset someone, it means we’re doing something good. It's been great, it got us lots of new fans.
If you could play on stage with artist/band who would it be and what would you play?
We’re actually going to do some of these so I’m trying to think of one I can tell you that we're not doing. It’d never happen but I’d love to do a song with The Mars Volta, like when they played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Cedric had lost his voice so the Chili Peppers came out and played with them, it’s one of those “Where were you?” moments. We’ve got interesting collaborations coming up, we’ve made friends with some people we really respect. I’d love to play a song with Omar Rodríguez & John Frusciante, for me that would be the biggest, they’re my heroes, it’d be amazing to play anything with them, even just a woodblock.
If you got to curate your own festival, who would you invite?
It's a big list! A Norwegian band called Twenty Two, Malajube, Young Legionnaire... I’m big into Periphery, Tesseract, Meshuggah. I’d like to mix it up, have a band like Meshuggah followed by something more poppy. Nine Inch Nails, The Mars Volta. I’d like to have a little tent with Joanna Newsom, KT Tunstall & Camille, maybe BT, it’d be good to have a little electronica stage. I’d love to do it, I’ve always said I’ve wanted to curate Meltdown festival, anyone that's asked to do that is respected amongst the music community.
I’m sure the walls of your Band Lair are decorated with your master plan for world domination, so what's next for Arcane Roots?
We’re rehearsing the album at the moment, it's 90% done as far as songwriting goes, we record it in Bath in August with Dan Austin. We’ve got some support tours coming up which will see out the end of the year. Then the album will be out in January or February. The main thing is just getting all our ideas coherent for the album. We’re excited to tour and play our new songs and road test them before recording in August.
If there was one question you wished I’d asked today or a subject you’d have liked to have discussed what would it be?
I’ll talk about anything, I like talking. I like sharks, I read about a shark the other day that eats whales. It's the Greenland shark, it's been known to eat polar bears, it's just a badass shark. It lives in the Arctic under the ice and actually finds whales and kills them. It's more badass than a Great White.