Keston Cobblers Club, who made a big impact with their 2015 album ‘Wildfire’, are back with the follow-up, ‘Almost Home’, that’s likely to see the London-based quintet and their catchy, folk-infused songs reach even bigger audiences.
Frontman Matthew Lowe tells us about what home means to him, going back to basics, cover versions, being in a band with his sister and a childhood friend, and why their new album’s cover can turn into a house.
What emotions do the word ‘home’ evoke in you? And how do you think the songs on ‘Almost Home’ capture those feelings?
We wanted the idea of this album to be able to speak to anyone, ‘Home is where the heart is’ and it can conjure all sorts of emotions, perhaps romantic, or nostalgic, or negative in some cases. It’s such a big part of our lives and although there is an element of romance in the album, we didn’t want it to be a love song album. For me ‘home’ is my parents’ house in Keston where I grew up and still record in, and my new flat in Forest Hill where I live with my girlfriend. Two very different ‘homes’, which have very different meanings.
Did you go out of your way to write songs to fit the theme of ‘home’ or did you just realise there was a unifying theme once you’d written a bunch of songs?
Yeah it all just flowed a little. I wrote eight of the tracks, without overly thinking the idea, Jules wrote three, and Tom got his debut track in (‘Walls’) and they all just worked together. We always try and have an element of variation in our albums, as you can hear from ‘Martha & Giles’ to ‘On Your Own’ to ‘Bicycles’. But, upon listening to the tracks in my studio at my parents’ house, we decided that the theme of ‘Almost Home’ was fitting for all of the tracks and was a nice binder.
What one song on the album best sums up that theme?
I think we’d all differ on this and I’m not 100% sure, but I’d probably go with the title track, just because it was the first track I wrote and recorded that felt like it really summed the album up. As I say, there’s almost a little mix of genres, definitely moods between some of the tracks, as we have many influences. But the idea of this album was mainly to go back to basics: we lost the big string sections we used to have in for this one – although there’s still some big sections here and there.
How difficult was it to create those simple arrangements for a five-piece band with such a big sound?
It can be hard occasionally to write a track, knowing you want all five people to be involved. Obviously you want to try and use everybody in the band for all the tracks, especially live. Although from the other point of view, we have had some very orchestral tracks in past albums, like ‘Handless Man’, which have been hard to do justice live without a small orchestra. It was nice going through each track on this album and it all making sense to the five of us exactly what we’d be playing each live.
How different do you think the band would sound if you, Jules, and Tom hadn’t known each other for most of your lives? Do those relationships create a level of honesty that wouldn’t normally exist in a band?
I think they do, yes. I suppose we know we’re not going to fall out with one another because we’ve known each other so long, we know we can push it a little. I think it helps. Tom didn’t always produce with me, but over the years he’s got more and more involved so it was nice to co-produce this album together as well. I’m not too sure exactly how it would have changed things, though. Being good friends already definitely helps with meeting up – it’s not a chore or work, it’s just mates meeting for a drink, then playing music.
Quite fittingly, your new CD folds out into a house and you once had an EP that could be transformed into a paper train set. How important are these “non-musical” elements?
We like to have a bit of fun with our music. Quite a few of these little touches come from Jules’ end – it’s just a bit of fun normally, a ‘why not!?’ kind of thing. For our ‘Scene of Plenty’ EP we decided to make a CD case that turned into a train set to go with the music and this time, a home seemed fitting. It’s just a bit of fun. As we say, it’s important not to take yourself too seriously.
Three years ago you recorded a few cover versions, including songs by Blink-182 and Vampire Weekend. Any more in the pipeline?
We’re definitely going to be covering another song this tour. We always do one cover in the crowd at the end of the gig. For now I have to keep it a secret, but you’ll find out in April.
With that in mind, are there any particular songs you wished you’d written yourselves?
There are probably hundreds, if not thousands. I was listening to ‘Skinny Love’ the other day by Bon Iver and thought: ‘What a great song it is that one guy can play it live and it sounds so complete.’ I’d love to write more songs like that.
As big ensembles go, I listen to a lot of Beirut, Yann Tiersen, Sigur Ros, the new Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Phoria (a new band from Brighton), and Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album, to name a few.
Looking ahead to the new album and the rest of 2017, what’s in store?
We generally say: ‘Just gigging! Getting on the road and playing to people.’ So we’ll be taking on festival season after our April UK tour, then hopefully making our way around Europe for a bit after the summer, taking the album to a bigger audience. Ultimately, if people keep listening and coming to gigs, we’ll keep making music and touring.
- ‘Almost Home’ is released on 31 March. Keston Cobblers Club tour the UK in April, including a special Union Chapel show on 21 April.