And to give us a much deeper insight into their world, frontman Oisin Fogarty-Graveson has written an in-depth track by track breakdown of the entire record to sink your teeth into...
1. Introductory Blues
If we are playing the full set we open with this one. The chilled out start means we aren't throwing ourselves around as much as later in the set, but it's a song that for me at least feels pregnant with what the rest of the record has in store. I wrote the opening riff of the album when I was in Athens away from home. We knew straight away that it was unique enough to be on the album, so the next step was to expand on it. We decided to give it some ambience followed by an epic section to give the album a big entrance and a sense of what’s to come. Something about starting a piece of work with a lie struck us as important – it's not blues, not by a long way – and if you use blues as an indicator of a lie, you find the blues-rock song Dazed And Confused by Led Zeppelin is mentioned (which was a reworking of the original Jake Holmes version); another lie.
The entire album explores many of the areas of human communication and existence which are often covered by expected responses or guilty dishonesties. The record is about the chaos of the self and the complexity of human relation in the face of homogenised art, film, and musical narratives which are cliché and determine all aspects of existence to be somehow negotiable with a set of simple plots. In fact, we are all a mess of contradictory and conflicting facets, and that's okay. This is perhaps the crux of the record, the complexity of emotion pre-/during/post-coitus may be extrapolated in order to measure the complexity of humanity pre-/during/post-anything. To not be shocked by the unknown, to not try and define everything away, and to ultimately live, love and allow these things to go wrong in order to learn from them.
2. Looking Up Or Around And In
When Laurie (Rothwell, drums) presented us with the demo version of this, we had no idea what to think. It was a new way of writing heavy music that I never really considered before. It was the first song we wrote that sounded genuinely different from anything we heard before. It meant so much to us to achieve that, so we silently pledged to keep that trend going throughout the album. What Looking Up... does is place the philosophical content of the rest of the record contextually within a thought-framework; in essence, it pushes the idea that one must look internally for meaning, rather than to the sky (God) or the nature (naturalism, prescriptivism), suggesting in fact that both ultimately are projected from the self upon their surroundings.
3. Ahead At 6:06
Max was listening to D'Angelo And The Vanguard's Black Messiah on the way to record vocals on this track, concentrating on the vocal melodies – they sound so out of place at first, but after a few listens they're ingrained in your memory. Most of the inspiration from this song comes from post-hardcore music we were hearing at the time. We questioned whether we wanted to go down the route of open chugging chords, breakdowns, all that stuff. Instead we decided to do the complete opposite and go for something uplifting just to see if it would work for us, and it did.
I wrote these lyrics whilst living in Athens in 2014. I was sitting atop my balcony after having been out all night and the sun was coming up and a woman had just left the front of her apartment block to make her way to... well, that's sort of the point in the song. I use the idea of her journey in the morning as an investigation of 'the unknown', I was not aware at that early hour whether she was off to work or elsewhere, but I follow her in my imagination and create my imagined journey for her out of all the things I have previously experienced, making it no longer her journey, but mine. In a way, like a dream may seem novel but only contain that which is familiar, so too does our investigation of the unknown, our need to attribute life to a set of narratives, only contain that which we have previously experienced. So when we do not understand something, we must think that this is because we have not yet understood, not that it fits in with what we already have experienced.
4. Crucial Fix
We made this song about two years ago in a moment of sheer insanity. At the time we wrote this we were listening to a lot of Machine Head and Every Time I Die. I often look back on it with mixed emotions. This is because it is an important track for me personally, but the overall topic (religion, and specifically 'the problem of evil') is something I simply don't concern myself with anymore. It's also a very angry track, and the emotion therein seems to be channelled towards religious believers rather than the concept of institutionalised manipulators which exist in some areas of some religions. I hold up my hands and say that I have to apologise in part for this track, but in another sense I am still very happy to have it included on the record. The entire record, as previously stated, is about the complexity of the self, and if the LP is to reflect that message it must itself be complex. So conflict and confusion in some areas exist and are less resolved. Simply put, I was a bit younger when I wrote this track, but it is still a necessary part of my personal project, it cannot be undone.
Max wrote the demo for this song at university, sitting in his bedroom listening to Opeth's Damnation. He noticed the guitar work was really interesting and loved the way the bass worked with the guitar in such an interesting way – that album was a huge influence on Pretty. The ending of the song was made as a middle finger to the way we’d always understood songwriting; if we wanted some weird country section thrown into the album then why the fuck not? A blog called The Punk Archive said that after the fury and trials of Crucial Fix you are "granted access to paradise" with Pretty, and that we had made "bongo drums and jungle bird calls" work, which I liked. I thought that was an amusing observation because when we initially put the record together we had an extended version which broke into a full-on drum-circle piece, but we had decided it was too ridiculous to include it. I had always been for it myself, and I wonder now if we could have gotten away with that too. Pretty is one of my favourite tracks on the album actually, it's the first of the "love-songs" on é, in that it pursues the theme of intimacy with a figure. In this case it’s in a positive light, a memory of something beautifully young and naive in a sense.
6. Of All the Bodies In All the World
We wanted to make a song that ascends into insanity from a calm opening. We were listening to lots of the Pixies, to the way they can have sections of uncomfortable calmness right next to sections of disturbing madness but still somehow manage to fit the sections together without sounding too fragmented. This is probably a song most people will need to listen to a second time – we made the conscious decision to include many parts of this song because they were unexpected and interesting. If you get familiar with this song, you’ll find it easy to understand what we’re about. We were delighted to find that many of the people who have listened to the record have said that this is their favourite song. Lyrically, it's a story about a couple growing up together and looking back in awe at how they managed to create the life they did. I think it's loosely based on things my parents (despite not being together) say sometimes when they consider me and my brother.
7. And There Lies His
Max was sitting alone in his house at university and had a collection of riffs that he’d made over the past few days that he wanted to turn into something. He was listening to a lot of Primus when he wrote this, especially loving the way Todd Huth and Les Claypool tried their hardest to make everything sound completely insane all the time. The lyrics of And There Lies His are is perhaps the most overtly political of the tracks, which is interesting because I often attempt to hide any political undertones deep within the track rather than disclosing some sort of direct prescriptive message regarding society or current affairs. I suppose this is because I find it difficult to lose myself in music which is openly political due to the impersonality of it... unless it’s punk. This is not to say I think that music should not be political, quite the contrary. Anyway, And There Lies His is a call to arms to "co-exist", to care about one another, to understand each other's complexities and to not get too upset or blame-driven when a difference emerges. "An immigrant is just a person who used to be somewhere else".
8. Above At 5:05
In retrospect, there wasn’t a lot we expected from this track other than it being great fun to play on stage. We could groove along in the verses, then destroy everything in each chorus. In the end we surprised ourselves with this track – at first we weren’t too keen because of its simplicity, but over time we realised that the simplicity is what makes it so wonderfully disgusting. Lyrically it’s a travelling song about my route to Athens last year, telling myself to go and explore the things I'm unsure about; proof that I did it once and can do it again.