Will Currie and The Country French Wait For Everyone Else To Catch Up.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

It's a very exciting time in the Country French camp. Of late, the band has been working hard wrapping up the sessions for and putting all of the associated bows and ribbons on a new release, entitled Awake You Sleepers!, the band's first full-length album for Murderecords. Judging by Currie's description of the album, the band has cooked up an ambitious experience for fans as, with the assistance of an army of strings and horns, the Country French has created a vast and rollicking song cycle that really defines who they are as a band. The creative process has been wildly inspiring; so much so that the band is excitedly working on their live show so that having a string and horn section on tour with them (which would be a costly venture for certain) will be unnecessary, but still give fans a fantastic show. They've been working so hard and so fast, in fact, that they've left their label in the dust from a production standpoint; in an interesting turn, Murderecords is now rushing to keep up with the band as they negotiate the album's release date; a situation that, as anyone familiar with the music business can tell you, is completely inverse from standard operating procedure. “We finished the album in August and gave it to the label and now it's just being held up in bureaucracy, basically,” laughs singer/band namesake Will Currie at the thought of his band's unique situation. “It'll come though, probably either shortly before or during this summer. We've already started playing a lot of the songs from the new album live and it's pretty high-energy stuff, mostly. We don't see people singing along much because they don't really know the songs yet, but the EP songs we are playing live sort of hold them together in terms of audience participation and stuff. They've been pretty well-received and we're pretty pleased with the record so we're excited to be playing it live.”

The excitement that the band feels behind Awake You Sleepers! is certainly justified as one listens to the songs, it is truly a classic pop record in the sense that, like the Beach Boys, Beatles, Ben Folds and Sloan before them, Will Currie and The Country French have tapped into a musical vein through which pure, unadulterated pop gold flows. The use of those aforementioned strings and horns may sound like antiquated practice in print, but they sound instantly familiar and very, very welcome here as they provide the gateway to the pop ambrosia contained in songs like “The Whale,” “Flowers,” “City,” “Railroad” and “Ontario.” Those songs (and they are only a sampling) each take the time-honored approach to pop songwriting that so many others have (but it's not all that common anymore) insofar as each song has a spry and instantly accessible tonality that makes good use of convention but also leaves the structures open so that listeners can inhabit and draw personal things into them in order to get the most out of them; when the songs talk about love, they're not sung at a particular person so listeners can make them about their own darling one and when the songs sound like a party, thy might sound like any good party because, again, while the heart of the moment is there, it isn't written such that it seems to be pulled from any one specific memory – it could be yours at the right moment.

As upbeat as much of the record is, it is not a two-dimensional or saccharine-coated affair that focuses on one sound alone. The Country French adds depth to the proceedings by including more heartfelt and introspective moments that contrast nicely against the upbeat ones. When they do slow it down a bit, a whole other set of influences seem to take hold. “Portland,” for example, is an excellent song that Lou Reed could have written, the delicate and spidery guitars of “Barrows Of The Goldrush” recall the more tender moments in the Eels' songbook and “Muddy Water” bears all the earmarks of a great Jeff Tweedy ballad) and will leave listeners slack-jawed in the contrast; taken as a whole, the record simply seems to play like a compilation of some of the best unreleased songs ever recorded but forgotten by rock royalty, but is made all the more respectable and surprising when one realizes that, not only is it the work of just one band, it's also that band's first full-length release.

So what was the inspiration behind such a bold and sprawling endeavor? According to the singer, Awake You Sleepers! was actually the result of thinking about different records the band members had always wanted to make but, when they first got signed to Murderecords in 2008, the focus turned quickly to preparing their debut EP, A Great Stage, for release instead. As soon as that was done, according to Currie, the thinking continued and eventually spawned Awake You Sleepers! “When we first started working on the EP, we didn't have a label so we did it slowly on our own in a basement,” explains the singer of the timeline and process that shaped the album. “It was all just random songs that I had written a long time ago so there wasn't a whole lot of pressure and, in fact, we'd had the EP completed the EP about a year before it got picked up by Murder; we were already thinking about how we'd do this album, but they wanted the EP to release first, so we just handed it to them and sort of kept thinking about how we were going to do Awake You Sleepers!

“This time we did it in a studio and I had mapped out everything beforehand,” continues Currie. “I had what I called a playbook that had everything in it – a checklist of everything that had to get done, the track list, the exact order and all that stuff – under my arm constantly well before when we started to record so I think it was pretty well-organized going in, and we just wanted to make the most interesting and the best record we could. It's a mixed bag of uptempo pop stuff, but also slower, more interesting numbers. It's really string and brass-heavy – which is a new thing for us – but it gives the whole album a different flavor; like, on the EP it was mostly happy pop music, but I think this album is a little more mature-sounding maybe and a little more musically complicated. It's still accessible though, I think.

“I've always really appreciated albums that do what this one does; records where themes come back as musical ties that bind all the songs. Some people do it kind of crudely – Paul McCartney's Band On The Run is a good example of that – where they'll bring back bits of songs into other songs to sort of tie the work up. As a musician, I always think it's fun to pick out little pieces that reoccur which might not be super-obvious, but are possible to pick out. That was sort of my thought going into this record and that's why we had the track list and everything prepared in advance; we knew we had themes that functioned like pillars throughout the record that kind of support the rest of the songs, and then we'd have little recurring things that sort of knit the songs together along the way before they all come back in the title track at the end of the record. That's the sort of record we envisioned and it all came together even better than we thought it would when we were finished; we're all really, really happy with it.”

But how will all of that translate before audiences? As Currie said himself, the string and horn sections employed for the record won't be touring with the band, so it begs the question of what shape the shows will take. “I don't know if it's quite as obvious in our live show,” concedes the singer, looking critically  at how the songs from the forthcoming record will be presented. “We've had to adapt some songs for the live show so that we can perform them without necessarily having to bring string and horn sections along with us so it might not be so easy to pick out those recurring motifs that manifest more clearly on the record. The live show isn't so ambitious as one continual song that plays uninterrupted or anything like that. It's been received pretty well though because,again, the whole thing is pretty accessible to listeners. The album itself isn't an art piece really, so you don't need to go too far to the left to understand it or anything, and you don't even really need to notice all the little nuances that we've put in to really enjoy it; they're normal songs, but there's something a little different to them if you care to listen to them deep enough.”



Will Currie and The Country French – “Honest People” (live)

Will Currie and The Country French – “Flowers” – Awake You Sleepers!


Awake You Sleepers!
does not yet have a confirmed release date, but it has been confirmed that the album will be released through Murderecords. Ground Control will announce the release date as soon as it is made available.

Comments are closed.