Blaenavon’s three members may have grown up in the unassuming Hampshire village of Liss, but their soundscapes allude to more far-away places, where guitars soar and senses are heightened.
Due for release on 7th April via Transgressive Records, the band’s debut album, That’s Your Lot, captures that feeling in an expansive track list – the total of a five-year body of work. (Fair to say the anticipation is palpable). Known for their ferocious live shows and the delicate and excellent song writing, the trio – comprising frontman and songwriter Ben Gregory, bassist Frank Wright, and drummer Harris McMillan – are ready to take their first longplay on the road, from the UK to America via Europe.
Laurie Trueman: 2016 was such a busy year for you, you’ve toured with artists such as DIIV, Mystery Jets and The Big Moon. What have you learnt from playing gigs with these bands?
Ben Gregory: We learnt how to put on a potent live show, one that is going to capture people’s attention. As a support band, when people do not know many of your songs, you have to make sure your set is fast and sweet. We had never really toured much until last year so it was a really important learning experience.
Laurie: You have been together around five years without releasing a debut album, but many EPs. Do you think because you have taken your time as a band it has led to a loyal fan base?
Ben: Yes, it has been weird, because it started properly around four or five years ago, and we built up a bit of a following, and then we properly disappeared for a year and went and wrote loads of music and didn’t do any shows. We now have a whole new wave of fans that we’ve picked up from touring last year, and then we also have people that say, “I saw you play in Portsmouth in 2012!” And that is a rare thing, but it’s really sweet when you meet people that have been there since the beginning.
Laurie: You’ve previously said that it has been quite frustrating to not be able to get your album out there, because of how young you were (exams and other distractions stood in the way of Blaenavon’s release), do you feel that this is now the perfect time?
Ben: It was difficult at times but it has worked out so well, we could have put out a record and it would have been a combination of our first EPs and it would have been in the middle of school, but then we wouldn’t have been able to tour it and that would have been a nightmare. You’re going to be remembered for your debut album, it will be the one that people pick up first when people find out who we are, and so we wanted to make it special, so yes, we took our time and it has definitely been the right thing to do. We are so proud of it.
Laurie: What’s it going to sound like?
Ben: It has songs written from earlier last year and songs written in 2011. It’s a whole history of the band and our life over the past five years, it does play a bit of a tale as you go through the record, the moods really do change.
“The album is out of my hands now, but I want it to mean as much to other people as it means to me. “
Laurie: What themes are within the story of the album?
Ben: I don’t mean to be dreary but there’s a lot of stuff about loneliness. I am also very indecisive, so there is stuff about being split between two people or two states of mind, and the grappling you feel. A state that is completely impossible and you get nothing out of it. There’s also a lot about new relationships in there.
Laurie: Did you always have an idea about how you wanted the album to represent you as a band? Ben: The way it’s recorded really worked for us, there are some funky singles on there, straight up rock tunes, and then some ballads, with just me on piano on my own. There’s one track on the album called Ode to Joe’ which is probably our favourite at the moment, it’s a really long vibe-y piece and really repetitive in homage to Joe Meek.
Laurie: Nice, and with that, are there are any references to other artists that you feel we can hear on the album? I know you really like Elliott Smith.
Ben: Yeah, I always talk about Elliott.
Laurie: You have a very delicate voice, so there can be similarities in those elements.
Ben: The album does have some really sincere and sombre moments akin to Elliot Smith. But I didn’t want to take myself too seriously on some songs, because it sometimes is just a pop song, isn’t it? I know that it shouldn’t always make people cry. I wanted to make people feel a bit better too, occasionally.
Laurie: What does the album tell people?
Ben: That being young is important and you should make the most of it. The album is out of my hands now, but I want it to mean as much to other people as it means to me.
“There’s one track on the album called Ode to Joe’ which is probably our favourite at the moment, it’s a really long vibe-y piece and really repetitive in homage to Joe Meek.”
That’s Your Lot by Blaenavon is out 7th April via Transgressive Records.