Too Famous To Get Fully Dressed

Ahhh, sandwiches!

Interview // Andy Cairns of Therapy?

with one comment

At long, long last, I finally witnessed Therapy? live at Vicar St on Thursday night, and they absolutely killed it. The tracks from the new album, A Brief Crack of Light, sounded amazing alongside classics like ‘Die Laughing’ and ‘Stories,’ before they finished with two of the best songs you’ll ever hear, ‘Knives’ and ‘Screamager.’ The mix was fantastic, the guitars chunky and the drumming was colossal – some feat considering the band had to postpone the initial date in March to allow drummer Neil Cooper to recover from a broken hand.

A few weeks ago I spoke to Andy Cairns about the new album and the (then) upcoming dates in Dublin and Cork. Here’s the interview from the May 4th edition of the Irish Sun.

“Educated guitar music like we play always seems to come back into fashion when the economy is up the skite,“ laughs Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns ahead of the band’s dates in Dublin and Cork next week.

 “When Therapy? started in the Nineties, that was the last time that there was a really bad economic downturn in Ireland and all of a sudden our music seemed to resonate.“

The Northern Irish trio have endured many a boom and bust cycle – both in terms of the economy and their own commercial success – during their more than 20 year existence, and it’s testament to their longevity that their brand of rebellious hardcore-tinged heavy rock is as vital and relevant as ever.

“I’d rather the economy was better and no one knew who we were, but it’s a reflection of what people like to listen to. When people are comfortable, that’s when bland music seeps through. Whenever people are disaffected, agitated music eventually creeps onto their radar again.”

The group’s thirteenth album, A Brief Crack of Light, is certainly agitated, as demonstrated by furious lead single ‘Living in the Shadow of a Terrible Dream,’ an infectious punk rock track that deals with an existence spent in dread of impending disaster.

“It’s open-ended, but it’s about living constantly in a state of anxiety and trying to get yourself through it. We’ve always been about the human politics, and we’ve always looked to the individual as the outsider and how they deal within that space.

“The most pertinent song on the record is ‘Get Your Dead Hand off My Shoulder.’ The opening line is: ‘The toxic glow of this botched city hums and climbs with my nightmares.’ It’s the most resonant of what’s going on economically, but the kind of preachy, ‘banks must be shot’ kind of stuff, we’ll leave that to the agitprop bands.”

Cairns points out that there is a strain of optimism that runs through the entire record, a willingness to make something beautiful from something ugly at which Ulster rock bands famously excel.

“There is a bit of dread there, but believe it or not there is a lot of light in what we do also. We look at people like Samuel Beckett and film-makers like Bela Tarr. We like people that see the heroic in the everyday, and we tend to see the same.

“We’re from little marginal towns in the North ourselves – Ballyclare and Larne – culchie towns. Even by Belfast people we were seen as kind of outsiders.

“No matter what the band think or how successful we’ve been or where we’ve been in the world, part of that has forged us and made us who were are, so we do have empathy with people that live slightly apart, slightly marginalised and slightly alone. That kind of person finds comfort in looking at the world through a slightly darker shade.”

The 1994 album Troublegum established Therapy? as one of the biggest rock bands on the planet right at the tail end of the grunge era. Soon-to-be classic tracks like ‘Screamager,’ ‘Knives’ and ‘Turn’ set a level of expectation they immediately went about subverting.

“We never really stuck to that blueprint. For the four albums after that, it was such an albatross that any time we went off the beaten track – like with Suicide Pact, You First or Never Apologise, Never Explain – it was hard to get what was left of the mainstream audience to realise that what we did wasn’t all just melodic rock like Troublegum.

“This is our thirteenth album and, really, we don’t feel conscious of taking risks anymore. We shook off them shackles quite a few albums ago, and now we just go in and treat it as we did the last two or three Therapy? records. It doesn’t hang over us anymore.”

A Brief Crack of Light bears this out, with influences stretching everywhere from their traditional sludgy power pop through to krautrock and, perhaps not as surprising as it first sounds, dubstep.

“If you look back to our second EP in 1991, there’s a track on it called ‘Fantasy Bag’ which is 140bpm with the snare on the third, and there’s a dub track on our first major label album, Nurse, in 1992 called ‘Deep Sleep.’

“We always say it’s not so much dubstep as the electronic music thing we took on board. I’m not a fan of the mid-range, popular dubstep – I like the first wave with Digital Mystiks, Code 9, people like that.

“Most people when they’re playing guitar at home will play along with rock records or whatever, but what I tend to do is play along with electronic records. Some of the phrasing on stuff like ‘Plague Bell’ is me playing along to synthesiser lines rather than blues rock lines.”

“We’ve always been listening to other kinds of music. I think if we’d come out just this year with a 12” inch track with a big squiggly mid-range synth line then obviously it would be gimmicky, but I don’t think we’ve done that.”

Another of the record’s standout tracks, ‘Marlow,’ was inspired by a chance encounter with a group of African street musicians while out walking in Cambridge. “We recorded the rhythm on the phone and took it home and wrote some chord progressions and bass lines over it.

“There was a period in the late Nineties, early Noughties when we were considered just an ordinary, bog-standard vanilla rock band for some reason. People are seeing a lot more of a match between what we’re doing now and what we were doing in the beginning.

“‘Why Turbulence’ has a big chanty chorus, but the days of us writing three-and-a-half minute songs like ‘Troublegum’ are past. There are too many bands that cater for that. If you want pop-punk these days, there are thousands of bands out there that are younger and better looking than us.”

“Educated guitar music like we play always seems to come back into fashion when the economy is up the skite,“ laughs Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns ahead of the band’s dates in Dublin and Cork next week.

 “When Therapy? started in the Nineties, that was the last time that there was a really bad economic downturn in Ireland and all of a sudden our music seemed to resonate.“

The Northern Irish trio have endured many a boom and bust cycle – both in terms of the economy and their own commercial success – during their more than 20 year existence, and it’s testament to their longevity that their brand of rebellious hardcore-tinged heavy rock is as vital and relevant as ever.

“I’d rather the economy was better and no one knew who we were, but it’s a reflection of what people like to listen to. When people are comfortable, that’s when bland music seeps through. Whenever people are disaffected, agitated music eventually creeps onto their radar again.”

The group’s thirteenth album, A Brief Crack of Light, is certainly agitated, as demonstrated by furious lead single ‘Living in the Shadow of a Terrible Dream,’ an infectious punk rock track that deals with an existence spent in dread of impending disaster.

“It’s open-ended, but it’s about living constantly in a state of anxiety and trying to get yourself through it. We’ve always been about the human politics, and we’ve always looked to the individual as the outsider and how they deal within that space.

“The most pertinent song on the record is ‘Get Your Dead Hand off My Shoulder.’ The opening line is: ‘The toxic glow of this botched city hums and climbs with my nightmares.’ It’s the most resonant of what’s going on economically, but the kind of preachy, ‘banks must be shot’ kind of stuff, we’ll leave that to the agitprop bands.”

Cairns points out that there is a strain of optimism that runs through the entire record, a willingness to make something beautiful from something ugly at which Ulster rock bands famously excel.

“There is a bit of dread there, but believe it or not there is a lot of light in what we do also. We look at people like Samuel Beckett and film-makers like Bela Tarr. We like people that see the heroic in the everyday, and we tend to see the same.

“We’re from little marginal towns in the North ourselves – Ballyclare and Larne – culchie towns. Even by Belfast people we were seen as kind of outsiders.

“No matter what the band think or how successful we’ve been or where we’ve been in the world, part of that has forged us and made us who were are, so we do have empathy with people that live slightly apart, slightly marginalised and slightly alone. That kind of person finds comfort in looking at the world through a slightly darker shade.”

The 1994 album Troublegum established Therapy? as one of the biggest rock bands on the planet right at the tail end of the grunge era. Soon-to-be classic tracks like ‘Screamager,’ ‘Knives’ and ‘Turn’ set a level of expectation they immediately went about subverting.

“We never really stuck to that blueprint. For the four albums after that, it was such an albatross that any time we went off the beaten track – like with Suicide Pact, You First or Never Apologise, Never Explain – it was hard to get what was left of the mainstream audience to realise that what we did wasn’t all just melodic rock like Troublegum.

“This is our thirteenth album and, really, we don’t feel conscious of taking risks anymore. We shook off them shackles quite a few albums ago, and now we just go in and treat it as we did the last two or three Therapy? records. It doesn’t hang over us anymore.”

A Brief Crack of Light bears this out, with influences stretching everywhere from their traditional sludgy power pop through to krautrock and, perhaps not as surprising as it first sounds, dubstep.

“If you look back to our second EP in 1991, there’s a track on it called ‘Fantasy Bag’ which is 140bpm with the snare on the third, and there’s a dub track on our first major label album, Nurse, in 1992 called ‘Deep Sleep.’

“We always say it’s not so much dubstep as the electronic music thing we took on board. I’m not a fan of the mid-range, popular dubstep – I like the first wave with Digital Mystiks, Code 9, people like that.

“Most people when they’re playing guitar at home will play along with rock records or whatever, but what I tend to do is play along with electronic records. Some of the phrasing on stuff like ‘Plague Bell’ is me playing along to synthesiser lines rather than blues rock lines.”

“We’ve always been listening to other kinds of music. I think if we’d come out just this year with a 12” inch track with a big squiggly mid-range synth line then obviously it would be gimmicky, but I don’t think we’ve done that.”

Another of the record’s standout tracks, ‘Marlow,’ was inspired by a chance encounter with a group of African street musicians while out walking in Cambridge. “We recorded the rhythm on the phone and took it home and wrote some chord progressions and bass lines over it.

“There was a period in the late Nineties, early Noughties when we were considered just an ordinary, bog-standard vanilla rock band for some reason. People are seeing a lot more of a match between what we’re doing now and what we were doing in the beginning.

“‘Why Turbulence’ has a big chanty chorus, but the days of us writing three-and-a-half minute songs like ‘Troublegum’ are past. There are too many bands that cater for that. If you want pop-punk these days, there are thousands of bands out there that are younger and better looking than us.”

Advertisements

Written by Dave

May 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Interviews, Irish

Tagged with , , , ,

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] 2. Therapy? – A Brief Crack of Light (Interview) […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: