Let's get this straight: 2016 has been a hell of a year.
It's been a year dominated by Brexit and Trump, by the death of legends, by spiralling conflict in the Middle East and the ensuing migrant crisis.
So when Novella settled down to craft a new album they couldn't help channelling some of their thoughts and feelings about the world around them into their music.
Working with producer James Hoare - Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting - at a Victorian House in Stoke Newington, the group allowed their ideas to flow forth.
New album 'Change Of State' emerges early next year, with Clash able to premiere the intense, lysergic, and politicised title cut.
Check it out below, then find a Q&A with Novella after the jump.
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Debut album ‘Land Gone’ was only released last year – was the intention always to get back to work quickly? Is this the natural pace of the band?
Sophy: It’s interesting you should say that. We’ve always felt that it takes us a bit longer to brew than other artists as we try to work together as much as possible, instead of one person taking the lead. By the time the record is released in February 2017, it will have almost been the obligatory two-year second album gap so I’m not sure how speedy we are in reality. Maybe (if anything) the fact that we wrote and recorded almost simultaneously, and didn’t over-demo, sped things along a tiny wee bit.
Hollie: We also had a pretty good idea after finishing ‘Land’ how we wanted to record the next record. ‘Land’ was totally written and all parts worked out ahead of recording, including some songs that had been written years beforehand, and then entirely recorded in seven very cold days in January in a windowless studio. We were pretty keen to get writing and recording new songs after we’d finished promoting ‘Land’, and to try to record and write differently to last time. In stark contrast to ‘Land’, we recorded this second record in a bedroom between June through to October whilst watching the summer unfold and turn into autumn, which couldn’t have been a more different writing and recording process.
You worked with James Hoare, do you feel a kindred spirit there? What does he bring to the album process?
Sophy: For sure. James has a great, natural ear for what sounds good and always steered us away from over-complicating things or putting unnecessary parts down. I think, along with the process itself, he helped us produce a record of songs as opposed to ‘sounds’.
Suki: A musician’s recording studio will always have their identity embossed on it: They’ve built up this collection of great gear, they’ve got a room full of analogue equipment that they know really well, for example. The stripped back method brought out a really honest reflection of us as a band; that has its finger in the past but is primarily a product of the present. I think this record would have been completely different if we’d gone and did it with someone else. This time it felt more intimate.
You were writing and recording at the same time, which must provide a certain immediacy. What does this bring out of the band? Is it testing to continually be pushed to create anew?
Sophy: Absolutely, but I’m not sure that’s any different from writing everything before you hit record. I think going in without having it all fine-tuned actually took the pressure off to a certain extent and forced us to think about what the songs needed as opposed to what we all thought we should be doing as individuals.
Hollie: Yeah, and in some ways I think it’s good to have that self-imposed pressure. Towards the end of the recording time we thought we’d got to the end of recording all the songs that we needed for the album, but James pushed us to try to write more and fit in another recording session, which we did and they without a doubt turned out to be our favourite and perhaps strongest tracks on the album. We needed that pressure to push ourselves.
Suki: We’ve always tried to keep things spontaneous, and often that’s found using the original recordings from our practice sessions and yes, as Hollie said, we need pressure. It can be challenging when you are writing with a band… But over time I think we have slowly developed a very good working method with each other.
The recording techniques were sparse – an 8-track in a Victorian house – were you seeking an unadorned sound? What do you gain from this?
Sophy: We were after the authenticity and warmth you can get from recording with analogue equipment and I think the sparsity was more of a side-effect than an intention. Only having 8 tracks to play with meant we had to edit ourselves quite a bit, but we could bounce things together to free up a channel when we needed it (and honestly it wasn’t that often). I constantly reminded myself that this was how almost every band or artist recorded until the 1980s…if it was good enough for The Beatles, right? What we gained was what feels like a really honest record; we had nowhere to hide.
Suki: The tape machine played a key part in us getting towards the kind of sound we were after. You can just hear the difference. We wanted to stay away from that clinical and lifeless feeling that you get with digital recording. We were all bored of fiddling with effects rather committing to something for an actual song and move on. Another thing about working on these machines is that there is no screen to look at. You’re purely just concentrating on listening rather than looking at sound waves on a screen.
The album title ‘Change Of State’ has political resonance in this most dystopian of years. Was this on purpose? How did current affairs bleed into the album sessions?
Sophy: We started writing the album properly in March which (with hindsight...) was a relatively optimistic time. A lot of people didn’t see any of these events coming, including us! so whilst they started off as songs about struggles in a grand context, they easily adapted themselves to become about specific events as the year unfolded in to what it’s become; a massive turd of a year. Hollie: Without a doubt, the content of this album has become a reflection of and commentary on the unfolding events of this, but I wouldn’t say it was a deliberate effort – we didn’t set out to write an overtly political album, but in the end it was hard not to.
‘Change Of State’ (the track) is a remarkable first offering – what do you remember about writing this? Was this one of the album’s easier moments, or was it difficult to get right?
Sophy: This track had a few lives in our practice room before it evolved in to the album track. We’d been jamming it for about six months and it turned in to something exciting when Suki added a great bass-line and everything else fell in to place. It wasn’t difficult exactly but there was a lot of trial and error.
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Novella will release new album 'Change Of State' on February 17th.