In Conversation: Lonely The Brave

The true story of their against-all-odds second album...

There’s a phrase in music called ‘building by architecture’ – essentially, it explores how a band or artist’s sound changes as they grow more successful. Larger venues, so the theory goes, build a larger sound.

Lonely The Brave have enjoyed more than a little success. Debut album ‘The Day War’ exceeded all expectations, coming within a slither of hitting the Top Ten and earning the band a huge cult following. So, in true ‘building by architecture’ spirit, they moved up a notch for album number two: to a barn, no less.

“It’s bang in Fenn country – we went into a barn in the middle of a field,” explains bass guitarist Andrew Bushen about the band’s new base. “They try and get us out the city because we'd be out every night… and we can't do that any more.”

“We'd be rubbish living in London,” laughs drummer Gavin Edgely. “Love coming down here, now and again, but we'd be rubbish living in it. It's always been music made in barns, in the countryside, away from distractions.”

Age, and experience, is always a factor with Lonely The Brave. They’re certainly not old, not by any standards, but they’ve been around, made their mistakes, and learned from them. It gives their music a real depth, a sense of assurance that this is exactly what they want to be doing.

New album ‘Things Will Matter’ underlines this. Ross Orton steps in on production, a figure whose credits veer from hip-hop to Arctic Monkeys without blinking an eye. “He's got a very diverse catalogue,” explains Gavin. “The people he's worked with have been from all genres of music. So it's always interesting to see what someone who's worked with a lot of different types of artists can do. But as soon as we met him and had a chat about what we were going to do everything seemed to click in place.”

“It wasn't easy… by any stretch of the imagination,” adds Andrew. “Because he knows what we wants, and he knows what he wants to get out of you. We were pushed to the limits. I cried a lot, to be fair. But it shows in the record that we put everything into it… physically, mentally. It was a real test for us. I wouldn't change it for the world. I loved working with him.”

– – –

– – –

Contrary to rock star mythos, Lonely The Brave approach making music as a job, as something to be taken very seriously; the hours are long, it seems, but the benefits are there for all to see. “We would go in four days out of five,” says Gavin. “Which doesn't sound much like a very long week when you've been in the building trade. But we stuck to it. Getting in about 9 or 10 in the morning and then working through. Keeping it quite regimental.”

“We had to definitely turn up at this time, and then we'd stay to this time. And hopefully get something done in between… apart from tea breaks.”

Methodically building up each new track, sessions were an intense journey through styles and techniques. “We'd definitely go weeks without actually having anything… we'd be turning round and saying: don't really fancy it, do you? No. Stick it on the scrapheap,” admits Andrew. “Especially 'What If You Fall In' on the record – that was an idea that we've had for a long time, that we couldn't whip into shape. But we're quite well behaved in terms of actually knuckling down and getting some work done. A lot better than we would have been a few years ago, I suppose.”

The addition of Ross Orton seemed to provide Lonely The Brave with a much-needed outside voice, with the producer allowed free rein to de-construct the band’s music. “He's got a very good ear for structuring songs,” Gavin insists. “Obviously, the way we've tended to write we don't tend to have repeating choruses a lot of the time, and he seems to have a knack of doing it without it turning into a traditional pop song.”

“When he talks, we listen,” the bass player states. “The songs we thought were ready, he told me to do something else, and I done it. It was like that for the whole recording process. He knows what he's talking about.”

The new ideas weren’t the sole preserve of the producer, however – each member of the band felt a keen need to evolve. “We don't want to be a stagnant band,” Andrew argues. “There's nothing wrong with the level we got to, but you have to expand and progress – musically, and live. It's like, if you continue playing the same venues then somewhere down the line you'll be stuck in a comfortable rutt that you don't want to be out of. I think sonically, and just musically we had to expand.”

“And for our own sanity, as well. Like you say, I couldn't do that thing of just doing the same thing over and over again. It's just nice to have more songs to choose from for the set, and more varied songs.”

– – –

…you have to expand and progress – musically, and live.

– – –

‘Things Will Matter’ is driven by dynamic shifts, by an increased control of what LOUD and quiet actually mean. It’s something that the band has consciously studied, as Andrew admits. “Getting the dynamic between the louder moments and the quieter moments,” he says. “Obviously, it's there on the debut but I guess it's moved on a bit as well. Having two guitarists on the record, having Ross Orton on there, and just trying to make everything…”

Gavin starts to laugh: “Panasonic?”

Andrew cracks up as well: “Panoramic! Making the most interesting record we could, as well.”

They’ve certainly come close. With ‘Things Will Matter’ out on record shelves, Lonely The Brave are in London for a quick, intimate show at the Lexington before hopping back in the van. “It's strange,” Andrew says. “If I was younger, in my early 20s or late teens, I would have moved straight here… if we'd have taken off as a band back then. I'd have loved that life when I was younger. But I can't do that now. I can't get away with it. I think we've all built our lives around living in Cambridge, really. It's difficult to change that now. I think we all like it, as much as anything else.”

“What makes London so fresh for me, personally, is that I can enjoy it,” adds Gavin. “I can enjoy it for two, three nights at a time, and then still get back out into the country. Which is like 45 minutes on the train. It takes people longer to get from one end of London to the other!”

And with that, Clash hops back out into the cold London night, waiting for a bus that seems to be taking its time getting to where it should be. As we swipe our oyster card and sit at the back for a little extra warmth, we can’t help but feel jealous of Lonely The Brave, of their country life, of their barn, and their new album.

– – –

– – –

'Things Will Matter' is out now.

Buy Clash Magazine

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.