The whimsical, striking and always engrossing journey of Grasscut took another twist earlier this year.
New album 'Everyone Was A Bird' made its bow via Lo Recordings, an engrossing, artful work which seemed utterly English in every respect. Out now, Grasscut are set to host a special album launch party at London venue Electrowerkz on June 8th.
A deeply literate pair - the band's Marcus O'Dair recently wrote a wonderful Robert Wyatt biography, for instance - the duo are the perfect candidates for Their Library.
Grasscut's Andrew Phillips agreed to let Clash rummage through the contents of his bookshelf.
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What is your favourite book and why?
At the moment my favourite book is A Shepherd’s Life by WH Hudson, an Argentinian born ornithologist and naturalist who helped found the RSPB. Hudson is wandering around Wiltshire talking to people about their memories of their lives as shepherds in the 19th century. There are moments in it when he conjures up the presence of the long dead in the manner of A Canterbury Tale, or The Edge Of The World, and explains to people like me why we are electrified by such things. Brilliant.
What other authors do you like?
I read a lot of poetry: Wallace Stevens, George Oppen, Eliot, Pound… I don’t read that many novels, but I love landscape writing: Nan Shepherd, Robert Macfarlane, JA Baker, HWTilman, Francis Spufford, WG Sebald. What draws you to certain books? A sense of place, atmosphere, clarity of writing. I’m always staggered by good writers’ ability to hold detail and structure together.
Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
I certainly didn’t discover it, but I’m very proud to have a first edition of Frank O’Hara’s ‘Lunch Poems’, published by the legendary City Lights in the 1960s. They were all written in O’Hara’s lunch hour in New York. Whenever I’m lucky enough to be in New York having lunch, I think of him.
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
Definitely. Especially the poetry – the careful and specific use of words. And again, trying to balance detail and structure. I read a collection of contemporary landscape poetry called ‘The Ground Aslant’ while writing and recording ‘Everyone Was A Bird’, which definitely influenced me. As did the poems of Hedd Wyn, a Welsh poet killed in the First World War, who lived in Trawsfynydd, where a lot of the album is set.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading ‘The Conversations: Walter Murch and The Art Of Editing Film’ by Michael Ondaatje.It’s the most incredible wide ranging discussion, and I’m obsessed with Murch at the moment – the original sound designer, editor, and all round genius.
What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
Tintin In Tibet.
Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
Oh yes. Not always for books, though. There was a substantial vinyl collection.
Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish?
A few. If I’m not really into it after 100 pages, I get Sam Raimi montage-style visions of egg timers flying through the air and the sands of time running out, and I give up. I do tend to have pretty strong reactions. ‘We Need To Talk about Kevin’ did not go well.
Do you read book reviews?
Sometimes. I read some of the reviews of Marcus’s Robert Wyatt book. Thankfully they were excellent.
Would you ever re-read the same book?
Yes. I’ve read JA Baker’s ‘The Peregrine’ three times. And MR James’ Collected Ghost Stories many times. They contain things that stay with you, and draw you back.
Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
I’ve often wished I was there climbing with HW Tilman in the 1930s, when reading his Seven Mountain Travel Books. I don’t know about identify with… maybe Captain Haddock.
Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
I’ve often got something fiction or poetry going on alongside some non-fiction, and I’ll flit between the two every few days.
Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
Well we’ve collaborated with Robert MacFarlane on this album in the sense that he wrote the liner notes, and I’d love to work more with him.
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'Everyone Was A Bird' is out now. Catch Grasscut at London's Electrowerkz on June 8th - tickets.