Track By Track: Thumpers – ‘Whipped & Glazed’

Alt-pop duo discuss their fascinating new album...

Thumpers are one of the most creative pop groups in the country.

The duo – Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr. – released debut album 'Galore' back in 2014, a collection of sugar-sweet hymns that prompted a lengthy bout of touring.

Heading back into the studio, the pair quickly found their stride, escaping the shadow of their debut LP to craft some beguiling alt-pop hymns.

New album 'Whipped & Glazed' is the result. Out now, it's a dexterous, flexible, ever-evolving return, with Thumpers continually pushing themselves further and further.

Check it out now, then read a specially prepared track by track guide from Marcus and John…

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World Removed
MARCUS: At one point the name of the album, this is a song that we wrote in two parts. The outro vocals date back to the very beginning of Thumpers as a project, when the plan was still to write sad power ballads with loud drums instead of guitar solos. The first part was written much more recently and lyrically is like an ironic update on all the touring that we’ve done in-between. It’s a cliché that bands on their second album only write about un-relatable stuff like how difficult touring life is and this is meant to be a bit of a send-up of that – while also succumbing to it too.

JOHN: The record was made in two big six month chunks, with a six month break between the sessions to play shows/reflect and this was one of the first things that came around in the second half of recording, and definitely felt like one of those rare moments in the studio where things come together in a really exciting way. The transition to the outro section and then how that section works as a rhythmical counterpoint to the first half was really fun to experiment with.

MARCUS: I recorded the demo arrangement of this pretty quickly just before we played in New York and I remember walking around the city listening to it with this swagger before it had even any words. The final lyrics are about this masculine yearning to feel more significant just by putting on a lot of muscle, like being muscular actually has anything to do with it. I think you’ve got to exist in a pretty contradictory place between vanity and supposed machismo to want to make yourself that large. I know that place.

JOHN: After 'Galore' came out, we kind of realised that a lot of our rough edges had been sanded away so with this we really want to push it harder and further, making the distorted riff brasher and then any lush parts lighter and brighter. We were always supposed to be about very heavy sounds and very gorgeous sounds and i think with this we got a bit closer to that.

JOHN: We definitely made a conscious decision to use more guitar on this record as it was a bit under-used on 'Galore' and it's such an expressive, infinitely adaptable instrument that we shied away from using before. This was kind of about embracing that.

MARCUS: I had wanted to write to write a song about childish jealousy for a while and when Jack and I recorded the instrumental for this it seemed like a great sugary vehicle for making fun of that. It’s about seeing your ex in an ice cream parlour and having, um, a meltdown.

Wolf Ways
MARCUS: This was the first full lyric written for the album and set the tone for the record as both way more detailed and cartoon-ish than we had ever let ourselves be before. The details are in the description of a conversation I had while touring 'Galore' with someone about what a musician’s life was like. I was amazed by how dismissive she was of it. She still wanted all the outward excitement of affairs and drinking though. Just without the instability and actual risk-taking of it all.

MARCUS: 'Caramel' is a post-break-up song about choosing the easy road; staying in touch with the ghost of a romance at the cost of getting on with your life. It wasn’t necessarily part of the plan to include talk about food so much on this record but as a substitute for feeling it can’t be beat.

That Waterfall
JOHN: Another from the second batch of songs we recorded, and one that owes a debt to Jurassic 5/J Dilla and those kind of influences. The riff and how it works with the synth part, pulling it out of itself and the feeling it gives you was something we really tried to push. It's quite simple in its execution hopefully.

MARCUS: You know that drinking game Waterfall? Where you can’t stop drinking until the person next to you does? It’s like the embodiment of peer pressure. What’s the difference between the heavy drinking that I (and maybe you) do and the heavily drunk, friendless person you always seem to see in a bar on a new years eve? Just the friendless part. So thank fuck for them.

Life All In
MARCUS: I love this short story collection 'Break It Down' by Lydia Davis. The title story is about a man trying to come to terms with the real cost of his past failed relationship – desperately weighing emotional distress against financial costs – and this song is about and directly inspired by that same over-thinking tendency.

JOHN: This song is about 10 years old maybe and actually was rehearsed in our old band a few times. We also recorded it in the very first batch of songs of Thumpers but it was never quite right until i accidentally found a piano version of it that Marcus had done and then it just clicked. We wanted it to be woozy and wonky and underwater… weirdly almost has 90's R&B chords on it somehow.

MARCUS: One central point of inspiration for this album’s themes was an argument I had where I was accused of being a typical man in a relationship. I still don’t know what that means exactly but I wanted this song to be a vignette, from another perspective, of the kind of silent, regret-filled, gender-defined restaurant setting that made the insult sting.

JOHN: Probably my favourite song on the record and opened the album until we wrote 'World Removed'… The demo was pretty fully formed and loved that trick it plays on your with the time signature going into the second half. The snaps on it are table tennis paddles – there are no hand-claps on this record!

Boundary Loves
MARCUS: The idea behind 'Boundary Loves' was to write about our old neighbourhood – Boundary Estate in east London, where Jack and I lived for years – as though it was a lover cheating on us with newer, richer residents. It’s deliberately delusional and overly possessive; of course we were part of that gentrification process when we moved in and no neighbourhood owes it to its tenants to stay the same forever. So we’re laughing at our own expense here. For thinking of it as a love affair that would last.

JOHN: Always loved songs in this hi-hat triplet beat so we had lots of little demos of ideas, with this one originally being used on a remix we did, but knew we'd always turn it into a song of ours. It kicked around for a few years until we were happy with the song we'd written over it and then finished recording it in these album sessions.

Shot Through
JOHN: All of our recordings up until this point were made up of lots of loops of drums, but this song needed a more played feel to it so there's no looping on this one, and think it gives it a more fluid and evolving feeling. It was meant to feel a bit more unsure and less forceful which went with the tone of the song better. Definitely some little mistakes here and there we left in on this one.

MARCUS: This song is about sending props to one of my friends, whose past heartbreaks have only made her stronger. She’s not cynical or hard-hearted as a result of them, she hasn’t shut herself off, instead if anything she’s let her friends see how much she’s been hurt and she’s moved on. It’s a quality that contrasts so strongly with the (or my) male insecurities that make up some of the other songs on the record so it seemed like a good final word on the album.

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'Whipped & Glazed' is out now.

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