On April 1st the wonderful Coves release their second album Peel, the follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut Soft Friday. Peel is arguably a more ambitious and certainly a more confident sounding affair than their debut. It still contains the duo’s predisposition towards shoegazey tinged glitter , replete with John Ridgard‘s wonderful guitar embellishments, but it also hones their pop sensibilities. The results are quite beautiful as singer Beck Wood peels off her imperious, ice maiden persona to deliver a fabulously emotive vocal performance as Coves embrace a fuller more rounded sound. Peel reflects the changes in the duo’s lives since writing Soft Friday. Both have relocated to London and Peel touches on how they’ve adapted to life in ‘the smoke’ detailing the ups, the downs underpinned by a desire for escape, to seek refuge from the often turbulent extremes of life in the big city.
The album is also a testament to how much Coves have grown as songwriters, musicians and performers and it really does sound like a band happy in their own skin, discovering their own sound with style, confidence and swagger. Songs such as latest single ‘You’re Evil’ which sees Beck on sparkly spiky form aiming her invective at “people that I used to know who shat on my dreams or were two-faced” (shat is such a great word) It’s a driving slice of guitar-driven pop noir, as is the rollicking album opener ‘Cadavelier.’ ‘To The Sea’ sees Coves switch gears and has echoes of The Passions lost classic ‘Hunted’ whilst ‘So Empty’ makes misery sound almost like an indulgent guilty pleasure. Album closer ‘Tongue Ties’ is possibly their finest song to date, an elegant, yearning emotionally honest woozy three minutes and twenty seconds of Mazzy Star-style gorgeousness. Coves have once again delivered a majestic, emotive, occasionally experimental, melodically rich album which pretty much ticks all our musical boxes
We had a chat with John and Beck, who were in fine form and could certainly give Reeves and Mortimer a run for their money :)
VP: So your new album ‘Peel’ is out next week, and I imagine as with Soft Friday there’s a deep profound existential meaning behind the album title?
Beck : There is , well actually there are a few meanings .. for example when we are on tour we do rather like an orange, and sometimes we’d buy one and it would be quite a difficult peel ! This is despite the packet clearly saying “easy peel,”… Or you could say this is us peeling away our layers to reveal the juicy pulp !
John : To be quite honest we were pushed into a corner really. Originally we wanted to call the album ‘Deep Quiche” but they wouldn’t let us do that … which is a shame because we could have done a Bee Gees style tribute song ‘how deep is your quiche?’
VP : And the album artwork looks pretty cool -very MC Escher ?
Beck: Exactly, that was the inspiration , I was wondering what to do for the cover I’d always loved surrealism and had been to an Escher exhibition. I thought it would look really good if I could pull it off and draw us both in the Escher style.
John: Erm, Beck you’re meant to say you’ve never heard of him in case they come after us with a lawsuit .
Beck : Yeah so I basically nicked it , I’m a bit crap with names but Escher stood out as he’s an artist and an MC !
VP: So how did recording ‘Peel’ differ from the way you recorded your debut album ?
John : It was different although we started off in the same way demoing the album , but then we took it into the studio with a producer, Cam Blackwood and recorded it all in two weeks which was completely different to the way we did ‘Soft Friday’. We met Cam through Beck’s voice coach who is also his wife , and he came to a few gigs and said he’d like to work with us .
Beck :It was great and a big learning curve and I think it shows in the sound which is defiantly more polished .
VP: And as a vocalist you sound much more confident and less scary and vengeful ….
Beck : Wait till we do it live, I’ll be evil , you’ll be in tears … but thanks yeah I can sing now. On Soft Friday, I’d never really sang before so everything was pretty new and I wasn’t sure what I was doing.
VP: Did the praise Soft Friday garnered give you the confidence to experiment and really distil down and find own sound?
Beck: Well, we wrote Soft Friday like, a year before we were signed and as I’ve said I’d never sang seriously before, I wasn’t sure what things were supposed to sound like in the studio. This album is who we are now with everything we’ve learned and all our experiences to date.
John : To be honest because of the praise for the first album, it scared the crap out of me writing the second album! I mean the first one, it seemed like we had started it for fun, and could kind of please ourselves, but this time, I was thinking ‘oh my god people are gonna review this!’ And so, being the eternal optimist every time I started writing something new I had this mental image of a “1 Star album review !”
VP: Soft Friday was classed as a kind of breakup album, what would you say the underlying themes of Peel are?
Beck : Because we’d both separately moved to London, it’s more about our experiences settling in, our lack of money living here, reflecting on the changes in our lives. I didn’t want to write about past relationships particularly but I guess they creep into your subconscious, maybe on one song at least, but the rest is more about our lives and day to day emotions.
John: Yeah I mean moving to London is a lot more extreme than living in Leamington Spa. Back there everything was a comfortable “Ok,” people would say ‘how’s your day?’ and we’d be .. “yeah it’s alright I suppose “…But in London everything is so f**king extreme – you either have really good days …or really bad days, it’s such a panic attack of a city!
VP: So have you both settled in ?
John : Um, well not really I mean some days I love it, other days I really hate it and JUST WANT EVERYONE TO CHILL OUT !!!
Beck: And the cost of living here ? Man, you would not believe how skint we are , I’ve got two f**king jobs, I did have three and I’m still skint !
John: I did try to live off the band, I managed to do if for eight months before it became impossible, I had never been so skint in my life! I was living on two boiled eggs a day and I was actually turning yellow, so I had to get back to work -I couldn’t do it anymore.
VP: You’ve described Peel as residing somewhere between fury and misery ?
John : Yeah I suppose it is .. Beck is usually more optimistic than me, which isn’t difficult as I’m generally negative about , well everything really … Beck will be like ‘Oh this will be good fun’ and I’m like – no, no it won’t it’ll be totally shit and I know I’ll hate it !
VP: How do you go about songwriting together, ever had any huge disagreements over a song ?
John: Generally I’ll come up with a rough song and give it to Beck and see what she comes up with and then we piece it all together and work out what’s best.
Beck: I don’t think me and John really disagree over music , we normally disagree over the big stuff like cheese and wine , I mean we’ve had huge rows over cheese and wine!
VP: Let’s take a couple of songs from the album, for example ‘By The Sea’ , what inspired that particular tune, it’s fairly upbeat and there’s even some jaunty whistling ? Have Coves gone all Roger Whittaker ?
John: [laughing] Yeah that’s me whistling on it but I don’t think I’ll try that live. It was written on a summers day, when I was feeling uncharacteristically optimistic , no really deep meaning behind it…..
VP: Ok then what about ‘So Empty’ surely the intense smouldering melancholy masks a far deeper meaning ?
Beck: Well it’s about being really hungry to be honest, quite literally empty !
John : Yeah people we’re saying that’s a pretty deep thing to say, being so empty… and I was like not really! It was written after a few large nights out – we’d had our manager James Endecott’s birthday party and then Beck’s the day after. I had one of those horrible, shivery hangovers when you’re so ill you can’t even go out for food , so basically yeah, it’s about being really hungry!! We should lie about this really shouldn’t we? And assign a deep meaning to ‘So Empty’
Beck : We should , Ok …. some days I feel like a valley – so empty !
VP: So you both met while working at a music venue in Leamington Spa , what made you start writing together was it simply a shared love of love of music and cheese and wine ?
Beck: Yeah we met working at the Assembly in Leamington Spa and I said “hey John you like Cheese and wine, I like cheese and wine let’s start a band, we can write lots of music and put cheese and wine on our rider “
John: Yeah, we decided to combine our love of music with cheese and wine and initially started out writing wine reviews set to music, but it didn’t turn out too well so we changed the lyrics.
When we first recorded together I didn’t give Beck a chance I just set up the mic and said, ‘go on then, sing’ and as she’d never sung before she did this really odd high pitch voice and I was like ‘woah’ and then when she tried it lower I was like , wow this is like Mazzy Star.
Beck : Back then if John made the slightest movement I’d stop singing thinking I was doing it wrong , in fact if he even looked at me I’d stop… but of course I’m fine now ! I don’t really get nervous about going on stage as such, but I get nervous about losing the words as I’m really dyslexic and the words just fall out of my head all the time.
John: The one time I got really nervous was when we played the sold out Roundhouse gig supporting Saint Vincent. I mean it just looked massive from the stage. But when you gig a lot the nerves do go away and you get used to it. We’ve had some great gigs, Chicago with The Raveonettes was amazing.
Beck: And the Club NME night for The Camden Crawl was great at Koko, everybody was really really pissed, on each other’s shoulders and started singing the songs back to us and I was like ‘you don’t even know the songs,’ but they really got into it !
John: Ah yeah that was amazing, I thought it would be awful, playing a club night at 1 in the morning everybody pissed just wanting to listen to Oasis, but when we came on everybody went mental
VP: So the album’s out April 1st , lots of tour dates planned ?
Beck : We’re gonna play lots of festivals I hope, doing The Great Escape soon, and hopefully get up North very soon.
VP: Finally, five words to describe the album
John: Ok, I wanted these to be really good ones, but unfortunately the first word that popped into my head was “beans!” … The album has a kind of split personality …so let’s think ….
Beck : Bipolar !! OK how about ‘ bigger, bolder, brighter, bipolar .. erm beans.’
John : Bigger, brighter,bolder bi-polar beans on your musical toast
VP: That’s one hell of a tagline
John : That’s going on the PR !!
‘Peel’ is released on 1965 Records and can ordered HERE
- You’re Evil
- Tripping Over Lust
- To The Sea
- See Me Love Me
- I Just Don’t Care
- So Empty
- I’m Not Here
- Tongue Ties
6th April Victoria Dalston, London
9th April Dim Swn Festival Cardiff
May The Great Escape Festival Brighton
11th June Field Day London
11th July Brixton Academy w Pixies London