Allow us to introduce to you, possibly for the first time, one of the most soothing yet haunting and altogether brilliantly moving artists of the modern day.
Signed to WARP records, Nick Talbot aka Gravenhurst is as far from the image of a maniacal ego driven rockstar as you can imagine yet he still chooses to believe in the old adage, “you’re only as good as the place you’re named after.” Or more accurately “the bigger the place you are named after the worse you band is likely to be.”
“I don’t remember who said it originally,” chuckles Talbot over the telephone from the offices of WARP records. “Portishead are named after a tiny North Somerset town. America are one of the worst bands and Europe are pretty terrible.” This of course leaves Gravenhurst, a tiny civil parish in Bedfordshire, the greatest band ever to have existed. As to whether the band is named after the place is, according to Talbot, something that changes from interview to interview.
An advantage of sharing a record label with some of the most exciting and diverse musicians currently in existence is getting to hear their music before the general public. This is certainly true of Nick who is currently listening to Prefuse 73 pre-release ‘Preperations’, who also cites Robin Allender link and James Bruce as artists currently on his stereo.
Maximo Park aside, Gravenhurst may be the closest thing on WARP records to an' indie rock band' and with the new album The Western Lands they move that ever closer to the genre. “It’s always been my intention to do this. When I sat down with WARP and they asked me where I saw Gravenhurst going this is what I told them.” The Western Lands is Nick Talbot’s most ambitious and rewarding record to date. Backed on this current UK tour with a full live band, it was again just Nick and drummer Dave Collingwood, who recorded the album, also produced by Talbot. “When I met Steve [Beckett, WARP boss] I said I wanted to get ‘bigger’,” and this explains why the airily feather light whisper of Gravenhurst on previous records has now developed into a wall of sound for this his fifth studio album.
Despite casually discussing themes of depth and spiritual ambivalence, Nick is wary of being labelled a political lyricist. The videos for the previous singles mark, as with many WARP artists, a balance between audio quality and a visual potency, hence the importance of the music video to Gravenhurst’s career so far, “When the video for Hollow Men came back we didn’t like it, so we got Thomas Hicks (Trust, Velvet Cell) to do some animation over it. We had the problem that when we gave the track to the director with no instruction, the lyrics were taken too literally, and the video came back politically charged so we gave him an instrumental version but it almost came back with the same symbolism.” Not wanting to be politically overt with anti-war statements helps avoid things getting messy and over complicated with lyrical translations.
Thoughtful music, carefully composed as it is controlled. Gravenhurst’s music has been featured in various film scores and soundtracks but the strangest place was a heavyweight boxing match, “I got a phone call from my Dad, telling me it was on the fight.” The strangest place because of the distinct lack of machoism and aggression. Listening to The Western Lands you become transifixed on the vocal, tales of harlequin romances, mediaeval monikers and of conversations with forestry.
“I get sick at the sound of my own voice,” This is where Gravenhurst is different from most pop stars. “Although it’s a privilege to be asked questions, after ten interviews and four radio shows in a day I begin to hate myself and everything I say.” It’s a strange yet humble phenomenon for a singer.
One of Talbot’s biggest personal achievements of his career so far was to share a bill will Broadcast, “I’d been buying their albums ten years before.” Nick also has something of a side project in Bronnt Kapital Industries, whom he only records with, “it’s quite a strange experience to stand and watch a band you are in play live”, explains Nick, but the dearth of touring and work that goes into Gravenhurst doesn’t allow him to keep up with his other band at the moment.
You can hear the full album The Western lands, released last week on WARP records. You can buy from here: link
See the video for Hollow Men here: