Dublin band Come On Live Long release their long awaited debut album Everything Fall this Friday. Robert Ardiff, Steve Battle, Louise Gaffney, David O’Connor and Ken McCabe have taken their time crafting the 10 songs in this collection, recorded by Gavin Glass and engineered by Scott Halliday at Orphan Studios in Dublin. I interviewed Louise about what took them so long, how they’ve changed as a band, and why “in the end we’re all in it to have a good time”. You can listen to the album in full over at Nialler9. (Pictures by Brid O’Donovan.)
First of all congrats on Everything Fall. Are there a lot of nerves among the band members ahead of its release on Friday?
I suppose at this stage it’s more a feeling of excitement. It feels like we have been waiting impatiently for such a long time to get this album out there. I think it will be a massive relief and a real sense of finally getting to enjoy the fruits of a year’s work.
You seem to have taken things relatively slow, with only two EPs over a couple of years before releasing this album. Was it a conscious decision to take things that slowly, to take your time making the record?
I’m not sure if it was a conscious decision starting out, but I do know that we wanted to get the album as close to our version of ‘right’ as possible so I guess taking our time was a natural off-shoot of that.The more you work on something, the more important the smaller details become too. So time kind of gets swallowed up that way.
Tell me about the recording process: Did you have all the songs written and ready to go before you hit the studio or were there blank spaces that needed to be filled in? What was working with Gavin Glass like?
I think a lot of the material was written before we hit the studio. Some of the tracks were at a level where they were ready to go, others needed fleshing out. We had some confused material I guess too, stuff we needed other ears on. We actually ended up not using two of the tracks we had recorded as they just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the album. Hopefully we will get to release them as an EP at some point.
In terms of blank spaces, a lot of that got filled in with Conor [Gaffney, Louise’s brother] who produced and mixed the album. We spent a good chunk of time working very closely with him to add to tracks that needed a nudge in the right direction. ‘Little Ones’ and ‘Cybil’ are perfect examples of that. Both very stripped down, but yet have just the right amount of flourish to make them something a bit different. Working with Gav and Scott (engineer) was a lovely experience. They have a really relaxed vibe in the studio where their emphasis is on getting a great performance rather than a fixing takes later. Personally I felt really at ease there, especially recording vocal takes because that can be nerve wrecking,
The big thing I noticed about Everything Fall compared to the Mender EP is how much space each song has. There’s less of a kitchen sink mentality to it. Is that a fair assessment? Did you decide that we actually don’t need a hundred things going on at once?
That is a very fair assessment. I think it’s something we all learned from making the album. There are times when a song calls for balls-out, throwing everything at it and then there are times to be reserved and to try to cherry pick the right elements to capture a mood. That’s where a lot of time was spent in mixing with Conor. You need that fresh set of ears and he is very good at knowing when something is working or not. You have to be ruthless with it; just because something is recorded doesn’t mean it has to stay on the track. Sometimes less is more or another new sound might work better.
Do you think that COLL is a much different band to the one who made those early EPs in 2011? Are you much more comfortable now?
I suppose we have changed. We’re getting better at knowing what we want to do and we have tonnes more material to choose from now, whereas those early EPs, especially the first one, were kind of all we had at the time. I’m not sure if we are more comfortable as such, as I think that element of uncertainty can be a really good thing. But it is a great relief to finally have a body of work that we feel we didn’t make any compromises on and it makes playing live shows incredibly enjoyable. There’s always a new tune on our setlist that everyone just cant wait to play!
Was there a point or a series of points over the past two years where you’ve felt like COLL had really moved up a gear?
Just recently we played a secret line-up gig for Nialler9 and Le Cool in Christchurch. I think we all agree it has been our most enjoyable experience to date. We had an amazing reaction to the gig and definitely got just as much enjoyment out of playing in such a special place.
How did the band actually come together? Had ye been in other bands previously?
Well three of us had been in a band together before COLL. Myself, Rob and Steve were in a folky band called Ardiff. I was in a funk band too at the time with Ken who is our bass player. Dotts and I are both from Boyle, Roscommon, Rob and Ken grew up in the same place too. So we had a lot going for us!
What influences made it onto the album. What were you listening to while writing it?
It is very hard to do a post-mortem on the album to decipher what influences went on there because I’m pretty sure we were all listening to different things and these things are rarely intentional. An easy answer would have been that we had a tune that very clearly celebrated Paul Simon’s Graceland but unfortunately it didn’t make it onto the album. I can only really speak for myself and I guess ‘Little Ones’ has a James Blake vibe to it – that’s what a lot of people say when they hear that track.
Nialler9 has called you one of the best live bands in Ireland. Is it strange having such praise laid at your feet? How do you find the Irish music scene? Is it helpful? Is there a sense of competition?
We are incredible flattered because it’s very high praise indeed and we are only back gigging regularly for a month or two now. I have been loving it though. But I guess that’s half the battle, when we are enjoying ourselves so much it must be a little infectious. The Irish music scene has been very good to us, and it’s a vibrant one at the moment. There is a massive amount of great Irish music out there and there is an attitude where everyone helps each other out. I’ve never felt a sense of competition. In the end we’re all in it to have a good time.
Finally what aspirations do you have for the album, or are you only thinking about release day at the moment?
I just hope people enjoy it. It’s always seemed like a bit of a big deal for us to get an album out there so we are going to do everything we can to enjoy the moment. I also hope it’s something we can really build on. It’s mad, as soon as you get finished on it, all of a sudden we have this urge to write new stuff – which is fantastic!
Come On Live Long release Everything Fall on Live Long Records this Friday, July 5. You’ll be able to get it from their Bandcamp page.