As Patch & The Giant – Luke Owen, Angie Rance, Gabriel Merryfield, Derek Yau, and Nick Harris – get ready to release their debut LP, ‘All That We Had, We Stole’, the indie-folk band tell us about why recording an album is like moving house, stealing from everyone they’ve met, working with producer Nick Trepka, being brought to tears by a vocal harmony, and craft ale.
You’ve spoken of the long “gestation” of your album. When did you start working on it?
In some ways, from the very beginning of the band. We oft say that a band’s first album is in essence always going to be a ‘best of’ up to that point in time and that’s not untrue of our first album. Some of the songs are nearly old enough to sit their GCSEs and were always going to be on the first album but we actively started making it around Easter 2015.
Were there times along the way when you wondered if you’d ever reach this point?
Yes. It’s a bit like moving house, you spend days upon days packing boxes and breathe a big sigh of relief when you’re done, forgetting you’re far from finished and you still need to load the van, drive the van, unload the van, carry all of the boxes up the stairs, and then unpack them. The actual recording part was just packing the boxes and there were definitely times where it was hard to imagine ever completing the process but we got there, I guess step by step. We’ve got a great team of people involved too and have had the opportunity to involve many friends so that’s been something to spur us on to the next step each time. Until the finished product actually arrived though, it still didn’t feel we were ‘there’ yet, though. In fact, we’re not quite sure even now.
Did any of the songs change dramatically along the way?
By the time we went into the studio, we were pretty match fit with the songs in the shape that they were due to be recorded. The biggest contrast is with some of the older songs where we’ve got memories – and recordings in some cases – of the really old arrangements. ‘A Local Man’ we’ve been playing since time began and that is quite quite different to the version we’ve laid down on the record.
How did you – as musicians and as individuals – change along the way?
Well, a few of us got to play instruments we’d never really played – we had Derek on double bass, Nick on banjo, and Angie on the baritone. That was fun. Recording is always a learning process though in some ways, often you approach songs you’ve been hearing and playing for years in a totally new way because of a studio environment. Nick Trepka helped a lot in this respect too – he’d often question whether a certain part or harmony really needed to be there. It’s easy to be defensive and say ‘Of course that bit needs to stay’ but actually when you think about why, often the answer is ‘Because it’s always been there’ rather than because it’s the best sounding option. So I think we all learnt where to recognise these moments and where to let change happen. Also recording is the best possible environment for really listening to each other, properly.
What else did Nick Trepka bring to the process as the producer?
He pushed us and inspired us in exactly the right ways. We spent a lot of time together ahead of recording where we would just listen to music for hours at a time. We called it Music Club, it was just great. It really enabled him to get into our heads, and us with him. It followed that we felt complete trust in him when we actually started the recording process and he was never afraid to tell us when we were doing well and when we could do better. He has a tremendous sense of ambition too that we really needed. He’s also a mightily talented musician and was able to add some beautiful colours throughout vocally and on electric guitar and bass.
In talking about the album’s creation Angie’s mentioned “frisson-rife moments”. Are there any that stand out?
There was one evening, near to the end of recording, where we – Luke, Angie, and Nick Trepka – were holed up in Nick’s studio doing vocal overdubs and we all moved each other to tears through the singing of a certain harmony. Perhaps insanity through sleep deprivation, but it was a beautiful moment and each time we hear it now, it’s hard not to get a little goose pimple. Also here’s an ‘easter-egg’ for you: the birds you hear at the very end of the track are the real birds from that moment. We’d been recording all night and it was soon becoming dawn – we heard the birds tweeting and we just had to capture them. Nick almost dropped hundreds of pounds worth of equipment out of the window in order to do it but we got them, ever-immortalised.
There’s also been mention of the recording sessions being fuelled by “optimism” and “craft ale”. Do you think that working in The Crypt Studio in Crouch End also had an effect on the finished product?
Environmental factors are so important. The Crypt had a lot to do with it. We actually recorded ‘The Boatswain’s Refuge’ EP there too, so, as well as the excitement of making the new record, we had the nostalgia of revisiting our own past whilst recording in a place that has imbibed legends from throughout the decades. For sure, there could have been other places where we’d have made a similar enough record but the precise record we made could only have been there. And the craft ale, that also made it onto the record – for the introduction to ‘Another Day’ we all just hit and banged whatever we were holding at the time, as percussion, including the bottles of beer we were drinking.
So how did creating ‘All That We Had, We Stole’ compare to making ‘The Boatswain’s Refuge’?
The physical process actually bore quite a few similarities: we bought our coffee from the same place, we sat on the same chairs, and even recorded on some of the same microphones. But we were different people – older, fatter, and our instruments with ever so slightly more dents. Recording with Nick was also very different. Ben Walker – who produced the EP – is also, for the record, a brilliant, brilliant musician and producer. It was a different kind of record, though and captures a different side of us. If you’ll allow us to say so, something bolder. We took more risks.
Is there any one song on the album that best sums up what you’re about?
We’d probably all answer this differently. Tricky. Perhaps ‘Another Day’? It has a lot of personality in it from each of us individually throughout its different moments and then together where we bring it all together in our best efforts to create a music-hall melee of different melodies and instruments.
This is a bit on the nose. Sorry. But who did you steal from?
Everybody we’ve ever met, in some way. But if you want examples, the website For Folk’s Sake ran a series of features, each week detailing something we’d stolen. Watch your pockets, folks.
- For the latest on Patch & The Giant, visit www.patchandthegiant.com. ‘All That We Had, We Stole’ is released on 10 February 2017.