Interview: Eagulls Talk New Album, Recording in A Church

On May 18, 2016

by Jordan J. Michael

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Simply, Eagulls is a UK band from Leeds that makes guitar rock. And the five 27-year-old-or-so-somethings that make the music may be on the shy side when it comes to personal questions from strangers.

“We keep to ourselves, but we’re not introverts,” said vocalist George Mitchell. “As a band, we just do it. People ask us personal questions and it’s alien because we, as a band, rarely talk about the things that these people ask about. People want to understand, and I get that, but we don’t like talking about ourselves. Mainly, we’re here to write music for people to enjoy.”

Regardless of any awkwardness, Mitchell embraced the VMP call and explained some things about new album, Ullages--which we're carrying this month in the member's store-- while being crammed into the back of an Uber car in NYC with a guitar on his lap and his lads sitting in close proximity; his bandmates eventually carried Mitchell down the street to Rough Trade NYC when the Uber stopped.

“I wish I could show you this nonsense right now,” Mitchell said, threatening to call back on Facetime. “It’s rather funny.”

Vinyl Me, Please: What’s the significance of the scarecrows on Ullages’ album cover? Did you take the picture?

George Mitchell: There’s this photographer named Pete Mitchell — sadly, I have no relation to the man — and we saw that photo at one of his exhibitions. We never asked him about an album cover, the idea just kind of came up in conversation. It’s a win-win; his scarecrow series works for the album. The moral image fits the body of work. It’s perfect, really.

Ullages is slower, groovier than your first album. Was this a conscious change?

It was unspoken. It happened subconsciously in a natural way.

The density and ominous gloom of Ullages recalls the Cure or Cocteau Twins. What are your influences?

Maybe not the Cure…all of us have varied musical taste. We all like different stuff, and that’s quite strange.

Your first LP was critically acclaimed. Does that mean anything to you?

We don’t care much for critical acclaim. We didn’t write that term, but people enjoyed the record. Of course, we care about our fans, but we have no control over what they think. End of the day, music is public art. You either stand there and enjoy it for a while, or keep walking to the next piece. I find similarities between physical art and music all the time. Like, yeah, it’s just a still picture, but that picture could be playing out in the artist’s head.

Your guitarist, Liam Matthews, said that getting stuck in a comfort zone could be bad. You pushed yourselves for Ullages, did you feel a lot of stress?

Liam Matthews: Yes, it was stressful, but in a good way. If you’re not lazy, it ends up being appreciated; you strived to better yourself. Doing the same thing over and over gets boring; you lose interest in the music. The songs from the first album are four years old, so it was a natural change for the new album. I like bands that change from album to album. We still like our old songs, and play them, but they are less a part of us four years later. We were trying really hard back then, maybe we had more ambition.

Are you happy with the new album?

George Mitchell: Overjoyed. We have an album. I like the word joy. My grand dad, Roy, uses it a lot. Roy for Joy!

What’s the biggest difference between the new songs and the old songs?

Speed, volume, and much more. Also, life happened.

What is it like recording in a converted Catholic church? Are any of you guys religious?

No, none of us are religious, and it’s like recording in any other building except the gain you get from putting microphones in places you wouldn’t in a normal box room. It’s a massive church — put mics in the organ, in the alter, in the atrium, in the steeple, where ever.

Speaking of friendships, how do you separate Eagulls, the band, from the relationships you have gained from being together and playing music?

We were friends first. The band is an action, something we do. We see our band differently — I can’t explain it. We share a bedroom all the time, and that can be bad, but, at the end of the day, it’s what we choose to have for dinner. But the band always ticks, we’re always thinking about it. No surrealism, just the truth. Mainly, we think about playing live.

A ullage is the amount by which a container falls short of being full. How does the name Ullages fit the messages in your songs? And how full is Eagulls’ bottle right now?

Everyone keeps having a sip, so I don’t know. Really, it’s all in the way you read the songs, pessimistic or optimistic. I think the messages are meant to come across as positive, but anyone can call you a pessimist.

Initially, back in 2014, Eagulls had an obnoxious introduction to the music world — some stupid letter making fun of SXSW was posted to your website — but you guys aren’t really raging, pessimistic nihilists, are you? Did you feel any pressure to come off as more positive this time around?

We’re optimistic like any normal human beings, not raging rock stars like most of the bands out there. Some bands get the public eye, go crazy for attention, but we just play music, and it can be that boring, really. And it’s not that I cared about other people’s views about who we are, I just wanted to write more positive stuff. I wanna feel better, and I don’t know if it’s working.

Finally, how does Eagulls manage to be both beautiful and gutsy at the same time?

It’s like that movie, Beauty and the Beast (laughs). But it has to do with the tuneful, melodic sound and the eerie words, which creates this see-saw effect. We don’t try for anything, it just happens. We hit it right and we like it.

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