Unsigned But Not Unloved – You Cry Wolf

Brighton natives You Cry Wolf (comprised of band members Owain Arthur, Harry Hiscock and Paul Hardman) are an unsigned prog-rock/math rock/alt-rock three piece with an interesting take on how a live music performance should be in the future.

Alex Shutti sat down with the guys to discuss live performances, dreams, their yet to be released EP ‘Only God’, and what they’re currently listening to.

Hi everyone! I guess, I’ll start with this… How did you guys all meet and form You Cry Wolf?

Owain: So we met at music school – In Brighton… A place called BIMM. It was really fun! That was back in sort of like 2009/2010?

A couple of months into our year there we started playing music together… and yeah… It just seemed to click. Then, we had a fourth member as well. Another guitarist. I suppose we kinda united over our shared antipathy for the music institution which we were paying good money to be at [Laughs].

Looking back I think maybe we took it for granted but we kind of bonded over that, which maybe sounds a bit sad and pessimistic.

The musical connection was instantly there. I think personally I’d begun jamming with Paul first and another drummer, and yeah things just seemed to click. We then added Harry into the equation who was a bit more what we were looking for from a drummer; someone who kind of thought the same as us… which I think is actually really key. It just seemed to click, and we’ve been making music together ever since…  Meeting up, I’ll come to them with some ideas – try and explain to them roughly what I want and then we’ll just jam it, and jam it, hours will go past and then we’ll look at each other and go: “Oh. Yeah. That was it.  That sounds good. Let’s record that and remember it”. But the next time we play it, it will probably sound completely different!

But yeah, in music school basically… Sorry to ramble on.

Paul? Harry?  Pitch in – maybe I missed something [laughs].

Paul:  BIMM was a lot of fun as Owain said. But I think the main thing we all got out of it was You Cry Wolf. That’s how I feel anyway. It’s been really great ever since. Obviously with Matt in the band we were a different band – going in a slightly different direction.

Since his mutual departure in 2013; after doing a load of gigging as a four-piece, we were then able to go in a direction that us three were more comfortable with. We were able to be a little bit more experimental, not having to make music within any kind of restrictions; which I think we were starting to feel we were with Matt

Photo Credit: @tomrporter (courtesy of You Cry Wolf Facebook page)

You’ve moved into a more experimental space after losing that fourth member and dropping down to being a three-piece band. How would you describe what you do now? Because I know that you do installation type things. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

Owain: Yeah. We basically started writing long narratives, as opposed to a verse and chorus structure like we used to and we started thinking… Well… Seeing as this conceptual narrative has;  like any story – a background, character and narrative revealed in parts – with this concept we can then create a live performance that can be expressed not only though music but with accompanying video and also through as you said; a sort of installation.

It’s been made possible to do because we can refer back to the character, narrative and the concept then pick out parts that we choose to convey either visually or with the lyrics of the music – or the atmosphere and environments we create – to take people into the narrative landscape of the music… of the story.

I was reading a book on Hendrix, and there was this quote of his that reads something like: ‘I’m thinking of the days when you can go to a gig and lie back and the whole thing blossoms with colour and sound’, and I think that really struck a chord with me as its quite an interesting vision of the next stage of music where you’d have the facility as an artist to create something that privileges the audience with a sense of; where am I? What’s going on? – as opposed to the live performance being more a solipsistic spectacle – we’re performing and you’re watching…  As with most live shows.

Instead, we want people; ideally, to freely explore the environment we create.

And you know, we still do those kinds of gigs when we can’t put the whole thing together. But it’s been an interesting exploration for us. It’s not to say that this is what we’ll always do, but it’s what we seem to be doing now. We’re sort of writing in a more cinematic way.

There are motifs musically that we return to (certainly in our new project) which has repeated sections, but mostly we try to move from one section to the next. Like scene after scene. Situation to situation.

Our latest project ‘Only God’ follows these three distinct dreams that the main character experiences. So with that, it has been a case of creating that dreamworld as best we can at our shows.

We’ve basically turned into a concept prog-rock band [Laughs]. That’s where we’re at now.

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I think I follow you. Obviously the ideas are a little bit more complex than some bands. Especially since you guys seem to be interested in the concept of the physical space that the music is being performed in just as much as the music itself, or the sound.

Owain: Yeah that’s exactly it.

But, obviously we have to compromise and design for the space – so tomorrow for instance, upstairs at The Ritzy we will only be able to have the band and a simple projector rig. Hopefully the darkness and the visuals will be immersive enough, but ideally we would seek to create or give a sense of the world or reality, of the material in performance for the audience to be in as we perform it.

I think it’s really interesting, obviously I was at one of your shows maybe 2 years ago now and; I’m not sure if you’ve been to a Sigur Rós show, but they kind of do similar type of physically/visually immersive show. Or at least they did when I saw them; they might have to compromise like you do depending on the venue.  It’s an interesting movement.

Owain: That’s interesting. I’m certain that plenty of other artists have this kind of all-encompassing show. Especially when you get to the level like Sigur Rós where they’d have so many people offering to collaborate saying; “Ive got this idea for the visual landscape for your show”. I’d be really keen to see that.

I don’t think we believe that we’re doing anything that groundbreaking or new, but I suppose where ours is different to Nordic Giants, for example, is that our video is integral to the sense or the overall meaning of the piece. Was Sigur Rós like that?  Or could you have taken the visuals out of it and got the same out of the music? I’d be interested to know.

We’re not trying to say there’s one right way of doing it. And if there is, it’s probably not what we’re doing! We don’t have the funding to say we’re doing it the right way [Laughs]. For now it’s just an interesting path for us.

I mean with Sigur Rós, it’s not just their videos that they have on in the background that make it immersive. Their lead singer Jonsi plays his guitar with a violin bow which is a spectacle in itself, so it is different to what you’re doing… I think it’d definitely benefit you guys to check them out if you get the opportunity.

‘Only God’ your new EP. You said it was quite cinematic and that it had three different parts. Do you want to tell me a bit more about it? What was the process with it?

It began with my mate Guy who started writing his dreams down in an attempt to become more lucid in his dreams – he’s now a fairly lucid dreamer. He can’t control what happens all of the time but he can observe himself as an active element within his dream. Anyway, he kept this dream diary and he’d talk to me about it.

It really captured my imagination because he’d come up with these really interesting mixtures of external stimuli, being rephrased and abstracted into this kind of trippy story.

Around this time, my then girlfriend had broken up with me – I was pretty distraught about that, I’d never really gone through a break up before [laughs].

I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was having these strange dreams; they weren’t lucid, I was trying to do as my friend did and write down these dreams when I woke up.

So my friend Guy had told me about this type of dreaming called hypnogogic/hypnopompic dreaming. This is the dream state you achieve when you’ve been sleeping for a while, woken up and then gone back to sleep again. I was having a lot of these types of dreams about my ex.

One of the first people to start studying these dream states noticed this experience of waking up feeling you’ve had a eureka moment ; like a lightbulb has flashed on.  Any attempt to try and reconcile this idea you’ve had or thought/ concept with your waking life is futile though,  because what your brain has done as best I understand, is make a bunch of connections  that without scrutinising seem plausible but are in actual fact absurd.

For example, this researcher woke up with this incredible idea thinking “Yes, I’ve got it!” and manages to write down this idea he’d been dreaming about (which is actually quite difficult to do in that sleep state) and his idea read; ‘Only God and Henry Ford have no umbilical cord’. He read it later and realized it was just utter nonsense. And that’s the name I gave to the first song that had us writing in this fairly cinematic style.

At the time these dreams I was having had me thinking everything I had with my ex seemed unreal – like a dream. I remember waking up from one of these hypnopompic dreams and writing the phrase ‘Youth hurts the future’. There’s a strange sense to it if you read into it but really it’s fairly nonsense. Especially out of context. Who knows what that really means.

I think the point I’m trying to make is that having had these dreams I felt like my revelation was that not everything lasts, and any experience can feel like a dream once it has passed. Perhaps it lives on only as dreams, perhaps it might as well have been a dream!

Speaking to a generation absorbed by augmented reality, escapism and willing self-deception, we wanted to create this dialogue between the ideals we are fed and the reality we are encouraged to escape Just as in my dream, with Only God, we’re trying to use dreams to comment on reality.

After making that first track, we put it all on the back burner…  We were finishing our degrees. We then returned to that idea (of a cinematic style) with different musical ideas and made ‘A Fresh Start for Peter Russo’; exploring  making the music and video into an experience that can immerse the audience into the narrative of the piece.

The whole project is the story of someone who falls asleep and has three distinct dreams. Maybe that’s all I needed to say [Laughs].

What were the musical influences for the project?

We’ve been trying to write songs like Tangled Hair for years now. We still haven’t managed it! With this EP we wanted to make a collage effect that you hear on albums like ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club’. I know that’s a cliché! Also Jimi Hendrix is my main inspiration in life, the sound he gets with ‘Electric Ladyland’. A kind of journey, everything lends to it. You start at the start and then you’re in a different place, a different mood and a different position.

We don’t mind the idea of being considered a psychedelic band, but that label kind of refers to people who are a bit closer to reproducing that sound from the 60s – Hendrix, Grateful Dead and people like that. That’s not quite us. We write from more modern influences. Tangled Hair; bands like Karate  – that kind of thing still prevails in our music.

All of that said, I’m only really listening to Jazz at the moment!

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What Jazz have you been listening to out of interest? Is it more modern stuff or old school stuff? Jazz is a really broad genre.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – you’re dead right. I love everything, did you hear that ‘Black Focus’ album? I’m still digging that! Yussef Kamaal…  Who else… Alfa Mist?  You know what, I fucking adore Nubya Garcia. At the moment she just electrifies me.

I think all of those guys release their music through that label ‘Jazz Re:freshed’. They do a night on Portobello road every Thursday or every other Thursday. I’m really liking everything they’re doing right now. But yeah… It’s a really diverse genre.

Something that has come up quite recently is the question; ‘What actually is Jazz?’ because you can listen to songs like people like Floating Points make and think that’s Jazz… Loads of music obviously employs jazzy harmony but for me, the thing that makes it Jazz is form, and then solos over the form. Here are the chords, here’s a section and now be free with it. Almost like writing on the spot, you know? That’s what I find so interesting.

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