INTERVIEW: PROFUMO | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“Northumberland is fundamentally very beautiful,” Profumo vocalist Jack Bates muses, “but then you start to kick around the undergrowth and there’s some weird stuff.” That’s a description that could quite easily be applied to Profumo’s new EP. A year on from the release of their single Teen Tatler and two since debut EP Brutalism, the group are readying Cosy Catastrophe, their most ambitious body of work to date, not just in sound but in execution.

“We were doing this DIY, almost like a guerrilla operation,” Bates explains. “We essentially built a recording studio for ourselves, and learned how to use it so we could take it up to Allendale where we did a large chunk of the recording.” Despite doing it all themselves though, Profumo are challenging preconceptions of the traditional DIY band. “A lot of people associate DIY with scuzz and rustic sounds,” guitarist Benedict Hawkin states. “The problem is, you can’t go lo-fi if you’re writing about Greek gods!”

Instead, they aimed for what they call “hi-fi DIY”, inspired partially by their own experiences in the local scene. “We were touring and mixing a lot more on the back of Brutalism, which forced us to up our game so much,” Hawkin explains. Their approach hasn’t just led to a polished production, but to a distinctive sound they describe as “capsized yacht-rock”. “It’s sort of an in-joke because Allendale is literally as far away as you can get from the coast in the UK,” Bates says. “It’s the most landlocked place!”

you can’t go lo-fi if you’re writing about Greek gods!

Indeed, the exaggerated spoken-word intro to opener Ambien Night Flights, which segues into crisp, punchy alt. rock, gives an indication of the wit and wonder within. From there, the band explore energetic synths and slap bass, dramatic strings and stark piano, all with a sense of vibrancy and urgency. “It exemplifies some of the production excesses of the 70s and 80s that we’ve attempted to recreate somewhat in our little shack!” Hawkin explains. “We’ve taken a lot of tropes from these 70s records and tried to distort them.” That twisted take on pop conventions manifests itself in some of the EP’s many striking flourishes, whether it’s the squalling guitar on the title track or the harps that pierce through Golden Fleece.

Profumo’s warped take on pop also emerges in their lyrics. “There’s no songs about sunbathing,” Bates states, “they’re all about very strange people.” He finds himself drawn to the “idea of writing slightly unsympathetic characters and following their logic, convincing themselves of their own position as it goes through the song.” Cosy Catastrophe is thus filled with vivid character portraits, brought to life through the combination of music and Bates’ words, which cascade poetically at every turn. They even sneak in some left-field references, such as on Miss Ersatz: “There’s bits of forgotten BBC sitcom An Englishman’s Castle, from which I steal two lines verbatim!”

Reflecting on how each of these elements come together on Cosy Catastrophe, Bates concludes: “I think this is our first record where our ambitions for each song are basically fully met.” That’s being humble. With this EP, Profumo have broadened their horizons tenfold and bent all kinds of genres to their will. They may have capsized yacht-rock, but it’s all smooth sailing for them ahead.

Profumo’s Cosy Catastrophe is out on 10th November via Plastic Palace. The band play The Mining Institute, Newcastle on Saturday 11th November and Pop Recs Ltd., Sunderland on Friday 17th November.

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