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

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A stalwart of acts such as Okay Champ, Eat Fast and Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister, John Edgar probably isn’t the first musician with whom you’d associate words like ‘quaint’, ‘intimate or ‘serene’. These, though, are all terms which crop up as we discuss The Dawdler, a new breakaway project in which the perennial noisemaker turns his hand to ambient bedroom pop. How did such a striking tonal shift come to pass? “It was a culmination of different factors, I suppose,” he muses. “A lot of it was due to my environment. I was writing and playing a lot in my bedroom, but the floors and walls in my flat are so thin that I have to be really, really quiet.”

Such constraints would prove counterintuitive to many, yet for Edgar they had a liberating effect, opening fresh avenues in both sound and songcraft. “I sort of abandoned trying to write complete songs,” he reveals. “If I came up with something that I thought was nice but was only a minute and a half long, I wouldn’t put pressure on myself to write a bridge or a chorus or anything. It took a lot of pressure off the process – I wasn’t so precious about how long a song should be or how many parts it should have. I let go of my ideas as to what a piece of music is.”

With collaborators Will Thorneycroft and David Turnbull providing further instrumental touches, these melancholic demos formed the backbone of album Keith In Ballachulish, a minimal and beguiling debut whose emotional heart is often rooted in personal connections.

I’m very hypercritical and self-conscious with my lyrics, but that softens when I write about other people. I find it far easier, and often use it as a vehicle to share my own feelings – but without feeling like a tit

“I think intimacy is definitely something we wanted to get across; a lot of the tunes drew on memories and snippets of people’s lives and histories,” Edgar confirms. “I’m very hypercritical and self-conscious with my lyrics, but that softens when I write about other people. I find it far easier, and often use it as a vehicle to share my own feelings – but without feeling like a tit.”

“Keith’s a pal, he lives down the road!” he reveals, as our conversation turns to the record’s titular character. “He’s a fascinating guy; really morbid. A lot of his family and friends are dead including his wife, so he talks a lot about death and it’s quite heavy. I’m just drawn to him; he loves music and art and films and literature. Ballachulish is the village in west Scotland where his wife is buried. He told me a story about it and that song is a verbatim account of what happened. There’s no wordplay or metaphor – it’s entirely literal.” This affinity will come as little surprise to those familiar with Edgar’s catalogue, and for all its sonic revelations nor will the record’s prevailing sense of gloom.
“I think it’s just a reflection of my personality,” he deadpans, when confronted with this recurring theme. “It’s not like there’s a specific thing I’m fighting against, but there are a lot of things which get me down. So so so much shit. I feel like I’d be doing an injustice to the rest of the shit if I picked out just one piece of shit to focus on.”

The Dawdler release Keith In Ballachulish on 10th May. The album launch (with support from Ten Sticks) takes place at The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Thursday 16th May.

 

 

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