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

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When speaking to The Railway Club’s Martin Francis Trollope it becomes apparent that the South Shields band’s album nearly never came to fruition at all. “With everything we’ve ever tried to do, it’s been very rare for nothing at all to go wrong. It’s tended to be the case that we get to a point where we think we know what we’re doing and then something comes up and smacks us in the face. Whether it’s turning up to a gig and there being no PA, or good friends (who are still good friends!) realising that their heart/head isn’t in it anymore.”

With a rather telling album title, the band’s debut record – How To Steer A Sinking Ship – may have been borne out of frustration and difficulty, but it’s also a quiet triumph. “It’s the desperation of trying to stay afloat while the sea rages around you,” Martin reflects, and admits that the main themes of isolation, expiration and imagination, have come to the fore. “They’re three things that seem to me to be interleaved and inevitable, so it was probably unavoidable that they became the overriding themes of the album.”

“It’s the desperation of trying to stay afloat while the sea rages around you”

It’s an album full of thoughtful vignettes, considered interludes and subtly glorious pop songs. Jangly guitars abound in Clouds, while Water Into Wine is understated and the all-too-brief Church Bank has a hushed beauty. The found sounds of Railway Tracks echoes a particularly pensive Boxer-era National; Quietly Away, Quietly Abide displays a bluesy edge and muted vocal and the refreshingly honest I Dreamt That You Chased Me is utterly heartbreaking.

Martin won’t be drawn on the subject matter for the songs though, preferring them to remain ambiguous. “I think that one of the most wonderful things about art is that it doesn’t need an explanation to create a reaction, and I often worry that if we (as ‘the author’) try and be overly protective about the meaning that we stamp onto our art, we remove something of the enjoyment that the audience may get from creating their own meaning. I strongly believe that ‘meaning’ is a fluid concept, and although I know what the songs were about when I wrote them, it’s safe to say they’ve changed a lot to me since then.”

The group’s debut album is still very much a full band effort on record, but live Martin will just be joined by bassist Glenn Coyne, albeit with a little help from their friends at the album launch this month: “we’ve lined up another singer and some brass players to help us out”.

Given that the band barely exists in a linear form right now, it’s hardly surprising that Martin has few plans for the future, “I have no idea to be honest, but I’m certainly not ruling anything out.” If any band can weather the storm, it’ll be this one.

The Railway Club officially launch How To Steer A Sinking Ship with an invite-only gig at Mining Institute, Newcastle on Friday 9th October. A limited edition run of CDs will be available alongside a digital release.

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