Image by Mark Salmon
The nature of being a musician in a local or DIY level band is that other demands of life – work, relationships, and so on – can often affect and impact on your work in ways both obvious and much more subliminal. Case in point: after a eighteen-month period of hibernation, What We Call Progress return this month with an ambitious seven-track EP Arrhythmia. As John Pattison and David Young, the duo behind the band, make clear, sometimes these things can’t be rushed.
“We’d taken a break towards the end of 2015, and when we sat down together in early 2016 to discuss what to do next, we both agreed we wanted things to sound and feel different,” Young notes. Pattison meanwhile adds, “The gap and the shift in tone are pretty intertwined, actually. It’s been eighteen months or so of upheaval personally, hence the title and the lyrical content of the EP.”
Where previously the band focused in on elliptical concepts and political tension, Arrhythmia finds What We Call Progress moving into more direct and personal territory, matched by the increasing split between hard-hitting beats and swooning balladry on the EP. Discussing his lyrics, Pattison tells me, “I tend to use metaphor and allegory a fair bit in my writing so I didn’t really know how direct it would be, especially with all the glitchy pops and whistles going on, but it’s definitely there.” As for the shift in musical direction, Young is clear about the collaborative nature of the record’s productions between them, but he observes, “we wanted to focus more on loop-based song structures which evolve in interesting and unpredictable ways. Nicolas Jaar, who for me has really pushed the envelope in terms of experimental electronic pop music with a soul, inspired me, along with Holly Herndon, Baths, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens and FKA Twigs. They’ve all recently been perfecting beautiful, organic, experimental electronic pop music.”
The first taste of the EP arrived with recent single Bury Your Love, a song that exemplifies the band’s love of marrying sonic experiments to direct pop melody. Speaking about the song’s positive reception, Young says, “I didn’t really know what to expect. By the time we released it, I’d listened to it so many times I had lost all perspective, so it was a nice surprise. I think more than anything, it’s a testament to how supportive and encouraging the local music scene is in the North East now.”
To promote the EP, the band have teamed up with Northern Electric Festival for a launch night at Think Tank? Underground on Saturday 8th April. Talking about the night, Pattison jokes, “we wanted every act to begin with a W, then Mausoleums went and knacked it. No, these guys are bands we’ve either seen or played with before who we felt were somewhat sympathetic to our style whilst providing variety. The electronic scene in Newcastle is nascent, but that tends to mean there’s a fair amount of support and positivity amongst the main protagonists. We’re really thankful for the support we’ve had and it feels good to provide a reason for a gig for a few of those bands, small though that gesture is.”
What We Call Progress play Think Tank? Underground on Saturday 8th April with Waskerley Way, Mausoleums and Worry Party. Arrhythmia is released Friday 7th April.