DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: Argen’s Winter | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists we have right here in the north east. This time, Declan Mulholland talks to us about his duo Argen’s Winter, the influence of his dad and rhubarb crumble bribes.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?

We began as the solo project of me writing, recording and producing my own music. However, since the birth of Argen’s Winter we’ve became a duo with the introduction of long term former band mate Ben Richards. We’ve both been in the same bands together for the past five years, usually holding the rhythm section playing gigs in the majority of venues around Newcastle. We’re both from Gateshead and met in school, but we’re now at University now and spend a lot of the year in Leeds and Nottingham.

What inspired you to first start making music?

We both come from very musical families. Ben’s dad was always playing guitar around the house and Ben sort of followed in his footsteps; still to this day they can be found doing open mic nights around Gateshead. My dad got me into music at a very early age as well. I learnt drums playing along to Bob Marley records when I was four years old, then I learnt piano and eventually guitars in the years following from that. Ben is an incredibly diverse guitarist and his ability to change his style probably has a lot to do with the copious different genres and styles he’s been exposed to his entire life. So to be honest I’d say we were both inspired by the records of our Dads.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

I know this sounds really cliché but there’s literally far too many to mention! Personally I grew up on world music, folk, rock and pop music from Tinariwen to The Incredible String Band; my dad has a massive taste in music and I think all of that culminates into one huge influence. Bands I really like at the moment range from Little Comets to This Town Needs Guns.

As for Ben, he comes from a very diverse musical background. From The Jam and The Smiths to Neil Young and The Isley Brothers, once again Ben’s diverse musical background is what makes him such a fantastic musician to work with!

In terms of influences on what we play musically, my influence is very folk and indie based with a large focus on melody. As for Ben he’s influenced by the records of the eighties; his driving rhythm guitar sounds like it could have come from Freedom by Neil Young or Louder Than Bombs by The Smiths. In terms of influence on lyrics, it’s heavily based on my views, specifically my political views or, as the Crack Magazine put it, “the injustices of neo-liberalism.” Ben’s lyrics tend to be far less opinionated often social commentary or love stories.

How would you describe your sound?

Our sound? I don’t know really, I mean, we don’t write a song in a style of music or sit down and think “we’ll write a really poppy song or we’ll write a really rocky song,” it’s much more a culmination of our favourite genres regurgitated through our musical playing. The 1%, the first track from our latest EP In Our Boxes sounds very poppy while Bullets, the fourth track, is sort of slow piano rock. Meanwhile, Waiting For You is a very folky acoustic song I recorded in my bedroom in Leeds. So our sound is very diverse. We’ve been in bands before where we’ve tried to define our self via a genre in a desperate attempt to try and find some sort of identity but I think those days are gone. We write predominantly for ourselves, our friends and the people we love, not to fit into a bracket. But at the same time if you want to listen to our latest EP and send us a description of what you think it is, feel free!

Where do you see yourselves fitting into the local music scene?

There’s a lot of really great artists in the local scene. We keep in contact with Little Comets and Let’s Buy Happiness; I think they’re both amazing examples of exceptional talent emerging on Tyneside. Shades, Polarsets, Lisbon, The Lake Poets, Little Branch, Apologies, Matt Saxon, Keir Redfern, Symphonic Pictures, The Sons of Bido Lito, Olivia Devine… I mean, you’re almost spoilt for choice there’s so much going on, so many fantastic emerging artists.

As for where we see ourselves fitting in to the local scene, we’re already very well equated with a lot of bands, promotors, venues and engineers from our days in Kredo and Our Time Is Now. We’ve met a lot of great people and some not so great people but it’s all a massive learning curve and we hope to continue being a part of the outstanding musical scene that Newcastle has to offer.

“We’ve met a lot of great people and some not so great people but it’s all a massive learning curve”

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by you?

Because of the nature of our material and the fact we’re a duo we try to vary our set a lot so we may play some songs with a full band arrangement with one of our mates on bass and another song may be acoustic or feature just guitar and piano. We’ve learnt a lot about playing live over our five years playing together; every gig is different and we’ve learnt massively the importance of engaging your audience and just generally being canny to people so they buy your CDs and keep coming to see you!

Can you tell us what gigs you have planned in the region in the near future?

We’re currently right in the middle of booking gigs for the rest of the summer, any information including gig information will be posted on our Facebook page, so keep an eye out on there for gigs!

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as a band?

I think the biggest achievement for me was recording our latest EP. I’ve got a home studio so we did absolutely everything ourselves. We’d both been writing whilst we were at University so we came back for the summer and got in a practice room writing and rehearsing the EP. After about a month’s worth of intense rehearsing we came to my house in Gateshead and spent a week recording. The entire recording process was pretty non-stop doing 14-16 hour days just meticulously going over everything and getting the right takes.

After we’d finished our week recording, I spent another five more days mixing the tracks turning the songs into a finished record while my girlfriend Abbey designed the artwork which completed the entire thing. We’ve had such a lovely experience doing everything ourselves; it really gives you a huge sense of achievement from writing to rehearsing to recording, to mixing, to mastering, to distributing the EP online and physically with printed CDs, the whole thing has just been amazing.

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?

Haha, well yes over our five years playing in bands together we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs. We’ve met a few shady promoters, the type that want you to sell a certain amount of tickets to play, we worked with those sort of promoters a lot when we were younger. Although we eventually found the right sort of people that we like working with, really good promoters who put you on because they’ve got faith in your music not just putting you on for profit.

During the recording process of our latest EP we also had a few challenges like bribing my neighbour with rhubarb crumble to let us make a racket for the week. But yeah, it’s all just a big learning curve and as with anything you always have a few challenges but the pay offs of overcoming them far belie the challenges themselves.

What else have you got planned for the future?

Well, as I said we’re in the middle of booking gigs so stay tuned on the Facebook page (another shameless plug) as we’ll be putting anything and everything on there. As for future records, we’re planning on releasing something at the back end of this year but mainly just gigging over the summer for now. Playing music is a great passion of ours and we hope to continue doing that for as long as we can and we’re still pretty young!

Find out more about Argen’s Winter and keep up to date with their schedule on their Facebook page.

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