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

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Back from the brink having prematurely broadcast their own demise, Baker Island were gearing up for their first local shows in almost three years before COVID-19 wiped the calendar clean. Thanks to a pre-planned release, however, 2020 is no write-off for Newcastle’s most ramshackle noise pop outfit. In fact, How Does Half Help By Doing Nowt is perhaps the most quintessentially Baker Island collection to date; a gloriously baffling hodgepodge of odds and sods showcasing Sean Dodds’ project in all its scrappy, haphazard glory.

“It draws a line under the old stuff,” the vocalist and songwriter explains. “We became a band in about 2013, but before that I used to record on my own just for the sake of it. The oldest things here are from around 2006 – fragments which were either abandoned or never picked up again, but which I always kept. When I went back through them all, I realised there were some – the weirder ones – which I actually quite liked. I guess by the time we got around to the first album we were trying to sell-out!”

Compiled in typically disorderly fashion, the demos which make up the bulk of the tracklist feel like an exercise in gem sieving. Some last as little as nine seconds, yet others such as Jig and Southern Discomfort could just as easily be cuts from a long-lost Pixies of Guided By Voices session. “I didn’t want to do a Bee Thousand or anything like that,” Sean confides. “I know that on that album [Robert Pollard] went back to older songs and then completed them. I didn’t even want to bother finishing these – I just wanted to look back, see which bits I liked and put them out.”

I guess this record just presents Baker Island as this random thing with no line-up!

The remainder of the release collects a selection of ‘rarities’ (“here’s the other stuff that we did which wasn’t good enough!”) along with a handful of live recordings, including a rendition of The Fall’s How I Wrote Elastic Man recorded at The Cluny’s annual NYE Grafteoke. “I think I just put the live stuff on there because it’s funny! Our label said that How I Wrote Elastic Man would be the easiest Fall song to get the rights too, but in the end Cherry Red didn’t reply anyway, so we just put it out. I feel like I can justify it artistically because The Fall have put worse recordings out themselves!

“Rather than being a full stop, I guess this record just presents Baker Island as this random thing with no line-up!” Sean concludes. “The last album [Restless Legs] had our most stable line-up, but the album before that [Bobby Hundreds] was a bit all over the place. Now I wouldn’t even say we have a line-up, and this one has songs which are barely even me!”

For those who feared Restless Legs would prove an untimely final salvo, it’ll come as a delight to learn that some version or other of Baker Island is piecing together a fresh studio release: “It’s…a double album” Sean reveals, almost by way of apology. “It’s been demoed for about four years. I know there’s at least 30 songs in various stages – a few of them are about eight minutes long. It’s a bit of an albatross, but it will happen!”

Baker Island release How Does Half Help By Doing Nowt on 4th September via Philophobia Music

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