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

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He’s probably best known as a member of The Broken Broadcast but while the Middlesbrough band are continuing to put together their next release, JP Riggall has decided to record a solo album of haunting and emotional alt folk. The Long Dark Bright is an album drenched in JP’s favourite sound – reverb – strings and his own treacly tones, making it a beautifully heartfelt record.

Ahead of its official release, I talked to JP about the record, the Canadian wilderness, The Broken Broadcast and song writing.

Why have you decided to go solo with this album?

Well we’ve been recording The Broken Broadcast’s follow up for a year and a half so I’ve finished my parts a while ago, give or take a few re-dubs. Had a fair amount of stuff written that wasn’t quite TBB sounding so thought I’d crack on. Wanted to do more gigs as well.

Are these songs that wouldn’t fit with the Broken Broadcast then?

Possibly, they’d just sound different if they were done by the band I guess. They’re a little bit darker. I spent the first few months of the year on the sofa after surgery watching True Detective, Fortitude and other ghastly things so some lyrics are a little darker definitely.

In what way do you think that the songs are darker?

Well when I write for TBB I’m doing simple guitar work and melodies. I’ve played all the instruments on this record, so instead of a second guitar I’ve got some bleak strings going on. The lyrical content is darker as well, I’ve got the image of a post-apocalyptic wilderness in my head when I’m writing.

Is that where the idea of “chamber folk” comes in, because of the strings and the lyrical content?

I’m not sure where that comes from, possibly the immense amount of reverb on the record to be honest. I really dislike genres. It’s always pretty vague to what a band sounds like, that was the only thing I could think of. I guess it’s working because people ask about it.

But you wouldn’t really want to pigeonhole yourself in that way?

I’d say the album and style is different enough for me to explore new things whilst still sounding like me. So chamber folk is pretty broad. I’m addicted to reverb so that isn’t going anywhere.

Why are you particularly attracted to reverb in your work?

I think it’s haunting, there’s a lot of different sounds and instruments that just come to live in the right environment.

So the attraction is how it sounds live? Is that particularly important to you?

I like to play around with sounds in general. Most of the stuff I hear in other people’s music that I like is generally their darker reverby work. I guess I’ve just followed suit. My live work isn’t as complicated. It’s just me and my guitar with a pike of reverb.

So taking a step back a bit, in general what attracts you to writing “dark” music that’s quite haunting?

I think I prefer a more emotional tune. I’ve listened to Neil Young since I was small and I think I’ve just lived with melancholy being beautiful. The chill of a great piece of music is similar to that of one when you’re scared in a film or when someone makes you jump.

Is that something that you feel comes out quite strongly on this record?

It’s certainly something that I’ve tried to produce.

How successful do you think you’ve been on that mission?

I’d say I’ve achieved more than what I’d hoped. I started recording mid-July with five songs that went together and built it from there. It’s been quite time consuming so your ears become quite tired of the same beats when mixing, possibly why the TBB album has taken so long as we’ve done most of that ourselves as well.

But that’s quite an achievement with it coming together that quickly! Since you started it with just the five songs, how did it develop into an album’s worth of material?

Without giving too much away, I’ve a core few situations that I write about, I pick a story for that situation or have some older stuff lying about so it comes together quite quickly. One’s the character an old man who lives in a hut in the Canadian wilderness who’s lonely, there’s a few songs regarding him on this record. He’s also appeared as the story teller on How Not To Cut A Buffalo and appears on a couple of new TBB songs.

Is it important to you to tell stories with your work rather than drawing on maybe more autobiographical elements?

Well that helps too. If I have a personal situation I place it in to one of these characters, it works for a far better story in my situation. You can blow the story up to. I’ve never lived in a hut in the Canadian wilderness but I’ve lived by myself, so I would use a personal situation that way, if that makes sense.

“The chill of a great piece of music is similar to that of one when you’re scared in a film or when someone makes you jump”

That’s quite an interesting way of writing; does placing some of your own experiences on to fictional characters make it easier to write then?

A lot easier! It’s a lot more fun too.

I can imagine! On a more general note, have there been any challenges in creating your own album compared to making a record with TBB?

It’s probably easier, there’s different things to like about being solo and in a band. I really enjoy putting string parts together, which is more of a group decision with the band, and I get to put together drums, which is fun. This is the first thing I’ve recorded and mixed myself so it’s been challenging in that aspect too.

Would you consider putting out more solo material in the future then?

Most certainly, this is just the beginning for this. Plenty more characters.

Are there any plans to take the album on the road?

I’ve got some gigs lined up, another reason to do this is to play more. It’s easier arranging gigs without four other people’s commitments to consider so I’ll be out and about a lot hopefully.

Are you planning to perform entirely solo?

At the minute, I like the freedom of gigging wherever I can and don’t need to commit to another three hour practice a week. I still get immense joy out of The Broken Broadcast but I think I’d prefer getting strings in rather than a full band. That would be interesting.

Is that the next step for you as a solo artist then?

Possibly, though string players are few and far between in these parts.

When the album is released then will you be going back to working with TBB?

Yes we’ve got our album to finish and mix, hopefully for our Christmas show. I’ll be gigging both all the time in and around this. I’ve got the label too so hopefully I’ll be getting a free compilation of UK artists out too with that and I’m looking at another project involving the label.

The Long Dark Bright is released on 26th September.

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