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

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The debut album usually arrives as a youthful, energetic statement of intent; a calling card sent out to the world as a prelude for work to come. In the case of The Union Choir’s rich, detailed, thoughtful The Ghosts In The Room however, it’s a mature, considered statement arriving years after the band’s initial burst of activity. Frontman Jon Melvin was able to answer a few questions about the album’s unusual genesis.

“I think there was a general feeling amongst us all that we were getting a bit worn down with trying to keep the band going as a steady commitment. We always said if things started to feel like an obligation then we’d call it a day, because it was meant to be an escape rather than a burden. When Grant [Lagan, drums] decided it was time to step away things naturally stopped because without him pushing us we had a lot less drive. Nothing gets done without Grant.”

While the band had been on a live hiatus since 2013, Melvin is clear that this was never the definitive end of the band. “We always knew we wanted to finish the album, it was just a question of when. It came down to me, Grant and Martin [Trollope, guitars] wanting to get back in the studio, and then everyone else was thankfully on board. It quickly became apparent that we’d missed just being in a room working on little ideas together. We were lucky to have somewhere to work too, and The Custom Space in South Shields have been really great in helping with that.”

If there was any risk of the album sounding piecemeal though, the end result is anything but. As Melvin notes: “we were very conscious of stripping songs back to what felt really essential. Martin is absolutely ruthless at the mixing desk. I’m still reeling from the glockenspiel he cut from Capital.”

we were very conscious of stripping songs back to what felt really essential

It’s a dedicated, unsentimental approach to the process that’s also resulted in a few surprises in the tracklist. “We didn’t want to put songs on there that we felt had already been captured properly in previous releases, so most notably Lavender and Your Melodica were ruled out. We’ve been lucky enough to have incredibly talented people produce stuff for us in the past, but as a band we felt like we hadn’t captured some of those songs well enough, and that was down to us rather than the producers, so songs like Potemkin! and Eleanor were included. There are songs on there that haven’t been heard before too. Books. Corners. Covers was written specifically for the album. Those Summer Shoes was added late in the day because Martin made something really beautiful out of a single take scratchy demo.”

With the band celebrating the album’s release with a launch show at Cluny 2 on Friday 24th November, I also asked Melvin about the band’s return to live performance. “Terrified but very excited. We’ve got some incredible musicians joining us onstage, and having NIXE and Slow Decades playing the gig too is such a privilege. Initially we were approaching this as a bit of a full stop, but we’re demoing and talking about future records now, so more gigs are very possible. We’re not really thinking of this one as a gig though. We’re just throwing a party to celebrate something we’re really proud of.”

The Union Choir launch Ghosts In The Room at The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Friday 24th November.


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