I’d like to say the long-game was intentional, but it’s the only game we know how to play — we just work slowly.
After much waiting we’re finally blessed with a debut album from the gorgeous Bronze Medal. I spoke with the band’s Chris Hillier about their slow-burning process and Iceland calling.
It feels great that after much fawning we finally get to hear an album from you guys – what’s it been like getting to this stage as a band?
Well, in the past we’ve always just happened upon having enough songs recorded to squash them together and release them. It felt a bit like we hadn’t actually been trying to put together ‘a release’ before working on the album. For the EP, songs had just been recorded together and then put out, even though that wasn’t necessarily the intention — it came from an ambiguous recording session, demos really. The album went through a more deliberate process; we set out to do something guided by a certain aesthetic, something more cohesive. I’d like to say the long-game was intentional, but it’s the only game we know how to play — we just work slowly.
You’ve in-fact been strewn across a few different places over the years, has that been a challenge or just made you write in a different way?
Yeah, that’s true, until recently we could very rarely all be together. But we’ve never been a ‘jam and see what happens’ band. I write song ideas on my own and so does Robin, then we share those ideas with each other, finish a draft between us and then bring what is usually a nearly completed song to the rehearsal room and knock the dents out of it. So there’s a lot of back and forth before it becomes a real song, because as a pair we work independently but then hijacking or finishing each other’s ideas along the way. Then, everyone else weighs in and we shout at each other until we think it’s working. That’s always been the way it works.
And ‘Darlings’ was put together over in Iceland with Valgeir Sigurðsson [Brian Eno, Sigur Ros, Feist], how did that come about? Was it important to have him on side to get the sound you wanted?
I don’t think I could say it was integral but it was definitely what we wanted. Valgeir and Greenhouse Studios were two ideas that got mentioned in the first conversations we had about where to record and who with. We discussed recording in a house ourselves and self-producing because we wanted it to sound more natural and exposed — but Greenhouse has a history of recording music that straddles the genres we were playing with and a lot of it has this great balance between the scored and the improvised; and we were interested in that. We didn’t want to hide behind a wall of sound; we didn’t want to do loads of quiet-loud, big climax songs. For a long time we were obsessed with swells, drones and harmonising everything, the crux of which was an obsession with organs. Then in writing for the album we got obsessed with rhythm, minimalism and the piano; this idea of hocketing arrangements so instruments the play around each other instead of on top of one another. Also, the second and third Sam Amidon records were recorded at Greenhouse and they were really formative albums for me. Those were the records that sent us to Iceland; Greenhouse became this mythical place where that beautiful music came from.
We didn’t want to hide behind a wall of sound.
We’ve been teased with lead track ‘Tunnel’ is that representative of the album?
I think the album has a lot of different stuff on it. If I choose one song, I usually play the first or last track because they can both stand alone in the sense that they were intended to be played first or followed by nothing. But we sequenced it to be listened to as a whole; there are a few songs that I don’t like to think of people pulling out from where they’ve nestled into the album. Hopefully it takes you to a few different places.
We enjoyed having Mont at our recent issue party, how do you manage juggling side-projects with TBM?
It’s easy actually, Mont is obviously a very different beast, but it’s like having two very different friends; you enjoy their differences, there’s a totally different dynamic, but it’s just as engaging and one refreshes or enhances the other. Bryn is actually pretty involved in the band anyway — he recorded the pre-production demos for the album and some of those home-recorded parts made it onto the record. He’s been playing live with us too… he’s just a super-talented, versatile musician so he ends up involved in everything; the ghost member.
So with album in hand, where are you guys going from here?
We’re gonna go play the album live and possibly not wait as long to record something new…
Check out a bit of ‘Tunnel’ right here: