Interview: No Spill Blood
Our world is in peril. Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, can no longer stand the terrible destruction plaguing our planet. She gives three magic instruments to three special young people. From Cork, Matt with the power of bass. From Dublin, Ruadhan with the power of synth. Also from Dublin, Lar with the power of drum. With the three powers combined they summon earth’s greatest champion – NO SPILL BLOOD!
No Spill Blood have accomplished a lot in the last twelve months. Capturing audiences attention since their first show, they have quickly established themselves as an extraordinary live band. Lar Kaye is back behind the drum kit and brings a maniacal energy to his drumming which should be familiar to anyone who was seen him play guitar in Adebisi Shank. Scary man Matt Hedigan’s bass is heavy as lead and unrelentingly menacing. Standing stoically behind his rack of vintage synthesizers, Ruadhan O’Meara brings additional layers of texture, mostly occupying the sludgier end of the musical spectrum, to the mix. Towards the end of the recording of their debut EP they were fortuitously scooped up by US label Sargent House, current home to bands such as Japan’s psych-doom heroes Boris and the uber-technical math rock stylings of Hella, as well as Adebisi Shank & And So I Watch You From Afar. The EP is available digitally on Bandcamp right now, and will be released on CD and vinyl next month, an occasion commemorated by a free launch gig in the Button Factory, where the band will be playing alongside the wonderful Realistic Train, Simon Bird; Dublin’s latest electronic whizz kid, with more to be announced.
TD: Do you wanna say a bit about how the band came together initially?
Yeah, well we’ve been mates for a good while at this stage, years. We just decided to have a jam one day. Matt is the singer and bass player, he was living in cork at the time and he had just moved to Dublin and myself and Lar were talking about doing something for a while then just one day we went into the studio and started jamming.
TD: It’s kind of an unusual setup for a 3 piece. What’s the songwriting process like for you?
There’s a few different ways we come up with things. Sometimes we just go into our room and play for hours, improvise, and we record what we do and we go back through it and pick out bits we like and extrapolate from there and try and make them structured. Other songs are written, when someone comes in with a riff or something pre-prepared and then we’d work on it from there. Sometimes it’s just about catching things on the fly, a particular sound or something, or a rhythm, and teasing it out.
TD: What are some influences on your own playing? It’s kinda reminiscent of John Carpenter soundtracks, or Goblin…
Yeah, there’d be a good bit of that. John Carpenter and Goblin, Zombi, that kind of thing. Also old prog rock bands, like Sensation’s Fix and Rush and those kind of things. But also like a lot of actual kinda synth-punk bands, like the Screamers, Braniac, Six Finger Satellite, that kind of stuff. A bit more abrasive. That’s where it all comes together.
TD: What gear do you use? There’s that one synth that’s pretty unique looking, I think it’s the Pro-One, is it?
Yeah, the Sequential Circuits Pro-One. I’ve got a kind of a collection of synthesizers now at this stage. When we started off initially, I experimented with a few different ones to see which ones worked best with the sound. Yeah, but the Pro-One is definitely the kind of… it’s a very heavy sounding synthesizer, it’s got a few oscillators in there, it’s pretty thick. So when you’re going for the all out heft, it works well with the bass. I also have the Sequential Circuits Six-Trak, by the same company, but that’s more of a polysnynth, I use that for the pads and that. But when it comes to recording I use a lot of different gear. But yeah, it’s all vintage, analogue synthesizers.
TD: What was the recording process of the EP like? It was recorded in Dublin wasn’t it?
Yeah, a friend of ours who records bands, Dek Hynes, he had access to this old dilapidated office block, there was no power in it or anything. We went in there and did the drums and did a few bits in there. Then we did it between there and his own house, we recorded the synths and that there. So yeah, he tracked all the stuff for us, and then we got Vinny from Adebisi Shank to mix it, which was a pretty arduous task I’m sure, because there’s so much low end involved, it’d be very easy to make it overkill or for things to get lost, but I think what he did, it’s quite hard to make it sound good I suppose, a bass and a synthesizer playing at the same time. We were very happy with what he did there, there is that division, it doesn’t just sound like one big blob.
TD: The production is quite, I dunno, maxed-out sounding, it’s very aggressive, was that a conscious decision?
Yeah, well I guess it comes down to the writing of the songs, because a lot of the time we’re intentionally going to the same frequencies, or myself and Matt would join up a lot of the time if we’re playing riffs, like any metal band would, y’know? For extra heft, the sludge kind of aspect to it. I’m quite glad that that came across on the record that way. Because, sonically, when we were getting the records back and that, it could be compared more to bands like the Melvins and Big Business and that, it had that weight, which we were quite happy with. I suppose, rather than a synth pop band, I really wanted to make sure that it was pretty hefty.
TD: I was gonna ask you a bit about the lyrics, or is that strictly Matt’s thing or…?
Yeah, I wouldn’t be able to say much about it. But, I can say that it’s kind of a concept, it’s based on some short story he wrote when he was a kid about mining. And he’s kind of incorporated that into the lyrics, the whole way through it.
TD: I read that somewhere else and it sounded bizarre, but it makes a weird sort of sense, listening to it…it’s pretty dark and claustrophobic sounding at times…
Yeah, that’s the kind of buzz he got from it. People are asking about it a lot, because the vocals are kind of intentionally buried in the mix and obviously it’s kind of distorted and the way he sings is pretty ferocious. It’s a sonic quality that works well and thematically kind of suits it.
TD: How did you get in touch with Sargent House? Did they come to you or vice versa?
Yeah, Lar plays in Adebisi Shank and they’re already on the roster or whatever. So we never really sent it to her or told her, Lar never told her about it but she just picked it up on twitter or something, she saw a video done of us in Whelans. It was like our second gig or something, maybe second or third. When she saw that she e-mailed Lar saying ‘I really like that video, did you ever think of releasing anything? I’d be interested in doing the release’. So at that stage we were already nearly finished recording what we were doing, so I guess if we knew that it was going to go to Sargent House we might have done it a different way, because we did it pretty much on the cheap. So like if we knew it was going to be such a big deal, going to Sargent House, they would probably have fucked a load of money at us. But we didn’t and I’m kinda glad we didn’t. I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Yeah, so she contacted us and when we had a presentable mix we sent them over and she was up for it.
TD: Are you excited about the vinyl release?
Yeah totally, we got the test presses back there a couple of days ago and we got to have our first listen to it. That was the final test I guess, if it passes that, it’s a success I think. Especially with all the bass we use, I was afraid, sometimes these things can rattle the speakers, but we tried it out on a few different stereos and we’re pretty happy with it.
TD: The artwork is pretty striking on the EP. That was done by somebody involved with Sargent House, was it.
Yeah, its this guy Sonny Kay, he used to run this label Gold Standard Laboratories and be in this band The VSS so he’s kind of Sargent House’s in-house artist, he does all Omar Rodríguez-López’s shit and that. But he has a very distinctive, kind of prog rock styling to what he does, which is what I like about it. It’s kind of nearly like Hipgnosis [British art collective responsible for a disproportionately large number of iconic album covers spanning from the late 60s to early 80s]
TD: Yeah it kinda reminds of Storm Thorgerson’s work
Yeah yeah, who did nearly every album released in the 1970s. It had that kind of quality to it, I think the colour schemes are kind of similar. Yeah, so Cathy [Pellow, owner of Sargent House] offered, and we had a couple of ideas and a couple of images we were looking at for guidance and we sent them over to him and he came back with this mental, mental image. We gave him the theme and the name of the record and a few kind of pointers. But he came back with something way more crazy than we’d ever imagined. Straight away though, we were like ‘Shit, that’s amazing!’. It’s so complex and rich y’know? You could look at it for ages and still find things in it. It’s amazing, better than I ever could have hoped for.
TD: Was it a collage of the images you’d sent him or was it totally his own work?
No, no, he did it all from scratch. We just sent him a few book covers and fucking VHS covers and those kinds of things, as pointers, that was all stuff that he did himself. He put a lot into it, even if it doesn’t seem like it. The background is spray painted, it looks like it’s being sucked back into space, and the space background is some kind of painting he did with white spray paint. He puts a lot into it.
TD: So what are your plans for the next while?
Well the record comes out physically in a couple of weeks and we’re gonna do a tour. We’re gonna play Electric Picnic, we’re playing in the Body & Soul Area, and then we are doing our launch in Dublin on the 8th of September, in the Button Factory then we’re doing Galway on the 22nd and Waterford and Cork on the 28th and 29th. We’re looking at Northern dates for the 13th and 14th. We’ve got a couple more gigs in October. We eventually hope to go America at some stage, and book a tour of Europe.
TD: Are you writing new songs or are you still very much focused on the EP?
Yeah, we’re in the middle of putting some new pieces together.
TD: And it’s pretty much continuing on in the same style as the stuff you’ve put out?
Yeah, kind of. There’s a few different parts that are similar, but different. I suppose there are a few different types of songs on that EP, so I guess the ones we’re doing now are a development of each of those styles.
Interview courtesy of Totally Dublin