Having just released its sophomore album, Tree Bursts in Snow earlier this week, Admiral Fallow is in the middle of touring across the United Kingdom. Singer Louis Abbott, the leader of this merry band of Scottish folksters, chatted with Paste from Glasgow about the band’s new release, favorite bar, local scene and Twitter jokes.
Paste: How’s the reception been to Tree Bursts in Snow over in the United Kingdom?
Louis Abbott: Well very good so far, I must say. It only came out on Monday. It’s got some really nice reviews in some of the papers over here. The national U.K. press has been so far pretty positive about it. The reaction from sort of “normal people” has also been very good. Of course, with the likes of Twitter and Facebook, it’s been very easy to gauge people’s comments and stuff on it these days. It’s all been very positive, I’d say, which is a bit of a relief. Of course, you never know about these things until they become public and then you just hope that all the hard work’s not just a waste of time. Because all it takes is a couple of bad reviews or whatever and that’s it, but so far, it’s been very positive.
Paste: It seems like lot of songs on the new album sounds tighter, like they have a really clear pop structure. Was that a conscious decision while writing or a natural evolution of sound?
Abbott: I don’t know if it was completely conscious. The writing of the album was done is a much shorter space of time than the first one[2010’s Boots Met My Face]. The first one, we had the luxury of playing the songs for a couple of years live before we even committed it to record. But with this one, as soon as we had finished summer festivals last year, that suddenly became the time to get right in working on some new stuff. I guess that fact that it was all done in quite a compact space of time perhaps means that there’s slightly less variety stylistically than the first one, but perhaps makes it more unifying in itself.
The only thing we wanted to do was make sure that it wasn’t exactly the same as the first one. Nobody wants to hear rehashed records. It’s always nice to try to move in some sort of direction, rather than just do the same sort of thing again because the first one was quite well received, even on a very small scale that it was. It would have been easy to just try to replicate another one like that, but that was the only thing we worked to do—make sure that didn’t happen.
Paste: Do you do most of the songwriting or is it more of a group effort?
Abbott: Lyrically, the songs will always be finished, or at least almost finished when it’s taken to the rest of the band and usually with quite a strong idea of melody and structure…and then everyone takes it on from there. Everyone pitches in and we try to play it through in various ways or perhaps in a slightly different style. For the first record, I went to the group with some ideas about parts for them to play. I also play, for example, the drums, so I always had ideas on what I wanted the drums to sound like. But for this record, I tried very hard not to do any sort of influential stuff for the others and their parts. I just tried to leave them to it and see how the songs developed just by ourselves as opposed to influence that in any way.
That was the main difference between the first one and this new record. It was a lot more input from everyone else, as opposed to me picking finished songs for them. So that was also quite good fun, quite interesting to do.
Paste: So in terms of lyrics, then, where did you find inspiration for the album? It seems like a few of the songs, at least, address current issues.
Abbott: The collection from the first record was all more personal stuff about my upbringing and teenage years, but when we went to put these songs together, or rather, when I started working on ideas for them, I realized that I hadn’t really done an awful lot in my own life.
I realized that I’d have to look outside what was going on in my own life a little bit to try to find inspiration for a new set of lyrics. So it is more worldly-feeling, whether it’s financial problems or violent crime, mostly stuff from newspaper articles…and trying to put myself in the shoes of the characters that are created from those situations, which I hadn’t done at all on the first record. It was a tricky transition and I’ve always found it quite hard to write from other people’s perspectives without making it sound really corny, you know? It was a strange transition, but ultimately quite enjoyable, I think.
Paste: In the midst of the more serious songs on Tree Bursts in Snow, I read that “Guest of the Government” is about a pub in Glasgow? Can you tell me about that?
Abbott:The bar, I should say, is called Bloc and it’s somewhere where I’ve been playing music in various capacities for many years, since I first moved to Glasgow. It’s a bit of a hub for a lot of great bands who have come through over the years and also where I’ve met a lot of important people and have been influential on me musically, or even just in my personal life. It’s my bar of choice whenever I’m out in Glasgow, it’s the one bar that’s open pretty much anytime. It’s very friendly, and I still host an open mic there every Sunday night.
It’s just a sort of fun drinking song about the trouble you can get in when you overindulge, whether that’s drink or anything else. It could get you in trouble. It’s a kind of warning song, but a fun warning song about possibly getting into trouble by spending too much time in an albeit fabulous bar.
Paste: It seems like there’s this core group of bands playing around Glasgow and coming from the city that’s almost defining it right now. Is the media reading into this too much or is Glasgow becoming the new musical hub?
Abbott: I’m not sure…It’s not like bands like Frightened Rabbit and the Twilight Sad and those kinds of bands are playing in Glasgow all the time and we all kind of hang out having puff parties all the time!
But it’s true. There is a lot of incredible music that has come out Scotland and particularly Glasgow in the last 15-20 years, even, but more so right now, perhaps, as highlighted in the United States and North America like bands like Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad who have had the opportunity to go over there and play shows and therefore, people are aware of them a little more perhaps, then bands who were around 10 years ago who again, because of social networking sites, it’s much easier to find out about smaller bands.
Paste: Well I was just going to say, actually, you guys have a pretty entertaining Twitter feed...
Abbott:Oh, you think so?
Paste: Well I was enjoying the #stickpostcard hashtag recently…
Abbott:[laughs] Well Gordon from Frightened Rabbit…We happened to have a show down in Cardiff, in Wales last week and they’re recording an album in Wales right now and it happened to be quite close to where we were. We had a day off and we went and visited them and went to go try and swim in the river, but the river was very very cold. So we kind of hung out with them for a day and had a picnic and stuff. Very rock and roll.
But he’s just a really funny guy, Gordon. He gave me this stick and said he was really into displacement and he wanted me to take it somewhere and get a photo of it. I don’t know why. So that became a sort of running gag to take crap photos in good places.
Paste: How do you think the new album will resonate with Americans since it was also released here, at least digitally, this week?
Abbott: There’s definitely a plan to physically release it there. The label’s just trying to work out when’s the best time to do that, whether we do that when we come over and tour, which is the plan for fall. With bands like Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad going over and achieving some success by doing shows over there, that’s given current bands over here a kind of attitude of “Well, it may be possible that we can go over and do something over there, as well.” And I think just from the reaction we had from that one week we were over before when we played at South By Southwest and did a show in New York and Boston and North Carolina, it was very positive, indeed, and it’s definitely given us an interest to come back and do it again but for longer and more places. We wouldn’t be doing huge shows or anything like that, but I think it would be such a treat for us to get over and play shows over there and I genuinely think that just from the few people who have held our music over in the States, they’ve all been very nice about it and they seem to like it. I don’t know why, but they seem to like it, so time will tell, I guess. But we’d certainly love to come over and find out.