In Conversation With: Fatherson
Scottish trio Fatherson have just released their third full-length, 'Sum Of All Your Parts'. Packed with soaring riffs and expansive soundscapes, it's a look into the life of the band and acts as a reflection of their innermost thoughts. From the stunning tranquil opening of 'The Rain', to the riff-packed 'Charm School', it's an explosive album that stands as the band's most cohesive material so far. Keen to find out more about the creative minds responsible, we sat down with them to discuss the album, their memories of growing up, and their inspirations.
So your newest album has just been released! How does it feel to finally have it out for the world to hear?
Greg (Drummer) - “It’s still something we’re kind of adjusting to, because we had the album for a few months before it was released and you kind of become a bit guarded of it. And now it’s out, it’s that weird feeling that people can start talking to you about the songs that you’d released, but it’s a nice feeling. The reception’s been quite overwhelming really, couldn’t ask for a better release.”
Ross (Vocalist and Guitarist) - “It’s been nice to go and do some in-store gigs and have people sing along to album tracks. It means it’s resonating with our fan base already and that’s a pretty cool thing.”
How did you harness the experiences from your two previous albums into producing ‘Sum Of All Your Parts’?
Marc (Bassist) - “We learned a lot of…I wouldn’t say learned from mistakes but we learned what we would like to do differently as we go along. After doing the second album, we were conscious that we wanted to take our time and not set a date that we had to have everything done by. We didn’t do many gigs last year, we were out five or six days a week writing and then waiting until we knew they were close. Luckily it ended up being ahead of schedule; we ended up doing a couple of festivals this summer because the album was ready, which was good. We just wanted to make an album that works well as a piece of work. Loads of people’s favourite song are what’s different, every song off the album has been mentioned as someone’s favourite song, which I think is really nice because we wanted it to be this one piece of work with equal importance [placed] on every song on it.”
Ross - “I think people recognised from the outset that that’s where our heads were at. We’ve always wanted to be an album band and this is now the next step in becoming a band that just makes records.”
Can you pick your own favourite songs off the album or is that too difficult a decision?
Marc - “It changes as we started playing some of them live, and just kind of [depending on] how you’re feeling. The song ‘Ghost’ on the album, it’s not that it wasn’t my favourite before we put it out, but it was one that was just a bit…I wasn’t sure how it would go down, I hadn’t been listening to it that recently. But since playing it live and getting the album out and seeing the reaction from it, it’s definitely ‘Ghost’, it’s fun.”
Ross - “I reckon my favourite is actually a song called ‘The Rain’, which is the first song on the album. It had previously been ‘Reflection’, but actually playing ‘The Rain’ this week, it’s got to be both. I think it’s really sweet and I enjoy it.”
Greg - “I think ‘Reflection’ for all of us holds a collective favourite, as it’s sort of the mission statement for the album. It was song that was like, ‘Right, OK, this is the emotional side to the record’ and everything moved out from that. I think that one holds an important place on the album.”
Were there any unexpected surprises during the recording of ‘Sum Of All Your Parts’?
Marc - “How wonderfully fun and easy it was to do. We were in a studio, writing, and we got up to a point where we had basically been rehearsing five or six days a week because we don’t really write on the computer. It was just us playing, so when it actually came to recording it, we recorded it live. We went through from the first song to the last song and played in that room, which could cause a lot of problems - you hear a lot of horror stories of bands going and doing that, and if you don’t know the songs and you’re not well-rehearsed enough, it can turn to shit very quickly. But [we were surprised] at just how easy and straightforward and nice that was, and the working relationship with Claudius, who produced the album as well, which was about the unknown quantity as we’d never done that before. We came out the studio, feeling refreshed, and sometimes recording - for us or other bands - can be quite hard and tough and intense.”
Ross - “When Claudius got involved, he sent over a list of studios he would like to work in. We got caught up with a couple and we were thinking of going to somewhere in Manchester, and then we ended up talking to the people at The Chairworks in Castleford. They were like, “Cool, why don’t you come stay here for a month and you can make this record.” The equipment list that they had online ended up being so much bigger by the time we got there, so I think there’s an old mellotron in there, three or four pianos, things like that. We knew that we were going to a room and we wanted some really good set-up live and do the album that way, but then all the toys…”
Marc - “There was a room that was the keyboard room, that was just a room full of fun.”
Ross - “We tried out everything, but because we had the whole building, we used the Reception hall to record some drum overdubs and we pretty much used every room in the whole of the place.”
Any particularly memorable moments of the process?
Greg - “I remember setting up to record ‘Building A Wall’. The song’s based off a drum loop and we ended up recording it live in the keyboard room, because why wouldn’t you set up a drum kit in a room full of keyboards, and sending that live down into a massive atrium space, cranking it through a ‘60s guitar amp until it started breaking up and then we’re playing it from like fifty yards away, there was like…I don’t know why we did that but it sounded really cool but it shouldn’t have. But that’ll stick in my mind as sort of like a creative…[it was] just an idea that we had and it ended up falling through and made it onto the record.”
Marc - “I think sometimes you have these bits that [at] times when you’re recording especially, you have this big breakthrough moment and you’ll remember what peaks and troughs. So you’ll remember those peaks and figure out the troughs, but it was all peaks, it kind of stayed on a level and we had a nice time.”
Greg - “It was such an instinctual way to record, we just tried stuff out.”
Marc - “Very little stress, very little hassle, it was just nice. We’d cycle into town, get some bits and make a nice dinner, have a glass of wine or cocktail. We just hung out for a month in this place.”
Ross - “The way that we approached this with the live aspect and stuff allowed us to have a record made in ten days and then spend another fifteen days making it amazing. Instead of rushing through, we had a great sounding album there and then we had the opportunity to make it sound better for two weeks. You’ve got to make logical decisions. Because we had such a solid base to work with, any of the Eureka moments that we were talking about, we got to find something that we enjoyed the sound of and then go, “Let’s extrapolate this back, and let’s see if that’ll work in this section of that song.” So because you’ve got a whole ten songs, the skeletons of everything, you go “I really like that bit, I think we could take that and re-do the lead guitar on that with that sound”, and that’ll make it sound all the same.”
Greg - “You had all your notes ready, and so we knew all the right bits that would work where, because we had done our homework.”
What are the most important elements of a live performance for you?
Marc - “I think you want to capture everyone’s attention there and have everyone moving in one big unit. You want it to feel like everyone’s all in it together.”
Greg - “Yeah, that’s why you go to gigs, for that feeling of community.”
Marc - “You don’t want to see the bands going through the motions. Before going on to any gig, I try to remember when I was thirteen or fourteen, [the feeling of] going to a gig and wanting to be up and play in a band, and seeing my favourite bands. I always just have that [feeling] in my head [as I’m] going on. It could be someone’s first gig, or it could be someone’s last gig. You may be very tired or haven’t showered because you’ve been driving for the past eighteen hours, but you get on and just give it your all. I think we always do that.”
What’s your favourite lyric off the newest album and why?
Greg - “‘Stay dead till my phone die or turn back the quiet sigh’ from ‘Reflection’. I think everyone from Glasgow would have had a night like that, that whole song captures the sentiment that will hit home in a very good way, for me.”
Ross - “In ‘The Rain’, the opening lyrics ‘You sleep in the exit rows, when there’s a problem you’ll be the first to know’ comes from a morning flight we had to London actually. It was a proper 6AM flight, so we’d been up since quarter to 4AM or whatever to get to the airport. The plane was empty and there was no one sitting in the exit rows, so the guy came up to the three of us and was like, “Do you guys mind doing it? Let us know if there’s a problem.” So we got to sleep along, we had one each, so that’s where that came from and that’s one of my favourites.”
Sonically, the material on ‘Sum Of All Your Parts’ is very diverse - it goes from heartbreaking tender moments to blistering riffs without a hiccup. What music has been your main influence?
Greg - “We listen to a lot of Death Cab For Cutie. There’s a little space in this record that we never had in our previous albums that we learnt from listening to a lot of Death Cab.It’s primarily ‘Kintsugi’, ’Plans’ and ‘Transatlanticism’. The National record came out when we were writing it as well, and it’s just about more room in the songs that allows for higher moments and lower lows that heightens the dynamics.”
Marc - “Some Bon Iver as well.”
Ross - “Like ‘22, A Million’. Also Radiohead’s stuff as well. What else did we listen to…Sigur Ros stuff and Ludovico Einaudi, in terms of beautifully laid score piano music. And Basement, just loads of Basement.”
Greg - “And then stuff like Weezer, Manchester Orchestra as well.”
What are the songs that have inspired you the most as a band through these years?
Ross - “One of the songs that inspired me the most, being in a band for years, is actually a song called ‘Reflections’ by a band called Balance And Composure. It’s just super cool, riffy, like proper breakdown guitars and noise, I always thought that was a great song.”
Greg - “‘Holocene’ by Bon Iver from the second Bon Iver record is a big soundscapey, dreamy, beautiful song that you can’t help but be inspired by whenever you listen to it.”
Where did the idea for the spoken word section in ‘Oh Yes’ come from?
Marc - “We had toyed with the idea of doing something like that for a while, on our last album as well. It was just something we’d fancied doing and wanted to do. It was like a tick-off list of stuff that we want to do on our albums. Like we’d done secret tracks on things, done bits and bobs with that, featuring on this record as well. And I remember Ross, you saw Isaiah at a poetry thing, and then you coming back and talking about it loads, saying he was just an amazing guy with some amazing poems. Then we were working on that section, it was a big medley, like an explosion from the sky of guitars. We didn’t necessarily want vocals or Ross singing, but something to pull through that and then the idea came to us. Luckily, we managed to get a hold of him, he recorded it and sent it over.”
You mentioned that ‘Ghost’ is about where you all grew up. What are your fondest memories of growing up?
Greg - “Just playing gigs. It was a good scene of bands, all our age, around Kilmarnock at that time; it was a great scene of gigs. There was something on pretty much every weekend, and that community of bands where everyone was at everyone’s show regardless of what happened and just seeing all these different bands was inspiring because it was like hardcore bands, punk bands, acoustic things, everything was on the same stage.”
Marc - “All day festivals, all the time.”
Greg - “You’d be at the front row for four hours before you came on, you’d go and play and you’d come back and stand at the front row again. Just that community of bands that were floating about at the time is something all of us really treasure. It was a good place to grow up.”
If you could go back to your past self and give them a piece of advice for growing up, what would it be?
Ross - “Mine would be to be more direct. Have more of a backbone and be more direct.”
Marc - “I was going to say be a bit more patient, but I’m reasonably patient.”
Greg - “I would probably say give a bit more time to myself, don’t be so busy all the time.”
Taking inspiration from the title of ‘Ghost’, have you ever had any odd experiences where you felt like you might’ve been haunted by a ghost?
Greg - “Ross was 100% haunted.”
Marc - “We were recording at Rockfield in Wales for the second album, there were band accommodations just outside the studio and Ross’ room was so haunted. He had a shower in the morning, left, and came back in the evening to the bath being completely full of ice cold water that was perfectly still. Stuff kept moving and it was terrifying, so what we [Marc and Greg] did was, we then went and messed with his head for the entire time recording the album. We’d sneak into his room when he was recording, and write messages and moved all his stuff a little bit, and he ended up getting so freaked out.”
Ross - “I had a double bed and a single bed, and on one of the nights - and I’m pretty sure you guys must have done it but no one ever admitted to doing it - was that I got into my room one night, and the single bed was roughened up like someone had just slept in it, it was horrible.”
Marc - “There was a couple of things that happened that actually wasn’t us, it was freezing in Ross’ room, it was super cold no matter what and it was in the summer.”
Ross - “Sometimes the electricity would go out at night for no reason. It was quite a spiffy place to be, it was where Black Sabbath had grown up, so in their other old studio, underneath all of the wallpaper was just ‘666’ and upside down crosses and hexagrams and stuff painted on all the walls. It was fucking terrifying.”
If listeners could only take away one message from it, what message would you want it to be?
Greg - “There’s only so long you can tread on eggshells around situations if you know it’s wrong. Like, ‘this is actually what I think’ and having the confidence to say something in difficult situations.”
Marc - “The whole album is just doing what you want to do. Be nice to whoever, but be happy with what you do and care about it.”
Ross - “There are things that go wrong in your life but just having the confidence to be like, ‘no’. Just be confident and do what you want to do, because it’s a long life if you’re miserable and constantly second-guessing yourself. Be kind to people, but also be kind to yourself.”
You mentioned that there’s a sample of an electric radiator in ‘The Rain’ - how did the idea for this come about and are there any other sounds listeners should keep an ear out for?
Ross - “It’s that idea of having a sound that reminds you of somewhere. On ‘Reflection’, in the bit before the last chorus, there’s a sample of the Glasgow Underground in it. You can hear that and as it comes out of that big musical, emotional section, you can hear the subway coming out of that and stopping. In ‘Ghost’, between the first and second verses, there’s a broken fire alarm that we had in the studio and we just sampled it in. And on ‘Oh Yes’, there’s samples of birds that are singing, and different things like that. We just recorded any cool sound we had, and I will always remember that.”
Greg - “It’s a real snapshot into our real lives when we were making the album.”
Marc - “It’s kind of like a little postcard to yourself. More than anything, like the sound of the subway coming, it always takes us to that bit when we hear it. It’s like an easter egg.”
Drawing on the title ‘Building a Wall’, do you think people nowadays are too quick to build a wall?
Ross - “I think everything is so out in the open that people end up having to be more guarded and more false. Like you just build up a bad air between anything because everything seems to be judged so harshly. It’s no wonder that people are building up a defence against that.”
Greg - “It’s quite an interesting time where you’re almost hiding your own wall of beliefs. You can sit and talk for hours without ever getting to know someone, because you’re just seeing your ideals. There are a lot of conversations where everyone is so guarded against, that you don’t really get to know why people believe these things, you just see what they believe in. Like that’s fine but I’m not connecting with you at all, I’m just trying to get to know you. It’s a competition of who’s got the best walls or who believes this and who believes that and who can argue the best.”
Ross - “It’s exhausting talking to people who don’t want to talk to you. I’d rather have a conversation about something that means something - it doesn’t even have to mean a lot to you, it just has to mean something to you in the first place.”
Finally, what does music mean to you?
Marc - “Music for me is a tie to these two guys here, because we’ve been in bands since we were very young, like thirteen or fourteen, so the past twelve years have just pretty much been all consuming with all parts of your life. It’s a very warm, fond feeling, it’s like this basic, instinctual, nice thing.”
Ross - “It’s a big release. I find it to be the sort of thing I’m most at ease doing and most nervous about doing, because I like want to do it so much. But I think on the cold face of it, it’s the most cathartic and enjoyable thing.”
Greg - “I think this is true for most people, but outside of like relationships, nothing can change the way you feel more than a song. Like a song can change the way I think about things, and it can change a mood instantaneously, and no other form of art or media can do it quite the same as three minutes of amazing music can. I guess we do it partly to think that the music we make can have the effect on people like that, because I would like to think it could.”
Feature by Athena Kam