Interview: Arcane Roots

It’s here! After plenty of hard work and recognition after their ‘Left Fire’ EP, Arcane Roots have finally released debut album ‘Blood And Chemistry’. And what is the blood and chemistry behind the album? Well you’ll be treated to melodies, off putting time signatures and plenty of riffs.

It would be an easy comparison to bring up Biffy Clyro, and that’s something we spoke about when we met up with vocalist/guitarist Andrew Groves before their London show on their recent tour of the UK. Other topics include the journey from ‘Left Fire’ to ‘Blood And Chemistry’ and pagan ritual tools…

Already Heard: Here we are at the Electrowerkz in London – are you looking forward to the show tonight?
Andrew Groves: I am indeed; London shows are always “the big show” for any band, because that’s where the press are, but for us it’s our home show as well, and it’s become a really special thing – kind of like sleeping in your own bed. It’s really nice that we get to go to some amazing countries, and do some amazing things and play in places we’ve never been to before, and be in hotels, and that’s fun, but after a while I can’t wait to get into my old slippers. At the same time we know it’s going to be an amazing response, and every time we play here I almost well up, just to see all these people that bought a travel card for me. It’s a very surreal and humbling experience.

AH: The new album has just been released – congratulations! Talk me through the journey from the first EP up to now.
Andrew: ‘Left Fire’ our first EP IS as it sounds – that kind of left field type of approach. We wanted ‘Left Fire’ to be out of the starting blocks; guns blazing, spiky, angular, as many things in one song as possible. Before ‘Blood and Chemistry’ we toured ‘Left Fire’ for two maybe three years. And we learnt a lot, and loads of things happened as a band, and we had to equate with all those things. Before we did the album the hardest thing was just the fact that we had done ‘Left Fire’ and it had done really well, and now we had a label and managers involved, and all these other people. And they had expectations and I had expectations of what my first album was going to be… and what do we want to do with that? What do WE want to be? What band are WE going to sound like? And where are we going to go with our music? We did almost everything under the sun to almost force that feeling, and it ended up being that three of us went to record some demos, and for some reason the recording equipment was a bit late so we had some extra time, so we just rehearsed. And then we were like – ‘we’ve not rehearsed in years!’ Like, we’ve never been in a room; we’ve just played gigs. We’ve been kind of lucky and lazy that we can just get up on stage and play and its fun. Then we just started writing songs really quickly, and I talked about what I wanted the songs to sound like and the ideas and where I wanted it to go… and then we just started knocking out songs.

AH: Does the title ‘Blood and Chemistry’ mean anything or have any significance or did you just think, ‘yeah that sounds cool.’
Andrew: So lyrically, the whole album is this tie of emotion to something that’s kind of hard and very physical, with blood being very warm… and the whole album just seems like a very crimson coloured album, and it has this kind of warming thing. And then chemistry is quite hard and calculated and cold, and lyrically the songs all play around with that juxtaposition – you can use science to describe something but it can’t describe how it feels. I liked playing around with that. At the same time it was us finding our “brotherliness”. We asked the label to stop everything so we could rehearse for a month, and we worked from 9 til 6 every day just rehearsing. It was great to wake up and be like; ‘What am I going to create today with my two best friends?’ So it became about that chemistry between the three of us.

AH: In terms of the record – did you have a manifesto going into the studio and a clear idea of what it was going to sound like or did that happen organically during recording?
Andrew: A bit of both – we were working with a new producer who initially we argued against, having always used Chris (‘Left Fire’ producer) – he lives with us and we’re very good friends, and we’re always under the ethos that the people we work with are growing with us, and will still excite us every time we work with them. It actually became a bit of a power struggle between us and we had so many stresses and strains and long nights. But we got there and I ended up talking to him all night about what we believed music should be about. We didn’t even know what it was going to sound like. We went to the studio and I was like; ‘I’m gonna chat to the guy and be like, look; this is the music I’m into, this is what I believe music should be about’. Going to the studio and recording the smallest little things that nobody hears but they’re just cheekily under there, and a cacophony of lots of things… I love the idea of that whole John Frusciante and Omar Rodgriguez train of thought, of the record moving along but so subconsciously – and this producer was a master of that, so he had my heart very quickly. We just knew we wanted to make something that stood up and was ballsy and kicked the shit of stuff when it needed to and it really slammed, but at the same time I wanted it to be beautiful and something I could just sit back and listen to the intricacies of it and the nice little treatments underneath it. As long as I was satisfied that everyone had put all their heart and soul into it, and really concentrated on it and worked hard enough that it would be a really good record. But we were surprised the first time we heard it. 

AH: Did you record a lot of stuff or just the album’s worth?
Andrew: We recorded exactly 12 songs because that’s what I wanted the album to be, and I didn’t like the idea of recording 50 million songs and then cutting it down – it’s kind of like saying well lets have 50 million kids and then get rid of some. I love those children, thanks. We’re not Romans! So we recorded exactly 12 songs. And then it ended up being 10 songs.

AH: Coming up you’ve got Takedown Festival, and of course Reading and Leeds amongst some other festivals. Which festival are you looking forward to playing the most?
Andrew: Reading and Leeds is going to be awesome – just because it’s Reading and Leeds. And seeing our name on that poster is like… wow. And I get to see Nine Inch Nails, which is going to be awesome, and we get to hang out with Biffy. Arctangent festival is going to be really good too – the guys that run that are the same guys who run 2000 trees. Also BBK in Bilbao is going to be good, as we’ll get to see Twin Atlantic who we toured with.

AH: You touched on seeing Biffy Clyro there… reading over some reviews of ‘Blood & Chemistry’ – the Biffy comparison really comes up a lot…
Andrew: Yeahhhh…

AH: Do you get sick of it?
Andrew: When I’m in a good mood it’s fine, but when I’m not in a good mood I find it a little bit lazy. It’s just a bit… come on… I’ve got a beard… ok…. It’s cool, I understand that journalists need something to reach for and you need to be like; this band sounds like blah blah. You know when someone’s mum says, “oh you’re in a band?” And you sigh.  And they say “oh what’s it sound like?” And you have to say Biffy. Because it’s the only band that they might have a chance of knowing. So fair enough. The funny thing for me is the amount of times I’ve described something to someone and said “I want this part of the song to be like this…kind of like Biffy.” Then the bits that we actually think sound like Biffy no one else does or picks up on. It’s always some other random part. They’re awesome guys and they’re very kind about us and we can’t deny that we listened to them a lot as kids. They’re an awesome band. They’re just writing good songs. At the time of writing the album I was just listening to Meshuggah and Every Time I Die. And then KT Tunstall.

AH: A perfect fusion….
Andrew: Haha yeah. We’ll let the music do the talking; I think we’re slowly carving our own mark. People go “Is it Muse or is it Biffy?” Hopefully there’s a third option now. It’ll be annoying for a long time, but people feel the need to put you in a box and we’re aware of that….so we couldn’t do a record that was TOO out there because it needed to fit into a space. Otherwise that’s the first thing that people write about. But I’ve seen some really cool reviews where I’ve been like; “You GET it.”

AH: Other than the obvious – Toothbrush, pants, pagan ritual tools… what’s the one thing you can’t leave at home when touring?
Andrew: Pagan ritual tools? Well… I like my toothbrush and I like my pants… but I take this watch everywhere with me, and I like that too. I like shirts… a nice clean ironed shirt, just makes me feel nice about myself for the rest of the day and gives me that extra 5% I need to play a good show.

‘Blood And Chemistry’ by Arcane Roots is out now on Play It Again Sam.

Arcane Roots links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

Words by Katie Malcolmson (@KAMalcolmson)


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