With all things 90s enjoying a sudden revival of late, Painting of Ships are a most welcome newcomer on the scene. This North-London trio of melodic white noise dealers put out a pretty awesome EP in 2010, entitled ‘Shore for Sure’. Now they’ve just released their debut LP, ‘English Weather’, which, as it boasts a well-crafted narrative of love, disillusion and vigilance, delivered over a soundscape of tasty riffs, bass lines and skin beating as witnessed on tracks like ‘The Pain Comes Easy (The Rest Is Hard)’, ‘Love Will Always Follow You Around’ or ‘Island Heart’, should turn into the audio crush of many an art rock lover. And indeed the future of PoS as we’ll soon grow to call them looks brighter than their album lets it out to be, as frontman Dan Clancy gives away…
When and how did you guys form?
At the beginning of 2009, Catherine (Wilson) and I were both music blogging and got chatting about how we loved 90s bands and football. But it was mainly our shared love of Blur that made us sit up and say “Hey, I really want to be in a band - I play guitar, you play bass, let’s start a band, eh?” And so we got together for a couple of low key bedroom jams before advertising for a drummer – because nobody knows any drummers in real life. Eventually, Matt (Hill) became the answer we were looking for. Not into football, but a 90s kid!
Where does the band name come from?
I literally just love paintings of ships. I can stare at them in galleries for ages and ages. Naming a band is tough but that one stuck. Doesn’t give much away about how we sound too.
What are your influences, musical and other?
We’re influenced mainly by bands who like to make a bit of a guitar racket. From 70s post-punk bands like Wire and Magazine to indie rock stuff like The Pixies, Superchunk, Pavement and, as said, Blur (Graham Coxon is my hero! Don’t tell anyone!). To be honest, there is far too many to mention and probably far too few comparisons to those bands to make, but we each bring our own thing to the table and hopefully it sounds like something new. Oh, and we are also influenced by huge oil paintings of old ships at sea.
How would you define your sound?
Indie rock pop with a gentle splash of post punk.
What’s your reason for making music and what are your plans with it?
We make music first and foremost to get out the house and do something we all enjoy. Meeting up and sweating in a tiny room somewhere under a rail bridge in Camden may not sound like Christmas dinner at your mum’s to everyone, but we love it. We just want to play and record it and for people to hear it. If people like it, it makes our day. If not, well, we’ll always be having a good time anyway. But at the same time as having a laugh, we’re very committed to making the best possible records we can.
What do you think of guitar music today?
Tough question that one but I think it’s quite healthy! I don’t really think about it too much, but I seem to be occupied by enough of it, so I’m happy.
Your sound is very pleasantly 90s retro-stylee, so do you relate to any of the current bands?
I relate to current bands like British Sea Power, Art Brut, Cloud Nothings, Let’s Wrestle, Male Bonding, Sky Larkin... loads, and it’s always changing but whether or not we sound like any of them is up for debate. Probably not mainly, but I’m pleased to say that our sound varies enough to just sound like us.
Tell us about ‘English Weather’…
It’s a guitar album with plenty of noise dotted throughout, hopefully with enough melody to keep you coming back. Ultimately the album a collection of songs that are all attempting to somehow lift your mood while being fully aware that there are always the potential for clouds lingering in the distance. There is a lot of paranoia on the album, but there is plenty of sun coming through too. I only really realised this when it was done. I think we all fear things going wrong, it’s very English to not enjoy what we have in the present.
What’s your greatest achievement on the album?
Catherine wrote some fantastic string parts! Oh and we recorded the majority of it live.
What could you have done better?
Probably could have had zero guitar overdubs to record. And I could have sounded a bit more like Mariah Carey than I do.
What’s so inspiring about the English weather?
It’s completely unpredictable and it has the ability to change everyone’s mood. If you feel down at the end of summer, you’ll probably have to wait a year before you’re up again and even then summer may never come. When it does, it’s great. English summers are probably the best. If you thrive on cold, wet cold weather, it’s a nice life. We hope our music is a bit of a reflection of it.
Could you possibly write about Californian weather if given the chance?
I don’t think it’s worth trying to outdo the Beach Boys, although I think Best Coast is doing a good job at the moment. It’s too sunny over there for me; the album would be called ‘Sunburnt in Cali’.
So this is a self-produced album. Any dream producer to encapsulate “English Weather” if you could?
We love Matt doing it. But we probably, at a push, wouldn’t say no to Steve Albini and Frank Black being involved somehow.
Tell us about your songwriting process?
Pretty much everything starts on my acoustic guitar and makes its way up from there. If a heavy guitar part sounds good on acoustic, it’ll sound amazing put through a pedal and an amp. Sometimes I’ll have an idea from a year ago suddenly be joined by something new (the dreaded chorus) that didn’t come at the time. It’s nice doing things in ten minutes – which can happen – but when you suddenly find puzzle pieces coming together, it’s the best. Melody and words usually come pretty much as soon as I start strumming; I never sit down and write words out, it just needs to happen for me.
‘Love Will Always Follow You Around’ but will it tear us apart like Joy Division claimed?
That song is about loving someone and doing fun things together, but the chorus is almost saying if you get sick of me, I wish you all the best. It goes back to what I was saying about paranoia and fear of things going wrong. It’s trying its hardest to be a pure love song but it’s informed by how things go amiss unless you’re not careful. I think that’s what Joy Division were trying to say!!!
Does the future look bright though?... What’s in the pipeline for Paintings of Ships in the next six months?
Well, we’re planning on getting some gigs booked, then continue to write new material and hopefully go to work on the next album in the new year. We are also working on the video for our second single 'Island Heart' following up our first one for 'Summer Love'. So for now we just want to enjoy ‘English Weather’ and try our best to get as many people as possible to hear it and hopefully like it as much as we do.
‘English Weather’ and the single ‘Summer Love’ are out now, available from the likes of iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp.
Paintings of Ships play Northern Lights in Brighton on 12 October 2012