Ulrika Spacek are about to release their latest record Modern English Decoration via Tough Love, and the new album by the boys from Reading must be described as the prolonged continuation of their impressive début The Album Paranoia. Let's investigate.
Sometimes, it can be hard to feel optimistic about rowdy, new, guitar music. So much sounds grubby and calculated, grabbing at the receding coat-tails of past fads. And then you come across a band like Ulrika Spacek. Everything’s in the red, the guitars sound as if they've wondered what it would sound like if you layered 60's garage rock, a bit of Deerhunter, a spot of shoegaze, some Nirvana, Neil Young's high vocals and the odd fuzzy amp on top of each other.
Yes, Ulrika Spacek manage to combine melody with noise.
Their latest record Modern English Decoration, as a whole, is an unpredictable fulfilment of an unforeseen whim. It's also the continuation of The Album Paranoia, carefully balancing between soaring melodies, heavy repetitive riffs, sprawling sounds and quiet ballads. Indeed, the transition between Everything All The Time and Modern English Decoration showcases the band's wide range of sounds, from the heavy to the soft and intimate. It's like a new and creative take on psych-rock. It captures the essence of a band which simply make the music that they want. And that's clearly not as easy at it sounds.
So we decided to talk to one of the band's many Rhys - of course, two founding members are both called Rhys - to talk about the imagination of a band who can do it all, their spot KEN where they create and shape their songs, and the usual Third Outing topics we like to cover in our interviews! Here's the interview with Rhys from Ulrika Spacek...
"We are just big believers in the notion that the most magic in an idea is when it is first written"
Hello Rhys from Ulrika Spacek! We like that you don't seem to overthink your music. What triggers your imagination and how do you translate it into music and sounds? I think it's the sounds that triggers our imagination, really. We often collect little field recordings of guitar ideas, then in the process of making a song kind of put certain things together like a collage. We certainly try not to overthink and do believe that making decisions quickly and intuitively can be very beneficial. We don't "jam" in our records, most of the textures are quite considered.
You leave space for improvisation and experimentation, though. Was it challenging to choose what to use on the album or did it come more naturally? We are just big believers in the notion that the most magic in an idea is when it is first written. We tried to capture that feeling in our records. If someone is playing something for the first time and hits a wrong note, is it really a "wrong" note. Finding which parts of the record should be more free and which bits more regimented is a challenge, but something we go with via intuition.
Is genre something you think about when making music? No. We are definitely aware of the different genres that we have been labelled with, though. If we are an amalgamation of those then it feels like you are bringing something new to the table. When we talk about our favourites bands we never think about what genre they are, more that we love the little world they make.
Who are your role models for melodic songwriting, then? Neil Young taught me that singing in a higher register and sounding a bit whiney transfers more emotion than just singing in a comfortable register. Yo La Tengo take melodic song writing to another level on various parts of their records, too.
"At the moment we just want to make the best records we can make in the context of it being harder than ever to pay rent."
So can you tell us what KEN is? The shell of a victorian terrace house filled with boxes and things left by past tenants. You never know what you are going to find next. Up until recently, we had a cake in the cupboard with a sell by date of 1997, but strangely no mould! The living room had the floor ripped up and was turned into an art gallery until the guy got thrown out. We've since moved in with our music stuff and record from here.
If we give you a £100, a packet of cigarettes and a Stone Roses hat, how do you think the night would go?
We would definitely spend the money on a good time, smoke the cigarettes and the hat would probably end up somewhere in KEN.
Who would win in a master chef style cooking contest between Ulrike Meinhof and Sissy Spacek. And what would their signature dishes be? Ulrike would win! Hard boiled eggs, toast and spreewald pickles smuggled from the East. That is pretty much our diet at the moment actually.