Guillemots' Fyfe Dangerfield talks bands, birdwatching and Birmingham with Jon Perks.
The countryside of Norway has replaced the remote tranquility of North Wales for Guillemots’ latest base, where the four-piece have been writing and playing new material for the follow-up to April’s Walk The River.
And while it’s another remote location with the quartet – Fyfe Dangerfield, MC Lord Magrão, Aristazabal Hawkes and Greig Stewart – pretty much shut away from the rest of the world, singer Fyfe reveals it has seen yet another switch in direction for the genre-blurring band:
“For the last month or two we’ve been feeling really energised as a band live; I think this time we’re more open to the idea of bringing in people – I’m feeling the urge to have an orchestra again,” says the singer, who grew up in Birmingham.
“I have that hunger of not wanting to sound like anything else. It would be boring if you always wanted to do the same thing. The guy we’re working with, Jonas, is a brilliant musician himself, so often he’s having ideas as well so it’s quite a different process.
“You change with each album with what you want to do; with Walk The River, we definitely wanted it to be rooted in quite a traditional basis of being the sound of a band in a room playing, but we wanted to produce it and mix it in a way that there was a sense of hearing it from a distance, across the hills – we wanted to sound really ‘wide’.”
Prior to their headline appearance at this year’s Artsfest, Dangerfield and his bandmates spent a fortnight on the Norwegian farmhouse, writing, rehearsing and recording songs that will help form the band’s fourth album, following Through The Windowpane in 2006, Red (2008) and this year’s Walk The River.
“We have a friend that has a studio out there on an old farm and we just wanted to get out and make some music without the officialness of ‘we’re making a record’ – that can be quite destructive sometimes,” says Fyfe.
“It was brilliant – two weeks in a bubble, we barely left the house and we started about 18 songs... well, some of them aren’t complete songs but it was amazing, really brilliant.
“We’ve been going now for years and built up a huge backlog of songs and especially writing for Walk The River we spent about a year just meeting up and writing as a band and Walk The River only had I think 12 tracks on it, so we had loads of other things that we’d started that we wanted to record at some point.”
The latest Guillemots tour sees the band play the HMV Institute in Digbeth. Having played a string of hometown venues including the Town Hall, The Rainbow and Academy, it’s yet another one to tick off their mental I Spy list of places they have played in Brum.
“We’ve probably done the rounds,” Fyfe agrees with a smile. “I’d like to play back at the Flapper and Firkin – that was where it all started for me and my old band; some day it’d be nice to get in there and do a little intimate gig. A lot of the places I remember as a kid, like The Jug of Ale, have closed.”
While ‘The Jug’ may now be assigned to history, Fyfe’s love of ornithology – birdwatching to the uninitiated – remains as strong as ever. But while a string of celebrities have recently “come out” as twitchers, Fyfe’s interest goes back to childhood. “I’ve been doing it since I was a kid I guess – I was there first, ha ha,” he chuckles.
“I like it because on one level it’s so voyeuristic, it’s like watching aliens or something, flicking into another world, but there’s a real humility with it as well.
“It’s one of the best levellers I have; you can get so caught up in your own tiny little problems that seem gigantic and I find generally just being out in the countryside helps put that into perspective.
“There have been buzzards around for like 2,000 years and I’ll die and they’ll still be here and I definitely find that comforting rather than intimidating.”
* Guillemots play HMV Institute on Wednesday November 9. www.guillemots.com