Feature: Jack Foley
"WHEN talking to people about what I've been doing recently,
I've described it as 'unlearning'," says Iain Archer of the
process leading up to his new album, Flood the Tanks.
"On this record, I've wanted to pick apart what is assumed
it means to be a singer songwriter, stripping it back until I
felt I had reached bare bones.
"That's an exposing and an uncertain place to be, but I
would rather be trying to connect on that level than running on
The comments form part of the introduction to the artist currently
posted on his website, and marks a bold statement given the comparisons
his music have prompted, with bands such as Snow Patrol, Badly
Drawn Boy and, to a certain extent, Coldplay.
Nevertheless, it is little wonder, given Archers background
as guitarist for both Reindeer Section and Snow Patrol - the latter
with whom he has continued to collaborate on their latest album,
most notably in the form of hit single, Run.
But, rather like several high-profile guitarists, such as Graham
Coxon and John Squire, Archer has decided to go it alone, and
his debut solo long-player is garnering considerable acclaim in
Drawing on influences ranging from Neil Young to Jim O'Rourke,
via Yo La Tengo, the Velvet Underground and My Bloody Valentine,
Flood the Tanks bears the scars of its long and difficult
gestation - which suits Iain just fine.
"I really wanted to make this record feel broken, to mess
things up and allow a bit of chaos in there. I wanted it to be
as honest as it could be, to create something fractured and raw,"
he explains, via his personal website.
The quest to which Archer refers seems to stem from his background
in Bangor, a small seaside town in the heart of Ulster, in the
"You genuinely do grow up with this crazy idea that everything
in your small world is solid and unshakeable, and that you are
right about everything and there are a lot of people out there
who are wrong," he explains.
Archer picked up his first guitar at the tender age of 13 and
he has seldom looked back since, travelling to Glasgow, in the
early 90s, with his brother and a VW Camper van.
While there, he recorded two albums in quick succession, Playing
Dead, in 1995, and Crazy Bird, the following year,
both on the Scottish label, Sticky.
They were warmly received by the likes of Mojo and the Irish
Times and led to invitations for him to tour with the likes of
In spite of such promising beginnings, though, Archer didnt
want to risk landing himself in safe territory, because
of the folk-tinged nature of both albums, and didnt want
to get into a situation where he would end up playing on
that circuit to 40-something audiences out for a few nice tunes
and a bit of light entertainment.
With this in mind, Archer relocated to London, and took a job
at a hostel for homeless young people. "That allowed me to
step out of my insular musical world and see another side of life,
some of the real shit that goes on."
He dabbled in a number of musical projects over the subsequent
years, but nothing seemed quite right, and he even thought of
quitting, until finding inspiration from a number of collaborations,
among them with fellow Irish band, The Amazing Pilots and with
Rough Trade artist, Jacob Golden.
Most notably, a few gigs with Glasgow's Snow Patrol led to an
invitation to join the band, and a welcome burst of confidence
"I realised, look, here are people who are writing honestly,
not playing the game," says Iain.
"Maybe I can go back to doing something that's very me,
without it being denied or manipulated. And they built me up and
constantly encouraged my own song-writing.
"But apart from anything else, it was great to be on the
road again. I hadn't done that for so long."
Having rediscovered his confidence, Archer then joined the Scottish
collective, the Reindeer Section, for their second album, contributing
steel guitar and vocals, before deciding the time was right to
step out on his own again.
The result is Flood the Tanks, an album which has been
capturing the attention of Djs and musicians, including Tim Burgess,
who was so impressed that he offered Archer some support slots
on his UK tour in the autumn.
The songs deal with the universal issues of loss, struggle and
discovery. But, ultimately, the music contains an uplifting message
based on a profound belief in the resilience of the human spirit.
"There's definitely a current of hope running through this
record, just under the surface, in and out of reach. Its making
hinged around the tension of being mid-leap. And it seems being
mid-leap is the place I'm happiest."