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An interview with South at 93 Feet East


Story: Jack Foley

Q. With a new single and new album coming out, does it feel good to be back?
A.
It's really nice to be back, and for people to react to your music quite so well after you've been away. We're with a different label now, and people are judging it on its own merit, which is really nice.

Q. There does seem to be a good vibe surrounding the current track, Loosen Your Hold, I mean Zoe Ball's already featured it as her record of the week...
A.
Yeah, and Virgin have had it, Radio 2 and Radio 1 have been playing it, so it's starting to build...

Q. So what's the inspiration behind it? What's the song about?
A.
It's about fear of letting go, it's about not being scared of letting go of the things that are really important to you... because sometimes it's for the best.

Q. And does that come from a lot of personal experience?
A.
Probably somewhere, yeah [laughs]. But we're trying to paint a picture that makes sense to me.

Q. Moving on to the album, have you got a name for it yet?
A.
With The Tides...

Q. And a release date?
A.
For this country, no. It's got September 26 in the States, and November in Japan.

Q. And what about the UK, any chance of it emerging before that?
A.
I don't think so. I think we're going to go with another single, and then make sure the time is right. We don't want this to drop off now, so we've got to keep going. But we kind of want to treat every place differently, and get it right.

Q. The last time we spoke, you had just got back from the States, where you seem to have established quite a good following... Have you been back since?
A.
We went back and did Cornelius, as well as a big festival in LA, which was great fun, and just finished the album in New York, and rehearsed a lot in LA. So it was good to have that focus, and that time to build the new songs. So it's been nice over there.

Q. I've heard that the new album moves away from the James Lavelle influence, and is a little more guitar-based. Is that right? What can we expect from it?
A.
I don't know if that's right, actually, because we never made a record to sound like a Mo'Wax record. We just made the record sound like how we sounded, really. But there were elements, of course, with James wanting to explore more, and this time we really wanted to focus ourselves and make sure we got the sound right.

Q. How do you think the new album compares to From Here On In? How much of a progression is it, for you?
Brett Shaw.
The first record, we were being produced by the guy who owned the label, so we had free reign to do what we wanted with it, and at the age we were, we did do pretty much what we wanted with it.
I think, as a consequence of that, we pulled in the reigns on ourselves, and tried to figure out the whole finished product in our minds before we'd actually started recording anything.
Joel Cadbury: We demoed a lot more; and re-demoed songs, to make sure we knew what we were doing with them.

Q. So how long did it take to put together?
A.
We started it in October or November of last year, so probably about five or six months. It was kind of like stopping and starting, because Dave Eringa was producing it, and he was also producing another band that he had committed to, so it was like two weeks of recording, two weeks of reflecting, which was a really good way to work, because it meant that the energy was always there. In your time off, you could think about what you've done, the things you want to change, so then you'd go back and have that energy again, like you've just started over; so the momentum was there.

Q. What has the feedback been like from fans so far, I mean you've been putting the tracks out there at gigs such as the ICA in March...
A.
The ICA gig was really nice; it was a good chance for us to start playing out some of these songs. But it's very difficult as well when you do that, because your old songs are of a standard where you can just do it without thinking, and these ones... so it has taken time since the record was finished to really focus, get rehearsing and get these songs right. The ICA was part of that as well, but it's nice to always do shows that have a good audience.

Q. Will there be a tour to back up the new album?
A.
It's looking like America at the beginning of August; we're going to do a few regional dates, but a lot of people want to wait for the album, so we've got to keep putting ourselves about a bit until it does, and then go for it.
So I think we'll spend our time more in America, play three or four headlining shows, go for New York, LA, San Francisco, and then we've got a tour that's scheduled in for the end of October in America. But things are also starting to take shape here now, so it's all work in progress at the moment.

Q. Do you feel any pressure with the expectation surrounding this follow-up album, given the length of time since From Here On In, and the fact that it was such a great underground success?
Brett Shaw:
Not really, I feel quietly confident, because some of the tracks are already really well liked, particularly in America. I mean, we've only been playing them a few times, but they are already up to scratch...
Joel: Yeah, and we've hopefully raised the bar a bit this time; the way the album was recorded was affected by the fact we had been touring a lot, so it felt a lot more alive, and we could control how we wanted everything to be, which is a really good feeling. Then live, it kind of translates again, because you've thought about how a song can work, whereas with the first record, we recorded the record, and it was very like building blocks, which is great, but then you've got to try and make that work live. With this one, we kind of conceived it all, and thought about how it was going to work live before we recorded the tracks; therefore, when you come to play it live, it's more of a repeat thing anyway. I think the new songs are really, really exciting for us.

Q. With that in mind, had it been a tough 12 months? Did it feel like you might never put another album out, given the situation with Mowax and the loss of the Nothing Personal EP?
A.
Yeah, it's had its downs... There was a period before we got signed to Kinetic in America, when we knew that things had sort of fucked up with Mo'Wax, because Mo'Wax had gone tits up really, and we were caught in the crossfire, really.
I mean, it wasn't James's fault. I had him on the phone telling me, 'you're not going to get dropped', but Mo'Wax was in trouble, so for a while it was... it's never easy, but we've always believed in it and pushed ourselves on.
And now we've had the chance to record our second album, in the studio we wanted to do it in, with the person we wanted to do it with, and it was all there for us, so we've been lucky.
And we did it for a lot less than we did the first album; but it feels like we put the money to much better use [laughs]

Q. So how did you come to work with Dave Eringa?
A
. It was partly do with the fact that he's just a very well-respected producer, and I was really drawn to the Idlewild record that he'd just done...
We actually went to a few producers, we were talking to American producers, and Dave was just someone... The first time I saw him, I remember, we turned up late to our studio and he was knocking on the door, and it was like, 'who's that?' 'Oh' it's Dave?'
I just knew from the moment we met him that we'd have a good time with him. But we went in on like a trial period, so we were going to do two tracks, and if they worked, great. And we got into one of the better studios in London (where Radiohead did The Bends), and started to get drum sounds, and after eight hours in, we decided to commit to the whole album, because the drum sounds we were getting were just like, 'yeah'... And he knows so much, telling us what we could and couldn't do.
He's great with sound, fucking brilliant, and we learn a lot from working with someone like that - and Sean Genockey, of the band, Moke, who engineered it as well.
They have so much experience between them, that when you say you want this kind of guitar sound, they can help you get that, as opposed to just doing it blind, and on your own, like with the first album, which was really exploring; but we didn't know how to get what we wanted at times.
And Dave's just so fucking funny as well. That was the other thing. It was like, 'well, who are we going to have a good time with?' And it was him. I mean, it was just day two or three, we were having a conversation, and he just walked out into the hallway, and saying... 'and there's absolutely nothing wrong with my penis' in front of a whole room of people.

Q. So how many songs are on the album?
A.
12. It comes in at 42 minutes, I think, which fits on the one side of a C90, which I think is really important with albums.

Q. You've also teamed up with James Lavelle again, on the new Unkle album?
A.
Yeah, that was a more acoustic track, that he just really liked and wanted to use, and they did their thing on it, and it's just really fucked up. More acoustic, kind of melancholic, but beautiful...
The album is really nice, because it's got people like Ian Brown on it, Josh Homme, from Queens of the Stone Age....

Q. And you played Glastonbury this year as well? How was that?
A.
It was really good. Glastonbury, for me, was the best ever. I've never had that much fun there. We had to keep it together until Saturday, and then after we played, it was brilliant. We went and saw Radiohead, who were great, just brilliant.

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