Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.
Who: Darren Hayman
Where: London, UK
So we heard you’d travelled all around England to make this album and visited all of these villages, is that true?
We have a recurring mixtape series that we call 'Astronaut Wives Club' and we recently made a 'British Road Movies Special'. Some people say you couldn't make a British Road Movie because British roads just aren't filmic enough and have unmusical Anglo-Saxon derived names. Where would you stand in such a debate?
I don’t think I would even take part in it and also who do you mean by 'some people'? Is that a quote? There is a rich history of literature and song surrounding British place names, the English countryside and I presume 'some people' don't like folk music or read Betjeman.
You’ve talked about the gentle-consonants in the phrase Thankful Villages. Is this kind of sound-symbolism or euphony/versus cacophony something that you strive heavily for in your lyrics?
Yeah I think so but I think, every writer does either consciously or unconsciously. I've been striving for a certain restfulness or tranquillity in my songs for some time. The secret is to get to that place whilst circumnavigating the over sweet.
Can you tell us a bit about your experiences in these villages? Are they quintessential English villages? Cliché would lead us to conceive of such villages as somewhere between Trumpton and The Vicar of Dibley, is that a completely ridiculous image of them or would you say there was any truth in it?
You've visited a village, so you know there is truth in cliché, although in some ways I’m not sure either of those things do deal in village cliché that much.
I guess the first thing I found is that many, many villages are tiny and much tinnier then I considered. We often go to a village for a reason. A guide book tells us too because there's a pub there with a place to eat or stay.
The places I'm visiting are smaller still. Often the local pub and shop have closed, sometimes the church too.
My experience has been almost entirely friendly. I make the mistake of thinking that what I'm doing would take an awful lot of explaining, as though the sort of art I make is only the possession of the urban. That's a mistake. People in these places understand quickly what I'm doing and the possibility of me living somewhere as remote in my life span is possible now.
Do you think there's something inherently lonely about doodling on an iPad in a church?
I think isolation has become an inherent, accidental theme of the record and is there in the melancholy of the music.
It is both about people and community and also about true loneliness and isolation.
I was sitting in a church with an iPad in Stocklinch. The door opened and Ros, the church warden, came in. She said 'would you like to come to my house for a cheese sandwich.'
Friendliness and isolation. In equal measures.
You've taken almost a field-recording approach to some of this album. Did you have some idea that representations in song would somehow interfere with what you found in these villages and the documentary sounds stood on their own?
Erm, almost. I think on the second album I push that a little further and have some pieces where the field recordings and the outdoor noises are primary to the song.
I don't think it's impossible for these records to have sections without music and have only words or sounds.
However ultimately despite the methodology I am trying to make an album that would stand up on its own merits of sound and tune. I want people to be able to say, let's put that Thankful Villages record on again, because it sounds good. It's not my intention to be purposefully intellectual or obscure, it's still about tunes.
This all feels very Larkin-esque to me. Was it Larkin-esque?
Erm, I like that and I take it as a compliment. Other people have mentioned Alan Lomax or as I say Betjeman. All these names feed my ego.
I think I was thinking of some Betjeman albums where his poetry is backed by music, and that collision of spoken word and music worked very well for me.
The other writer I had in mind was Arthur Mee himself, the writer who coined the phrase 'Thankful Villages' in the first place. His prose is spoken by me on one track.
It seems from the outside that you work on a kind of theme to the next theme basis. Do you have the kind of imagination where you get obsessed with a theme for a small time and then exhaust it and move on or do you feel all of these themes are linked and all form one continuum?
I can see a link. It's not necessary for other people to though. The Lido record was very much about place and linking places through accidents, and it was there that I started using field recordings. The Violence took me out of the city and made me think of the rural life as a subject matter and a source for stories.
You seem to be omnivorous about releasing music like you just want to write and release. Do you find the wheels of the record industry turn too slowly or at least slower than you'd like?
Well I could do it faster and sometimes I do. Bandcamp allows for that. Last year I formed an experimental band called Brute Love and we released records on the day they were made.
Tapes and things can have really quick turnarounds.
I think I probably would be having a better career commercially if I released less music maybe, I don't know.
When a lot of effort has gone in I respect the time it takes to put the record out properly, let's put it that way.
Heard any other good music this year?
Yeah I have, but maybe not music 'from' this year. Even though I'm sure a lot exists. I tend to cut myself off from the current for fear of accidentally being influenced. I come back in a few years time. Like two years ago I started listening to The Strokes.