Investing hours of effort and energy in an effort to make beautiful, powerful music must never have felt more wasted than it does today. Days could be spent searching for that perfect ebb and flow with expensive and painstaking work done in the studio, all for your work to be less popular than a Justin Bieber song slowed down 800%. But with Her name is Calla’s work, the wrench behind the sounds is almost tangible, as the group craft atmospheric, post-rock tinged odes that tug on the heart strings, with their myspace fittingly stating ‘we don’t take shortcuts’.
They’ve spent the past 6 years recording tracks and releasing them by a plethora of different means – with limited cassette, CD-R, clear vinyl and wooden-boxed CDs making up parts of their back catalogue. This year has seen the release of their first official full-length record, an 80 minute sprawling epic entitled The Quiet Lamb. Layered and complex, it’s an engaging work that serves to illustrate the skill and nous of a the band.
Ahead of their show at Manchester’s Night n Day café on August 30th, Sophie from the band got in touch for a chat about iPhones, genres and the mysterious hipster occult band Vgynazz.
Hiya, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Sophie, and I play violin and sing in Her Name is Calla. The other members are Tom Morris (lead vocals, piano and guitar), Mike Love (bass and vocals), Thom Corah (trombone, piano and vocals) Adam Weikert (drums, banjo, ukelele, double bass, piano, everything else).
I’ve seen you described as post-rock, shoegaze and, spectacularly, darker than the deepest sea. How would you describe your sound?
Haha! I’m not sure… I don’t think I’d use any of those adjectives – sometimes it’s harder to classify it further than being rock music. But then simple “rock music” has connotations of its own. It generally doesn’t sound like us… on our new album, The Quiet Lamb, we have the sparsest of acoustic songs recorded on an iPhone with just Tom and a guitar, to the album closer – a Mexican gallop through every Wild West film ever made, complete with brass section, chants and a very complicated bassline!
There’s a lot of drama in your sound – are there many stories behind the pieces?
Our EP, The Heritage, was a conceptual album, with themes of ultimatums, generational inheritance, and loss. That continues into the album, but several tracks are perhaps closer to our personal lives; quite a few of them are autobiographical.
And what’s the process for putting a song together, especially given the complexity of them?
Generally, Tom will have ideas for the songs – lyrics, maybe a structure, or both – and we’ll all come together and play it out. Tom might give us the basic idea of the song, but none of the songs would sound right without our individual contributions. Our various melodies and harmonies for the tracks were developed through playing the album tracks live for the past 2 years.
A couple of tracks on the album were written by others: Adam, who wrote the piano and electronic introduction, Moss Giant; The Monroe Transfer, who contributed an interval of string music; and my own string-based demo of Thief, which was written as a present for Tom when he was feeling down.
You’ve got your second album coming out soon. What’s it like making an album in the wastelands of the music industry?
Our first record was more of a really long EP. The Quiet Lamb, to us, is the real first album!
For us, the wastelands of the music industry was the situation we grew to be in with the first record. Everything was a lot more money-orientated, packaging wasn’t considered as highly, it was all rushed… To us, that creates the loss of the tenderness and fragility of a personal music record. And now we have taken the time to stay up all night at each other’s houses, or in the living room with our children, to record our parts patiently and carefully; we’ve spent hours compiling beautiful artwork from our friends and fans for the packaging; and we’re worrying a lot less about who’s looking after the books.
I think the industry is at a turning point – I know as a music fan, I’m readdressing why I hadn’t connected so much with many artists for a long time, and so I’ve made the effort to buy physical copies of CDs to hold, or really sit down and appreciate a certain artist without feeling oversaturated by the amount of music at my fingertips. We try to do this with our listeners too – our packaging is extensive and detailed, and worth buying. We’re personal and easily contactable – we’re not a faceless band.
Yeah, I was planning on asking about that – what are your views on this new trend for bedroom producers and purposefully mysterious acts?
I don’t mind what people want to create, but I personally find it very difficult to connect with bands that make their names unpronounceable, or who create deliberately awkward music. My favourite music is the stuff that I’ve really been moved by or that I’m emotionally invested in, and I’d feel a bit let down if the musician didn’t want to invest time in his/her listeners, too. Plus, there’s nothing worse than going to your favourite artist’s show and realising they’re horrible! I’d like to think that we’re a lot more approachable than that.
You’re coming up to Manchester for a gig on the 30th. You stopped gigging for a while though, why was that? And are you excited to be back in the live arena?
We did a big, long UK and Europe tour last summer, and then another in March this year – we’d love to tour more, but it’s hard to all get the time off together! We love playing together though and we’re always excited to play again. It’s exhausting, emotionally draining and very hot and sweaty, but it’s the best way to spend your time off work!
Are there any upcoming bands you’d recommend?
I’m mainly listening to the new (and old) albums from quite established bands, like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Shearwater, Laura Veirs, Cat Power… But as for new stuff, I’d recommend our friends Birds of Passage, The Monroe Transfer – and my boyfriend’s band, worriedaboutsatan, of course!
Any chance of Her name is Calla teaming up with the mysterious (worriedaboutsatan hipster sideproject) Vgynazz then?
Hahaha!! They won’t even acknowledge us.