Grayson Gilmour has been a busy man in recent times. Gilmourís band, the now potentially late So So Modern, have released their long awaited album, while Gilmour has also released his sixth solo album entitled No Constellation. The album is full of Gilmour trademarks Ė pianos, unconventional riffs, melodies which twist into something unexpected. However, the new album is a bit quieter too than many of his previous solo output Ė while Gilmourís dense indie pop making excellent use of rhythmic percussion and harmonies. Gilmour has also signed up to Flying Nun version 2.0, the iconic Kiwi record label which has become independent once more under original founder Roger Shepherd.
It must have been pretty hectic these last two months?
Yeah it has been pretty hectic. Jumping from one release to another release. Both of them have been ready and waiting to be released since July, August last year. Itís a welcome busy period, but it has been busy.
Why the delay with the solo album? Sorting out the Flying Nun stuff?
Yeah, uncannily, having it released in May, means it has been about a year since the album was first recorded. The session started in May last year, and finished up around June, July. And then I organised its release in August last year, but it just took its time with all the legalities, the label getting set up again.
When did you find out about the Flying Nun deal?
It was kind of in the works Ė there was interest around this time last year about the album. I finished it, and weíve just been in gradual talks ever since. Probably got to know Roger [Shepherd] and his crew a couple of years ago casually. We just talked it out and developed it.
It seems like your voice is more to the fore in the new album?
Yeah. I think it was a development of getting a bit older and getting less embarrassed by your voice. When I was a teenager, I guess youíre quite aware of how it sounds. You get a bit used to it, a bit more comfortable. Youíre not embarrassed by it anymore. I think it comes with experience. On the other end of the scale with So So Modern, when the other guys sing, they have that reaction I used to have, Ďis that what I really sound like?í
I guess with So So you guys went the other way and had less singing
Less voice, more groove.
Still weird putting your voice out there?
A little. I know there are definitely two voices I have developed in the last year or two. Thereís a solo voice and a So So voice. They are really quite separate. Iím not shy about it as much as I used to be.
Does this mean your lyrics are thought out more, or do you spend a bit more time on them?
Lyrics are really quite reflective of where you are, and whatís inspiring you, more so than thinking ĎIím going to write poignant and inspiring lyrics to these songsí. To me, itís about experiences and environments Iíve been in the last year. For So So, lyrical content has been about touring together.
Youíve recorded in disparate places, was it hard to unify as an album?
The piano and the drum parts were done live Ė at Mike Gibsonís studio. Everything else was recorded by me in my bedroom, my Mumís house, and another studio in Palmy. I guess I was behind the record button the whole time, so the idea behind the recording was quite constant. Mike got the barebones of the album, and then I did all the layering and a month or two later he got them back and they had become these giant beasts. Thereís a coherency to my ears.
The album seems a lot quieter than some of your other solo work
Yeah, yeah. Thatís one thing I think about as a musician is putting rules you canít break in order to find new territories, in order to progress and learn more about writing music and playing and whatnot. I started banning myself from particular chords and keys Ė it was like not playing in this key because youíve got ten or so songs in that key. Likewise for recording with the band, or the band using distortion, or using piano. I like distorted bass or I like piano, but itís what you need to do in order to progress. Itís one of the main things with this album, is just expanding on that.
Did you have many specific rules with this?
Not so many specific rules, just more a leaning towards things. I donít want to feel too comfortable in my own sound. It might sound good on a piano or a guitar, but it might sound better on an orchestral xylophone or a glockenspiel, or some other instrument.
You show off a bit on the piano a bit more here as well.
Itís funny because a lot of the songs were written in a relatively new style that came about from being on tour with So So Modern. I didnít have a specific time or place to sit down. What I was doing was done in small bursts, and then Iíd put it on my i-Pod and listen to them when I had the space. A lot of the songs developed quite separately, Iíd do the piano part and then the vocal part was done later when I was listening to my i-Pod. While the piano was there, the vocal lines were done down the track. When I played them live, it wasnít as easy as I thought it would be. When youíre writing on an instrument and singing at the same time, thereís some sort of mental connection between what youíre playing and the rhythms, you donít think about it. These ones Iíve had to train myself. Itís an interesting way of writing songs but I think Iím not going to use that approach again.
Yeah, something to disconnect voice and hands. I think the vocal lines are quite different to what they would be if I had done it at the same time.
Bit of a glockenspiel and xylophone thing going there in the album?
I had a bit of a newfound love of tuned percussion. Iíve always wanted to be a drummer. When I go to see bands, I always find myself watching the drummer, and listening to the drums. I guess the closest extension from being a piano player to the drums is instruments like the vibraphone, marimbas, xylophones and glockenspiels. I was on Trademe a lot of the time looking for things to hit.
Why did Loose Change become the first single?
I guess it just came up as the album opener, and itís a short song, itís only two and a half minutes. Itís got a lot packed into it. It just worked as a first statement for a album. In a way, a lot of that stuff isnít planned. In the past when Iíve done that stuff myself, Iíve just put the album out and I was like ĎIím not going to tell you which songs to playí. Choose as many as you would like to play. I guess ĎLoose Changeí came about probably because Jesse [Taylor Smith] made it into a video on his own steam Ė I gave him the album.
I guess the single came out a while ago?
I sent out a ďto be released in 2009 CDĒ out as a promo, three tracks, around the whole country. Only around 20 or 30. Itís only the first three songs Ė luckily I didnít put out the whole album.
Obviously youíd have been aware of the history of Flying Nun, but were you much of a listener of the stuff?
Yeah, not a huge listener, but I certainly appreciated what they contributed towards New Zealand on an international scale. You bring up Flying Nun overseas, in Europe, the States, the UK, they certainly know about it. Itís a welcome opportunity to work with them. Iíve never actively sought label support, or signing anything like that Ė not because itís not what I wanted, more it just wasnít a pang or a desire. This just came about because of timing. It feels good to be with a label that views like me the way things are, and is putting out good music. I hope my music is good.
Could you have gone with Flying Nun if they were still owned by Warners?
Good question. I havenít really considered that. A lot of effort has gone into reclaiming that independent state. I definitely admire that and I think thatís what I would prefer in a label. I have learnt a lot about labels overseas with So So Modern, Iíve learnt a few dos and doníts with them, and transparency is the key. If the whole operation is transparent, like Flying Nun are, then thatís fine. But if they were still a Warners thing, then that would be different. I guess Iíd put them under a lot more scrutiny than I did with Roger.
Was it tiring constantly having to self-release?
The only thing that was tiring is the idea of self-promotion. I got used to it, but thatís not to say Iím comfortable with it. To say, Ďhereís work that Iíve done, listen to it, tell me what you think, itís what Iíve put my heart and soul in, in the last few months. I actually enjoy the personal nature of stuff Ė I like it when people get in touch, and deposit some money into my account, and I sent out my CD for half the price it goes out in shops. Itís a nice way of knowing your CD is going to sit in somebodyís collection and itís going to mean something to them. Thatís what I like about the whole Flying Nun thing Ė Iím still going to be able to do that, and Iím still going to be able to go with that whole personal touch thing.
I imagine youíll get more distribution from this deal?
Thatís definitely one of the pros that Australia is on the cards, Japanís on the cards, the States are. Iíve got contacts in the UK and Europe from the tour. Obviously itís not world domination, but itís helping it get out there.
I guess itís quite different to the stereotypical Flying Nun release. Was that ever a problem with Roger Shepherd?
No, and itís a funny thing to contemplate. Youíre in an interesting position because there are some people who are going to be Ďitís not what my expectations of a Flying Nun record is going to be, I donít know if I like ití, or people who are going to celebrate it because itís not. I have been aware of the potential of Ďitís not quite what I thought it would beí, but at the same time it feels weird saying this, but I guess Flying Nun are putting this out because itís something they like, or they think itís good.
Was it hard fitting this in with recording the So So Modern album?
Funnily enough, this album got recorded before So So Modernís one and released after it. Itís just a juggling act Iíve had to do the last five years with the band. It doesnít bother me at all, Iím still making music, Iím still interested in it. And it was never hard to do this, or vice versa. Now that So Soís on a break, it gives me free rein to do what I want. With this album, I donít know, Iíve always had two projects on the go, and it has always been quite nice. After this solo tour and the release, I wonder what I should do afterwards.
With So So Modern on a break, would you spend more time focusing working on the solo stuff?
Because it has been such a long time since it has been recorded and now it has been released, Iíve got an EPs worth of stuff of recording. I might sit on it for a while before I go ahead and record and release it. But Iíve got this great desire to write a whole bunch of instrumental stuff, build a portfolio for film work, but having had the Siamese solo thing [Gilmourís alter ego] I think under that guise, it has opened up things that are really different. Thatís a good experimental outlet, and channelling that into a recording
Grayson Gilmour's new album 'No Constellation' is out May 10th.
Click HERE for deatils of Grayson's upcoming tour.