Music fans can often get fixated on a specific era in a band’s existence and then call it a day, pigeon-holing them into creative spaces they carved out decades earlier. Other times, fans can be less accepting of musicians when they work on outside projects. Of course, for artists who never stop creating, it can be discouraging, if not depressing. There are a lot of ways artists find outlets for their creativity. Some go into production. Others jump into relatively unrelated fields like acting or painting. Still others start or join other bands to showcase new music.
Beachy Head is an album born out of that same creative restlessness.
According to the liner notes for their eponymously titled album took shape under somewhat serendipitous circumstances. “In 2019 Christian Savill found himself alone and with a year off from playing guitar for his grown-up band Slowdive. He started writing and demoing songs with no particular plan. From 2001 he had recorded with longtime friend and collaborator Sean Hewson as Monster Movie releasing several albums on Graveface Records. These new ideas felt different in that they’re more personal and honest.
“Christian sent these sketches to good friends and multi-instrumentalists, Ryan Graveface (Dreamend / The Casket Girls) and Steve Clarke (The Soft Cavalry), and Beachy Head was formed. Ryan and Christian put flesh on the bones in Savannah just before Covid struck. Matt Duckworth (Flaming Lips) added drums. In between lockdowns back in the UK Steve added harmonies and other instrumentation. The final touch of recording was Rachel Goswell (Slowdive / Mojave 3 / The Soft Cavalry / Minor Victories) contributing vocals on a few songs.”
The album is a modest eight tracks long. Safe to say, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. Essentially, they go from strong to strongest. Maybe that’s what you get when you have a bunch of artists, comfortable in their musical skins, doing what they do best. Since everyone who played on the album also belongs to other groups, there’s a certain freedom to the album, especially in tracks like “Destroy Us” and “Hiddensee.”
Christian Savill took some time out to talk about Beachy Head.
Prior to making Beachy Head, had all of you discussed working on a project together? Or did the whole thing come together spontaneously?
There was never really a plan. Ryan had previously played on and helped produce some Monster Movie things. Monster Movie were having a break as Seany had other bands going on, so I decided to send some terrible demos to Ryan to see if he could do anything with them. I also plucked up some courage to send a demo to Steve to get his advice as he’s really great with vocals and production ideas. It kind of grew and came together from there. We were lucky that Rachel and Matt could get involved too.
What was the production process like for this album? From the liner notes, it seems like the Covid-19 pandemic fractured the process a little.
We were slightly fortunate in that I went to Savannah to record most of the songs with Ryan just before Covid struck. Everything else happened in between lockdowns. Recording these days is a lot easier so Steve, Ryan and Rachel could record their bits at home. I’ve only got a phone and never got beyond a Tascam 4 track so I had to wait until the studio opened up again.
The lyrics are steeped in loss, transience, people coming and going. Is Beachy Head (the album) sort of a metaphoric jump off Beachy Head or more of a rumination on the idea of it?
I totally get that for some bands the vocals combined with the overall sound create the mood more than the actual words themselves. For these songs I didn’t want the words to be vague or abstract. I was going through something painful and confusing. It was raw and honest even if it meant that it was embarrassing or uncomfortable. It’s a really fine line writing something introspective or heartfelt because if you get it wrong it’s just a massive cringe fest. Maybe I did get it wrong, but I’m kind of happy that I didn’t play it safe. We called it Beachy Head cos of the mix of it being such a beautiful place, but also a place where people regularly throw themselves to their deaths. It’s also a really brilliant eerie instrumental by Throbbing Gristle.
Beachy Head consists of established musicians who have been with other bands. What is it like starting a new band when you are a little older?
Despite being in a pretty established band and getting older, I’m still completely amateurish. My friend’s son has only been playing guitar for a couple of years and I probably should feel embarrassed by how much better he is than me already. At the start of any new album I’m always hoping that I can finally make something that I’m actually happy with. I feel like there is a much better chance of that happening with Ryan, Steve, Rachel and Matt involved.
Still on the subject of starting a new band. Is it difficult adjusting to a new set of bandmates? Do habits from previous bands carry over to new projects?
It’s been good because there’s fresh ideas and enthusiasm. We’re all good friends so we know each other and what is and isn’t possible. We’ve never all actually been in the same room though…. So maybe if we had played together in a rehearsal room or live we’d find out more how things would play out.
How has technology changed the state of the music industry? Has it changed the dynamic between artists and labels?
I’m probably not the person to ask about technology as I don’t even own a laptop or tablet. I guess that anyone and everyone can easily make music and make it available.
Will there be a tour to promote the album?
Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to do any touring for this record. It’s just not possible with Covid and also we’re all pretty busy with our other bands. I think it’s something we would think about in the future though. If enough people were interested to make it viable.