I’ve never been one for knowing about the ‘artist behind the work’. I prefer the work to speak for itself. It has the fortunate byproduct of allowing me to ignore Lou Reed’s misogyny and still count The Velvet Underground & Nico and Transformer as two of my favourite albums.
I’ve also never particularly been one for explanations. How you, as audience, experience the piece is as much a part of it as the intention behind it. I’d go so far as to say the intention is almost irrelevant.
But as I’ve been politely asking, cajoling and strong-arming my friends and family to contribute to the crowdfund for our new album, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I should expect (or at least, hope) other people to support my work. And honestly I don’t really know. But then I’ve never understood why anyone would support anyone else’s work. I’ve always been a self-starter. I don’t understand what the rest of the band get from playing my songs. But they assure me they get something.
So I thought perhaps I should explain myself. What the new album is about. And what it means to me personally. So at least you may understand why I’ve been so shamefacedly begging you for money these past few days.
The new album. Let’s call it Goodbye to Brighton, as that’s what it will probably be called, is essentially a collection of ten songs I wrote in my last 18 months in Brighton. But in retrospect, it’s about loss. It’s about the loss of love. The loss of idealism. And the loss of home.
I wrote these songs while still getting over the end of the seven year relationship I thought was forever. I wrote these songs as I turned 30 (a process that I’m sure every 30+ year old will agree takes at least a year). I wrote these songs as I eventually succumbed to a deep depression that finally pushed me on to medication, and out of Brighton.
Beneath the ‘whisky-soaked vocals’, the quasi-free-jazz fireworks and rapid-fire whiteboy rapping, it’s about loss. The weary Waitsian barfly persona I often adopt on stage was never a conscious act, but has become less and less artificial as time has gone by. I joke about my song about a dyslexic stripper named Molly, but meeting her, and having the conversation that became the lyric, was horrifyingly sad. I have trouble sleeping. I take antidepressants. I drink too much.
The song Red Wine in the Morning started as nostalgia for adolescence, triggered by hearing Jeff Buckley on the radio, and ends by lamenting the teenage years spent drinking wine, snorting cocaine and passionately, naively railing against the machine – culminating in attending the damp squib that was the 2003 anti-Iraq war march, the end of a generation’s political engagement. An idealistic passion replaced by empty chat of The Wire, Breaking Bad. I do not judge. I am a part.
And for me, at least, that loss of idealism mutated into a potent nihilism. I have always been philosophically nihilistic, but over the last year or so that nihilism turned bad on me. Got Thrown is an existential holler into the void, with no expectation of reply. Afraid of Silence mocks the hand on heart softly spoken trustafarian positivity of slam poetry and Brian Coxian wonder at our status as stardust to say that yes, I am made of stars, and yes, I am part of a rich lineage of human history, living in the most prosperous, technologically advanced age of our species so far. But I am still lonely.
Goodbye to Brighton, the song that will close the record, just as writing it closed the Brighton chapter of my life, is about losing a home. Not just leaving it, but feeling the need to leave despite loving it. Despite the wonderful friends, some of whom I consider family, the sea, the hills, the bars… For whatever reason, it just stopped feeling like home.
I’ve never known what the purpose of art is. If language is the method by which we reach out to each other, each trapped in our own internal model, our own subjective experience that no one else can share, it is a crude one. I suspect art is meant to achieve the same thing, but hopefully with more finesse. If that is the case, I hope that perhaps there is something in these songs that you can relate to. That makes you feel a little less alone in the confines of your own mind.
And for me personally? This is the record I’ve wanted to make since I first turned up at the University of Sussex in 2004. I feel I’ve finally shaken my influences and found my voice. I feel, I hope, my songs communicate something worthwhile. I’ve found the greatest musicians I have ever worked with, all of them better than me, all with an intuitive understanding of the songs. I’ve found a producer whose aesthetic I adore, and who I trust implicitly. It’s the record I’ve unconsciously been trying to make every single day I lived in Brighton.
This, right now, is the only thing I care about. If I cared more about business, I would have the money to make it myself. But if I cared more about business, I wouldn’t have written these songs, nor developed the skills required to do so, to the same level. That is why we need your help.
If you’ve read this far, please consider contributing to our Indiegogo: http://igg.me/at/nicolasandthesaints