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And Also The Trees - exclusive interview!
Features
Thursday, 27 March 2008
Article Index
And Also The Trees - exclusive interview!
Page 2
 

aattlogomag

 
An exclusive interview with 
   
Simon Huw Jones
 
from
 
AND ALSO THE TREES 
  

    

Sometimes I think that it’s a miracle a group like And Also the Trees exists and keeps coming up with such delicate and fine romantic music. Every release has individuality, depth and a unique supernatural element. Doesn’t everyday life and its un-poetic aspect, affect your songwriting? Don’t any happy moments find the way to become songs?

Simon Huw Jones: First, thank you for the compliment in the question, but if you can’t hear any joy or happiness in our music we have failed you. There has to be light in the darkness. And everyday life is in there too – a fat man shaving, a girl standing in a garden, walking to a pub in the rain, the smell of fried fish and beer, answering the telephone – it’s not that poetic is it?. We try to create a balance… these are the final  words from the second song on the album, I think they sum up what I’m trying to say – “I came upon a house, somewhere I’d never been before, and in this place of light and dark I feel my heart sing joyously inside me”.

 

aattmag1Nature is an endless source of inspiration for your music. The changing scenery  through the seasons, mirrored on the still surface of a millpond... But the references to persons are much less and very different, people are like abstract souls, like an aura. Do you find depictions of human characters less attractive, or more difficult to be described?

Simon Huw Jones: I hadn’t realized this before but you’re right.   When I listen to the music, before I have written a vocal melody and words, it tends to take me to places… landscapes or rooms, towns, the ocean… whatever. As a lyricist I like to move into and through theses scenes but also I like to leave a lot of the details, and characters left open to interpretation.
That said, we could try and create some portraits in the future… it could be an interesting experiment.

 

millpondThe Millpond Years is difficult, dark, poetic, angry and haunting. How was the atmosphere during its recording, or the concerts of this time? So much tension, and creativity leads sometimes to unexpected situations within the borders of a band.

Simon Huw Jones: The atmosphere was very exciting at that time. It was a time of great discovery for me. As we all grew up together the atmosphere within the group was always reasonably stable, this made touring and recording a really enjoyable experience as we could easily be our selves, we had nothing to prove to each other.
The concerts were very intense but they always had been… we were drinking too much at that point but in general we got away with it. When I listen back to ‘The millpond years’ I wish I had controlled my emotions more as the vocal sounds too intense to me now, but it didn’t at the time… not to us anyway.  I didn’t realise then that even when I try to sing without emotion there it is still enough.

 

French and German audience accepted your music really well, but your homeland didn’t ever seem to care a lot. At a glance, it seems rather disappointing. But do you think that this fact protected you from any popularity pressure and helped you to express and advance your unique sound much more healthier and easier?

Simon Huw Jones: These things have contributed towards making us the way we are and our music the way it is yes…  but I’m not sure how healthy it was to live for so long in such isolation. Had we moved somewhere where our music was better recognised it could have been helpful creatively and spiritually and our overall conditions as a working band might have been better too if we’d been in touch with other people who were involved in music or the arts in some way.
There was something special about living out in the countryside of course, we drew inspiration from it, and still do as its now part of our lives. 

 

atttmag89“Blind Opera” is an exceptional song, like a theatrical part, the monologue of the doomed. What kind of pictures emerge when you play this powerful piece of music live?

Simon Huw Jones: I think of the ancient apple trees in the orchard that used to be in front of the house where we lived and I think of them being cut down… which was a very disturbing experience for me. All the branches were cut of and the trunks of the trees stood for a few days, jutting out the earth like tortured figures under the flat winter sky. I think of the lords of Morton, whoever they were and I think of the ancient people who were said to be buried beneath that orchard when it was a grave yard in the medieval period. I think of the trees when they were covered with blossom in the spring and the birds that flew between them. ‘Blind opera’ is about the darkest song we ever wrote.

 

Your live appearances are very tense, you seem to communicate with the audience though not in a conventional way. How do you feel when playing live?

Simon Huw Jones: When it’s going well I feel more alive than at any other time. The point when we communicate best with an audience seems, strangely, to be when we forget they are there. It takes a special kind of harmony for that to happen.


Klaxon was said to be a turning point in your sound, like a big step in time, or a move from the quiet countryside to the noisy nightlife of a city. What kind of influences led you to compose these specially flavored songs? Are you afraid of changes in life and how do you deal with them?

Simon Huw Jones: Yes, we needed to get away from our roots before they trapped us. ‘The klaxon’ was like the beginning of a musical voyage that took us away from the countryside and out into the world beyond. Justin’s guitar led the way and the rest of us followed.
I don’t think we are more afraid of changes in life than the next person.

aattoldmagc1aattoldmagc2

So we’re in 2008. In a parallel space, four young boys from a small village decide to form a band. In your days, there was punk. Now, where should they try to find the musical sparkle which would be able to cause that creative explosion in their hearts?

Simon Huw Jones: I have no idea, we were lucky to be around when punk rock came along, it changed everything – I suppose the general rap, house, hip hop scene did something similar in that it is artistically accessible… by that I mean that you don’t need any musical training to start making that kind of music… it’s a good vehicle for raw expression.
So a group in a parallel situation would probably start by writing hip hop songs with a typically urban feel then realize, after a while, that they were writing songs about something that was not a part of their lives… then they would start taking influence from their actual environment or at least stop trying to be something they were not.

 

Do you feel that you are always open to musical and lyrical influences, from the early years till today? Or do you think that you have come to a final aspect that helps you listen and create music?

Simon Huw Jones: We are always open to influences.

 

How easy was for Simon to dress up lyrically the 50’s guitar sounds and the American sound of Angelfish and Silver Soul? I mean, as far as I know, first comes the music and then you go on with the lyrics. Did Simon had any difficulty in following the change of the musical context?

Simon Huw Jones:  It wasn’t easy at all, although I don’t ever find lyric writing easy. It was an alien landscape to me that conjured up images of Edward Hopper and scenes that reminded me of passages I’d read in Fitzgerald novels or beat novels. The only way I felt I could do it was to look upon it as a voyage.

 

aattcd06Your latest album "(Listen for) The Rag and Bone Man" continues in the same vein as your previous "Further From The Truth", but one might say a little darker, maybe dreamier. What was the band’s approach towards the new songs while recording? 

Simon Huw Jones: The general opinion, and ours too, is that the latest album is quite different to the one before it – although I accept that we don’t all hear things the same way. Apart from the musical and instrumental differences, ‘(Listen for) the rag and bone man’ has quite a different lyrical feel to it too, the words certainly came from a different area of my head.

 

What’s a “Rag and bone man”?

Simon Huw Jones: Originally rag and bone men went from house to house collecting rags (pieces of old cloth) which were used as an ingredient to make paper, and bones - which were used in the making of china. Times changed and rag and bone men turned to collecting just about anything they thought they could use or sell.

 

aattoldmagWhy so much violence in “The Legend Of Mucklow”? The voice, the lyrics, the sounds, they are scaring. An astonishing, unexpected murder ballad, for sure, but quite unusual.

Simon Huw Jones: There is an undercurrent of violence in a lot of our music, although it doesn’t usually come to the surface. In ‘The legend of Mucklow’ it does, there was something very menacing about the music and the more I heard it the more my mind was drawn to this character. I’m not really sure what is going on in this lyric, the violence is quite abstract and what part Mucklow takes is unclear. He was actually hung for the theft of livestock (so the legend has it) and his phantasmic figure does still ride the lanes, but what he is doing in this song I don’t know. I actually like this ambiguity.

 

When do you think that something could be described as “classic”? Is it a matter of time, quality, popularity, or …

Simon Huw Jones: I suppose it is a combination of all those things although I’m not sure about ‘popularity’… I consider ‘No more shall we part’ to be the ‘Classic’ ‘Bad seeds’ album, for example, but I’m not sure it is his most popular.

 

Have you ever felt inspirationally and musically exhausted?

Simon Huw Jones: Yes, many times.

 

Which are your favourite poets? Which poem could sometime stand as lyrics in a song of yours?

Simon Huw Jones: Actually I am not a good reader of poetry… my favorite are probably collections of Haiku poems. 

 

aattlivemagWhat was you opinion of the Greek audience when you first played here in Athens in 2004? It was a concert that many had been waiting for a long time. Any chance to come & play again some time soon?

Simon Huw Jones: We had a very good time when we came to Athens, we got on well with every one we met and had a very strong feeling from the audience. We want to come back but of course the traveling is problematic. We have been talking with our contact about returning sometime this year though. I really hope so.

 

Please give us a word or two, (a characteristic, a name, a person, a feeling…anything!) that occurs to your mind, when reading the followings. I always liked that little game!

Inkberrow -    I now spell it ?nkberrow
Robert Smith - Good guy in a knackered biker jacket
Slow Pulse Boy - A Belgian backstreet
England -  home, unrealistic green hills dotted with sheep.
The Fruit Room - jasmine and the bed with sun light over it. Home.
Romance - An old book I flick though the pages of but never read
Art - The wonderful Tate gallery
The Young Gods - Good neighbors to have
Lol Tolhurst - Sun glasses
Stay away from the accordion girl - stars above a vineyard.
And also the trees - Standing outside a fish and chip shop after doing our first gig - amazed and happy...
where do you take me my little girl - indeed.

 

 
Interview by: V. Giannakopoulos
N. Drivas
   
 
 
  AND ALSO THE TREES - Lady d'Arbanville video 1989
 


 

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