Songs for Walter. Their long awaited debut album has been a long time in the making. Why? Quenched Music caught up with Laurie Hulme – the principle songwriter behind the indie-folk outfit – to discuss what’s taken so long and what can be expected from it from their inaugural release at Northern Quarter’s famed Common Bar.
“After my granddad Walter died, I just had loads of songs ” Laurie – principal songwriter behind Manchester’s indie-folk outfit Songs for Walter – began. He’s a reflective character; unsurprising considering the kindred attraction his group emit. “He was a big influence and an important person; so I went to my cousin Eddie and said let’s write this concept album about him. And that’s how it started.”
The idiosyncrasies that follow are both poetic and evocative. ‘Meet Me At the Empire’ discusses Walter’s maiden date with his soon-to-be wife. ‘Purple Blue’ documents the wedding day. ‘Tin Can’ is about his refusal to reverse caravans. All combine bursts of pensive murmurs aloft a spine of acoustic led Sunday afternoon ambiences. “I wanted to create something that is going to shock you; ‘Dunkirk’ [introspectively considering his Grandfather's recollections of the noise of the wartime evacuations] does this. I mean I love folk, but I love indie rock more. I want it to be heavy.” It’s a far cry from the Songs For Walter live beast; tribal, stripped grooves that cause subtle movement against the acoustic led spine.
Considering the angelic tone that permeates throughout Songs for Walters’ eclectic collage of sound, it’s understandable the album has taken time. Laurie is like most; a perfectionist. Every element has its place. The crushing xylophone meanders that evoke images of Los Campesionos! The brutal honesty that streams out – similar to that of his hero Nick Drake. It’s all vital; not only with the group’s identity, but that of Walter too.
The sometime quartet have been sat. Waiting. Shuffling. Their debut has been long in the making. Laurie is frustrated. “I want people to know why the hell it’s taken so long. Well here it is. One – I couldn’t record myself at first and me and Ed struggled to get together enough. Two – I wanted a long album. 16 tracks. It took a long time to get down. Three – I had to put everything down. Guitars, vocals, synths, drums. Four – the management company I was with rerecorded a lot of the songs. It took a while to get these done with the drums – some of the percussion I liked – but mixing drums is shit.”
Songs For Walter’s work strikes this balance crisply. Short bursts of enriching pop that evoke tidal waves of crushing melancholia, offset by an instinctive pop laced melodies. Expected then that they quickly became darlings of BBC6 Music. Laverne, Radcliffe, Maconie, Cocker; all celebrated admirers, willing to stage the deft characteristics of the four piece. “I got the airplay from them mainly because they are just short poppy songs. But they are all integral to Walter’s story.” But there’s a more insightful allure at their nucleus.
It’s been a long time in the making but the self-titled album promises to be worth the wait. Quenched Music will be following intently.
Interview by Clive K Hammond