Almost It: Catching Up With Sacred Paws
When Sacred Paws released their debut album 'Strike A Match' in 2017 it sounded completely, utterly refreshing.
Somewhere between the Raincoats / Slits second LP wing of post-punk and old high life compilations, it's jaunty, effervescent, yet at times resolutely bittersweet songwriting was a genuine thrill.
Live, too, the duo displayed near telepathic interplay, and a genial, entirely easy-going nature.
'Strike A Match' won the SAY Award, while new album 'Run Around The Sun' is now out on their home of Rock Action.
With Sacred Paws embarking on a full UK tour, Clash caught up with Eilidh Rodgers and Rachel Aggs to find out more.
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How has the tour been going?
Eilidh: It’s been great to play the new songs! We recorded the record a wee while ago, so it’s been fun to learn them and play them live. I think people have enjoyed it, so that’s good.
When was the record actually finished?
Eilidh: November 2018. But I think we did it over little periods across a year. I think we started recording it at the end of 2017.
And it kicked off with Rachel moving to Glasgow permanently, is that right?
Rachel: Yeah! I moved up here in June last year. I feel very at home here. I’d already been visiting for so many years before finally moving that it doesn’t feel like a huge change. It generally suits me pretty well – I feel like I have adjusted.
One of the key things about Glasgow’s creative communities are how outward-looking they are.
Rachel: Yeah it feels like a really good place to have a base as a musician. There’s that community, and there’s also looks of opportunities to collaborate with people. It feels like there’s a lot of possibilities living here.
That’s a key point isn’t it – to make any kind of art you need space, time, and a little bit of money.
Rachel: Definitely. For me, it’s given me more time to focus on music. When I was living in London it could be a real struggle to survive. It feels more of an actual reality here that you could be able to earn a living as a musician. In London most people I know really struggle.
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Do you tend to write cheek by jowl? The interplay on record and live is so closely intertwined.
Eilidh: We write together, mostly. We’ll just booked a practice and jam together, and see what we can come up with. And then if something’s fun and it sticks then we’ll play it for a little bit and develop it. I think on occasion Rachel will write something at home – like ‘How Far’ on the new record. It was something Rachel had been working on by herself. Mostly we collaborate and see what comes out.
So Rachel, why did you keep ‘How Far’ under wraps? Are you a perfectionist?
Rachel: I wasn’t totally sure it was a Sacred Paws song, to be honest. It’s a bit slow and sad, so I wasn’t really sure… but then we tried it, and Eilidh added some drums that really picked up the vibe of it, and it began to feel more like our songs.
It’s not a way that I feel super confident working – I can spend hours at home trying to write things, and I just go round in circles and I get very frustrated and occasionally do something I like after hours and hours and hours. But with Eilidh it feels like everything always could possibly be a song. It’s exciting. I struggle to write without that energy.
You’ve worked in other projects as well, do you find it refreshing to wear different caps, as it were?
Rachel: Yeah definitely! I think each band is a completely different universe, and everybody has their different roles in terms of songwriting and improvising together. I just find that really exciting. It’s one of my favourite things about making music – coming up with a part, and then somebody else comes up with something that’s not what you ever would have done. I think that’s what keeps the sort of music that we make sound unique, in a way, because it relies on each specific person, and their personality, and their place in the band.
Sacred Paws are certainly unique. Was it quite gratifying, then, to watch your debut album take on such a potent life of its own?
Eilidh: Oh definitely! I think any time we release something, that’s the most nerve-racking part – waiting to see what people think! I think we were both blown away by how people responded to ‘Strike A Match’. It felt like a massive relief, I guess, but it was pretty comforting. When we started the second record, we both felt that what we’d done by accident had gone down OK, so we felt a bit more comfortable doing what it is that we do.
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‘Almost It’ was one of the first songs to be released from the new record, what inspired it?
Rachel: It’s about living in the moment, and looking back at times when I was younger, and had maybe felt I was aspiring to be someone different, or to achieve something different.
But actually, looking back, I’m aware that some of the best things that happened to be were during those moments of weird frustration. I would wish I could headline a gig or have cool friends, but that’s exactly what I was doing… I was doing everything right, but I kept questioning things. But at the same time, it’s nice to look back at first times, and friendships.
There are a few different inflections on the record – guest musicians, a horn section at times. How do you structure these parts?
Rachel: A lot of the time we have quite specific ideas, but with Lewis – who plays synth on the record – we tried to leave it to him because he’s got such a great ear, and he comes up with nice sounds and melodies. I think that’s always really important, because there’s only two of us, to have something a little extra that keeps it really alive.
The brass were amazing – we recorded some parts on my laptop, and because they come as a section they know how things can be arranged for different instruments. It’s been really fun, and we’re getting better at knowing what we want on this record.
Where does that come from? Is it gaining more experience?
Rachel: The brass thing happened… not as an after thought, it was something we’d always wanted to try but we were a bit too nervous, or under confident to do. It was a bit outside the realm of what we felt possible for our band, but on this record we knew the tools we have are available to us because of the support that Rock Action and Tony, the producer, have given us. It’s been really nice to go into the studio and know exactly what you can do.
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Is art, and making music, something that it’s easier to do, than to discuss?
Rachel: We don’t discuss anything… we just go for it. With lyrics, we literally just sing until we settle on a sound or a word that we like, and build a song around that. We’re not a conceptual type of band. It doesn’t mean that we don’t put passion and energy into it… it’s about trying to articulate things that are really hard to articulate, and that’s why you make music, I guess.
Eilidh, you work in Monorail, do you still get inspired by new releases and other groups?
Eilidh: Yeah, definitely. You hear an amazing song, and you think: Oh, let’s go write some songs again. It is helpful and inspiring to be surrounded by great music. A lot of our friends make incredible music, so when you go and see them it makes you want to get back into it, and keep going.
Will you be focussing on your live shows for the rest of the year?
Eilidh: We’ve got a few more dates in the UK and then we’re looking at America from July… if we get our visas! So, lots of live dates. The fun stuff!
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'Run Around The Sun' is out now. Catch Sacred Paws at the following shows:
13 London Redon
14 Manchester YES (basement)
15 Edinburgh Dissection Room Summerhall
Photo Credit: Katherine Rose
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