“Most of the record is based around all the shit things men do”

Interview subject: Jamie Sutherland, Broken Records
Location: The Arches, Glasgow
Time: 23.30
Background info: Broken Records are a seven-strong orchestral indie-rock band from Edinburgh featuring Rory Sutherland, Ian Turnbull, Arne Kolb, Dave Smith, Andrew Keeney, David Fothergill and frontman Jamie Sutherland. Their debut album Until The Earth Begins To Part was released this week on 4AD.

There are few things more satisfying than watching all the pieces fall into place. When we first saw BROKEN RECORDS it was an awe-inspiring experience, but that feeling of wonderment was soon replaced by a determination that this grand, joyous, skyscraping music should get every bit of support and exposure The Pop Cop could muster. So we wrote about them, interviewed them and wrote about them some more. And if you’ve discovered and subsequently loved this band by reading our rantings then it’s a case of job done.

Broken Records themselves have toured like gypsies for the past 18 months, only pausing to record their debut album. And now that Until The Earth Begins To Part is out, it seemed like the perfect time to catch up with singer and lyricist Jamie Sutherland to get a track-by-track take on what inspired the songs we’ve come to know and cherish.

01 Nearly Home
JAMIE: “I thought of big, grandiose things like Martin Luther King standing in front of lots of people, and tried to write a speech. It’s not meant to be political, though, it’s just bombastic. To be honest, it’s not as loud as I would have liked. There was a bit of a compromise because there are other instruments than guitars in there.”

02 If The News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It
“I had a really shit job, I was sitting on the couch watching TV and it was miserable. The middle eight [“Sing to me, I love it when you sing to me”] was something my girlfriend said to me when I was moaning. It was meant to be an apathy song but it turned into an anti-apathy song. You can’t turn the TV off, you can’t opt out. I wanted it to sound like You Can’t Hurry Love and The Clash – and it sounds like The Levellers [laughs]. You can’t win them all.”

03 Until The Earth Begins To Part
“That was the hardest lyric to write because we’d played it for ages and I didn’t have anything down for it, and when you don’t write something almost immediately nothing springs to mind. But I watched the Zeffirelli version of Romeo And Juliet, and I liked the idea of the suicide pact – ‘if I go then you’ll go with me’. And then it’s coming from the point of the guy when the girl says, ‘I don’t really want to’. The other idea is that if you’re lying on your deathbed and instead of asking your wife or girlfriend, go and be happy, find someone else, you want to say, ‘No, don’t ever fall in love with anyone else – remember me’. I like the conceit of that – that people are totally selfish most of the time. But maybe that’s just me.”

04 A Promise
“A Promise is one that Davie and I wrote when we shared a flat. I’d been listening to a lot of Johnny Cash’s American recordings. There was one, On The Evening Train, which is a cover of a Hank Williams song, where he’s putting his wife on the evening train so to speak. I got thinking about what would happen if I lived with this woman for however long. It’s blissful and romantic.”

05 Thoughts On A Picture (In A Paper, January 2009)
“It’s a terrible title but I just couldn’t think of one. I really hate using choruses as titles, it’s just so boring. Israel had gone into Gaza and there was a picture in the newspaper three weeks later of one of the soldiers coming out in the withdrawal and he looked shell-shocked from the whole thing. And I just thought, ‘Why did you do that? Are you just going to go home now? Because you’ve fucked up everything for everyone else’. And he knew it. It was a monologue, more the conscience side of it. From his point of view, not mine.”

Did you find it easy to write?
“To be honest, I was really struggling. I always do. I hate lyrics. Most of the time I don’t feel particularly good at writing them. I can never write them beforehand – they always get put down in the studio because once they’re down, they’re final, you’re stuck with it. Before then I can never commit to them because I don’t like writing them and if you don’t feel you’re any good at doing something you tend to put it off for as long as possible.”

06 If Eilert Løvborg Wrote A Song, It Would Sound Like This
“Eilert’s one of the oldest ones. It was the easiest lyric to write because the first couple of lines came as soon as I heard the accordion. I don’t know why ‘Heather’ was the name that came in but it has obviously been lurking about from my sixth-year reading of Henrik Ibsen [the Norwegian playwright whose play Hedda Gabler features the character Eilert Løvborg]. The music is cinematic so I just made the lyrics more pompous. I’m a massive fan of Tom Waits and he does the same thing. It’s an extension of storytelling, only you’re doing it to music.”

07 Wolves
“I’d probably been listening to too much Bob Dylan. It’s nowhere near as good but I wanted to update Masters Of War. Lots of men playing power games with each other and everybody else living with it. I hate men basically. Guys in suits. Can’t stand them. Most of the record is based around all the shit things men do.”

08 Ghosts
“There was a running theme of people dying but it’s not meant to be maudlin. I think I initially wrote it about my grandparents and then it was about my old boss at the Scottish Executive, who died of a brain haemorrhage. I wasn’t friends with her but I guess the whole point was that everyone touches you in some way, nobody is ever really forgotten. There are always going to be little parts of you that are shaped by somebody who said something.”

09 A Good Reason
“I read an article in which Joe Strummer was described not as a lyricist but as a sloganeer, and I deliberately wrote A Good Reason’s lyrics as something you could write on a wall. I’m not even singing them, I’m just shouting them. A lot of these songs go back to early 2007 and the world has changed slightly since then. Obviously, Bush isn’t there anymore, you’ve got people moving out of Iraq and everybody’s filled with hope. So it sounds slightly dated and it’s a weird one to still be singing.”

10 Slow Parade
“I wanted to get that sense of excitement of the first time you clocked on somebody you really want to be with. It’s supposed to be wilfully, stupidly romantic and it seems to make other people feel the same way and that’s why we finish with it. No matter what you do throughout the whole set if you finish on that song people will always leave on a good note and feel slightly more goodwill to their fellow man.”

Is it your favourite Broken Records song?
“Yeah. I get a lot of fun from playing it. I’d still like to play it when I’m old… if we’re still doing this when I’m old!”
You can buy Until The Earth Begins To Part here.

4 Broken Records – A Promise
4 Broken Records – Lovers’ Pact (demo)
b June 2, Moshulu, Aberdeen (tickets)
b June 3, King Tut’s, Glasgow (tickets)
b June 4, Doghouse, Dundee (tickets)
b August 7, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Inverness-shire (tickets)

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