‘Out of the blue’ could refer to a number of things. Like Midnight Lion’s sudden name change to Prides, or the fact that the usually gig-shy Glasgow group are booked up for a host of live dates and festival appearances. But, above all, it titles a staggering piece of dynamic pop that proclaims the arrival of a hit-ready proposition.
Having signed a development deal with major label Island Records three years ago, their comeback follows a lengthy gestation period spent “experimenting heavily” in their own studio or, as drummer Lewis Gardiner puts it: “This is just part of our 15-year plan.” He’s joking, I think.
The new band name coincides with the appointment of guitarist Callum Wiseman (also of Kitty The Lion) as a permanent member. Previously just part of the live set-up, his telling involvement in the songwriting process with singer and lyricist Stewart Brock is helping to push innovative electro-pop music in new, zestful directions. The addition of Elaine Glass (also of Fatherson) on cello and extra keyboards amplifies Prides to a versatile quartet for live shows.
Prides – Out Of The Blue
But back to that song. Out Of The Blue is anthem-friendly, rich in melody and informed by current trends for 80s-leaning electro. I’d be astonished if I heard a better pop song all year. The DNA of its 220 seconds is impeccable – an addictive hook, a rousing chorus, memorable lyrics, slick production, repetition. It’s heavenly but how does one conceive something so immaculate? Turns out it’s more by design than accident.
“We get together sometimes and listen to loads of pop music then write a song,” explains Callum. “I think that’s where it came from. One day we sat and listened to Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift… then some not-so-girly things. We were listening to a lot of riffy pop tunes as we wanted to have a riff for that track. I know this is a really technical approach to a song but I specifically wanted it to be pentatonic. I just got fixated on the idea.”
“I remember sitting at the piano and you said, ‘Every good riff is pentatonic’,” recalls Stewart.
For the uninitiated, pentatonic refers to music which uses the five-note scale. Because of its simplicity, it is often found in the melody of nursery rhymes and mainstream pop songs. Callum’s fascination with it was partly inspired by the above video of American singer Bobby McFerrin at a music conference, ingeniously demonstrating the pentatonic scale’s instinctive familiarity, even to those who don’t know what it is and have never picked up an instrument.
“It’s just a seed for trying to come up with new ideas,” says Stewart. “And because we listen to quite a lot of pop music that’s not inherently cool, it was about trying to write a pop tune that hopefully had a bit of depth to it as well, a bit more substance.”
The top-rated YouTube comment on the Out Of The Blue video is “CHVRCHES sent me here”, a byproduct of some ringing online endorsements from their hyped Scottish peers. It didn’t do CHVRCHES any harm when their very first impression – the distinctive drum punch of Lies – borrowed shrewdly from Dizzee Rascal’s 2003 single Fix Up, Look Sharp. Prides are hoping that Out Of The Blue’s similarities to MGMT hit Kids will be greeted just as favourably.
“There were about three days of panic of, ‘Does this sound too much like MGMT?'” admits Lewis.
Stewart: “We kept tweaking it and pulling it away from that sound and then realising it wasn’t as good, so we just went back. It’s just one of those sacrificial moves. As soon as Callum came up with the riff, we had it in the back of our minds that it would sound really good on that sort of distorted, organy synth sound.”
“It wasn’t deliberate,” maintains Callum. “There are only so many ways you can write a pop song with that kind of drumbeat and that kind of riff.”
“Sounding like other stuff that’s good is probably never a bad thing,” reasons Lewis.
As for Out Of The Blue’s lyrics, Stewart reveals an unlikely source for its inspiration.
“I saw this interview with Lindsey Buckingham about Big Love, the Fleetwood Mac song. The chorus refrain is, ‘Looking out for love. Big, big love’. It’s not that he’s looking for love, he’s looking out for it. He’s fearful. That was the original inspiration. It’s about falling in love and not being ready for it. When you meet somebody, you do get that pang of dread of, ‘I am just opening myself up for a shit-tonne of hurt’.”
“She might read this!” interrupts Lewis, clearly worried his bandmate might have shared too much insight.
“That’s alright, it’s not a bad thing,” replies Stewart with a chuckle. “It’s not like ‘I hate you’… it’s ‘I’m afraid of you!'”