South Rides The 'Tides' On New Album
South might not have a huge musical presence in America -- yet -- but at least everybody knows the band's name in its native England.South might not have a huge musical presence in America -- yet -- but at least everybody knows the band's name in its native England.
"We did a little thing on a rooftop in a pub in Camden Town," main vocalist Joel Cadbury recalls about an unorthodox August gig. "It's a very good pub, it's always packed out -- Brett [Shaw, South drummer/keyboardist/guitarist] actually lives above [it]. So, at sunset, we went and took some guitars and a keyboard and went and played a few songs. We ended with the theme from 'Cheers,' and it was quite an emotional little evening. It was really fun."
Although any current touring plans are on hold due to lead guitarist Jamie McDonald's broken wrist, the trio is forging onward with the Sept. 23 release of "With the Tides," its sophomore disc for Kinetic. A bold step forward for the group, "Tides" is a cornucopia of influences: Echo & the Bunnymen's chime-driven sprawl and soar ("Colours in Waves"); the brisk, hook-laden urgency of Manic Street Preachers ("Motiveless Crime"); Starflyer 59's hazy shoegazing ("Natural Disasters"); and lush psychedelia ("Silver Sun").
Nevertheless, the sparking undercurrent of electronica that marks "Waves," or the sighing, cello-and-harp restraint of "Nine Lives" maintains the hard-to-categorize charm and staggeringly diverse instrumentation of South's 2001 debut, "From Here on In."
"Most people have said ['Tides'] is coming from a different perspective, but I see it as a continuation [of the last album]," Cadbury explains. "It's just a different approach to some of the aesthetics that go into it. We decided against interludes and reprises for this particular record, because we wanted it to contrast with the first one, and to be a continuation but a development as well."
"Tides" is certainly grander than "On," fleshed out by sweeping layers of strings, keyboards and guitars, and choruses that scrape the heavens -- all of which take multiple listens to really appreciate and absorb. At the same time, the epic reach of the tunes is more focused, their wider soundscapes compacted into concise pop songs and less aimless wandering.
"There's a lot going on," Cadbury agrees. "In that way, it's similar to 'From Here on In,' because creating soundscapes and textures and deconstructing, we've always enjoyed that. We just felt we had to do it in a more accessible way for people coming to this record, [so they won't] necessarily have to listen through 70 minutes of music and reprises and interludes just to pick out the tracks. It's good for us to make this a more accessible record and therefore just take that next step, which I think will be quite a big step for us."
Helping South stitch together its sound was Idlewild/Manic Street Preachers producer Dave Eringa, who Cadbury joked the band worked with due to "his looks and his physique, really -- the old Eringa charm."
"He's fantastic. I couldn't really wish to have worked with anyone else," he says, in all seriousness. "He's just great. We knew we'd have a great time with him, it was just about whether our approach -- a bit more left field of that kind of mainstream rock [he has produced] -- and whether he would be able to adapt to that. And after a day, we just felt, yeah, definitely, he's amazing."
South originally met in school as pre-teens and has been playing together since its members were "14 or 15," according to Cadbury. South signed to MoWax in 1998 after U.N.K.L.E. member and label boss James Lavelle heard the group, which also lead to its collaboration with him on the "Sexy Beast" soundtrack. South's diverse resume and fluid musical attitude isn't surprising though, as each member plays multiple instruments -- Cadbury handles bass and guitar besides his singing duties.
"It has a positive effect [on our music] because everyone brings something different to an instrument," he says about multi-tasking. "I'm not a drummer [laughs], but Jamie and Brett are very good at the drums and they're also very good guitarists and bass players, and Brett is a very good keyboard player and very able to deal with technology in a way that maybe I'm not so good. We all bring strengths to the playing and the recording process, the demoing process is really empowering to have different skills with different people."
Cadbury himself brings a motley crew of personal favorites to South's sound, namechecking Beck. PJ Harvey and the White Stripes, and says the band was "feeling very rock" while recording the new album. "Queens Of The Stone Age," he raves. "I mean, 'Songs for the Deaf' -- we listened to that loads during the making of the album. Even though it's a very American record, there [are] very British elements in there, British guitar sounds. I think they are just the greatest rock'n'roll band at the moment."
Indeed, Cadbury hopes people listening to "Tides" are as enthusiastic about South's own brand of rock as he is about QOTSA. "It would be nice if the songs shone through, and it's something that people take to their hearts," he concludes. "That's what the greatest records are, really, when you meet someone and they say, 'You know, that affected me.'"