One of the LPs of 2015 so far has undoubtedly been ‘Infinite Variety’ the second album from Edinburgh’s The Cathode Ray.
Initially formed as a songwriting partnership between Paul Haig and Jeremy Thoms, Haig departed before their debut self-titled album was released.
However the band continued after his departure and now comprises Jeremy (guitar and vocals), Steve Fraser (guitars), Neil Baldwin (bass) and David Mack (drums).
With the new album officially released a couple of weeks back, the band are gearing up for the launch show at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh on Thursday 14th May. Ahead of that show Jeremy talked to MPT about all things Cathode Ray.
The excellent debut was loosely based around a concept of mixing the music emanating from both Manchester and New York in the late 70s and I wondered if the band had approached the second album with some form of goal in mind.
“If there was any initial concept for the second album, it was that it would have to be different from the first – broader, bolder and a definite progression – otherwise there was little point in making it.
“I decided upon the title fairly early on in the process, so that certainly spurred things on in terms of the concept of variety. It was only in the final stages when the running order was decided upon that we noticed there was this lyrical subtext going on (from adversity to redemption) albeit, again, very loosely.”
The circumstances surrounding ‘Infinite Variety’ were significantly different as Jeremy explained.
“First and foremost these songs were all written by myself, whereas eight of the tracks on the previous album were co-writes with Paul (Haig). But apart from that, as mentioned above, this is a much broader canvas where restrictions we might have applied before have been completely lifted.”
In terms of songwriting Jeremy is clearly the driving force behind the songs but he’s quick to credit the role that his bandmates play in developing the songs.
“I usually bring in new songs to rehearsals in a reasonably finished demo form with basic arrangements, riffs, lyrics and so on all in place. Some songs like “Resist”, “Buck The Trend” and “Nowhere At All” remain fairly close to the original demo, but others – “Backed Up”, “The Eyes Are The Window” and “Saving Grace” in particular – developed a lot in the rehearsal room, especially with Steve’s guitar parts.
“But everyone contributes something to each tune, so that’s why I credit the whole band with arrangements.”
Pushed on the important songs for him on the album, Jeremy again returns to that theme of musical progression.
“That’s a very tricky question to answer, as they’re all my babies and I love them equally! But I guess if push comes to shove I’d probably have to say “Backed Up” and “Saving Grace” as I suppose they both represent the biggest leap forward from the first album in terms of melodies, structure and arrangement.”
The first album came out in 2012 but I suspected that a lot of it had been written much earlier. Jeremy confirmed that and explained that the songwriting for the two records had overlapped to a significant extent.
“The earliest completed songs were “Buck The Trend” and “Eureka Moment” which were initially written and demoed as far back as 2009. “This Force Of Nature” had its origins in a completely different form even earlier. But we had more than enough material for the first album, so we held them back for this one.
“The rest of the songs were written between 2011 and 2013. But I’m always ahead of myself. I’ve already got around a half dozen new songs down in some shape or form for the next one.”
It seems to be harder than ever these days to get a record noticed so, even with a lot of favourable reviews for ‘Infinite Variety’ behind them, the Cathode Ray are looking at other methods of promoting the record beyond traditional live shows.
“We’re working on a series of videos to accompany it with a director friend of mine called Jez Curnow.
“The original plan was to make one for every track, but we realised that was a bit over ambitious. There’s still going to be around six or seven made.
““Resist” was the first completed and another two which were shot in the Kings Theatre (“This Force Of Nature” and “Saving Grace”) should be up on YouTube by the time this article is published.
“On the live front, we’re officially launching the album at The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh on May 14th, with other gigs dotted around the country being slotted in over the coming months, including some supports to The Band Of Holy Joy who release their new album on Stereogram in September.
“Otherwise, the plan is to release two more singles from the album with videos to match – the first “Buck The Trend” is due 1st June.
“Finally, there’ll be an EP of dance remixes by DJ and web designer Tony McQue. He’s already done “Resist” and it’s pretty radical! That’ll surprise a few folk.”
The band haven’t been active as a live unit for much of the last couple of years only emerging from hibernation for a special Record Store Day show at Elvis Shakespeare. The spell of inactivity came about for fairly pragmatic reasons.
“We had gigged fairly solidly between April 2010 and December 2012 so we just felt it would be good to take a break from that and concentrate on the new album.
“The forthcoming shows will feature material from 2006 right up to “Infinite Variety”, so we’ve got a good pool of songs to choose from. Also, our video director Jez (Curnow) is working on some visuals as a backdrop, so people can expect something a bit different on that front too.”
“To be perfectly honest we feel we’re operating pretty much in our own field. Obviously we have a certain kindred spirit with the other acts on Stereogram, but everyone is doing their own individual thing so it’s more spiritual than musical.”
I don’t think it’s unfair to describe the Cathode Ray as veterans and I was curious as to what keeps Jeremy writing and making music.
“I don’t know – madness?! Seriously though, the songs and ideas just keep on coming. I’ve always loved music, both as a listener and a creator. It’s certainly not about the money, so if it ever became a chore and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, I would stop. But I feel like I’m just hitting my stride now so I reckon I’ve got a few more albums in me yet.”
Finally, for a little bit of fun I asked Jeremy which other current acts he’s like to see play a Stereogram organised one day festival, if availability and cash were not issues. He came up with an ambitious list!
“I’d divide it into a couple of sections: to represent the current state of play I’d have some of the youngish bands that have impressed me most in recent years: namely The Horrors, Toy, Tame Impala and Pond (the latter two are virtually the same band so that would be easy logistically). I love what these bands do with their slightly twisted takes on psychedelia, synth and kraut rock.
“Then I’d have a selection of favourite bands from the past who are still treading the boards, but remain currently relevant to my mind: Wire, The High Llamas, Teenage Fanclub, New Order and The Flaming Lips. I reckon that would make a pretty amazing lineup!”
‘Infinite Variety’ is available from good record shops now. The LP launch takes place on Thursday 14th at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh with support from special guests A Moidern Masquerade.
Tickets for the show are available online here or from Ripping Records in Edinburgh.
Here’s the new video for ‘This Force of Nature’ off the new album:
And in case you missed it the MPT shot video of the Cathode Ray performing at Record Store Day 2015:
More photographs from the Record Store Day show can be found on MPT’s Flickr.