Glasgow’s Thula Borah have been on the MPT radar for the last few years and recently launched their new record ‘Hope For Disappointment’.
The band operate somewhere between rock and post-rock and HFD gives you a pretty good idea of their scope and, to these ears at least, marks a slightly different direction for the band.
Although only available on CD, the six tracks on ‘Hope …’ seem to have been sequenced specifically to suit a vinyl record with two distinct sides.
The three tracks on “Side 1” taken together make up the heaviest run of songs they’ve released to date.
Lead track ‘Bone Ships’ would be the obvious “single”. Its dreamy intro is deceptively short as a massive riff hammers in at the end of the first verse. Although they pull the same trick shortly afterwards you’re left hanging for further heavy gratification as the band build up the tension over the rest of the song before a glorious solo heralds (finally!) the return of that riff.
‘Estella’ keeps the adrenaline levels high with more crunching guitars and is a song that reminds me very much of the heavier side of NYC’s ‘The Big Sleep’. ‘Resonant Evil’ is the record’s only instrumental with its metallic riffing conjuring up strong memories of the late lamented ‘You Already Know’. At this point, on first listen, I did wonder if I was listening to a different band.
However “Side 2” sees the band ease back somewhat and return to more familiar guitar soundscapes. Nevertheless ‘I Never Made You Laugh’ manages to reach quite a crescendo from a typical quiet/loud dynamic.
Their Mogwai influences come to the fore on ‘Small Margins’, the music acting as a backing to (presumably) an audio extract whilst final track ‘Fairytale’ is a beautiful and haunting conclusion to the record.
Simply put ‘Hope For Disappointment’ is an exhilarating and affecting album of inventive guitar music, by turns assertive then introspective but never less than compelling. It’s also their best record to date.
With a run of shows to launch the record behind them Lloyd Fay (guitar/vocals) and Kev Heimann (guitars) took time to talk to MPT about what’s been happening with the band.
MPT: It’s been a couple of years since ‘Qualia’ when previously you’d managed a release every year – what have you guys been doing since then?
KH: “A couple of things just never went our way and that delayed the release.
“We actually started recording ‘Hope For Disappointment’ in May 2013 before the release of our previous album ‘Qualia’ and we put down the bulk of the EP but we decided to scrap it to work with Andy Miller again.
“We pretty much finished recording around summer 2014 but had some interest from a foreign label and some smaller local ones. We had lengthy talks with the foreign label about the release but it became too protracted and we would have had to further delay the release which we were not up for. The delay did give us the chance to get back into the studio and record another track for the EP, ‘I Never Made You Laugh’.
“It’s just been a very lengthy and at times frustrating process so it is great to finally have the EP out.”
MPT: The first three tracks on ‘Hope For Disappointment’ sound like a bit of a departure for the band in that they’re heavier and quite riff based. What inspired that approach and, in general, what sort of things (musical and non-musical) influenced the new record?
LF: “That’s interesting because there wasn’t anything conscious about that other than maybe placing the most aggressive songs towards the start of the EP.
“Whilst I’m a huge fan of heavy, riff based music I can’t say that it is something that has been strongly advocated that we move towards. These just happen to be, in our opinion, the best songs we have written over the past couple of years and hopefully the EP shows off some diversity in our sound too but I’m happy if our heavy side is coming to the forefront.
“I can’t think of any huge overarching themes or inspirations for the EP. Simon Baker’s book ‘Ancient Rome’ certainly had an impact on me when I was writing the lyrics for ‘Bone Ships’, perhaps for ‘Estella’ too in that there are ruminations on power corrupting in those songs.
“Music-wise, I can pick out the influence of Radiohead, Queens Of The Stone Age, Pelican, R.E.M., Mogwai and Sigur Ros. Some usual touchpoints but again, there was nothing I’m particularly conscious of us collectively listening to. For example, we all love Beck’s latest album but I’m not sure you’ll ever see that influence the music we release as Thula Borah. Then again, who knows!”
MPT: What is it that keeps you making music as Thula Borah?
LF: “I would say it is a compulsion. Beyond that it is quite hard to define. Certainly at this point in my life I can’t see me ever stopping writing songs and wanting to perform them. I suppose we have nothing to lose either. We have had some really nice feedback at our latest gigs too which always helps.”
MPT: What can folk expect from Thula Borah live shows?
LF: “Loud, heavy, intense music.
“Aside from our bassist Matt bobbing away I don’t think we are the most physically energetic band to watch .So in lieu of a good light show or visuals, which I really like playing alongside, I would say the audience should bring along a good imagination and just picture us flying through the crowd on harnesses whilst pyrotechnics shoot flamethrowers.
“We’re not a shoegaze band but looking back at footage of our gigs we do look down and at our fretboards a lot, so maybe we should start a genre called ‘fretgaze’.”
MPT: What are the plans for shows to promote the new release?
KH: “We’ve been playing a few shows around Scotland and we’ll hit the places we missed, Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee early next year. There are plans for an English tour next spring but we’ll see how that develops.”
MPT: Venues have been in the news recently with Venues Day – what are your favourite venues a) to play in and b) to see bands play?
LF: “I can confidently say our favourite venue to play is Nice N Sleazy, it is a great small venue and we have great memories of our gigs there.
“I realise being Glaswegian it is generally accepted that you should eulogise the Barrowlands as your favourite venue to see bands play and whilst I do like it I would also say personal favourites are Oran Mor and ABC2 can be nice for intimate gigs as well.”
MPT: How useful is social media in promoting a band these days?
LF: “Extremely useful. I would say it is indispensable. The music industry has gone through, and continues to go through, such a shift in the digital age that nevertheless I think is too early and too difficult to draw certain conclusions.
“I think you could say the internet has been a gift and a curse for music, but certainly in terms of promoting bands, social media is crucial in reaching people and it is pleasing how easy it is nowadays to reach people all around the world.”
MPT: What bands do you look up to at the moment, both from Scotland and further afield?
LF: “In terms of Scottish bands, although I probably mention them ad nauseam, it has to be Mogwai. We really respect how they have kept ploughing their furrow, doing their thing, whilst diversifying and developing their sound and just building their fan base to the extent I think you could say they are a genuinely successful band who haven’t compromised their artistry.
“Also, I really like and generally agree with what they say in interviews and they come across as really nice funny people.
“Further afield, predictably, I feel the same about Low and Sigur Ros, I generally find myself nodding in agreement when reading interviews with them and they seem nice, passionate folks.
“I don’t think we have too many musical heroes but without endorsing all the personal views held by these people I do respect the single mindedness of folk who are out there working prolifically to their artistic vision like Neil Young, Mark Kozelek, Ryan Adams etc.”
MPT: And finally a) what was the last show you were at and what was it like, and b) what’s been your favourite show that you’ve attended in 2015?
LF: “I was at Richard Hawley at the Barrowlands the other night, really on the strength of his previous album which surprised me with its heavy atmospherics. It was a great gig. His guitar tones are exquisite and the crowd was the right mix of reverential and rapturous.
“It was close to my favourite show of 2015 and finally seeing Mew this year comes very close too but I’m afraid I have to mention Mogwai again. Their 20th anniversary show at the Barrowlands this year was routinely brilliant, an awesome chronology that really showcased how consistently great they have been for a frightening number of years.”
‘Hope for Disappointment is available now from the band’s Bandcamp.
Here’s the video for the brilliant ‘Bone Ships’:
Thula Borah Facebook
Previously on MPT
Edinburgh E.P. launch live review
Thula Borah interview (May 2012)