There’s probably two things you can say about FOUND with any degree of certainty (and quite possibly ONLY two things!)
The first is that the next record will be a completely different beast from the last. And the second? You’ve really got no idea when the next one’s going to come along!
So the period between 2010’s ‘factorycraft’ and 2015’s ‘Cloning’ was a long, frustrating one – even if, in the intervening years, core members Ziggy Campbell and Kev Sim issued releases for their respective solo projects ( Lomond Campbell and River of Slime respectively).
But the arrival of ‘Cloning’ in November last year seems to have sparked something of a glut of releases. FOUND followed up ‘Cloning’ in July with a new album, ‘Terra Nova’, for Chemikal Underground and just four months later comes the debut Lomond Campbell album ‘Black River Promise’ – out on 25 November on Triassic Tusk.
Ahead of that release I caught up with Ziggy to discuss this recent burst of FOUND-related activity and we started with the circumstances surrounding ‘Terra Nova’.
“FOUND was commissioned to make some new artwork based on the rescue mission sent out to free Captain Scott’s failed expedition to Antarctica. The rescue ship was called Terra Nova so we wrote a ‘concept album’ about what would essentially turn out to be the end of that great era of Victorian exploration.”
‘Terra Nova’ is a record which once more sees the band moving on from their previous releases. Whilst elements of the album are reminiscent of the sleek electronics of ‘Cloning’ nevertheless it uses electronics in a different, more atmospheric, way as well as reintroducing (limited) guitars to the equation.
In common with ‘Cloning’, the album comprises songs such as the melancholic title track and more abstract instrumental interludes such as ‘Souter’s Lens’. One of the stand-out tracks is the spoken word piece ‘Eerebus’ which merges poetry and reportage delivered by Neu! Reekie’s Kevin Williamson first in an impassioned then ultimately in a matter of fact manner.
‘Terra Nova’ is a fine piece of work but it’s all the more remarkable when Ziggy describes the circumstances in which it was conceived.
“We had to write, record, mix and master ‘Terra Nova’ in 4 days as I had really gruelling work commitments at the time. We then rushed it out in order to have copies in time for exhibiting the artwork in Edinburgh in July.
“I think the fact that we released it so hastily meant that it snuck out with very little fanfare. I didn’t mind though as I didn’t want to play any live shows around it. In fact, we only played one live version on the opening night of the exhibition.
“In my opinion it’s one of FOUND’s finest albums but, perversely, I like that it came out so benignly. Maybe it’ll be our ‘lost’ album.”
Barely four months later and Ziggy has another album out, this time under his solo guise of Lomond Campbell. It’s an identity that Ziggy has grown into over recent years and he credits a certain Mercury Prize winning artist with his Lomond christening.
“I’m not sure when exactly but I do remember it was around the time FOUND used to frequently play live and often appear on the same bill as King Creosote at festivals and gigs.
“I was hanging out with Kenny and he took a picture of me pointing at the Lomond Hills, prompting him to start calling me Lomond Campbell. He then billed me as such when I did a solo performance supporting him on one of his small tours of Fife.
“I read in a Scottish newspaper that Lomond was one of the most common ‘new’ names for babies last year. Just saying likes.”
‘Black River Promise’ is a revelation, jettisoning as it does all the electronics of recent albums for a much more organic sound based around acoustic guitars and layers of sumptuous, sweeping strings.
At its core though lies Ziggy’s songwriting and there are strands in these songs that reach back to previous albums. So ‘Brutes In Life’ is the sort of quirky pop song that could have appeared on ‘FOUND Can Move’ or ‘factorycraft’.
Yet it’s also a record with ambitious song structures none more so than the epic title track which may be an acoustic ballad at heart but which is propelled forwards by some elegant, exhilarating string passages. There’s also a couple of instrumentals one of which, the dramatic opener ‘Fallen Stag’, has been placed right up front as a statement of intent for the record.
“I moved to the Highlands a couple of years ago and the building I moved into had no electricity or water to begin with as it had been dormant for 7 years.
“I sat around playing loads of long-form, open tuning finger picking just to amuse myself until the electricity was switched on. This turned into songs, which I recorded fairly hastily in single takes with 4 microphones set up in different parts of the building.
“I recorded it quickly as I didn’t intend to do much with the recordings other than let Pete Harvey (who does string arrangements for Modern Studies, King Creosote, The Leg etc etc) hear them to get an idea of what I was writing as we had been chatting about collaborating.”
Although Ziggy thought he was sending Pete what were essentially demos, that simple act triggered a burst of creativity which transformed the basic songs into something very special, as Ziggy recalls.
“He came back to me a couple of months later having written amazingly complex, spiralling string arrangements over my recordings … so we just went with it.
“We then recorded the 10 piece string ensemble (called the Pumpkinseeds) in a 500 year old castle in rural Perthshire. It was a totally new recording experience for me and was very challenging but I learned loads from working with Pete.”
As suggested throughout this piece ‘Black River Promise’ is just the latest installment in a musical career which has explored fresh ideas with every new cycle of work. Whilst this approach challenges Ziggy creatively he admits that it also has its drawbacks.
“You’re right to point out that ‘Black River Promise’ is a totally different beast as the whole album ticks along at a different pace to anything I’ve done with FOUND or anyone else.
“I just think if I’m not going to do something different then there’s no point in doing it at all. That’s probably why there was such a big gap after ‘factorycraft’.
“But I’m not entirely sure why I do that. It doesn’t really do you any favours because you can’t build much of a following if you keep wrong-footing everyone.”
That propensity for forward movement explains in large part why the debut Lomond Campbell E.P. ‘Only a City Apart’ sounds quite unlike the debut album. Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, ‘Only a City Apart’ now sounds like a transitional record between ‘factorycraft’ and ‘Cloning’ as Ziggy readily admits.
“Those two records are 3 years apart so I’m not surprised they sound dissimilar. I was very much in the throes of writing songs for FOUND when I recorded ‘Only a City Apart’. Now when I listen to that record it sounds like it could easily have become a FOUND album with the inclusion of a couple more tunes.”
Bringing ‘Black River Promise’ to a live venue in its full glory would be an enticing prospect, even as a one-off, but unfortunately Ziggy cautions that it’s unlikely to happen.
“I think both Pete and I would love to play the album live with the full 10 piece string ensemble and all the other musicians on the record. But it would cost so much money in players’ fees that I doubt it’ll happen.”
Nevertheless, the album will be getting live promotion in the next week or so albeit in stripped back format.
“We’re off on tour round Scotland this week with King Creosote (appearing as his darker electronic counterpart Kwaing Creasite) but it’ll just be myself on guitar and vocals and Pete on cello & bumslaps.”
Which seemed a good chance to bring things full circle to discuss why FOUND, once a regular feature on the Scottish live circuit, have been spotted so infrequently in recent years. Ziggy explains that that has been down to a combination of circumstances and a deliberate choice.
“I had an epiphany and realised that over the years I’ve only enjoyed a small percentage of the live shows we’ve played, so I became much more selective.
“I also don’t like playing live if I feel under-rehearsed and, as I’ve moved very far away from the other members of FOUND, rehearsing has become more challenging.”
So if you’re looking for some Lomond related live action then I can only commend the upcoming dates to you, not just for the live show, but also for the chance to get ‘Black River Promise’ ahead of its formal release date.
‘Terra Nova’ is available from Chemikal Underground here.
‘Black River Promise’ is released on Triassic Tusk on 25 November and can be pre-ordered here or at the following Lomond Campbell/Kwaing Creosote dates.