We caught up with Newcastle upon Tyne-based band The Agency… following the release of their superb single ‘To Fumble is Divine’. Read our full interview now!
How did you first get into music?
We’ve all been playing music and in bands since our early teens, sometimes together sometimes with other people.
The Agency… started as a singer/songwriter solo project, but as we began working on the project morphed into a band/collective. We’ve never formalised. Yet, we’re onto our third album now.
Who influenced your latest release, ‘To Fumble is Divine’?
Good question. My approach to songwriting is fairly erratic, and that one started with a concept rather than music or words. It’s about a spirit of nature.
The idea is similar to Morphine’s track ‘The Night’, which I was introduced to long after the track was recorded. The songs sound quite different, but their both trying to capture something otherworldly and supernatural; they suggest a love of the unknown.
‘To Fumble is Divine’ has a really organic sound, was this intensional from the beginning?
Absolutely, that was really the idea behind the whole album. Our last album ‘Of Ghosts’ was all fairly rigid with drums played to click tracks etc. For ‘In the Haunted Woods’ we wanted a more organic sound that allowed us to slow and build up the pace naturally.
I don’t think you’d have the same song if we tried recording ‘To Fumble is Divine’ to a click. It allows us to find those haunting spaces. Space is really important to the song; we had to work very hard to lay off on that track and stop it becoming ‘jaunty’. When we play ‘Fumble’ live it can seem like we’re barely playing at all.
We see that ‘To Fumble is Divine’ is the first track to be released from your album ‘In the Haunted Woods’ (Due October 2020), can you tell us any more about the full album?
More of the same and completely different. It has the same organic feel as ‘To Fumble is Divine’, but it’s something of a dystopian jigsaw puzzle.
The first track ‘Numb’, which has about half a dozen changes, sells it well. Our aim was to create an album where each track has a story and sound of its own that is also necessary to the whole. Because we wanted to create these organic and varied soundscapes, it took us a long time to record the album.
There are a lot of ‘guests’ on it to help add depth and complexity to the songs. While ‘To Fumble is Divine’ is slow and melancholic, tracks like ‘Defender’ and ‘Poor Robin’ rock out more.
It’s really encouraging that where reviewers and DJs have already heard the album and expressed a preference, they are choosing different tracks as their ‘favourites’. There are no filler tracks on this album.
What motivates you to make music?
This is a hard question. We’ve been doing it so long, albeit through different mediums, that it’s hard to imagine not making music. Of course, we want to share our musical visions with like-minded people, hoping that they will take something from the experiment.
Certainly, we don’t sit around trying to figure out what will make a hit record. But…hmmmm…then there is the Christmas song we wrote a couple of years back…
If you could open for any artist/band who would it be?
From the perspective that it would mean we were playing a huge arena or festival Coldplay/the Stones/U2…or the National. Andy likes the idea of opening for Alabama 3. I’d love to be on the same bill as Mark Lanegan or even Dylan.
What’s your favourite venue to play?
Give the current situation we want to give the nod to our favourite local venue in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. The Cluny is amazingly important to our local art scene.
We’ve launched our last two albums from the Cluny 2 and the staff and sound engineers there are phenomenal. The music scene is going through a tough time at the moment, and we need to protect smaller niche venues like the Cluny. In the current crisis, the arts have been overlooked.
What are your other passions aside from music?
We’re pretty varied in that respect. Andy is a sound and visual engineer, working for television, among other things. Ben is also interested in the media and filmmaking.
We all like to travel – Steve is the master of the road trip. I’m currently working on a project looking at U.S. interventions in Haiti, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic in the early twentieth century. I spent most of the last summer in Washington D.C. doing research and would be there again but for the health crisis.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Spotify has to change things to ensure a fairer revenue share for artists. Something also has to be done to reduce the financial gulf between the household names and grassroots artists.
Capitalism has infiltrated the music industry like everything else – the upshot is that a lot of artists are starting to play it safe and there’s pressure to keep constant release schedules that can only be to the detriment of the art.
What new music are you listening to at the moment?
Steve recently discovered Protomartyr, who we all love. Their videos are amazing. Ben would give his nod to Hector Gannet. They’re another band from our area, and their debut album comes out a week after ours.
What they’ve released so far has hinted that there’s something quite stunning on the horizon. Andy is getting into Laura Marling after her proms appearance; a bit of a contrast to Gong the other act he chose.
This week I’ve found Christian Kjellvander, and I’m just blown away by his material and songwriting; I don’t know how it’s taken me so long to find him, but he has a new album out soon too.
What musical plans do you have for the next two years?
First and foremost we’re working on promoting ‘In the Haunted Woods’. We’re so proud of it, and there are so many good songs on it (and we’re actually very self-critical) that we really want to work with it.
We’ll be releasing singles from it into 2021. Playing live is obviously more difficult now so we’re taking a pragmatic approach and will tour once it’s practical. The basis of our next album is also already written; we don’t intend to take quite so long between albums this time.
FV Music Blog October 2020
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