Interview: Admiral Fallow

Interview with Admiral Fallow

Admiral Fallow

Introduction

As Scottish indie-folk outfit Admiral Fallow get set for their UK tour, singer Louis Abbott shares his thoughts on selling out and tells the story of their latest album, Tree Bursts in Snow.

Questions and answers

Hi Louis, can you explain how Admiral Fallow came to be, please?

I had messed around writing songs with friends during high school near Edinburgh, but it wasn’t until I moved to Glasgow to study, in 2005, that I began to get more interested in the whole process. I was very lucky, first to make friends with, and then to start making music with, the four other people who made up a band called Brother Louis Collective.

After playing small shows in Scotland for a couple of years, we released our first album in 2010 under the name Admiral Fallow. So, apart from the ever-changing position of second live guitarist, Joe, Phil, Sarah, Kevin and I have all been involved from the start.

Do you all share similar taste in music?

To an extent we all enjoy a lot of the same music. Having said that, we don’t listen to all the same bands all of the time. I think that’s a positive thing, because the music all five of us listen to tends to inform that which we make together as a unit.

Can you tell us a bit about the writing and recording process on Tree Bursts In Snow please?

With the first record, Boots Met My Face, we had a long time to road-test the songs and become comfortable with them before committing them to record. Tree Bursts… was a different challenge, but ultimately, a satisfying one.

We had a few ideas of songs bouncing around but nothing concrete, so it was a more collaborative process in general with everyone pitching in musical ideas. I dealt with the lyrical side of things and the great Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, NYC, mastered the record.

Were there any nerves entering “tricky second album” territory?

I think anyone who says they genuinely don’t care about what people think of their records isn’t being 100% honest. Of course you want it to be appreciated, having put a lot of work into the making of the thing.

The only challenge we set ourselves with this album was to make sure it wasn’t “Boots Met My Face - Mark 2”. That first record was received quite well so it would’ve been easy to take that as a blueprint for the next one. Instead we made a record a little more direct and perhaps slightly less acoustic/natural sounding.

How do you feel you’ve progressed artistically since Boots Met My Face?

I think we’re becoming more mature in our writing and caring less about trends within the music industry. The people who write to us telling us they like what we’re doing are generally a little older than us, which is quite a nice feeling. When I was young I thought my Dad’s music taste was awful, but as I grew up I started to appreciate a lot of it. So I think as we get older as a band, our ear for spotting something good and honest works better. Hopefully.

This is the second time you’ve worked with The Delgados’ Paul Savage. What initially prompted you to work with him?

I was aware of Paul’s production work with people like King Creosote and The Twilight Sad and as soon as we met him we knew we’d found our man.

He brings a real calm to proceedings and is very easy to work with. And, being a drummer himself, he knows the importance of getting a great drum sound and building on that. It sounds simple but that’s where he comes from. We were all basically studio virgins when we came to work with him but he didn’t make us feel young and dumb.

Where did the album title come from?

It’s just an interesting collection of words that worked nicely as a title. It’s lifted from the opening track which talks of how young people can become caught up in violence.

Where did you get your inspiration lyrically? Is there a cohesive theme tying the album together?

Less so in comparison with the first record, which is an account of my upbringing in Edinburgh. This one deals with more universal themes such as gun crime, religion and faithfulness. But, at the same time, there are personal songs on there. I wrote the song ‘Brother’ for my two younger brothers, who weren’t having an easy time of it when we were making the record. I felt they were both feeling a little lost in their lives and I remember how that felt when I was their age.

What’s your current favourite track on the album and why?

I really like ‘Oh, Oscar’. It’s easily the simplest song on there and we recorded it completely live in one take. I love it for its flaws and its strange lyric.

We hear one of your songs was played during the Super Bowl. Have you noticed you’re drawing bigger crowds nowadays?

It’s a tricky one, the old advert conundrum. You can be called a sell-out for letting someone use your music for something like that. You also don’t really want to be known as “That band from the cereal ad” or whatever. Things have been picking up a little but that’s down to the fact we’ve been playing shows up and down the country together for almost six years now. We’ve worked very hard and dedicated a lot of love and energy to the cause.

What’s the plan for the rest of 2012?

We’ve just done our first ever tour of North America. And as big Boss fans, we were very excited to be playing a show in Asbury Park, New Jersey. We now have a small UK tour in December, taking in big shows in London and – the Holy Grail – Glasgow’s famous Barrowland Ballroom.

What’s been the highlight so far?

We’re often surprised when we manage to fill a room, no matter how big, so I think to have sold out the ABC in our hometown, earlier this year, felt very strange but was also a highlight. I think we’re also all in agreement that Glastonbury 2011 was a huge show for us. Having grown up watching it all on TV since as early as I can remember, to play there was a thrill.

What are your ultimate ambitions for Admiral Fallow?

Just to keep making music for as long as we can still do it well and enjoy ourselves. If people keep inviting us to play in their towns we’ll keep doing it. We really do feel lucky to call it a job. When the day finally comes that we hang up our instruments, I’d quite fancy becoming a football manager as it seems I never made it as a player.

And finally, what’s been your favourite album of 2012?

That would have to be No Flags Will Fly by fellow Scots Olympic Swimmers. We’ve played a bunch of shows with them over the last couple of years and they really are a cut above us all in terms of their maturity in songwriting and excellent musicianship. Great people too. Check it out.