MacLeoder Than Ever...



Bethan Shuff || July 23rd


I found myself lost on a small industrial estate in Silverdale just before John MacLeod kindly came to the rescue and lead the way round some dingy building to the hidden gem that is Tremolo Studios.

Dan Rowley made us a cup of tea between chatting and mixing Attack Of The Vapours new EP: Here Comes The Brim. It’s a rather atmospheric name, it could be interpreted in many ways; for me, I envisioned a glass of water being filled and finally reaching the brim where it starts to create surface tension – I imagined it symbolising being tipped over the edge. How wrong was I? John can barely get through the story behind the EP name without chuckling to himself. The real story comes from the phrase ‘pop a cap in your ass’, to which John imagined a rolled up flat cap being inserted, well, you know where… and his friend Matt joking the words ‘here comes the brim!’.

Here Comes The Brim is a 5 track EP pushing a Queens Of The Stone Age kind of rock vibe, ‘Queens of the Stoke Age’ if you will; perhaps similarities could be found in the twisted tales of The Last Shadow Puppets, too. It is so different to John’s album Unexpected Sunshine with The John MacLeod Band; Here Comes The Brim definitely has a more unusual sound, the words ‘angular’, ‘quirky’, ‘weird’ and musically ‘perverse’ we’re used by John in our conversation, yet his friend Mike who joins him on the podast All Yesterday’s Parties coined the album as John MacLeod II: John MacLeoder. John loves musicians and albums that have that ‘prodding you in the arm’ vibe to them and after discovering the frenetic band Cardiacs, John strived to achieve a similar slant, however claims that he ‘couldn’t incorporate it the way I’d love to because I haven’t got that range of genius.'

After listening to What I’ve Lost In Job Satisfaction, I’ve Gained In Meaningless Apherisms (Job Satisfaction, for short), I discovered that John really does possess a great level of genius! It instantly has that Queens Of The Stone Age influence running through, but it is so full of surprises, just like the rest of the EP. The track is about working in an environment in which you are utterly miserable, and not having a great relationship with the management – and said management being ‘baffled when the people who work for you want to leave’. It’s the most convoluted track on the EP, where Jack Tasker is said to have ‘absolutely transformed’ it with his intricate electric guitar solos. ‘It’s been really interesting, instead of saying ‘I want you to play this’ I’ve given people the demos and said ‘see what you make of it’ and they’ve ended up making it a tonne better’.

Another song featuring on the EP will be I’ve Still Got Your Blood On My Curtains, a song which John has been playing it since 2004. It’s a song about house share, ‘when you start living with someone there are one or two little things that niggle you, after 2 years they start to get really annoying’, John said he ‘hit a peak’ and dreamt that he had hit his roommate with a chair leg, which is when it dawned on him that he really needed to move out. Similarly to Job Satisfaction, John has enjoyed listening to what other people think and seeing what they can do. Romas Masteika drummed for the track, and plated a slightly different drum pattern in the last verse to the rest of the song. John said he woud have ‘never thought to do that in a million years… there are so many different versions to that song and he [Romas] managed to add an extra layer onto a song that I already thought was the definitive version of it.’

Misfitz – with a ‘z’ because John, of course, has to be a misfit - is essentially about a crush who doesn’t reciprocate feelings, and ‘not wanting to press the issue’ whereas Brainshocks depics the effects of coming off anti-depressants and the side effects of medication; this is a very personal story for John, but his music remains vague. John likes to be able to create music that can be listened to and even if it’s specific, if you can interpret the lyrics to mean something to you personally. If that happens, ‘then I’m happy with that’. He likes to write songs about holding things together and optimism... ‘If I have a song that’s quite dark and dismal, hopefully there’s a little grain of hope at the end of it’.

Apology From A Distance (Puppy Kicker) is possibly the most unusual name and also story, behind a song. John was going through a rough patch in his life and text a friend ‘thank you’ at 2am; a social worker working odd shifts, who replied ‘that’s great but don’t text me at this time in the morning again’. They’re all rather amusing little anecdotes; John is one of those people that is just so enriched by life and finds the light in everything, hence why even the smallest, perhaps insignificant for some, stories have become a huge part of John’s writing. It’s beautifully nostalgic.

It’s a little difficult recording in a terraced house when you don’t want to be the noisy neighbour, so recording in a studio has given John a lot more freedom to develop his ideas. Recording the demos at home has allowed him to see where he wants to go, but not fully develop the ideas, which is where his good friends come in. In the studio, John didn’t want to be directing people, but says that at times they have ‘inadvertently played what you wanted to be played’, for example, Gary Abbots who plays bass on the EP has ‘pulled a style out of my head’, one that John was never able to fully articulate himself, ‘it’s weird to hear sounds actually pulled out of my head’.

Whilst Attack Of The Vapours have been quiet on the scene and hiding away in the studio, I aaked John what he thought about Stoke’s music scene at present: ‘Stoke’s music scene has improved; the music awards were a good starting point to introduce bands to one another in a less competitive setting. I don’t get to go to a lot of shows, but the ones I have been were pretty stunning. It will be nice to get to more and see people communicating! By the next music awards things we will have hopefully blossomed even more.’

Attack Of The Vapours’ 5 track EP will be released hopefully in August or September, with a launch gig on the cards, too. Here at REBEL, we're sure that Here Comes The Brim is going to make a huge impression.