I have a feeling that we'll be discussing what we did during the lockdowns for years and years to come.
Having released a handful of singles after forming in 2017, Kate Walton and Adam Wakefield of Liars at the Witch Trial began drafting the ideas for their debut album during the times of imposed seclusion. Since then, they've performed and perfected the songs, played them live and, last week, released the rather brilliant 'Torches' album.
Although the band is often described as an alt-rock, post-punk proposition, there are so many different sounds, styles, and references running through their music. A chat with the band can be a fascinatingly meandering experience. What follows are just highlights of our interview with Kate and Adam.
Outsideleft: I've always seen debut albums as being one of the great landmarks for a band! How do you feel now that it's physically here?
Adam: It feels fantastic! We completed the last recording session for the tracks in the Spring of 2022 so it's been a long time coming; a year's project really. We’re both really proud to finally have all of the mastered tracks, along with the artwork all uploaded. Some of our favourite albums have been the band's debut albums, from The Stone Roses, 'Ten' by Pearl Jam and even The Pixies' classic debut so it feels special to have ours up there in our own right really.
O: I love the sleeve. Night-time, heavy clouds, a hand holding a flaming torch, a house on a hill...it's very, very goth isn't it?
A: It is! I think that definitely comes through in the songs too, whilst never being outright Gothic, we definitely have Gothic elements which the cover encapsulates well we think. It also references those specific themes in the songs, feelings of being controlled and a sense of foreboding and also then of empowerment and freedom without being too on the nose with it hopefully! The artwork is an original piece by Louisa Blaxland who knows the band well. We gave her a brief based on some of the themes in the album and we love what she came up with!
O: The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Royal Blood, and you. All two pieces with great drummers. So, who are your favourite drummers?
A: I'm inspired by quite a few drummers both modern-day and some of the older greats. There’s too many to list here really but here are a few; Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham, Ian Paice, Stewart Copeland, Ginger Baker, Travis Barker, Chad Smith, Dave Grohl, Matt Helders, Dominic Howard, Jon Beavis, Joey Castillo, and Topper Headon.
O: I can see that the title 'Torches' has more than one meaning. As if you're holding a torch for someone...am I correct?
Kate: I was listening to quite a few gospel singers like Ruby Turner when I drafted the lyrics to 'Torches'. There seems to be a lot of dark and light in those types of songs and I was inspired by that. When we came to name the album much later on it seemed to make sense to call it Torches because it does have different meanings. About half of these songs were drafted in lockdown and finished when we could play together properly. It was a long winter in 2020/2021 and I think we were all glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel!
O: 'I Shoulda Known' has references to someone sleeping for a hundred years and the opening of castle gates. It has a lot of fantasy elements to it...
K: I watched 'Sleeping Beauty' again in lockdown. It was a film I hadn't watched since I was a kid. The animation is so Gothic and surely inspired lots of other fantasy animators. It was fitting because we were all probably doing a lot of sleeping and were waiting for the lockdown laws to be lifted.
O: And lyrically...whose work has made an impression on your writing?
K: Sabbath! Geezer Butler wrote the words and he is such an underrated lyricist I think. I find his lyrics fascinating because of coming from Birmingham and I sometimes wonder how much parts of it have changed since Sabbath lived in Aston. I like his lyrics because they are pre-punk but against the grain which must have made them very unique at the time. Both he and Robert Plant had fantasy elements to their lyrics but I think they were singing about the area to start with. A music historian might correct me on that!
O: You have quite a distinctive, commanding vocal Kate - I hear Siouxsie and Jehnny Beth's roar on all those Savages albums. Who were your vocal inspirations?
K: Well bang on Siouxsie is definitely one of them. I've been rumbled! I grew up listening to Classic Rock though. I also went through a 90s R n B phase and listened to groups like En Vogue again and that's where some of the ideas for backing vocals came from. I had great fun doing them!
O: Going back to the title track, there's something bluesy in your vocal delivery. Is that something that we can expect more of in future records?
K: Oh yeah there's more where that came from. There's an eight-minute blues song coming your way soon hopefully! We are recording again in June and we can't wait!
O: Finally, I'm a huge fan of The Fall and their debut 'Live at the Witch Trials'. Which prompts the question ... how did you get the name?
A: Well the name actually originally comes from a Hole lyric that we referenced in a song of the same name. We felt the witch trial theme can be interpreted in many ways really that are still very relevant today, especially in such a social media-centric age.
Before we get to hear the bands' new, and possibly bluesy, material, it's worth getting a hold of 'Torches' here.
The band is hoping to be playing live again by the early summer, check social media for details.