A band mixing sprightly post-punk-y guitar leanings with an incredibly distinctive, Dadaist lyrical slant, The Early Mornings formed in 2018 in Manchester. They comprise Annie Leader – guitar/vocals, Danny Shannon – bass, Rhys Davies – drums. Here, Annie goes through their approach to playing live, the bands that brought them together, and more.
1. How did the band form?
Me and Danny met in 2014, and when I found out he played bass I knew we were going to play music together. We messed about writing songs and practicing for a few years. We knew we needed a drummer but it took us a couple of years to find the perfect one. Rhys replied to an ad we put out saying he loved our influences and after a jam we knew he was the right drummer for us.
2. How has the band evolved since it’s inception in 2018?
In some ways not much, we still like to keep it just guitar, bass and drums. In the early days Rhys would be learning songs that me and Danny had previously written, but now we work through ideas together a lot more. We would always write very short snappy songs but we’ve been writing songs that are around the 4 minute mark which until recently was unheard of for us.
3. Where would you say your (distinctive) ‘guitar sound’ comes from, and what is the setup like?
Sometimes I write the guitar parts as a secondary instrument to the bass. I see the bass and drums as the spine of a song and the guitar is the sprinkle of detail on top. As the only guitar in the band, I find you can have a lot more dynamic power by changing between picking strings and then to chords. It sounds like a pretty basic thing to say but if you’re just playing chords constantly and only using pedals to boost the volume then the overall sound just seems muddied and you can’t hear the individual instruments. My set up is very, very basic. I got an equalizer pedal by accident and I have a distortion pedal and that’s it. I always think about getting more pedals but just can’t make my mind up.
4. What bands and artists did you bond over as a band?
The Breeders, Meat Puppets, The Raincoats, The Velvet Underground, Cate le Bon. I think they’re some of the bands we put on the poster that Rhys spotted and replied to.
5. Given the EP title – what purposes and motivations do you have at the fore of your ‘creative consciousness’ when writing/performing?
We never write songs with a purpose or as an attempt to sound a certain way. If there is any message it’s more of a subjective one, we’d rather let the listener make their own way to it – as opposed to setting out with on-the-nose political messages that end up being hollow and preachy.
6. Is it ever difficult to determine which sketches of tracks will be instrumental, and which will have vocals, or is this pre-determined?
All our songs basically start off as instrumentals. We always have a full song worked out and the vocals is always the last part I write. “Tell me it works” was originally an instrumental and we played it that way for a long time live, only adding lyrics to it much later on. Sometimes it’s a matter of deciding along the way.
7. What is the poetic, Dadaist lyrical style like as a process?
Danny writes poetry and I loved the way he wrote from the moment I heard it. So when we were coming up with lyrics, we started by using lines that he had already written. This led to me flicking through all his notebooks and picking out lines that would fit the vocal melody. The lines would be taken out of context of their original poems but when put together seemed to make sense and have a new meaning.
9. Can you give an insight into some of the literary and/or poetic influences that inform the band’s direction?
Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, The Last Poets, Nirvana, Close Lobsters, The Fall. On the literary side one of our favourites is Bob Kaufman, easily the best of the beat poets in our opinion, although that’s not saying much. In France, they call him the black American Rimbaud. He’s a really interesting character who didn’t like to write anything down but thankfully his wife did. His surrealistic yet deeply moving style really resonates with us.
10. Where does the expansive, spontaneous type structure and feel of various tracks come from in terms of the song-writing process?
Sometimes we’ll be playing a song for months, without any singing yet and no idea where it’s going, getting a bit further along with it each time and just letting new ideas come forward unconsciously. We’ve been writing longer songs lately, but we still love a short, simple one. I guess we want a balance between the two.
11. What are some of the band’s interests outside music?
Rhys is into skating, we all like to watch films together. I did my degree in art and like to paint and collage and we all make our videos together. Danny has his writing and most of the bookshelf, with a large section on philosophy and psychology.
12. What has the move from Manchester to London been like?
Really good, there’s so many things still to see and do. Danny read a passage to me from Sam Selvon’s ‘The Lonely Londoners’ which puts it better than I can – ‘Oh what it is and where it is and why it is, no one knows, but to have said: ‘I walked on Waterloo Bridge,’ ‘I rendezvoused at Charing Cross,’ ‘Piccadilly Circus is my play-ground,’ to say these things, to have lived these things, to have lived in the great city of London, centre of the world. To one day lean against the wind walking up the Bayswater Road (destination unknown), to see the leaves swirl and dance on the pavement (sight unseeing), to write a casual letter home beginning: ‘Last night, in Trafalgar Square…’
13. What was the basis of the decision behind the move?
I’d say there’s more people in bands in Manchester that are from the south/other parts of the UK, so it definitely goes both ways. For us, we just didn’t want to stagnate and stay somewhere we were comfortable and like you said, the music industry basically is London, so it was an easy choice where to go.
14. Is the prospect of playing live again mainly excitement or trepidation – or a combination of both?
Both, we actually played our first gig back the other week, so it feels good to get that one out of the way. We’ve got so many new venues to play now though, which is exciting.
15. How do you go about playing live – keep the tracks as they are, or add improv into their structure?
Definitely just play them as they are. We have a kind of semi-improvised Stone Roses-esque outro for one song, which we’re not fully confident with yet. I told Danny not to play it but he still went into it at the last gig, so I had no choice…
16. The past 18 months have of course been incredibly dismal, so what have your highlights been that stick out between the catastrophes?
Recording the EP and making the videos was fun. Oh and United Utilities seemed to think we overpaid our water bill and sent us a cheque for £650.