Gig preview: Eagulls at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, Deer Shed Festival, North Yorkshire and Leeds Festival
'It was sort of like an unspoken plan,' says Eagulls singer George Mitchell of the Leeds band's approach to their second album, Ullages.
“We knew that we wanted it to be a lot more atmospheric and a lot more texturised. We also knew that we wanted to try slowing down so we could delve a bit deeper into structures of songs.
“We didn’t talk about it but we did, in a sense. We just went through with it as it happened. It was quite natural.”
Where a lot of bands have come unstuck trying to follow up a well received debut album, the five-piece, who are based in the city suburb of Burley Park, saw Ullages as a chance to show more of what they could do.
“We were still happy with the first album, how it went through the past two years, but we knew that we were capable of doing a bit more,” says Mitchell.
“It wasn’t like we needed to prove to people that but we just wanted to push ourselves to try that. It was more like a personal, progressional path that we took on this album.”
Mitchell has also suggested that he thought there was “more beauty” in this record than its raw, punk and grunge influenced predecessor.
“When I write lyrics I go quite deep into my subconcious,” he says of his writing process. “I don’t understand how I do it but that’s what seems to happen. I knew at the time I needed to write more about the love elements in life, and have that more beautiful side to the sound, with a lot more lighter things going on instead of that harsh, pummelling sound like the first album.
“We needed that lighter effect to the music sonically so I could get the subconscious energy to write about love and beauty and things life that instead.”
There’s a greater sense of hope in Ullages too, Mitchell agrees. “The lyrics still do sound to any person listening to it quite dark and drab but there is a sense of optimism underlying most of them, it’s like a search for the good out of the bad,” he explains.
Among the influences Mitchell has mentioned is Scott Walker. It seems he’s turned on more by American singer’s “60s romantic stuff” than his dark and difficult later recordings. “I really love Scott 1, 2, 3 and 4 – they’re some of my favourite albums and they did have an effect on the writing process,” Mitchell says. “Goldie [Eagull’s guitarist Mark Goldsworthy] I know was looking a lot more into 60s sounds.
“But I still like Tilt and The Drift,” he adds with wry laugh. “I’m still into that.”
While Mitchell “took a step back on the musical side” on this album, to focus more on lyrics and melodies, it seems the band still like to write songs together. “It’s still mainly Goldie coming in with the inital riff and then we all go from there,” he explains. “Banging each other’s heads against the wall from there on.”
The success of Eagulls’ self-titled first album took them from playing in small Leeds venues to David Letterman’s TV show in the US. Mitchell admits the next year or so was “all like a big blur”.
“I think it’s the same for any band in that situation,” he reflects, “you almost take it for granted because everything is happening so fast and you’re sort of thrown into it.
“There’s nothing that we did that I really didn’t want to do. I enjoyed most of it but it is mentally stressful and coming from a person like me who does suffer from anxiety it was quite hard but it was good.”
Touring with Franz Ferdinand and playing shows with Suede and Ride was “an eye-opening, educational period”.
“You learn a lot more about stage production than you do musical progression,” Mitchell says.
He’s looking forward to playing the new songs live, finding they gain an extra dimension when performed before an audience. “We still play some of the older songs but you can feel that these songs are a lot more emotionally connecting with people,” Mitchell says. “Whereas the first songs were a lot more energetic and they pushed the crowd and made the crowd move physically, these songs a lot more mentally, I feel.
“We did a small UK tour and played probably five or six songs from the new album and bearing in mind that people have never heard them before they were still dancing around and moshing a bit, it was really good.”
This week Eagulls launched their album at Rough Trade’s store in New York; tomorrow they play at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. A handful of UK dates will then be followed by shows across Europe and North America. “Basically we’re just going everywhere,” Mitchell says.
On July 22 they headline the Lodge stage at Deer Shed festival at Topcliffe in North Yorkshire while on August 26 they’re due to play on the Festival Republic stage at Leeds Festival.
Ullages it out tomorrow. For further details visit http://www.eagulls.co.uk/