Anthropomorphia is a bedroom recording featuring acoustic guitars and ageing synthesizers, toy percussion and drums, sequencers and vocal harmonies. It has the intimacy of a home recording, but the polish of Wayne Connolly’s mixing and mastering (Amy Shark, Matt Corby).
Luke: Why ‘Anthropomorphia’? I can see the ‘animal/anthropomorphic’’ theme, but is there a deeper narrative behind the album? Were the tracks arranged in a certain way?
Paddy: ‘Anthropomorphia’ the name emerged early in the piece, and just fit. It was the case with a lot of the choices on this album. We worked hard on the craft of it, but the concept and ideas were pretty clear from the beginning. This wasn’t one of those projects where we were tossing up a dozen names or approaches, I think it was just catching the inspiration at a good moment.
The anthropomorphic angle is partly device and partly theme. Writing through other creatures was a neat way to create some distance and different perspectives. It’s easier to ask certain questions in character sometimes. We like to write a little obliquely to leave space for people to find what they want in songs, but part of the narrative is a critique of comfortable suburban life and the casual violence and damage that often goes with not questioning the way things are.
Luke: Dog is a particular favourite of mine; it’s wonderfully subtle, has lovely lyrics (‘suburban fortresses’, mmmn), and the synthesisers were a surprising but fitting addition. So, any extra insights you can give into this particular track? Where did it come from? What led to your instrument choices? Any major influences for this song?
Paddy: Thanks! When we first demoed that song it was all angular guitars and smashing drums (maybe we’ll revisit that version one day). But as we were recording at home it changed, and it was a bit emblematic of the recording process. We just kept removing layers until we got to the core of the song. So some of the arrangements were probably dreamed up to sit within a rock song, but ended up being a nice juxtaposition to the fragile acoustics and whispered vocals.
Luke: What’s your favourite song from the album? (and why?)
Paddy: Stray is one of my favourites. It was really fun to record. I can’t remember how many guitars we put on it, but it was a lot, and I like its structure with the delayed drum entry. Wayne Connolly did a really great job of balancing and finding space for them all. I also like that the lockdown allowed us the opportunity to make (and get away with making?) a video about bugs and blades of grass.
Luke: A lot of your music seems to carry social commentary. What kind of themes/questions/discussions do you like to raise through your music?
Paddy: The starting point for this record was thinking about relationships between humans, animals and power. I don’t know that we’ve totally worked our vocabulary out yet, but we’re getting there. I’ve always found the idea of keeping art and politics separate a cynical and conservative attempt to shut out marginalised voices. It feels like we’re in a moment where people are mobilising and questioning established power, particularly in the context of BLM here and abroad.
Luke: Your vocal style is very interesting, almost… etheric. It seems to always have some amount of harmonisation with it and takes on a softer role which lets in blend into its accompanying music. So, what led to the development of this style? Is this something you’ve always done? Who influenced it?
Paddy: We spent a while layering vocals and working on harmonies. Recording at home and having some extra time and space helped with that. Rather than belting everything out in a couple of hours in the studio we had time to play with the subtle differences you get trying you’re more tired, or in a different room, or different time of day or night.
If I was to pick a couple of influences I’d say Elliott Smith for the close mic’d double tracked vocal method, and Blonde Redhead for their ethereal washy style.
Luke: In a broader sense, where do the ideas for your albums/singles come from?
Paddy: I’ve been trying to keep notebooks, which I constantly lose and find. The haphazard process makes it difficult to keep a clear line or chronology, but those sketches often develop into more coherent ideas. Sometimes it happens pretty quickly, and sometimes things float around for years before falling into place. I find it difficult to sit down and will something to its conclusion. The notes are usually semi-intelligible thoughts about art, music, people, animals and politics.
Luke: A lot of your recent songs are shorter than three minutes and often unconventionally structured (more free- flowing, less rigidly intro/verse/chorus/verse etc. etc.). Why is this? Does shorter music help you to achieve something in particular?
Paddy: The process of making this record ourselves really accentuated that sort of form. As we pulled songs apart and put them back together again we were doing a lot of subtracting. We removed layers of drums and guitars to get to central ideas and melodies – and that mindset carried over into some of the structures too. If we thought a song worked better without a chorus, or starting in ‘the middle’ we just went with that. All the short songs meant the vinyl record fell right into the pressing plant’s recommended length too!
Luke: Why is indie music important?
Paddy: From a selfish point of view, I’m not sure some of Key Out’s scrappy early (or even current) forays would have been tolerated so well outside an indie ethos. DIY art and music suggests new ways of doing things. It inspires new performances, communities and thoughts.
Luke: What’s next for Key Out?
Paddy: In an immediate sense thinking about when and how we can play some of these songs for people, but we also want to get our heads back into writing and recording again soon too, and work with some of the synth and sequencer programming we’ve just scratched the surface of.