Talons – The Pearl 7″ Review + Interview

As far as Instrumental bands go, there isn’t really that many that I know, other than the sublimely brilliant Brontide, (sometimes) the awesome Hella and other bands like Metronomy who dabble in instrumentals similiarly to Sufjan Stevens, I admit I knew of no others than those, until I had heard Talons and their brilliant track, “Comiserations Buff Orpington” as part of the bloody fantastic Holy Monsters 20 mp3 compilation that came with the 10″ vinyl split between Holy Roar and Big Scary Monsters record labels.

The Pearl is their latest 7″ single, released on Oxford-based record label Big Scary Monsters. It features The Pearl and brilliant B-side Manatee, as well as a remix of the titular track by Richmanu. It’s a brilliant little collection of tracks I whole-heartedly recommend. I was lucky enough to arrange an interview with Oli from the band, read it below.

Real Horrorshow Tunes; What made you guys decide to be an instrumental band? Was it a tough choice to make, or did you always know you wouldn’t include vocals in your music?

Oli from Talons; Well in general I’ve always been into bands like Mogwai who essentially are a lot of peoples starting points in the ‘post-rock’ and instrumental genre of music. However my band previous to Talons was a more standard affair, with a singer, so its not as if I’m opposed to vocals really. I think at the time of starting this band, it was more a case of not being able to find a singer, or at least a singer that I felt would be well suited to the style of music I had begun to write. We listen to pretty much any type of music going, so when you’re pooling so many influences into the writing process, finding a vocal style that sits well can be pretty tough, so in many ways it was almost easier to let the instruments dictate the sound and not restrict ourselves to making a vocalist fit in.

Violins also, and I don’t mean to sound like some sort of ignorant twat, but they aren’t the usual sort of instruments included in most bands, you have people like the Arcade Fire, but the music you make is very different, how vital are the Violins to the sound of Talons?

No, you’re right there, violins aren’t necessarily the first thing you think of when you start talking about math-rock and post-hardcore I suppose! But almost because of that I think it adds a really quite intriguing element into the mix. I mean violins have certainly been utilised extensively within the more classic ‘post-rock’ genre- bands like Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Mono and Yndi Halda have all done it- but the way in which we try and use them is perhaps a little less soothing, and infact quite abbrasive. Inevitably there are some parts within our music whereby they are used to create harmonies- the fact we have two violin players works really well in this respect- but equally we find ourselves using them to create quite awkard, dischordant passages in the songs, almost wrestling with the guitars and drums. For that reason I feel that the violins are really quite a vital part of our sound, and the more we write, the more the violin lines become as integral to our music as any other instrument within the band.

On the ever-helpful myspace page, you list Sufjan Stevens amongst a diverse set of influences, Sufjan is very different to Talons but with tracks like Manatee I think I can hear some of that influence rubbing off, is the music you’ve listened to in the past very important to you when writing music or do you strive to be very different to everything else when writing songs?

Absolutely. All six of us have quite different tastes in music, and so when it comes to writing stuff together, there is a such a collision of entirely different styles and influences, that we never really know quite how the end product is going to sound- which I for one absolutely love. Almost every time I’ve brought a song or idea to a practice, even with a pretty well formed sonic direction, the guys will nearly always add their own tag onto it, almost entirely changing the way it sounds at times. To a certain degree all of us have our favourite bands, or most influential bands when it comes to writing our respective parts for Talons. Its funny that you mention Sufjan here actually, as Reuben cites him as one of his key influences when it comes to writing his violin lines within the band. Its also worth noting that both he and Sam, our other violinist, come from a classically trained background, so they bring with them a certain level of rigour and musical knowledge that the rest of us (probably) lack. In general though, the bands we list as influences are perhaps more a list of bands we like than anything. Whilst some of it affects the way, and the sound of what we write more than others, we constantly strive to listen to as much music as possible, and then almost pick and choose ideas and themes we like. By sticking everything together, overlapping, layering, and then adapting it further, we’d like to think that we are able to come up with something that is quite new, and different to anything else.

Have you been pleased with the release of The Pearl? I got one of the very nice limited screenprints, to me Big Scary Monsters have handled it with special care and attention, and what of the two tracks themselves, are you pleased with them?

Yes, I think we’re all pretty happy with it. It feels great to actually have a proper physical release in our hands at last, not just one of our own homeproduced CDs. I take care of all the artwork and design relating to the band, so it felt great to see something I’d initially just drawn for fun actually properly printed and on the front of a ‘real’ product. Glad you like the print that came with it too- a fun, headache filled evening on my part was spent making all of them, the day before we set out on tour! Kev at BSM has been really supportive and has been keen to get involved with various people and contacts, not to mention random ideas etc, so it does feel like he’s paid a lot of attention to the proceedings, and we’re glad at how things have been going. The music itself is also something we’re really happy with. We wrote and recorded those tracks awhile before the release, so it was quite frustrating in a funny sort of way to have to hold back on playing them to people- other than in a live situation of course. It did give us time to re-work certain parts though, so before we actually released it we went back into the studio and tweaked a few things here and there. As a pairing they work quite nicely- the Pearl is perhaps one of our most frenetic songs to date, whilst Manatee has some more expansive and serene parts to it, so overall you get the full scope of what we’re about. The 7″ also comes with a remix which is quite alot of fun- we had no idea how it would turn out, but we’re pretty happy with the end product!

Thanks for that Oli!

Buy The Pearl 7″ here and possibly get a limited screenprint, whilst stocks last of course.

Here is the demo version of Comiserations Buff Orpington (Download) Enjoy!