words: Kayla Carmicheal
In celebration of the release of Withdraw, a brand new album from the band Fresh, we chatted with the group about music, packaging music with seeds, and more!
Where did you get the idea to give away seeds with your recent run of merch?
It was actually Kay’s idea, she and Andrew run Specialist Subject Records together, which is our label. When she suggested it we were totally on board because we wanted something a bit special and different. I like the idea of them growing alongside the record. We picked a mix wildflower seed so that they wouldn’t be all the same.
The title track, “Withdraw,” is such an amazing way to open the record. Can you take me through the process of choosing the name and writing the track?
I had Withdraw in my head for while, and then when I wrote the song it fell into place as a good concept for the album! My demo was fast and short but when I brought it to the others it became a lot slower and heavier, which I really like.
What is your favorite song from Withdraw and why?
I really like No Thanks and New Girl, when I was writing they came very quickly one after the other and I’m really excited about how they turned out. No Thanks was really fun to arrange, it’s got lots of different things happening simultaneously. As for New Girl, I’m really proud it lyrically and it’s really fun to play live because George, Myles and I all sing. Both the songs feel like little snapshots of isolation and alienation, which is what I was trying to do.
So you’re on tour right now and you’re about to head off to tour again in the near future. How do you manage the stress of touring? What’s an essential self-care tactic you have?
We’re actually doing some early festivals right now after not playing for nearly half a year, we just did Brighton Ladyfuzz and Leicester Handmade, and coming up is Bristol Boozecruise. Then we have proper tours with Nervus and Slingshot Dakota before we go to the U.S.
touring can be really stressful and difficult on your mental health. If you’re a little band like us so you have to save money so it can be uncomfortable, it’s not a holiday. I like to take a book and have some good podcasts stored up. We’ll take our running shoes and go for a jog sometimes too. It helps a lot to do a touristy thing if you’ve never been to the city/country before, like visit a cathedral or a good food place. I think ultimately I’m very lucky to have my bandmates, they’re my friends and travelling with them is fun, but they’re also very supportive and I couldn’t ask for more.
What would you hope is the biggest takeaway from your record by fans?
I’d like listeners who might be struggling with depression and anxiety to understand how widespread it is as a mental illness, and that there’s always support for you from your loved ones and community. When I write songs it feels like they always come from this really monstrous dark place, but a lot of our stuff is super loud and fast, so playing it live is quite cathartic because I get to associate it with new memories. People at shows sometimes talk to me about coming out, about being queer, about how seeing a bisexual woman on stage who writes about these issues has made them more confident, and I can relate because before I started fresh I was spurred on by watching people like me do what I wanted to do. I still would like to have more women listeners, more non binary people and more women at our shows. In the first year or so of Fresh (especially when we toured) we played to a lot of older guys with arms folded across their chests, it was a bit of a boys club. I would feel uncomfortable at my own show. But that’s really changed a lot, although there’s always incidents to deal with. Basically, we’re onstage, we have fun, we do this because we love it and we want to show people how making art can be this really positive thing, even if it comes from a bad experience or a lonely place.
What does your writing process look like?
I’ve always really loved reading, and I think a lot of my writing comes from a narrative place. I’ll write as much as I can in a notebook, and then I’ll put some stuff to music. It’s always just words with some guitar chords. Usually I’ll have a phrase in my head and it fans out from there. Then I take the skeleton to the others and we flesh it out together. I think that’s when it feels magical. I write all the lyrics but we all work on the song together. Sometimes the recorded version is almost unrecognisable from the original demo idea. We write very intuitively together, we feel stuff out in the room and we play a lot of songs live way before we record them just to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Some songs are fully formed in five minutes, others (like In Over My Head) have been demos for years and just take a while to come into focus. I wrote In Over My Head alongside the songs on our first Gewingchum EP, but i didn’t like it enough to peruse until we were writing Withdraw. Sometimes that happens!
Is there anything about the US you can’t wait to try?
I think Fest is quite an experience in and of itself. I’ve never been but everyone tells me that it’s incredible. We’ve never played America before, we don’t know what to expect. I hope people are into the record over there! I’m expecting good vegan food, and good hangouts. I’ve been told that crowds in the US are wild, that people go hard at shows. I hope that’s true because I think our music is good to dance to!