by trevor elkin
We were knocked sideways earlier this year by the raw, impromptu energy of a demo track ‘Country Walking’, by Middlesbrough’s Dressed Like Wolves. It was a curiously raucous, daring departure from the textural folk sound of their 2014 album, (deep breath) ‘In the end we all just walk off into the sea in the eyes of the ones we left behind‘.
Out next week, ‘The Big Try’ is an unrestrained follow up – concise, direct, vulnerable. The album’s all-or-nothing, wholehearted passion is contagious. Whether it’s a song about heartache, love, death or buying frozen falafels, Dressed Like Wolves impart one of life’s most important lessons – that things with a heart also need to have humour, no matter how hard it gets. It’s a pleasure to be able to share ‘The Big Try’ with you below, a week ahead of release. If that wasn’t enough, Rick Dobbing, the guy behind the wolf mask and tiny DIY label Spooker Rekkids, took some time out to chat in depth about the album, laying it all out there.
My name’s Rick and I play a few chords on my Eko Ranger 6, use a fuzz pedal sometimes, and sing frantic songs about White Russians, being scared and the sea. Sometimes I write a mean casio riff. Daniel does all the good parts and Paul and Aaron make all our loud guitars make sense. Together we play care free sounding rock songs that are actually full of cares and hopefully you can bang your head to it a bit in your car. I think there’s some songs you can skate to as well
Aw thank you – we’re really proud of it. I think I’m most proud of getting all 10 songs recorded in two days. Maybe that’s normal but I don’t know. We had to relearn and finish some of these songs together when we got there and record them all live. We’re all really proud of these songs they mean a lot to us and we wanted to get them right before we put them out into the world. I think we’ve done okay, as best we could in our big room in Leeds with a bunch of borrowed microphones, cheap gear and an IBM Think Pad. I’m proud of how DIY this all is too. I’ve knocked up all our little music videos on my phone and sorted art work for this album as well as making home made t shirts and CD’s with no money and whatever limited skills I have. It’s nice to feel like you’re really giving it your all and it’s paying off.
I’d done a pretty folky album with chord organ and violin and stuff and wanted to do something with bit more of standard band set up. It’s hard carting loads of daft toy instruments about. Especially when no one wants to play them. I wrote all these songs over a few years and we played a lot of shows and people seemed to like our wordy not-punk. We’d tried to record them a few times before and it never really worked out because we’re skint. We lost hope a bit, but figured we’d give it another go (a big try). I mean we’d played them together over a year or two and felt them change and grow into something coherent and ready. It felt like it could be an album. Would have been weird to have just not done it.
We all got a weekend off work in May borrowed a bunch of good microphones and leads from Ellis (Trust Fund) and my pal Tom Joshua and got our friend Matthew Brown (Cult Party/Hold Music) to record it for us. All of us live in different places so we only really had these two days together and it seemed like a lot to get done. We rented this room that used to be part of a decommissioned textile mill and played our songs for two days straight into microphones until we started messing up so much that we had to go down to the Brudenell for a cola and to bed. I’d only really recorded successfully in my attic until this point so it was a new experience for me. I don’t really know how to set an amp up so it sounds good and I had to learn that hitting my strings really hard doesn’t make it sound like I mean it any more. It just knocks my guitar out of tune all the time and cuts your fingers. We had no idea how the recordings would come out and I was kind of scared it might all just sound messy and unusable and we’d end up with nothing except memories of a weird weekend away in Leeds, where we sat in a room the entire time blagging our own heads with fuzz pedals. Thankfully Matt made it all sound dead good. We added a bunch of overdubs at the farm house I live in and recorded vocals on my USB microphone.
It took me weeks to muster up the courage to listen to it for the first time. When I did it was with my brother and it sounded like rock and roll to me. We got lucky and didn’t have to spend a lot of money on any of this Which is good because none of us have any.
A lot of people helped along the way including Ste at The Westgarth Social Club who let us clean out a disused attic and use it as our HQ and for watching scary films on Halloween. Zoe drove us to shows and played keys a few times when I needed her too and is always crazy supportive. She also helped me find the frozen falafel in Tesco for my ‘Tiny Ides’ video. The lovely promoters in our town TKASG and Henry Carden who helped with album stuff when he could. Bob Fischer our mint local BBC Intro presenter. He plays songs I record on my phone on his show. Our Spooker Recs friends too of course. Stupid grateful for their help. Feels a bit like I’ve won something now and I’m at a podium but all I’ve really done is manage to not fuck up singing my own songs.
It’s funny that you got that because there is. We put a lot into this and came out with some songs we think sound pretty good. We’ve been playing live like this for a while and had nothing recorded that sounded like how we play. So it’s cool to have something that sounds more like us now. I don’t know who these songs will resonate with but hopefully people like too many words, no choruses, big riffs and loads of massive casio over the top. This is our rock n roll album for sure and I don’t know for sure if we have another full one in us. It’s a love letter to the summer easing into autumn and everyone who means anything to us.
I have more books than I could ever read and I’m really slow at it to be honest. It’s like shelves full of things I’ll never get to know. Little bit sad really. Not what you asked though is it. I read a bit. Read a few good books and comics and watched a stupid amount of films. Currently reading a fantasy series called ‘The Wheel of Time’ I’m on the first book of about 200 or something. It’ll likely never make it into one of my songs mind. Reading ‘Heart Of Darkness’ too. That’s really dense and poetic and great. Anything I do read or see tends to seep into my songs though. I tend to take everything in and just apply it to love and dying. It’s hard to get over either. Oh and ‘Survivor’ by Chuck Palahniuk which I started reading on a plane in the summer – it’s about a horrible bloke who answers phones and a plane crash, I think.
The Long Goodbye has had the most impact on me I’d say. There’s this man who walks off into the sea and isn’t seen again. That always tends to make it in there somewhere. I just like that imagery and relating it lots off different things. It’s got a funny tone too. It’s a really laid back, slightly surreal, film noir story. He’s sorting out a murder and also has a cat that only like a specific brand cat food. I like things that have heart and can be really thoughtful but still have a sense of humour about them. I tend to write like that a lot.
The night time is for sure the best time to write songs. That same thing that makes you regret words you say in the night helps when writing. You can wear your heart on your sleeve a bit and be a bit daft. The day light makes you think about your bank account and buying Christmas presents and that. When everyone’s asleep it’s easier to sing things out and see what your head thinks is important in the dead of night.
Anything can trigger a lyric really. Hot chocolate looking like tea leaves at work, doing a few star jumps in the old stables, your mate who’s a bit drunk trying to get you to steal a tiny cup from a fish and chips restaurant in town. Just needs to stick in your head a little bit (and it always ends up being about girls anyway really) and these days it’s hard to get away from everything always being a bit messed up. I write a lot in my attic on the edge of my bed looking at all the things around me and I just sing along to chords until something interesting crawls out of the back of my mind. Two of the songs on this new album have parts about squirrels making homes in the walls of the house and people almost dying and being on life support. Another I was literally just chewing gum and playing my jaguar then a bunch of fears and thoughts just happened with a bit of Jane Austen. They chewed through a guitar those squirrels and a few books. So not sure how I feel about them.
Well it helps that a few of us all chip in together. It’s kind of like a co op we all do what we can when we can and get to work on our own stuff as much as we want. We’re friends so it’s basically about supporting each other and having somewhere to put our music out and put shows on. No one’s really expecting anything from us as we’re involved as much as we like. We just want to help bring attention to the good music around us in a really DIY way.
Nel Unlit is an off-kilter folk thing that our friend Jonathan Horner is doing with help from Ben from Sullivan & Gold and others. It’s going to have a load of guest vocalists and eventually an album based on The Sandman by Neil Gaiman which is a big ball of weird about Gods and all sorts. The only song I’ve heard so far is his single ‘True Things’ and it’s brilliant. I’m super excited for it because it’s massively ambitious and different.
Doesn’t all need to be about Donald Trump and Brexit does it? That’s stuff for the day time.
‘The Big Try’ is out 24th November on Spooker Rekkids, buy it here