Where next, Good Good Blood?
by trevor elkin
It was in the aching loll of the holidays that I first heard ‘Heart Land’, Good Good Blood’s new EP. Those days leading up to Christmas day when everyone else around seems to lose their minds in the high-pressure sales echo-chamber of the so-called festive season. James Smith had dropped me a link to it a week or more before, asking what I thought, but I’d had to put off listening until that moment. ‘Heart Land’ is Good Good Blood at their peak in terms of musicality. But, every peak requires an exhausting climb, the fatigue from which is something which some artists choose to cover up or dismiss.
Not Smith. Woven into some of the most upbeat songs he’s written to date, like ‘Shake Off The Present’ are some of his most devastating and sad sentiments. Almost immediately after listening I felt these tracks presented something final, either as closure or a coded message that begged an intelligent and genuine inquiry into its origins. A significant cue was the sparser nature of the two instrumentals on the EP, particularly the final track ‘Be It Your Will’, throughout which a deep, troubling pulse runs, its singular tone seeping into your ears.
Listen below, and read our frank conversation with Smith where he talks about Good Good Blood’s future, using music to manage his own struggles with mental health and how we all need to help out others more.
So, with the release of Heart Land EP this month, is this goodbye?
I don’t know is the quick answer. I’m thinking I might take a breather from making music for a short while as I’ve been pretty active the last 12 months and I find it pretty emotionally draining so we’ll see. I’ve got a few other bits and bobs on the boil so want to see where they go. I want to make an album though whether it be under the GGB moniker or something else. Like a full cohesive album with a story running through it. Ep’s are great and I’ve loved making this run of little collections but I do have a want to make something longer with more depth so you can jump in and be taken off somewhere for an hour or so.
Will that involve a different pace of writing, or something else altogether?
Maybe something more raw. Raw in the sense that, with my previous stuff, I layer lots of vocals and guitars and sounds onto the tracks because I’ve always wanted to hide the sound of my true voice. Like, cover it in a blanket as I’m not a very good singer. But I want to make like a full acoustic album which is raw and with one take vocal track on it. I want to try and capture the moment of recording a song, the essence of it in one go and then leave it, it’s done. As I say we’ll see. I’ve also been working on some music with my friend Nancy (aka Spartan Jet-Plex) so we’ll see what that becomes too.
The atmosphere of last few GGB EPs is really evocative and, thematically, quite dark in places – does ‘more raw’ imply being more open/exposed to those darker themes too?
More raw means less instrumental in one sense, but also yes, more direct in the themes and lyrics in another sense. I’ve often changed lyrics to make them less personal but over the last few eps I’ve been moving to a more emotionally honest place. I’ve been going through some mental health issues lately and that’s had a real impact on what I’m writing about lately. It’s perhaps more dark and sparse and simple but more direct and maybe less easy on the ear. I see the last track on this EP as kind of a palette cleanser, it’s 4 mins of nothing much really but it really kind of sums up what I’ve been hearing in my head lately. And, it’s maybe a pointer to where my music will go in the future.
The pulse/tone on “Be It Your Will” was really interesting, but also quite foreboding. How did you feel after you’d finished recording the EP?
I tend to finish working on a collection of songs and then move on and not revisit them for a while. Mainly because I spend so much time listening to them when I’m making them that I’ve had enough of them and want to listen to new stuff. After finishing these few tracks I did feel a sense of achievement though. They were made during pretty much the lowest time in my life which is interesting as they are maybe musically some of the most upbeat songs I’ve made.
What’s the ‘Heart’ and ‘Land’ a reference to?
I think everyone has their demons and being honest about how you feel is the best way to heal yourself. I’ve been trying to be more open about my mental health and have told more people and it’s surprised me how many friends and acquaintances have messaged me saying they are also struggling. Coming to terms with the fact that struggling is ok continues to be my biggest challenge. I find making music and being creative is my main emotional outlet. It helps me deal with the things I’m struggling with. It helps me say things I wouldn’t normally say out loud.
As for the tortured artist I think they’re just using art as a way of expression. Just like a football fan goes to a game and shouts for 90 minutes to burn off their emotions, or someone goes to the gym or whatever, I find being creative and making music does the same thing for my emotions. It helps me dig deep and move stuff to the surface in the hope I can put it out there and let it go off into the ether
And the worse your team, the more opportunity to vent I guess haha?
Being a Huddersfield town fan I’ve had plenty of opportunity to vent my fury at their shitness (although this season we are doing really well hence the brooding, emotionally raw songs I guess, haha!)
Your other big project, Fox Food Records, recently curated a benefit compilation with proceeds going to various charities – has that inspired you to do more to support and help others?
Absolutely! It was amazing to help pull that together and the response was amazing. It’s definitely made me think about what else we can all do to support charities and organisations who are there to help people in need. I’ve used Samaritans and the service they offer is incredible. Just being able to talk to someone who doesn’t know you or anything is a massive help in dealing with my illness. As a thank you, I’m giving all proceeds from this EP to them.
‘Heart Land’ is out now on Fox Food Records
Please donate to The Samaritans UK