London-based pop maestro Be No Rain - who you might recognise from his set at Dork's recent online festival, Homeschool (remember that?!) - has a couple of treats for us today. The first is news of his debut album, 'Strawberry Backstory', which is due later this year. The second is his new single 'All Night, Right?', a song about growing up, which features on said full-length.
"'All Night, Right?’ began life as a jaded song," he says. "I wrote it at a time when I felt like I’d experienced every iteration of nightlife available to me. It was about feeling unbearably alone in a crowd, how experiences endlessly repeated and how even new faces seemed eerily familiar. It was also about coming to terms with the fact that being more restrained and abstemious was making me feel better than I ever had.
"Ever precocious, at the time I thought I was standing on the threshold of maturity and that my youth was receding. Now I see it as a more hopeful moment, a farewell to a certain kind of youthful abandon and a realisation that a degree of self-care is a gateway to new experiences and an escape from certain destructive cycles."
Here, he gives us a glimpse behind the curtain.
Hi Be No Rain! How's it going? How have you been filling your time during lockdown? We enjoyed your set at Homeschool the other week.
Once the writing was on the wall a few days ahead of lockdown my producer, Rob Brinkmann, and I decided to quarantine together and get to work on my second album. We haven’t broken stride, so I think we’ll have the sophomore record finished before the debut is even released. It’s our way of bypassing ‘difficult second album syndrome.’
You started out a bit mysterious, huh? What's that about?
I suppose we didn’t do any introduction, did we? Or any talking between songs for that matter. It wasn’t a conscious choice, the online concert model is very new to me. We did have a massive papier-mâché strawberry and shirts once worn by the cast of Magnum PI, so that must have done something to dispel any accidental aloofness.
Have you always enjoyed performing? What drew you to making music?
I think the joy of world-building has been more of a constant than the joy of performing. I spent a huge amount of my childhood travelling. Whenever I wasn't in school, I was slowly moving around Europe on a 100-year-old iron barge. That was a lot of time on open water and open roads, exploring books and albums, then, in my own way trying to emulate them. That’s what I’m still trying to do, emulate the escapism I felt as a child on achingly long journeys where certain pieces of art seemed so impossibly vast that I could never finish exploring them.
Congrats on announcing your debut album - what can you tell us about the release? Are there any recurring themes or concepts?
The album is called 'Strawberry Backstory' and we’re looking at releasing it in the third quarter of this year. The subject matter is often based around love and heartbreak but really, it’s about memory or the act of remembering. The songs were pulled together from throughout my adolescence and young adulthood. We worked on them for nearly three years before finalising the album, so those emotions were trodden and retrodden countless times. The character that emerged from that process is one that is almost aware that he’s trapped in an endless cycle of heartbreak, destined to revisit the source of his pain over and over again. In that way the act of creating ended up mirroring life, because that’s how I remember being young in love and in pain; as feeling endless.
It must be weird releasing it in the middle of a pandemic, did you consider putting it back a bit?
The second single which is out on May 29th was pushed back slightly because everything was in a state of flux back in April. But no, I actually cherish the opportunity to release music at this time. There’s never an easy time to share your art. Releasing music into an atomised and busy world has always been daunting, releasing music into the stillness of this moment is just daunting in a novel way. But then there’s the hope that if it really connects with someone, you’re helping lift their spirits at a time when collectively we all need it most.
Where did you write and record, was it finished pre-lockdown? Are you set up to make music from home?
It was finished almost a year before lockdown. That might be another reason why postponing the release didn’t really cross my mind. It was recorded in a studio that I built with my producer and some friends of ours in Battersea, called Kite Yard. That’s where we’ve been holed up during the lockdown as well and that’s where you saw us play at Homeschool Fest. We’ve nested there; we like to say that it looks just like the album sounds, but I’m not sure which way around that came about.
Your team up with the Secret Cinema guys last year must've been really fun, how did that come about?
It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in music. We were hugely lucky to work with Aoife Blair and Jacek Zmarz, formerly of Secret Cinema. They really connected with this idea of a lovelorn character caught in an endless cycle of heartbreak. We decided that prom, being such an iconic threshold moment, would be an ideal place for him to get stuck. So we hired the Mildmay Club and threw ourselves a Halloween-prom-themed night. Everyone made such a great effort, we had cheerleaders, burnouts, faculty members, and zombie-jocks. We did an album playback with a film that Jacek had made, played a short set, and then danced until they kicked us out onto Newington Green.
Do you have any grand plans for when you're finally able to tour the album?
In my wildest dreams, it’s a sort of seven-piece prom band playing the entire album front to back. It’s so difficult to envisage what the near future will hold for live music, so my wildest dreams seem as good a place to start as any. The giant papier-mâché strawberry will definitely be part of the crew regardless.
Music aside, what do you do for fun?
Drinking wine with friends in the back row of the cinema, reading South American fiction, and studying Spanish. But the planning, preparation and eating of food takes up probably a good 35% of my time.
What are your plans for the next few months? Lots of BBQs?
I’ve got a very exciting, but still frustratingly secret, collaboration coming out at the end of June, and the third single from Strawberry Backstory, Call Back, will be released in July along with an animated music video by Thiing Studios. During that time we’ll be trying to get the second album over the line. But after that, yes, I’d like to turn my focus onto BBQ meats.
Be No Rain's album 'Strawberry Backstory' is out later this year.