Leeds crew Hookworms haven't let mother nature stop them when it comes to unleashing a brand new sound.
Next year, Hookworms are set to drop a brand new album. So far, so expected. But 'Microshift' isn't just another full-length in a parade of other, similar sounding records. This time round, the Leeds crew have expanded their horizons to find themselves in new, even more vital surroundings. “All of our records are to an extent about mental health," MJ explained when the record was announced. "Largely this is an album about loss but also about maturing, accepting your flaws and the transience of intimacy.” We caught up with MB from the band to find out more.
Hey MB, how has 2017 been for you guys? It sounds like you've been busy.
We've spent the majority of the year working on the new record. 2016 was a bit of a write-off for us creatively, so it has been full steam ahead this year. We finally finished it in September, having originally started back in mid-2015.
Have you recovered from all the flooding a couple of years back now? How long did that take to resolve?
I think the studio was shut for seven months in total – Boxing Day 2015 to July 2016. We actually emptied and completely gutted the studio within about 3 or 4 days of the flood, but then I know MJ had a lot of waiting around for insurance payouts, flood grants, landlords to pull their fingers out etc. before there was any money to start the repair. We were also extremely fortunate to have a lot of very kind people donate money to a fund that was set up, without which there wouldn't have been enough money to complete the rebuild.
Is the studio better protected from floods now, or is it still a bit precarious during winter?
There are special flood doors/gates that can be dropped in, and MJ has flood warnings set up on his phone, but we're all ultimately all at the mercy of global warming by this point, right?
Did the refurb change your studio set up or approach to recording in any way?
I don't believe it's changed how MJ operates with other bands he has in, but in terms of our recording, we intentionally played it a little differently this time around. The last record was very live, with us banging out the songs how we would at shows with comparatively few overdubs and little post-production. This time we spent a lot of time working on smaller loops of ideas, building up layers with drum machines, synths, samplers, adding bits, taking them away. We definitely used the studio as more of a tool than in the past.
‘Negative Space' is a great comeback single, what inspired it?
This song began life with the weird vowel-y loop that opens up the track, which was kind of a happy accident that came from messing around with some modular gear. We sampled that, and then over a year gradually added more layers and parts. The electronic percussion and synth bass came quite early on, and then it was just a case of jamming around those ideas until everyone had parts, and making sure the track ebbed and flowed nicely. Lyrically it deals with death, grief and loss, particularly around a close friend of ours who passed away last year.
Did you have any goals for what you wanted your new album to sound like when you first began writing it?
We just knew we wanted it to be different, and we knew we couldn't do the same thing again. It took quite a while for us to figure out how we'd achieve that while still sounding like Hookworms. It was more a case of re-assessing our tools and palette to create a ‘Hookworms Rebooted', so to speak. It was a natural move to bring in more electronic elements following on from some ideas that had started to creep in on the last record, along with the solo pursuits that a couple of us undertake outside the band, so it was just a case of working out how to make that fit alongside live rock instrumentation organically without sounding too shoehorned or forced.
What lyrical themes does ‘Microshift' focus on?
It's all loosely themed around mental health and the various things that can entail; anxiety, depression, body image, opening up to others, grief, loss and failed relationships.
How do you think the record compares to your back catalogue?
It's the most pleased and creatively fulfilled I've come away from any of our albums, I think maybe because it covers a broader spectrum of music that falls more in line with my personal tastes than anything we've done before. I can't say I listen to much guitar or rock music these days, so it's been nice to bring some more interesting elements into the band and change the way we think about music and write it. It's certainly poppier than anything we've done before, and arguably more upbeat too, but I think it's ultimately just a different way of us trying to achieve euphoria through catharsis and intensity, something we've always strived towards.
Aside from your own, are there any other albums you're really looking forward to being released next year?
The new Ought album was announced at exactly the same time as ours, that's sure to be great. Shopping have a new one out too. The Golden Teacher and James Holden records that just came out are superb and definitely late contenders for album of the year. I'm personally hoping there's a new smash hit Happy Meals album; they should be pop stars.
Taken from the December 2017 / January 2018 issue of Dork, out now. Order a copy here.