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The Record: Abandcalledboy


In the latest installment of The Record, Brian Coney talks to Ryan Burrowes (below) from recently-expanded Belfast-based quartet Abandcalledboy about changes within the ranks, the writing and recording of their forthcoming new material and their plans for the rest of the year. Photos by Colm Laverty.

You’ve been playing sets solely comprised of new material live recently. Why such a shift there?

Basically the shift was down to how much we have changed musically, the older material doesn’t really fit with the tracks we have now. We used our last mini-tour (with 100 Onces) to say goodbye to the older material, which is funny because Chris spent loads of time learning the songs to do those shows then we collectively decided to scrap them all.

A big development in the band has been you moving from behind the drums to guitar, replaced by Chris (Ryan). How did that come about and how has it been so far?

It had been our plan for awhile to get in a drummer so I could play guitar, as that’s what I feel most natural doing and to be honest I was pretty fed up with the limitations drumming and singing can bring. We were keen to get someone who would come up with ideas to and help us in moving towards a new direction musically as well.

Chris and I knew each other from university so we were aware of each other’s music tastes etc. We needed a drummer to do a bunch of dates we had and he stepped in so we basically used that run of dates to decide to take time away from gigs and write entirely new material as a 4 piece.

It’s been pretty great, the music we’re making now is much closer to music we like and the writing process includes everyone a lot more, which sometimes in the past it maybe didn’t.


Naturally, the dynamic of the band has changed as a result. In what ways do you think it has improved?

I suppose the easiest way to put it is that we’re noisier than we’ve been before, but you can probably dance to us more now. We’ve focused more on grooves and some of the songs have been composed as if they were electronic tracks as that’s how some of us think musically. In general we’ve also made a point of bringing in ideas we had maybe thought were “too weird” in the past, but this lineup has allowed us to do it now. For example Smithers and I seem to spend most of our time mimicking synth sounds on guitar nowadays. Chris is also a very different drummer in style to what I had been doing so naturally this changes the dynamic a lot, he’s also got a pretty good ear for arrangement and comes from a different background musically, which works to our advantage when writing.

Talk us through your recording experience for the EP – why you opted for Start Together, who with and how it went.

Recording was a breeze as Chris (below) recorded everything, it’s pretty great to record your own music. We did the drums in Start Together and tracked everything else back at Chris’ studio. When you’re recording yourself everything gets done a lot faster and you can generally spend more time making sure everything is exactly as you want it so we were a lot more critical this time around.


Spoken word, organs and trombone feature in the new release. What inspired their inclusion and that experimentation overall?

We experimented with a lot of things this time around as the music is quite differently composed to anything we’ve done before, so we went into the recording process with a pretty open mind that anything was worth trying. I guess you’ll hear which experiments worked soon enough and the other ones will never see the light of day. We recorded quite a lot of material including live jams we had, that’s our first time using material like that.

Some of the things we tracked were Saxophone, Triangle, Spoken Word, Tambourine and full vocal tracks of me “crooning”. So things definitely got weird.

Were there (m)any acts/albums that played an influential role in the songwriting and recording of the EP?

We all have pretty different tastes musically but some common things we liked while writing were Warpaint, St.Vincent, Girl Band and Kraftwerk.

Other than that – Smithers (guitar, below) listens to Jungle, Mark (bass, keys) likes 80s Synth-pop, Chris is well into Self Defense Family and I dig anything the artist SOPHIE does.


Generally speaking, with all the above changes in mind, how do you think your sound and songwriting approach has changed over the last six to twelve months?

As we all listen to different music and we’ve made more of a conscious decision to write songs as a unit to let those individual influences in, rather than one person taking charge over it all. In general we’re going for more extremes dynamically, whether it’s more abrasive and noisy than we’ve been before or quieter. In general we still want to make “pop” music but we just want to do it differently.

You’ve came a long way from your earliest incarnation as BOY: a name change, member changes and now something of a new direction. How much do you recognise that young three-piece today?

I think we’re much the same in terms of outlook now as we were at the start actually. Back then we were just learning how to be a band and our only real concern musically was to be weird, noisy, fun and see what we could get away with. And of course, when you have seventeen-year old guys barely able to play their instruments doing that, it can be a bit wild and not everyone is going to like it. But we got a lot of free beer playing gigs, and that’s all that mattered!

I feel we’re actually back to that original ethos a lot more now than we had been in recent years. Just this time we’ve had many years to hone our songwriting skills and learn how to play our instruments. We also probably won’t break as many guitars/basses either – we’re growing up!


When can we expect a release date, or preview of the forthcoming material?

We’ll have a double A-side single called ‘George Best/Paul Simon’ out in March with video and then a full EP by summertime.

Finally, what are the plans for 2015 in terms of shows, festivals and promoting the new release?

We’ll be doing a bunch of Irish dates from March onwards, then releasing EP in June followed by UK touring and hopefully over to Europe as soon as possible. Festival wise, we’d love to play anything, nothing confirmed just yet though. We’ve already began talking about recording again so I’m sure we’ll have a pretty big output material wise in 2015.

is the co-editor / photo editor. She also contributes photos and illustrations to The Thin Air print magazine.