Today Tiny Ruins and Hamish Kilgour release their shared seven track EP Hurtling Through on Flying Nun Records.
You can buy the EP on CD or vinyl (arriving next week) from the Flying Out store, listen on Spotify here or get from iTunes here.
The EP was recorded and mixed at Marlborough Farms in Brooklyn US by Gary Olsen, and produced by Hollie Fullbrook, Hamish Kilgour and Gary Olsen.
Hollie Fullbrook answers some questions about the EP
How did the idea of recording with Hamish come about?
Two years ago, I was booked to play in New York for the first time, and I was lucky enough to have Hamish spontaneously join me on drums. He’d seen me play a couple of years prior in Sydney, and had added his name to my mailing list. I was heading over to play CMJ on my own, not being able to afford to take Cass & Alex with me at the time. I got in contact with Hamish, who was based in New York, to see if he could be my rhythm back-up - to face what I felt might be very talkative crowds, it being CMJ and all. Hamish was just happy to get out and play, even if it was less ‘Clean-esque’ and more ‘minor key mope folk bag’ as he fondly refers to it. He appeared outside the venue, Pianos, with a big cloth bag full of percussion on his back. Having exchanged barely a word, we got on stage and played our first show. It was quite surreal - I had no idea what Hamish was going to do. We hadn’t rehearsed or discussed the set-list, and each song was sort of this fresh unknown that we felt our way through. So I guess it went from there. We did four or five gigs that week, each time getting to know the other’s way of playing a little better - and by the end, we sort of thought we should definitely try to record this.
Where did you record it and what was the process?
Over one of our post-show taco or kebab rituals, Hamish told me about a producer he knew, Gary Olson, who had a basement studio in his house, a few blocks from Prospect Park. He’d played with Hamish in the Mad Scene & had recorded with him over the years. We turned up at Gary’s studio early on my final day in New York, with some loaves of bread & some apples. I marveled at the studio and all this wonderful old gear that filled it. We got to work on two songs - a W.B. Yeats poem I’d recently set to music (‘Tread Softly’), and an outtake from Brightly Painted One that hadn’t really fit, called ‘Little Did I Know’. We felt like we were on a roll by evening, but I had to fly out the next day. Hamish & I sat on those two songs for a year, talking of them often and wondering how we’d continue the process.
It wasn’t until almost exactly one year later that I was back in New York for a few days, at the end of a long stint of touring with Cass & Alex. On a couple of days off, I met up with Hamish again, and we revisited Gary. One night, after the day’s recording, we played a show together in Brooklyn, and on our way to the venue Hamish picked up a silver spoon from the pavement and started hitting every surface in sight…I managed to record half the ‘spoon walk’ on my phone, so that makes it onto the EP too.
The EP is similar to my previous work in that it was recorded in a somewhat ad hoc way - laying down the bedrock of guitar, vocals & drums live, and then adding what we felt was needed later, which was mostly done by Gary & Hamish after I’d flown home. Hamish took the tracks under his wing and enlisted friends Danny Tunick, a vibes player, and Greg Vegas, a sax player, to add some magic & character to each song. Hamish worked on washes of percussion & was an inventive force throughout - at one stage he went and nabbed Gary’s wind chimes from out the front of the house to add to the mix. When I’d returned home to New Zealand, I recorded some cello parts and the odd backing vocal, which Gary wove into the mixes.
Last year you spent most of the year abroad – was this EP influenced by that at all (lyrics/words seem to refer to travel quite a bit)
The second round of recording, especially, was after a good seven months on the road. I had so many scraps of lyrics and guitar parts, but they were all scrambled and unfinished. I’d been immersed in the logistics of touring with a band - with a feeling creeping up on me that I needed to have an outlet for all the stuff lurking beneath. The creative mind is often at odds with the ordered mind, and I’d been neglecting the former. A couple of songs were quickly jotted down on a flight from Reykjavik, one in the hotel room the night before I met up with Hamish & Gary again, and even on the subway on the way to the studio…they fell together really quickly once I gave in to the fact it was happening that day. There was no time for editing, or for double-guessing myself. I really owe Hamish big time for cajoling me to record at that very moment, when in many ways I was in a sort of zombie state. I remember arriving at the studio with a half-finished song in my head, and saying “just give me 10 minutes to finish the chorus on this one…”
What other lyrics/words did you use and why?
Well, I’d put this W.B. Yeats poem ‘Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ to music for a film, and Hamish & I played it at one of the shows. With little new material of my own prepared for the first session with Gary, we decided to give it a couple of takes, and we were really pleased with the feel of it. I later gave Hamish a book of Yeats’ poems as a thank-you, so when we got to record again one year later, it seemed fitting to play ‘Wandering Aengus’ - a song I’d played since I was in my teens. I was a fan of Christy Moore as a kid, & it’s his version of the Yeats poem ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’ that I drew from.
But it’s funny, the Yeats poems filtered into the other tracks somehow, too…in ‘King’s County’, which was the last song to be written and recorded, I refer to my reliance on Yeats for inspiration at a time when I was too exhausted to create much of my own: ‘I went to the poetic / my dull being to find there / to shatter and awake me / from every fruitless vision’.
How is this EP different to the previous album?
Working with Hamish definitely brought different elements to the sound, brought different things out of me, but it’s hard to know in what way - maybe that’s for the listener
to decide. Lyrics written on the fly & recorded with more ragged energy, maybe. Usually I let songs grow & I workshop them live over time, before laying them down, but here they were tracked having been freshly written. Like all the recording I’ve done, it feels very personal. To use an image from one of the tracks, songs are sort of petrified thoughts, and so it’s a continuation and expansion of what’s come before. Hamish made the EP what it is, really. He got me there, and then pushed the songs to greater places with his vision, and that kind of driving push The Clean are known for.