“Steal With Pride” is your latest album. How did the release move from initial thought to finished effort?
The initial thought was very much in the mind of Nigel Clothier, our sole songwriter. Nigel wanted to mix sounds that were evocative of the classic albums of the 70s with lyrics about things that are happening right now and wrote about 14 songs which tried to achieve that. Four of those songs got lost along the way, leaving the ten tracks you hear on “Steal With Pride”.
Once the songs were written, Nigel took them to the band to work up from lyrics and chord sequences to performable pieces. At this point our producer, Niall Ladyglove, got involved and started to think about how the songs should sound to capture that 70’s feeling. A fair chunk of the work was trying to capture a more immediate, live sound while still taking advantage of the facilities that the studio offers.
We have our own 24 track set-up, so then it was a process of laying the basic tracks, building up the overdubs and trying out some options to see what works best. Fran Ashcroft masters our material and acts as a mentor to us, and he always throws in some subtle but highly effective suggestions to help capture the right mood or sound quality. We spent a lot of time, for example, picking the right reverb sounds on this album to mimic the less sophisticated spaces that classic albums tended to be recorded in.
Once we were happy with the album we also put a bit of thought and resource into the album sleeve to reflect the musical content, and also to picking the right track (“Hard Heart”) to shoot the first video for.
How does “Steal With Pride” fit into the larger tapestry that is Sharp Practise? How has your style evolved and changed over the period since you first started?
We’d have to say “Steal With Pride” is overall our most rocky and musically simple album to date. Sharp Practise started out as a vehicle for Nigel’s songs and our initial output was quite eclectic. The odd song really rumbled along (for example “Bed of Rhythm” on our second album “Radiocity”) yet we often enjoyed the odd acoustic interlude as well.
With the tightening of belts under the austerity measures in the UK (and elsewhere) we felt it was time to harden our music too. So it was out with the replacement chords in the second repetition of the chorus, the playing with chord extensions and the false intros, and in with the bluesier, more traditionally British rock sound that basically everyone in the band grew up with.
Who is inspiring Sharp Practise right now? Which artists or styles most influence your overall sound?
We’re getting into a bit of a Thin Lizzy phase at the moment and Nigel is beginning to think that the next album might draw on that with some 12/8 time signature songs and some Celtic influences. It won’t be a derivative of course, we have one guitarist and don’t intend to try and mimic the definitive Thin Lizzy twin guitar harmonies!
We’ve always had an influence from The Who (for example check out “Good Speech” on “Steal With Pride”). Our music over the years has tended to start out with one acoustic guitar and voice and then develop into full band arrangements so you’ll probably hear some Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Counting Crows and Crowded House in there somewhere. Having said that, we’ve always rocked a little so there’s some Free and Eric Clapton in the mix too.
What distinguishes the music on Steal With Pride from the rest of the music that listeners hear at the gym, the radio, or the club?
First of all the range of influences – even though we’ve tightened up our range for this album no two songs are in the same style, although they’re all definitely rock tracks. Secondly, there are moments when the music sounds like a car crash in a railway tunnel (check out the solo in “Burnin’ Blood), which is how we think all good rock music should sound. Not everyone has that aspiration! Finally, it’s the world view in the lyrics, which try to tell stories that most people can recognize and hopefully many people can relate to.
What artists have you most liked playing alongside? Can you tell us a particularly interesting live story?
We tend to enjoy playing most with young bands with great potential for which you can easily see a career in the music business opening up. For example, there’s a group in Bristol in England called Wolfhound that we played with on our recent UK tour who have talent, great songs and the whole package that should take them a very long way indeed.
We guess our most famous live story concerns a gig where our road manager complimented us afterwards on our professionalism. Of course, when you’re on stage you can’t see a thing because of the lights, so we carried on playing normally only to be told afterwards that a rather attractive young woman had spent most of the show flashing her bare chest at our guitarist!
What has provided more of your fans – Facebook / Instragram / Twitter or traditional word of mouth?
We’d have to say traditional word of mouth – we do occasionally tweet and we’ve just started a Facebook page but most of our internet presence has been through our website.
How should people find your music and the latest news about yourself?
The best place to find our music is to look for Sharp Practise on the CD Baby website – all our stuff is available there either as single song downloads or as physical CDs. The best place to get our latest news is our website at www.sharppractise.com and we’re always keen for people to get in touch directly with us via [email protected]. We don’t bite, we do reply to every message and we don’t add anyone to a mailing list unless they specifically ask for that, so you won’t get loads of spam from us if you do e-mail us!
Do you have any thoughts for our readers at NeuFutur?
Just that music is a wide palette, so whether you listen, write, perform or critique there’s a place for you, and a place for all sorts of music. Not all music will be to your taste, and some can be very hard to listen to for any length of time, but if it’s made honestly and tries to communicate what’s in the musician’s hearts then it should have an audience, no matter how small or how vast.