They may be churning out the music at the minute (they’ve began to tease singles from their forthcoming debut album) but we’re still not over BLAENAVON‘s recent EP Let’s Pray. The title track perfectly encapsulates what the band do so well; spinning a fresh take on classic tones whilst singing about death over perky guitars, they are all about dragging their influences into the present day.
The fuzzy anthem ‘I Will be the World’ descends into an epic whirlwind of noise held together only by the composure of the band itself, whilst ‘Something Boring’ is intricately mature and bittersweet with Ben Gregory’s whispers of “I need you to be something more… I need you to be something boring… I need you to be something real”. Intimate and piano-led, ‘Just Desserts’ is similarly so; stripping back all of the tumulus layers leaves the songwriting and Gregory’s vocal to truly shine, and hey, if these are the songs that didn’t make the album, we can’t wait for what Blaenavon have in store for us next.
Find below Blaenavon’s playlist of influences for the Let’s Pray EP, and why those songs are important to them.
The Smiths – Cemetery Gates
When writing ‘Let’s Pray’, I was thinking about music that can hold a good pace, with warm melodies but still feel inherently melancholic. For me it’s about building a character into the vocal. I suppose Morrissey wasn’t too bad at this. Benjamin Gregory
Dead Can Dance – Carnival Of Light
I remember our producer Jim saying that there was something special about recording with bands during bleak weather. I feel that there is something in ‘Let’s Pray’ that benefitted from the freezing Winter nights we recorded it in. For me this Dead Can Dance song feels cold and otherworldly but also relentless which encapsulates the atmosphere in which we waxed the hotties on this EP. Harris McMillan
Sleepwalker – The Voyage (ft. Pharoah Sanders)
The Voyage starts with a free, spiritual vibe, and then turns into a fiery, afro-cuban groove. I guess this is kind of like the calm before the storm we have in ‘I Will Be The World’. I love the moment when the drummer decides to go straight, and everyone rolls with it. In ‘Something Boring’, we straighten out the groove after the second verse – you keep on sailing along, but the sea and the sky swap places. Just when you think you’re the hottest you’re going to get on this voyage, they keeping pulling out more stops, and you can’t help but grin every time. We were trying to do that with the behemoth instrumental towards the end of ‘I Will Be The World’. Then on the home stretch of the voyage, they bring back that initial, calm melody, and it means something new after all that heat. It also gives some space to reflect on the storm you’ve just been dragged through. The outro of ‘I Will Be The World’ gives similar effects. Frank Wright
Pavement – And Then (The Hexx)
‘I Will Be The World’ needed some badass guitar tones and this track is ripe with them. So many layers of fat juiciness. Sometimes you feel like Malkmus is completely losing it here too, which is why I find it so engaging. I’m listening to it right now. Ughhhhhhhh I love Pavement :/ BG
Tom Waits – The Earth Died Screaming
One of my favourite aspects of Tom Waits’ music is the industrial and eclectic sounds he uses in his percussion. He approaches percussion as a means of adding another level of emotion to the song rather than simply providing a beat. To me playing with passion is more important than providing something technically sound when recording and so I try to think of what makes songs like these engaging. HM
Egyptian Hip Hop – Yoro Diallo
Best rhythm section of the 21st century. This whole album gives all sorts of lessons, one of my favourites being how a band can have be production conscious without relying on it. In the Summer of 2014, when we were making ‘Something Boring’ (and loads more, this was a good time for us musically), ‘Good Don’t Sleep’ was on heavy rotation. So was ‘Warpaint’ by Warpaint and ‘More Than Any Other Day’ by Ought. FW
Elliott Smith – Waltz #2 (Xo)
Elliott smith is probably my favourite human to have ever lived. I wrote ‘Something Boring’ quite a few years ago actually, just when I’d started getting into him. This is one of his biggest songs for a reason – he was in total control of his powers. The passing notes in the chords – he loved that shit. The melody and the arrangement. He’s the waltz king. “She shows no emotion at all / Stares into space like a dead china doll.” BG
Max Richter – Dream 3 (In The Midst Of My Life)
This came out shortly before we started recording the album. When you spend all day surrounding yourselves with noise and delving into the smallest details of each sound it can be cathartic to listen to something beautiful and simple. If you float into the studio with this in your ears you feel a lot more prepared to resume the search for the greatest snare sound of all time. HM
Terry Riley – A Rainbow In Curved Air
I love the way that each voice has a go at doing everything in this track. The ones you thought were rhythmic have spurts of carrying melody, then the ones you thought were textural try holding long notes. You can hear them darting about, exploring and interacting. The bass in ‘I Will Be The World’ has loads of different jobs, too. It’s texture, a heavy bassline, a grooving melody near-doubling the guitar, counterpoint for the drums, and big chords, all at different times. FW
Elvis Depressedly – Nakamura
‘Just Desserts’ is about finding yourself falling out of love with someone and knowing you’ll live to regret it. “I don’t wanna be myself around anybody else.” BG
BLAENAVON’s EP Let’s Pray is available to buy now.