The wonderful Sleeping States is not only about to delight our earbuds with a new album, but Markland Starkie was also kind enough to have a little chat about what's to come...
// Hello Markland. How are you today? I am very well thank you. Enjoying the sunshine pouring in through my bedroom window with Silver Apples on the stereo.
So, exciting times! The new album coming out 'In the Gardens of the North' on August 17th. What can we expect to hear?
Guitars, a boiling kettle, quite a few birds, a bit of residual tape hiss. I think it sounds a bit like a big brother to the last album? Or something, ha. Is there a theme or story behind the album?
Well, there's no overarching story arc in the album, but there are definitely a number of connecting themes running through; I spent more time with the lyrics on this album than I've done before, so I guess the results are more considered. Having moved west from London to a smaller place, I really wanted to make a set of songs that reflected this more pastoral environment - not that I actually live in the countryside, but I feel a lot closer to it. And so yes, I guess there's some recurring imagery, scenes of the British landscape, and such.
You're releasing the single 'Gardens of the South' on cassette. How come?
Ha well it's just a bit of fun, on the basis that people can just download the song for free as an mp3 anyway (or soon will be able if they can't already), and that the single will appear on the album too, I thought that it would be nice for those people who would like to have something physical, to have an object as weird as a tape. Although, I say 'weird', there are loads of bands doing cassette releases at the moment, and mini cassette labels and stuff. Total resurgence. This is actually the third Sleeping States release on cassette, I did two EPs a few years ago that were both cassette-only releases. Also there's a nice duality thing with cassettes - on the Gardens tape there's the single and another poppy song called Final Island (that's not on the album) on one side, and the other side has one longer piece constructed from field recordings I made one time I was working as a sound recordist on a short film in South London. Do you have any major influences? What makes you create your work?
Recently influences have tended to be literary ones more than musical ones I guess. There's a lot of authors in this album, in various places. The first track is a kind of response to WG Sebald and his novel 'The Rings of Saturn' (and is named for the novel), there's another loosely based on a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. Though it's all background stuff, it's easy to get overly pretentious about these things, ha ha. Musically speaking, the single Gardens of the South is certainly influenced by old doo-wop, early AM Radio rock'n'roll, bands like the Flamingos and things. This style of music was my first music crush growing up... after Queen at least. When I was around 11 or 12 I saw the film American Graffiti and I fell in love with the soundtrack, and it's always stayed with me. Elsewhere, the usual brand of sloppy, early-90s influenced indierock shines through, ha. Though I'd say it's possibly more vocal-heavy, and certainly more rhythmic, than the last album.
How do you go about recording your work? Do you work with other musicians or is that just to rein-act your music live?
Well it's all pretty homemade, and I definitely prefer writing and recording at home. Most songs are usually built out of improvising with the record button on, and then restructuring and layering and so on. Most of it's just done on my lonesome, although for this album I wrote specifically with drums in mind and worked with a drummer called Rose Clark (who also drums in the live band) - I wrote, or half-wrote, melodic parts, then de-camped to her house in these woods outside Bristol and tested out and recorded rhythms, and then went away again and continued writing, etc. It was a new experience for me as I hadn't really worked with another person so early in the writing of a song or set of songs before. Was fun. Live-wise I have constructed more of a band, though taking the songs to the band ends up being more than just a simple process of reinacting the recordings, it's more a case of reinterpretation I suppose.
What are you listening to at the moment?
At the moment, 'Silver Apples' by Silver Apples. Recently I've been playing the most recent album by this band Pontiak, called 'Maker' pretty often. It's kinda stoner-y, with nice weird flourishes. Good vibe. That and 'Ladies of the Canyon' by Joni Mitchell, coz it's nice and summery.
What's the best thing about Bristol?
Are you touring soon?
Yup, going on tour at the end of the August around the UK - 24th onwards. Dates will be posted next week I reckon.
'In The Gardens of The North' will be released on August 17th on Bella Union label.
If you like beautifully sung melodies that layer up over insightful concoctions of beats, keys, and samples that leave you feeling elegantly happy, then you should plan to pop to the record shop in time for the albums release. Bella Union kindly gave us a sneak listen of the first release. It's being released on a limited edition cassette (yes) this very month. Do enjoy and thanks to the lovely Markland for his lovely words and music.
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