Interview: Sunset Graves
Andy Fosberry is the man behind the eclectic electronic project Sunset Graves and is gearing up for his latest release. The album is titled Dead City Hymnal and will be released through 3rd & Debut records on February 24th. It sees Andy channel various feelings and experiences from a recent tour with Tom Ragsdale (worriedaboutsatan) into his most focused and stirring work yet. Listen to the track “Flatter To Deceive” from it below and read what Andy has to say on the record, upcoming tour with worriedaboutsatan and more.
(((o))): Hi, Thanks for taking time out to talk to us, for anyone unfamiliar with yourself can you give us a bit of background on how you started out making music?
Music goes back to some of my very earliest memories. My grandfather was a jazz pianist and I can still remember sitting on his lap as he played. In the houses I grew up in, there were always record players, and because of that, there were tangible music items like records. It’s amazing how powerful a record sleeve is to a young mind. Guitars were around too and I picked up a few chords.
It was around 10 or 11 I felt a huge gravitational pull toward the drums. I went down the wooden spoon route, and then my folks bought me a tiny, barely functional kit with a snare, one tom, kick and something that resembled a cymbal. They laid down a challenge, ‘learn to play that and we will buy you a proper kit’.
So, I sat down behind it and immediately played them a passable beat. I remember them looking at each other with a kind of ‘Oh, ffs’ expression. But they made good on their promise and bought me a beautiful Yamaha kit. I was deep into that for a good seven years. I filtered a lot of metal and Queen live albums through my playing, as well as jazzier stuff and groove studies.
When I was at college, I got more interested in girls, cars and weed, and the drums tailed off, but music became utterly dominant. It was everything that described my life and everything I aspired to express. I got more into playing guitar, then one day I wrote a song. A not terrible, pretty good song with weird chords. That was the day my life changed forever.
(((o))): You are about to release your new album Dead City Hymnal, how did you approach this and what were your influences going into making it?
Back in August of 2016, I went on tour with my good friends worriedaboutsatan. I visited cities I’ve never before been, and spent a lot of time on motorways. I became acutely aware that, like many other countries, the UK is this weird patchwork quilt of values, levels of economic prosperity, geography, geology.
Without mentioning anywhere specific, there are some places where you can look up at the architecture and see that money once paved these streets, but then you look down and people are begging for it outside of the Poundshop. I can’t see how that is going to change, but I wanted to acknowledge it.
Travelling around the country also puts you in this weird position where I was moving through other people’s songs and sonic references. Whether it was Boards of Canada or something like ‘A Norther Soul’ by The Verve. That music would get super imposed on the vistas stretching out from the motorway over houses you’ll never visit, or towns you don’t know the name of, and my head is filled with a thousand possible lives of other people all at once.
Music is a very visual process to me, so I went straight into the studio after the final show, and just began creating soundtracks for these scenes and pictures. But then they start to take on a life of their own and feed themselves. Then you pour in elements from your own life and at the end you have an album.
Sonically, I wanted to push against everything I had done before, and also create more of my own sounds, sculpt noise and shape pads into the way I neededthem to fit, or create a piece of the structure. I also went more at the composition main elements like piano and strings.
Then I just go batshit crazy on drums like always. But on this record, moreso.
As I began to feel the shape of the album and sequence it, I then split it into two distinct sides. Tracks 1-5 and 6-10 can be seen as suites.
(((o))): The album I feel is possibly your best work yet and also sounds quite unique and hard to pigeon hole. Was there a plan to make something that didn’t follow current trends or wouldn’t be easily grouped with other artists?
Thank you, that means a lot.
It took me a while to see the album, once I had stepped back from it. But then it came into focus, and yeah.. I feel something new in response to this music.
But I had no preconceptions about style or trends. These thoughts just don’t enter my head. All I want to do is make a body of work that expresses what I am thinking and feeling. And, in turn, feels like a level up from what came before it.
I think it’s hard to pigeonhole because my records are pretty eclectic. This is probably my most eclectic to date. But it all fits. I like records that are nebulous, and perhaps I just made one.
(((o))): Although Sunset Graves is essentially a solo project did you work with anyone or use guests on Dead City Hymnal?
Nope, it’s all my fault! In fact, on this album, it is so close to me, so personal, that I’ve done everything. I even mastered it. I’ve created the artwork. I’ve been sort of laser focused on this album, because it wouldn’t leave me alone. But I was ok with that.
(((o))): A track on the album also recently featured on the massive Save Fabric compilation. How did you get involved with that?
In the past, I have been lucky enough to have a couple of tracks featured on compilations by high profile DJs that have been put out on Fabric records. I guess I am on their radar. When the initial closure of the club happened, I was about halfway through my album. It was so weird because it felt thematically really on point with some of the things I had been writing about.
I spoke to someone affiliated with the club at the time and said, ‘We need to do something’. They said ‘Something is being done’. That something was #SAVEFABRIC, and I wrote ‘Dead City Hymn’ for them.
Right away, in my own universe, it felt like the rug that tied the room together had been weaved, and the rest of my album fell into place. It was an easy decision to pull the title of the record from that track.
(((o))): Do you feel venues are under too much threat, with many being closed due to property development, license issues and the economic climate?
I do, but I’m not sure it’s anything new. Small venues have always had a hard time. But something feels different. Like the tempo is increasing or we in the middle and at the bottom are being divided and conquered by misinformation, false patriotism and fear. We protest along pre existing fault lines, and whilst we are busy doing that, something else is taken away.
The places where we interact as humans are so important, but more and more, we are being encouraged to not interact – use the more efficient, automated version of the system before where you had to talk to someone or do something.
In my own town, 80% of the bars and pubs have become restaurants, which is a fundamentally more insular and segregated experience. I don’t know. It’s just weird. As an observer, it’s weird. I think that globally, as a species, we are in a really weird place.
But, ironically, if you point any of this weirdness out, most people think you’re a weirdo. There’s nowhere to go. And every fucker has an opinion too. Which is great. But we’re forgetting how to be curious and ask questions that allow you to understand why an opinion is different. Instead, everyone just thinks their take on a topic is the right one.
(((o))): You set up the label 3rd & Debut to self release Sunset Graves and other artists music. Do you prefer the control that brings? And how difficult is it to run in financially testing times?
It’s had its small victories, and I love putting together thoughtful, bespoke packages. But its something I do because its creative, related to music and I enjoy it. Can’t say I’ve ever made a penny in profit though. I just don’t sell the volume.
So, the control is great, yes. It’s something I just do, rather than really question now. I have no idea how to get signed to a real label anyway.
Maybe one day they’ll come knocking on my door.
(((o))): You did a tour last year with Tom Ragsdale of worriedaboutsatan who you are also heading out on tour with in February. How is it for you performing live and what can people expect from these shows?
I absolutely love playing live. Sure, its nerve wracking and I’m up there all alone. But I’m making this weather system of sound and sharing it with people. I use all hardware and no computer, so it’s all very much in the moment.
For this tour, its a whole new set. I swapped out some of my gear and will be playing music from Dead City Hymnal, along with a couple of older tracks I like to blast out, plus some even newer stuff that came about during rehearsals. I have a new visual system too, so it’s basically a completely new A/V show. I’ve been working my ass off on it, so hopefully it will go ok.
Plus I’m really looking forward to heading out with Tom and Gav. They’re good guys.
(((o))): What other plans do you have for the year ahead, both in terms of releases and playing more shows?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I was so, so focused on ‘Dead City Hymnal’. I’ve just gone through some things that resulted in a house move, which meant a complete studio break down, then a total rebuild. Since that, I’ve been super focused on the tour, a week after which the album comes out.
So I’m going to burn through to March, and then look at some more shows. And as things settle down, I’ll write too. I write a lot. I guess we’ll see what that becomes…
But mostly, I just want to give ‘Dead City…’ all the space it deserves.
(((o))): Thanks for talking, is there anything you would like to add?
Dead City Hymnal will be available through 3rd & Debut on February stay tuned for pre-ordering information via Bandcamp. Be sure to catch Sunset Graves on tour with worriedaboutsatan throughout February.