Row Boat's new album, In Between, is out through perennial E&D favourite label Fluttery Records on April 11th. On the eve of its launch, we sent Daniela Patrizi to talk to the man behind the boat, Mark Wardale.
(((o))): Hi Mark, how are you? How's your weekend?
Mark: Hei! I’m great thanks! I’ve been spending the weekend putting final touches in place with my son for an epic Mother’s Day for my wife. I also got £75 cashback on car insurance too..so a pretty successful weekend I would say!
(((o))): How’s life in Yorkshire?
Mark: Well the sun is starting to creep from behind the clouds finally, which makes life a little bit easier here. I’m not sure what other people think of us Yorkshire folk, apart from that apparently we put a capital ‘T’ at the beginning of lots of words, like “T’int” (is not), “T’other day” (the other day) and of course “goin’ dahn t’ nick” (I’m quite poorly & I don’t seem to be getting any better).
sorry…….shall we begin?
(((o))): Really? Never heard before about that ‘T’ and it sounds funny! As you know I really appreciate your music and the passion you transmit through your songs and I’m very curious to know what inspires you most. Starting at the very beginning, how did you get into producing music and when?
Mark: Well I started writing at a very young age. But before then I was picking up my father’s guitars (he was always performing as a singer when I was younger), then I picked up drumsticks from the age of 10. I was in a few bands, one of the bigger named “Some Are Saints” which was an original rock band but we struggled after our original singer left. After that disbanded in 2008 I concentrated on more of my own influences which was more ambient, progressive and post material. This is when ‘Row Boat’ came about mid 2009 originally more of an experiment really.
(((o))): Where your band name come from?
Mark: ‘Row Boat’ is taken from a Sigur Rós track off the ‘með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust’ album called ‘Ára bátur’. It was inspired by the song but isn’t a direct translation. I wanted to have creative rights on the split of the wording as I found it much more open to interpretation.
(((o))): Which instruments do you play?
Mark: This is where people stop reading and say “yeah right ok”. Ok so believe it or not my main instrument is the drums. I’ve played many styles over the years, which has helped me adapt Row Boat into something new on every release thus far. I also play the bass and electric guitar (although I mainly play the electric guitar with a violin bow and have different guitars with strings removed to create differences). I am competent on the keys, violin, and pretty much most percussion. I am also a producer so I do a lot of mixing, remixing and mastering for other musicians and bands.
(((o))): Which band would you say you are most like?
Mark: I wouldn’t like to say personally. People can obviously hear influences of Sigur Ros in my work and I have had the odd “Sigur Ros called and want their B-Sides back” comment haha, but that doesn’t really bother me. That one made me chuckle into my cup of tea. I don’t suppose The Strokes’ huge hit ‘Last Night’ was influenced either by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers ‘American Girl’!
(((o))): Looking at your discography there's no doubt that you've been really productive recently. Have you ever thought “this is what life was made for”?
Mark: Amongst other things, yes, music IS what life is made for. I have a wonderful and supportive family that let me be creative and they even contribute towards it too. I couldn’t of asked for a better outcome. They also accept that I am a music junkie and complete weirdo sometimes in what I listen too. I don’t keep up with the charts, which is a big deal in the UK. Having said that, it has helped create more of a family atmosphere and supportive network (even across the globe) for independent artists. I feel this is stronger than ever. I digress.
(((o))): Have you ever been so moved by a song that you cried? If so, what was it?
Mark: Yes. Absolutely. I could name a lot. “Hyperballad” by Bjork stands out though. I was talking to a friend recently about this, and its not exactly lyrically amazing in content, but the way she sings the melody on the track just evokes something I can’t explain. More recently “Old Skin” by Olufur Arnalds…..Damn that one really got to me from the first bar.
(((o))): You recently released 'Shallow Waters'. The title itself is really interesting. Which is the concept behind it?
Mark: The title didn’t come about until after the EP was written. Normally I do things a little backwards and have endless lists of potential song titles and album names etc. Once the track listing came together it was very clear it had a very Nordic feel to it. For a short while it was named ‘Berserker’ ( after the old Viking warrior helmets) then my wife Veto’d (which she is allowed to do as she is very good with these kind of things) and said that when she heard the opening track it reminded her of some Long Boat coming out of the fog. From there names were put forward like Blue Waters etc. Just before the release, Daniel Tuttle at Bottle Imp came to me and said well how about “Shallow Waters”. It stuck immediately.
(((o))): Should you pick a song from 'Shallow Waters' to listen to right now, which one would you choose and why?
Mark: I would say that “Orkan” is by far the most interesting track on there. It encompasses everything to do with the EP itself. There’s a lot going on in this track, including subtle vocals, violins, heavy reverb on guitars and some organs.
(((o))): ETT is considered one of the best post rock/ambient album of 2013 and Row Boat one of the best new artists. What does it mean to you? Did you expect so great recognition?
Mark: It was one of my greatest achievements by far. There were so many artists last year that released such powerful albums like 65daysofstatic, Mogwai, Sigur Ros, GWFAA and Umber. To be rubbing shoulders with artists like this is an honor. I have to thank everybody that voted, bought, listened or even mentioned in passing anything to do with “Ett”, otherwise it just wouldn’t of received such recognition. I certainly didn’t expect the album to be as big as it was and it was wonderful for people to say such nice things about it. I was lucky to find Dan at Bottle Imp Productions who thought it was worthy of release, for that I am indebted to him for.
(((o))): I really like 'Fracture', the split EP you realized in collaboration with Apta. How did this project come about?
Mark: The idea was put out there about remixing each other’s tracks and releasing an E.P. Obviously I jumped at the opportunity to remix one of Barry’s (APTA) songs. Barry came back with his remix of ‘Kampaglod’ from my album and I was blown away.
(((o))): I think that the way you and Apta complement each other is brilliant. How did you guys first meet, and what persuaded you to work together?
Mark: Barry Smethurst (APTA) is a very smart and respected musician who uses a lot of synth and ambience and I’m a fan of his work. He’s released some epic songs, featured on advertisements with the visitdenmark.com team and he really knows his music. I’d finished work on ‘Ett’ and I was working on some remixes for ‘umber’ and ‘Amnion’ at the time and I was still in recording mode really off the back of the album.
(((o))): How was the recording of the album for you – fun? Would you do it again?
Mark: Recording is not always fun. If your not dedicated, patient and passionate about what you’re doing it will never work. Recording ‘Shallow Waters’ was pretty straight forward though for some reason. Everything just fell into place at the right time. I have been recording pretty much back to back now for a full year since ‘Ett’. And after the recent E.P was done I went straight onto recording my latest album ‘In Between’. I imagine I’ll continue with work on a 3rd album but for now I’m just going to take a short break and take in and appreciate what other’s are releasing at the moment.
(((o))): What are your thoughts of composing a soundtrack for a film? And what kind of a film would it be?
Mark: Man alive that’s something I am just waiting for. If an opportunity came along and it was right, then I’d take it. I recently did a film score for Bottle Imp Productions for a short film festival titled ‘Lingering’. It was a whole new experience for me and I learnt a lot. But I would like to pursue this further as I think music and film are clearly the perfect accompaniment. I think I’d be willing to do anything that was creative enough or for a good cause.
(((o))): What do you listen to when you’re not writing music?
Mark: Well, depends what day it is! Today my playlist includes Riceboy Sleeps, Steve Gibbs & Cyrus Reynolds, and EF. Tomorrow it could be anything from Talking Heads, Donkeyboy, Agent Fresco or ALT J. I’ve grown up surrounded by a lot of Prog Rock like Jethro Tull, Genesis and YES. Then as I grew up through the 90’s my elder brother influenced me with Manic Street Preachers. It’s such a mish-mash combination, but it all still works for me and are pretty inspiring in so many different ways. I’m also a sucker for nostalgia. I love listening back to music that takes me to a certain place/era/situation within my life.
(((o))): I know you are working on a new album right now. What inspires you in this case? Can you describe it for us?
Mark: I’m generally inspired by Scandinavia. My wife Annika has her Swedish roots, yet I was sold on Norway before we met. That’s a bone of contention in our household. But there are other things too, like Love (sorry). We all share that one thing in common in whatever way. I don’t write about ‘love’ as such but about Romance. My 2nd album was really a combination of influences, but I wanted to show that I don’t just write about the same thing. Someone recently described my next album as “a matter of intimacy” between yourself and music. I think that’s a lovely way to put it.
(((o))): Are there things you can only express through music?
Mark: Wow that’s some question. Maybe for some yes. Music is an art or form of expression, just as much as speaking. In fact it’s probably as affective in certain ways. If you can make somebody relate to a piece of music without even having any lyrical content in, then music must be one of the most incredible tools at our own disposal. For me, music speaks to me just as much and I have a great deal of respect for what other musicians do with their gift.
(((o))): You started also writing about music and I was very curious to read your words. Being a musician, is it hard to write about other artist's albums?
Mark: It’s a very different world. Your opinions are important to anybody that wants to know about a particular piece of music or band. It’s also as important to the artists themselves. They probably spent hours on end creating something they feel is worthy of others to listen to. So picking the right words becomes incredibly important. If I like something, if it catches my attention, I would want to tell people my opinions. But if it wasn’t up my street, then what’s the point? I’d rather be constructive than just scribble “Joe Blogg’s new album sounds like it was recorded in Stink-ville!”
(((o))): Is there something you want to add? Any particular curiosity you want to share with us?
Mark: Yeah sure. If you decide to drink hot water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, make sure you use a straw, as then you won’t get the natural acids on your teeth! You’re welcome.
(((o))): Thank you very much for your time. We look forward to hearing from you again soon.
Mark: Thank you 🙂