Ahead of The Flies’ return to the sonic circus, charismatic spearhead Sean Cook kindly answered the questions below, to satisfy our collective thirst for
beer insight into the release of ‘Pleasure Yourself’, their
second LP that’ll surely astound just like its auspicious predecessor.
ANT: What inspired the LP title ‘Pleasure Yourself’?
SEAN: The title of the record, ‘Pleasure Yourself’ is taken from the name of one of the tracks, which is actually something I normally don’t do. In this case it seemed appropriate, as much of the lyrical content of the record deals with the vain and selfish nature of people and the world today… I don’t think I really need to explain that, it’s all around us and at the root of the massive downward spiral we are on as a race.
ANT: What influences your sound above all else?
SEAN: I’m not sure that there is one particular thing that influences our sound above all else and actually, I think that the influences change and evolve with each new record we make. Our first LP, ‘All Too Human’ was mainly influenced by sixties girl groups and exotica soundtracks, although there was lots of other stuff in there as well.
Our new LP, ‘Pleasure Yourself’ has some of those same influences too, but there’s a bit more of a leaning towards the epic cinematic psych of the likes of Scott Walker and Roy Orbison (although there’s a bunch of other stuff in there as well, from The Velvets and country music to Joy Division and Kraut-rock!).
I guess ultimately we like our records to be psychedelic, but not in the traditional sense… we essentially write quite simple songs and then try to fuck them up.
ANT: How important are the single/ album charts?
SEAN: They are irrelevant to us because we are never in them.
ANT: What changes can we expect from your last outing?
SEAN: I think the new record is possibly a bit darker (particularly in terms of lyrical content) and probably a little more ‘song’ based. On the first LP we probably leant more towards a process of playing with sounds and interesting loops and then created songs out of them.
Whereas on the second LP we started more with simple songs and then distorted them with unusual sounds and effects. This is a generalisation however... you can find both approaches on each LP. We tend not to have a manifesto about how we approach things, but rather we do a few experiments and see what happens; if we like it, we start to develop it.
ANT: Do you enjoy playing live or are you more at home playing in a studio?
SEAN: I enjoy playing live but I probably prefer being in a studio. Live work for a band like us is very difficult, particularly so in the UK because you are very unlikely to get paid anything close to what it costs to do the gig, so you are forever in a situation of compromise. It’s a lot easier to play live with the likes of Massive Attack, as they have the budget to put on a really spectacular show and it has been a real privilege to be part of that.
Having said that, we have been rehearsing for our upcoming shows and I have been really enjoying the challenge of stripping down the big productions into a form that we can make work live with a five piece band. The spontaneity and instant gratification of a live band is hard to top.
ANT: Where do you most enjoy playing live?
SEAN: It depends on the circumstances. I have a country band that I do with a bunch of friends including Damon Reece (who plays drums on much of the new LP and will be with us live) and we only play in small pubs and these are some of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve done. Over the years I have played in pretty much every kind of venue from total toilets to huge stadiums and festivals.
Toilets can have a lot of vibe, but often the equipment is shagged out or not up to the job in the first place. Stadiums and festivals have that, “Holy shit... Look at all those people!” factor and lots of posh gear, but it can also be a bit soulless. I guess, on balance, 1000ish capacity theatres are the best as they usually have a good sound, look good and are still small enough to get a good vibe.
ANT: Do politics have a place in music?
SEAN: Politics is the study and exercise of power. Human experience and relationships are conditioned by power… who has it and who does not. Politics is unavoidable in music, given that music and art generally reflect human experience. There are obviously different ways of doing this and some approaches are more overt than others, but I think there are places for both. Some of my favourite groups, for example The Dead Kennedys, are very political.
ANT: Are you all agreed/in control of the formats of your releases?
SEAN: Well, we are now! On the first LP we had a deal with a major label and really wanted a vinyl release, but the label refused to do it… we’re not with that label anymore. Now we have less of a traditional artist/label relationship and more of a partnership with the like-minded friends who release our records (Library Music Recordings), so we do everything by mutual agreement.
So, we are really prioritising the vinyl this time (both mine and Andy’s favourite format) and releasing the new LP on octagonal gatefold 180 gram vinyl. The climate is better for vinyl now, with sales being at an all-time high, as opposed to an all-time low as they were at the time of All Too Human’s release... I guess it was easier to get everyone on board behind a very special vinyl design concept.
The record is also available on download because I guess people want that as well but, at the moment we are not doing a CD release... I like CDs but I hate the crappy boxes they come in. Vinyl is such a nice thing to have and to hold. When you put a lot of effort into to making the music, you want to see it manufactured in a format that is substantial and beautiful. ‘All Too Human’ will also be re-released on vinyl later in the year.
ANT: What music are you listening to of late?
SEAN: Always a tough question for me because I don’t keep up with current music really. I also have to spend so much time listening to our music, as well as the music of the other groups I play for (I was doing the Massive Attack v Adam Curtis tour last year and a lot of work with Elizabeth Fraser the year before that), so I don’t have time to keep track of new music.
Although I have to say that I don’t like most of what I do hear. Looking at the records I have by my deck right now, at the front of the pile I have Suicide’s first LP, Bauhaus ‘Press the Eject’, The Cramps ‘Psychedelic Jungle’, ‘The Essential’ Neil Diamond, a 50’s rockabilly compilation, Echo and the Bunnymen’s ‘Heaven up Here’ and ‘Up’ by The Perfect Disaster.
ANT: How important do you feel visuals are in relation to music?
SEAN: I think visuals are very important when presenting music. In terms of recorded music, we always try to make things look as good as we can with the resources we have. We try to do the same thing live, although the costs of a visually stunning show are prohibitive to us, so we have to try to think laterally and do the best we can with the little that we have.
Apart from cash, I don’t think there are any limits when it comes to presenting your music… you have to throw everything you can at it to make it the most overwhelming experience you can. If we had the cash we’d go fucking crazy with that shit!
ANT: Any forthcoming plans for you/the band?
SEAN: We have a double ‘A’ side single “In Her Eyes/Turned On” out on 18th August, the LP “Pleasure Yourself” out on 1st September and gigs at The Exchange in Bristol on 2nd September (with Candy Darling) and London Water Rats on 3rd September (with Thousand Fingers).
Later in the year we are releasing an EP of some odd covers we’ve done and then we are re-releasing our first record ‘All Too Human”, in a nice gatefold vinyl package. We’ll also be working on the new material we have for the 3rd LP.
ANT: Thanks so much for your time Sean; I’m off to listen to ‘All Too Human’ before I get hooked on ‘Pleasure Yourself’. Dear reader, please take the time to read more here or, time out to fall for The Flies by following the links below…