Interview: Liz Green

Liz Green“Haul Away! is about Communication. Language. The Insufficiency of Words. Home. How to Fit in. Escape. Sea. Elemental Forces. The Edge of Something. Travel. The End of Something. Mythology. Love Lost. And Death.”

Enter the weird yet wonderful world of Liz Green; the UK's premiere singer songwriting based in Manchester and signed to a label eponymous with creativity, Play it Again Sam. Ms Green first caught DrunkenWerewolf's eye in 2011 with the release of her debut album O Devotion! Now back and armed with a new album, Haul Away in 2014, the world is more than ready for its second dose of Liz Green innovation.

Talking to DrunkenWerewolf's Tiffany Daniels, Liz chats about the album's immanent release in April and what else she has planned for the year.

Hello Liz! Your new album Haul Away is due out in April. How are you preparing for its release?

Just doing what I usually do, regardless of whether there's an impending album release or not. It would be nice if there was a pre-album-release-montage-movie. With compiled shots of me practicing guitar solos, doing push ups and slow-mo running through a rotating set of seasons. But the reality is I'm drinking coffee and answering emails.

Did you have an aim or goal for the album when you started writing it?

To finish it. That sounds silly. But I tend to get lost in the middle of things. Wonder what on earth I'm doing and why I should carry on. So I'm really happy that it got finished. It was only after the music was all recorded that I really started thinking about the threads that run through the songs and the artwork. These themes of travel and escape and seas and mythology, then started to make sense. In the years leading up to this album I felt pulled by perpetual motion. Constantly moving, in the sky, on the road, through, over or under the sea. Picking up and losing people. Being spun into or away from them. Like a miniature musical Odyssey. Or something like that...

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Your debut album O, Devotion! was released in 2011; can fans expect a similar sound and how does Haul Away differ?

Err, if you didn't like the last one, I wouldn't recommend this one :) But if you did - I hope you'll find it both familiar and strange. It's a continuation of sorts... A second in a trilogy. Haul Away is a little more upbeat than O, Devotion! - this still means it's quite depressing - just comparatively, it sounds joyous. Also, lyrically, not as many people die. It was recorded in the same place with largely the same band. But there are differences - more piano, more variety of instrumentation and mood. It was important this time to try and capture the live-ness of us as a band. Unlike last time where I played and sang and then the band was overdubbed. This time, wherever possible, we are all in the same room, facing each other, playing and singing together. I am happier with it because of that. I'm kinda in awe that we managed to get through some tracks without falling over, laughing or hitting any really wrong notes.

It’s taken you three years to release your sophomore. What’ve you been up to?

I think it will be two years five months when this album comes out in April. It still seems really long. The touring cycle from the last one only really finished early 2013. I got around Europe a fair bit. Never been to so many new countries. Finland I remember really fondly because the first person I sat down next to had actual devil horn implants! Brilliant. Living up to all its rock credentials. It was nice to come back home though. To be honest, it was nice to sit still. I travelled inside my brain instead. Read a lot, drew, learned how to lino cut, played some guitar and piano and wrote an album. I also took up running. Did a half marathon. Then promptly gave up running again. But I still did a couple of solo tours of Italy and the UK. I just like playing live, if I don't make myself do it, I start to get a little scared. It's good to go and play new songs. You only really find out if they're okay by playing them live. Also, I find myself suddenly able to finish lyrics just before going on stage. I think my brain comes into focus when there's five minutes to go before playing. That was useful for finishing this album.

Many artists claim their sophomore album is hard to create because of the pressures put in place in the wake of their debut. Can the same be said of Haul Away?

Not really. If anything there was less pressure. And more fun. I enjoyed the actual making of this album so much more than the first one. I knew where and with whom I wanted to record it. I knew my band friends wanted to make another record. I knew what a microphone was (it took a while) and understood a bit more about placement and sound in general. It made me a lot more comfortable with being in a studio, because I understand how things work and why everything is done in the way it's done. And this time we had the support of amazing lovely record label Play It Again Sam as well. Very lucky position to be in.

Which song do you think embodies the album?

"Haul Away!", I suppose. That's why I named the album after it. The first album is quite a static album. Very born of earth and dust. It tends to plod along like a baby goat, learning how to walk. This one is more islands, transformation and oceans. Not in a sea-sick way I hope, more in a Jason and The Argonauts kinda way. Mythic and timeless. A journey and what happens along the way. Stories told in song. They always used to take a singing poet in the boat with them on the adventures in greek epics, to recount the stories when they got back.

All those themes tie together in Haul Away! It's got everyone on the album in it as well. All bobbing along in a music ocean together. There's a stop motion video that a couple of friends and I have been working on to go with the song. About not really fitting in. Like a clown in a sea of grey and wondering why people look at you funny. And if there's somewhere you can go to meet people equally strange and oddly coloured. That urge to be able to connect the spaces between us. These seas between continents. The gulf between what you feel and the words you use to say it. Always trying, sometimes failing.

You returned to work with Liam Watson on the record. What does he bring to the table?

I will continue to return to work with Liam as long as he'll have me! He has an amazing ability to record ropey things and make them sound nice. Ha! It's true. Also I like when people do what they love, whatever it is, things are better that way. Liam creates his own world. Going into Toe Rag is entering somewhere he's built and adapted over 20 years. Everything has a purpose and also a history. There's lamp stands that are microphone stands. And equipment that comes from other (very old and famous) studios or people's houses. The floor dips a bit over there. Watch out for that beam. It's a joy. Also, it takes me time to get to know a person and feel comfortable around them. And last time I was very shy. This time I felt less lost. It was like going back to stay with a good friend. There was probably as much tea drinking and talking as there was recording.

Who else did you work with?

My friends. Musical brothers and sisters. Most of them were on the first album. I also borrowed my two favourite ladies, Hannah Miller (cello) and Ríoghnach Connolly (flute) from Moulettes and Honeyfeet respectively. I'm lucky I have awesome friends who happen to be equally awesome musicians. It's very useful. I've played with Sam (Buckley, double bass) and Gus (Fairbairn, saxophone) now for almost 5 years... 6 years... we've been on many long tours, and we're great, great friends. You'd have to be after sharing a transit van for that long. You become each other's entertainment. For me it's always more about the people who play the instruments than the instruments themselves. But I like it that way. Odd music, good friends.

You also returned to work in Toe Rag studios. Is setting important to you, creatively?

Yeah. I have a deep mistrust of things that are unnaturally shiny. In the same way as i'd rather wear second hand shoes than new ones. Something like that. Just personal taste. You just have to feel comfortable I think. You need to feel able. If I'm in a new studio surrounded by things with no history, no soul, I find it hard to get excited. I feel out of place and awkward. In Toe Rag I feel welcome, a part of it.

Your live shows are well known for their artistic vision. Will you incorporate different themes when you tour Haul Away?

Crikey. I feel a nervous weight of expectation to deliver now! I certainly have an artistic vision. My artistic vision doesn't have a massive budget though. It's one that's made of old cardboard held together with brown packing tape. I've been using shadow puppets and lanterns for a while now. So I think it may be time to retire them for a bit. And Starling Joe the bird head needs a wash. I've been experimenting with stop motion animation using my own drawings. I love stop motion animation, but have never really tried myself before now. I went to an animation festival in the Czech Republic last year and it gave me loads of inspiration. So we'll see what happens. And I have plans to attack a large piece of plywood with a saw.

Can we expect a tour of the album soon?

A very small UK tour in April. I'm visiting Ace Hotel in London on the 23rd April and Manchester First Chop Brewery on the 25th April (an actual piss up in an actual brewery... these things make me happy) Bristol, Leeds and somewhere else. Then I'm off to France and Germany and other bits of mainland Europe for all of May. Not sure what happens after that.

Haul Away! is due for release on 14th April 2014 through Play it Again Sam.

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