Matthew Lowe of Keston Cobblers Club guides us through Almost Home, the group's first full-length release since 2015's Wildfire. From Bon Iver to Forest Hill, the album's influences are far and wide-reaching, making it a fascinating collection of Cobblers' brand new efforts.
I wrote this track sitting in bed in Forest Hill on a day off. It developed rapidly, and within about 20 minutes I sent a really rough phone recording of to the others, who seemed to enjoy it. When I write I generally focus on lyrics last, but often find a few lyrics coming through early on. The main section that just kept coming back was "Almost Home", and I decided that this was the sticking point.
It's a positive song all about love (not necessarily romantic love) and the home. I often long for home when nearing the end of a tour, and I felt that this track was a good representation of that.
I've always written tracks like this that I call "album tracks", which I don't think will ever be proper singles, but are often my favourite on the album. This is in the same vein as "Giraffe Junkie", a song from an early EP of ours Welcome to the Club, or it's follow up "For Words" from our first album (Giraffe Junkie Part Two). I suppose you could call this my Giraffe Junkie Part Three. I wanted something pretty and meaningful, based around banjo, which slowly builds to an orchestral crescendo. Concord is an "agreement or harmony between people or groups", and I really liked that as the central theme, especially with all of the separation there seems to be at the moment.
One of my earlier written tracks for this album - "Bicycles" again started from me just playing on guitar in my flat. I had a rough idea of the track I was writing from the start, but it was only after spending a little time in the studio it started to develop fully. I actually wrote the opening, acapella section and verse separately to the chorus, but upon playing with ideas, realised my original "we saw angels, riding bicycles" fitted so well on to the end of the now pre-chorus that it just made sense.
"Demons" is a song of two parts; a verse that I had written a few years ago and a chorus which was written in the last few months. "I'm daydreaming again" is the notion of thinking you want something so much, and then realising that the most amazing thing is right in front of you. There's already so much light. The grass is always greener and "Demons" is about realising that. The chorus is almost the response to the call to "fight for what you have", and to stop looking for something different.
I wrote this after learning of the story of Martha and Giles Corey; a husband and wife who were killed in 1692 after Martha was accused of witchcraft and Giles died defending her. It's a tragic story and I'm sure there are many more like it, but I wanted to continue it in this album. Although I didn't know them, or know much of their story, but I wanted to try and capture a little bit of love between a husband and wife in such a situation. They were 81 and 72 when they died, a remarkably good age for the time, but still it really stood out to me as a story (I generally just write from scratch and don't reference any other stories, but this time it felt appropriate). Giles died of being pressed by stones (a common execution technique, sometimes over several days where stones were added gradually, crushing the victim). His last words were reportedly "more weight!". I wrote the track on guitar and decided to keep it very stripped back, like an old folk song written to tell a story.
The most funky of my tracks for this album, "On Your Own" wasn't necessarily destined for this album, or Cobblers at all. I started a few extra little projects last year; one of which was a disco/funk/electronica bit of fun. I created this track for it, but suddenly it felt very Cobblers-y.
It probably stands out a little in the album as having no real folk connections, but Cobblers has always been about variety and I like to think these little jumps from the norm have been the backbone to all of our releases. I can't wait to get this one out live, I think the tuba may well be replacing bass guitar on the stage!
I wrote this track about my time in Forest Hill (where I still live), it's about being (fairly) young and poor, but making the most of what you have and how your surroundings can change your fortune massively without the need for money.
It flowed quite easily for me lyrically and the chord progression came by chance as I like to experiment with different guitar tuning. I sometimes get lucky, and this felt finished almost as soon as I started it. Jules [Lowe, bandmate and sister] helped with the "ooo" idea of the chorus.
Originally I wrote a big intro (rather similar to the ending as it is), and an even bigger ending (as it is), with a completely acoustic middle, not to a click and just recorded in one take with myself on guitar and singing. Gradually this idea evolved and became fuller, till I re-recorded it.
This was really my "have some fun" track from the start. I always like to add a track that's fun for fun's sake, and this was to be light, summer-y and put a smile on your face. Despite this, I did want to touch upon a slightly serious idea of biting the hand that feeds you and basically ruining chances that may present themselves.
I led the track with ukulele and guitar, and Tom [Sweet, bandmate] and I added a load of handheld percussion. In the end you almost get a slight Hawaiian vibe. I wrote the lyrics carefully, with the verse going over scenarios of potential success and grandeur and the chorus elaborating on that, but referring to the past, finishing with the idea of what could have been, but didn't transpire that way.
There's a line in the track - "Let's ride on a crippled donkey" that I hope isn't met with disgust. It's meant to be more of a satirical angle on the exploitation of animals, especially in situations of luxury like holidays, rather than literally just fitting in with the lyrics as a throw away sentence. The track goes back to the ideas of Forest Hill and that wealth doesn't necessarily run parallel to happiness.
The guitar riff to "Walls" is something I came up with over a year ago and had been in the back of my mind ever since. When we started writing the new album I thought it was the perfect opportunity to finally make it into a track. With the riff in place, I began to create the song hoping to make it upbeat and positive yet also to carry a meaningful message.
Walls can often be representative of the problems we all face at some point during our lives, those problems that at the time seem insurmountable and almost impossible to break through. This song, however, is like a friend saying to you “we can get through this, the walls will fall down”, and that with the help, love and support of friends and family we can all beat the darkest of times and emerge stronger on the other side.
Winning is a "screw you" song. It's the retort to an argument. It's a petty, belligerent middle finger to the person you are arguing with. It's a teenage fight or lovers tiff. It was born of a few words I heard my friend utter to his partner on the phone. The anger they had for each other was so pointless and the argument didn't even make sense, so I wrote a fighting song, a battle cry, to highlight just how ridiculous an argument can be and I still think I'm right! It's a causal nod to funny human behaviour.
"An Island" is a track very much of two parts. I don't really play the piano at all anymore for Cobblers, yet it's perhaps the instrument I play the most when at my parents. The first part of the track is a massive jump from anything on the album; it's a bit of fun to pull you away from the safe and quickly throw you.
We weren't one hundred percent sure whether to put it in the album incase it was too random, but I love little random quirks in albums and decided it must stay or the track just wouldn't be the same. I suppose the second section is the main track really; a simple track I wrote on piano that's all just about escapism and running away to your own Island. It's more metaphorical than literal, although I love the idea of it being listened to on a desert island, laying in the sand with a drink in hand.
"All I Need" is a love song for a friend. A friend that I hold so dearly that I thought they deserve a song.
"All I need is Bon Iver playing," - a band we both adore. Bon Iver is such a big influence in my writing, and their albums have seen us through some of the most stressful and euphoric times. My friend and I have been through so much together and achieved so much too. "All I Need" is about the simplicity of that. A simple love that gives you everything you need in that moment.