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Well, here we are again with another issue, and another lot of young hopeful upstarts beginning the precarious climb to the top of the musical tree of fame.
arco have been somewhat “missing” from the music scene for the last four years since releasing their debut album, 'Coming to Terms' in 2000. Now they are back with a second album, 'Restraint'.
Who are arco then ? What are they like then and why has it taken four years for them to create a new album?
Ass they themselves say about 'Restraint' in the press release to accompany the second record, it contains “eleven songs of moving simplicity and beauty that balance sadness and understanding, desolation and consolation, resignation and hope. once 'Restraint' has put you under its spell, you'll understand why it took four years to make.”
arco are made up of brothers Chris and Nick Healey on guitar and drums respectively and close friend David Milligan on bass. They first hit the “scene in 1998 with the vinyl EP 'Longsighted' and also recorded two other singles, 'Ending Up' and 'Driving at Night' bfore putting out 'Coming to Terms'. Apart from the aforementioned 4 year hiatus they were pretty successful in that underground non-“sellout” still cool-as-hell way.
When we heard the new album was about to come out, Pennyblackmusic thought we had better find out what the devil was going on!
PB: Hello gents, how are you? Please introduce yourselves and your music to our glorious readers.
NH: OK - musically: we're the "euphoric catharsis" genre - slow, spare, softly spoken, often sad. Personally: allow me to introduce Dave. He plays guitars and bass and stuff, and co-produces with Chris. He's tall, handsome, kind, and has a ravishingly gorgeous nuclear family. I forgive him, almost.
DM: If we’re playing it that way….Nick is a drummer of subtle, understated musicality, and the best bullshit detector I’ve ever met - he reins Chris and me in from our more excessive bouts of self-indulgence regarding the band. Chris worries too much (which is an admirable trait), and in my opinion is the greatest songwriter of our generation and a terrible bass player (I’ve got to keep my job in arco somehow).
CH: We're arco. Sarcasm's an occupational hazard in this band (don't go in for it myself, of course). We play the kind of maudlin bollocks that makes you long for a proper band like Travis.
PB: Its been a while since you guys released anything. What have you been up to in that time?
NH: I've been doing my bit to help fight the blight on modern civilisation that is Microsoft.
CH: What, from your allotment?
DM: Spending as much time on making the album as it needed to make it as good as we wanted it to be. This had to be done in between bits of real life (families, jobs, bouts of rampant hypochondria and self doubt) so it took a while. We were three months deciding on the name 'Restraint', for example.
CH: Come off it. We were done and dusted in six weeks.
PB: After listening to your music I found that it is all very melancholy which is no bad thing, but its an odd thing for a band to have little or no upbeat songs. Is this a conscious decision on your behalf?
NH: Upbeat, no - uplifting, hopefully, some of the time.
CH: Well, there are quite a few bands these days who keep things pretty reined in. It's not a conscious decision though. It's just what the songs seem to need. But however bleak they might get at times, they're never very demonstrative. We're not into histrionics (or guitar solos, backing vocals, or hackneyed chord sequences for that matter).
PB: Whats your view on the current state of the music industry?
DM: I think that recorded music itself is healthier than it’s ever been: Anyone can make a record at home now, at very little expense and with no record company. You can put your music on the web, and people can find it. If you know where to look, there is a lot of exceptional music out there. It’s not in the charts, but that’s not what the charts are for.
CH: I'm not so hopeful. Sure, there's more good stuff making it to CD, but as a music fan you're still going to need someone you can trust to weed out the rubbish for you... and that's where business will unfortunately step in again.
PB: If you could play a gig with any artist alive or dead what would the line up be?
CH: Tempted to say Nick Drake, mainly cos he'd be even more paralysed by nerves than me. But no. To tread the same boards as the Cardiacs would be to walk in the presence of deities. Although we'd get bottled off before the end of our first song. Be worth it though.
NH: The Clientele, who are simply wonderful. Even though they show us up.
DM: Death Cab for Cutie or Sophia. We’ve played with the Clientele, Tram, Sin Ropas and The Nourallah Brothers, which has been reason enough to be in this band in itself...
PB: Who are your current musical (or other) inspirations?
CH: I'm on the verge of being completely converted by the Innocence Mission, and spending the rest of my life writing about the glory of love and what a precious and wonderful thing life is. Makes a change from Philip Larkin anyway.
NH: What else could you say today apart from John Peel, RIP? For introducing everyone to so much. And for ringing us up in our early days to tell us he liked our stuff - it really made a difference.
DM: I wish I’d taken that call!......Musically, as far as arco is concerned, I try not to let my musical influences show, because XTC, Slade and Meat Beat Manifesto wouldn't really fit! Chris’s songs are the inspiration for our parts in arco.
PB: With three of you in the band how does the writing process take place?
NH: When the car gets to the end of the production line I'm that guy with the rag who goes round looking for scuff marks.
CH: Nick and Dave tell me with alarming directness if I've written something that needs strangling at birth.
DM: Chris writes the words, the tunes and the main guitar part, and then I hang bits off it like Buckaroo until Chris bucks most of them back off. Then Nick turns up, and tells us to stop playing Buckaroo and make a record.
PB? Do you prefer playing live or recording in the studio and why?
CH - Playing live's getting better, though I've only ever done it because I felt we have to. I don't actually want to parade my neuroses and darkest fears in front of people. I've no idea why people seem to like it, I'm just grateful if they do. Recording's fine. It just takes ages until we're happy with stuff.
NH: I'd say they're equally enjoyable - or rather, equally problematic. But we're not exactly your typical gig music.
DM: I wish we could work faster in the studio, but we just can’t, and I wish we were a more confident live band, which we’re slowly becoming (particularly since our friend Tudor Davies joined our live setup).
PB: Whats the future for arco ?
CH - Obscurity, in England at least. The album we've just released might be our last (I think I've written most of the stuff I wanted to write), and in the four years since 'Coming to Terms'. We've fallen off the publicity radar. Sorry, I know you're supposed to be upbeat. But it's the truth - the longer you take trying to make something worthwhile the less chance it's got. Fortunately our records are coming out in a few other countries so there's always hope...
DM: Personally, I think we'll follow a career curve a bit like this: release an album quietly every four or five years, hopefully to critical acclaim and a few thousand word-of-mouth sales. Play a handful of lovely little gigs in strange countries. Somebody'll suddenly stick a track in a film or something and it'll all go a bit 'Mad World' for a while. Then we'll split up, then reform for a one-off gig in the RFH in 15 years time. That's the optimistic third of arco speaking!
NH: Perhaps we ought to ask you this question instead?
PB : Thank you.
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Back after a four year absence, softly melancholic London trio arco recently returned with a second album, Restraint'. Philip Vincent speaks to them about it and why they have been so long away
Coming To Terms - CD
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