Poster paints, talks to Simon Liddell of Frightened Rabbit and Olympic swimmers’ new side-project and solo fame, and Carla J Easton of TinCanteen NME About consolidating their debut album and the importance of funding for the arts.
In addition to his work with Tincantin, Easton has performed and worked with the likes of Camera Obscura, Belle and Sebastian and Aidan Moffat, while Liddell has collaborated with the likes of Aaron Dessner and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.
Their self-titled debut album, released earlier this month, was written and recorded during the lockdown with government funding through Creative Scotland – but they fear impending government spending cuts could prevent acts like theirs from existing.
“It’s very competitive — you’re never sure when you’ll apply,” Easton said NME. “We are very fortunate that during the pandemic, Creative Scotland has been very keen to support artists to continue working remotely. It wasn’t that we had set out, it was that we had to fit that brief. It allows us the time and support to really explore our ideas.
“All the cuts that are going to happen in the industry are quite worrying – especially in Scotland. We are losing independent cinema and world-renowned film festivals. I won’t know what the landscape for arts funding will look like until March next year. Only time will tell. You hope that other projects like ours get the support they deserve.”
The funding the pair received allowed them to “support friends and colleagues stuck at home and losing income from touring” – paying friends in the music world to contribute to their album. Their international roster of collaborators includes the USA (Gabbie Coenan AKA RVBY MY DEAR), Canada (Andrew Chung and Laura Hickley) and their native Scotland (playing on the entire record with Chvrches drummer Jonny Scott Lomond playing on the entire record) recording their parts from as far away as Campbell, Arabia. Graeme Smiley from Strap, Soos Bear from Pictish Trail, Andy Monaghan from Frightened Rabbit and Amanda Williams aka Ama Jane).
“Me and Johnny go way back,” said Liddell of their record sticksman. “I’ve been playing in bands with him since I was a teenager. He is the most amazing drummer in Glasgow and has been playing with Chvrches for the last few years. He had previously done The Kills and a lot of Scottish bands.
“He was stuck at home at the time and has a nice little drum studio at home, so we’d send him stuff and he’d record these amazing studio-standard parts. When the record is being tracked separately from different places, there is a fear of it sounding stale; But he could sound it live. He really brought that energy. He’s the guy!”
Liddell added: “It was great making music with friends. It was a time when you knew not all your friends were on tour or recording their own albums. Everyone was just available and it was great to go to them.”
The two had been part of the same Glasgow music scene for years, but Liddell never crossed paths until he found himself working in the crew of The Vaselines, for whom Easton was playing keys. Before long, he was invited to play guitar as part of his solo project, and their collaboration grew from there.
“About a month into the lockdown, I needed some music for a short film I was working on,” Liddell said. “Carla added a vocal, but then it all felt natural so we tried a few more songs together. It all came together pretty quickly from there.”
Easton added: “The poster paints really happened by accident.”
Explaining how they landed on their album’s ethereal pop sound, Liddell explained: “Reverb and soundscapes have been my bread and butter for years. I love Carla’s solo stuff, but from playing guitar with her I had an idea in my head of how she would write songs with a dreamier, more shoegaze-y backing. That was the motivation.”
As for the soulful lyrics on the record, Easton revealed: “It’s weird because I don’t like to call it a ‘lockdown album,’ but at the same time it reflects you in that period where you’re alone with your thoughts. A lot of previous relationships and situations. I was journaling a lot. And I’d listen to tracks that Simon sent me. I’d put my headphones on and just walk by myself and let the ideas come in response to the music. A lot of music felt like it had sad undertones that would dictate where to go lyrically.
“It’s more reflective, whether it’s in sad moments or happy moments, than writing about the here and now.”
Having played just a handful of shows – including festival dates, a support slot with Teenage Fanclub and this past weekend’s headline album launch show in Glasgow – the band are keen to tour further.
“It’s been great to record in a home then get into a rehearsal space and know that you can exist in that environment with the band you get together,” Easton said.
“A lot of people compromised the work they created and we’re really lucky we didn’t have to. We can have live drums and live strings and now we can translate that into a live experience.”
The pair also said they were excited to bring in the fan community of their other projects.
“It was inspired by the many headline shows we’ve done in Glasgow and Edinburgh,” Liddell said. “Hardcore F’Rabbit fans have kept up with everything we’ve been doing. Carla has a really good fanbase that follows her singles. The sound isn’t a departure from what we’ve done so it’s a pretty wee group.”
In the near future, Poster Paints hopes to hit the road in the new year before beginning work on a follow-up album.
“It’s pretty cool to record it and see what kind of life and travel it is,” Easton said. “The whole thing was an accident. We started to see if we would enjoy co-writing together, then we had an album then needed a band name. There’s not really a plan, but I guess that means it’s an open door to decide to do more.”
Liddell added: “Considering how easy the first album was to make, we should probably start on the second one.”
Poster Paints’ self-titled debut album is out now.
Meanwhile, Grant Hutchison – former Frightened Rabbit drummer and brother of the late frontman Scott Hutchison – has joined close friend and former labelmate Twilight Sad as a permanent member. The band are currently supporting The Cure on their European tour.