One of my favourite things about music festivals is the gaps between the bands that you’d planned to see where you’re free to wander and discover music you might never have otherwise encountered. Working with ten other UK blogs and promoters on our Balcony online festivals has been a similar experience, with a smorgasboard of strange and wonderful sounds being plucked from our collective address books to create an ecclectic collage of what’s going on in the DIY music scene during lockdown.
The highlights have been many and varied, but few have reached the heights of Chemtrails‘ technicolour acid-punk explosion at Balcony #3 (for which we can thank London promoter Sonic Tonic). And having been blown away by their live performance, we’re delighted to report that the band’s second album The Peculiar Smell of The Inevitable, released this month via the ever dependable PNKSLM Records, more than meets the elevated expectations that show engendered.
We asked the band to guide us through the new LP track by track and guitarist & vocalist Mia Lust kindly obliged:
This was the first song written for this album and in some ways inspired the whole “feel” of the record: strange happy-sounding poppy segments interrupted by slightly sinister turns. The image in my head was that the singer of this song was a kind of manic mascot for the apocalypse, dancing and despairing while watching the world crumble from somewhere up high.
I wrote this while attempting and failing to learn how to play ‘Corinne’ by Metronomy. The riff that came out ended up different enough to warrant calling it a new song, but it took me ages to work out how to go from that riff into a full song. Unlike on a lot of our previous records, for this album I didn’t feel like making music that sounds “nice”, and I think this song is an example of that – although it has a nice, calm refrain in the middle.
I read a Guardian article about this “dancing plague” that occurred in medieval Europe, in which hundreds of people involuntarily danced themselves to death. A story so weird it had to inspire a song (I found out later that there are loads of songs about it already, including ‘St Vitus’ Dance‘ by Black Sabbath, which is great).
This song is like a slightly slower, slightly big-beat child to ‘Blurred Visions’, including a little reprise for the riff from ‘Saint Vitus’. The lyrics centre around society’s steady descent into barbarity.
Naked Souls Get Swallowed
The title of this song refers to the inevitable psychic pain that occurs when you wear your heart on your sleeve by making and sharing music. It’s a short, gentle break from the weirdness and is more in the traditional Chemtrails style, except it includes some nice cello from our former keyboard player Viki Steiri.
Frightful in the Sunlight
This one’s inspired by some of the krautrock stuff we like, and was pretty much designed to be played live. It took a lot of fiddling to make the guitars sound loud and jagged enough, but I think we got there in the end.
Suck My Mind
The imaginary apocalypse mascot returns to sing about how technology connects our minds together, but the resulting super-mind that is formed is as terrifying as it is dull
This is the phenomenon in robotics that nearly-human-but-not-human-enough robots provoke a strange kind of revulsion. One theory for why people are disgusted by these kinds of robots is the dissonance caused by the conflicting perceptual cues, and I saw a psychology paper where someone applied the same idea to explain transphobia. It’s gutting to me that someone might feel that kind of disgust from talking to me, and it might not even be their own fault. But in the end, all you can do is say “fuck it” and carry on.
This song is about a friend of ours who’s into “urban exploring” and going on weird semi-militaristic missions into forbidden territories. It’s a bit of an outlier for us as we don’t usually write about such literal things, but the song just came out of messing around with friends and we really liked it, so we thought we might as well just slap it on the record.
Slag Heap Deity 1
Again, we had fun on this one with a nice melody that kind of takes a “wrong turn”. The verse is probably the only genuinely pretty moment on the album, but then the chorus marches in and tramples all over it, with a triumphant announcement about how we’re never going to do anything special with our lives. Viki’s cello makes a nice comeback on the outro!
Slag Heap Deity 2
We played around with having a double-time chorus in ‘Slag Heap Deity 1’, but we found we couldn’t slow back the tempo back down again in a nice way, so we made the double-time part into a totally separate song – it’s the first time we’ve ever done one with so little singing on it, but we had a lot of ideas to squeeze in.
Introduction by Paul Maps