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WorldService Project: Articulate Arsonists


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It's a very different time to be a musician than it was even 20 years ago, when major record labels still existed, providing tour support and money to make recordings. It's also a very different time because, with the upsurge of DIY recordings, there's more music being released every month than ever before. Add to that the mix of media—CD, digital (low and high res) and the resurgence of vinyl—and music fans now have more choices than ever before, at a time when there are more things than ever competing for their attention, from podcasts and other web- only services to social media and video games, all available on a multitude of platforms (desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, tablets). It's a great time to be a musician, because you can truly take complete control of your career; it's also a terrible time to be a musician, because you are competing with more musicians for peoples' attention than ever before.

There was a time when musicians had publicists, managers and booking agents. Some still do, but most find themselves doing all these things themselves—all while trying to accomplish their primary goal: making music. This change from DIY to DIAY (do it all yourself) is enough to drive many musicians off the cliff, but then there are those like WorldService Project, a young British quintet that doesn't just accept the world as it is today but embraces it. On the cusp of releasing its second full-length album, Fire in a Pet Shop, WSP has become a veritable cottage industry. It's gained significant exposure as part of Ireland's 12 Points Festival, an event that, each year, selects 12 young bands of interest from around the world to perform at a festival that alternates between its home base of Dublin and locales abroad like Porto, Portugal. WorldService Project was also chosen as one of three from those dozen groups in 2012 to be part of 12 Point PLUS, a European tour program that garners for those selected even greater exposure, thus far at festivals in Ljubljana, Umeå and Tampere.

But beyond external opportunities, WorldService Project has intrepidly charted a territory that few groups have explored with its annual Match & Fuse Festival and tour. "I'd say there was a definite step up for us at the end of 2010, when we won an award in the UK called the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award," says Dave Morecroft, WSP's de facto leader and composer. "It's a private award but curated by the Musician's Benevolent Fund, which is the charity that helps musicians who get injured or can't play because they're older. It's essentially estate money left by this guy Peter Whittingham; he loved jazz and left money to be awarded each year. With that money, we essentially devised a project, which was the very first Match & Fuse tour.

"That came in September 2011, but with the award at the end of 2010, it took us that long to plan it," Morecroft continues. "From September 2011—well, from the award being given through to now—it's kind of just been this cascading thing of Match & Fuse, and it's literally snowballing, as it's gone bigger and bigger. Our funding applications have kind of overlapped, and we just kept reapplying. Because every step forward we took with Match & Fuse, the more sense it made—to me, anyway—to take it and run as far as we possibly could with it, because it was being received with such enthusiasm by the other bands involved as well as venues, collectives and promoters."

World Service Project-Fire in a Pet ShopMatch & Fuse comes with the kind of mission statement that few musicians as young as Morecroft and the rest of his twenty-something band mates—trombonist Raph Clarkson, saxophonist Tim Ower, bassist Conor Chaplin and the relative newcomer drummer Liam Waugh—could ever conceive of, let alone execute. As the M&F site explains:

"Match&Fuse (M&F) is a touring exchange network and annual festival with the primary aim of connecting creative scenes across Europe. With an emphasis on local culture and its transmission across borders, M&F facilitates shared platforms for likeminded artists and the creation of new artistic material through international collaboration."

This is a hefty objective, if ever there was one, but since its inception just two years ago, Match & Fuse has garnered tremendous critical and popular acclaim, collaborating with a surprisingly large cross-section of young groups including Tin Men and the Telephone (Netherlands), Pixel and SynKoke (both Norway), Innkvisitio (Finland), NI and Alfie Ryner (both France), and with other artists coming from Italy, Denmark, Poland and Germany. It's ambitious, but for the seemingly tireless WSP, it's a means of creating an international scene through a kind of virtual underground railway that engenders collaboration and cooperation across the continent.

World Service Project-RelentlessThe recently ended 2013 Match & Fuse festival brought a whopping 24 groups in three days to the St. Hanshaugen district of Oslo, Norway. All the more remarkable is that Match & Fuse is a completely free festival, and while its Norwegian festival roster included groups from many European countries, its being in Oslo made it possible for groups like the unwieldy nine-piece Jaga Jazzist to participate, along with other important young groups including Bushman's Revenge and the trio Bol/Westerhus/Sna, with rapidly rising guitar star Stian Westerhus and Motorpsycho six-stringer Sna. "We had a great weekend, nice vibes," says Morecroft. "Audiences were good—started slow each evening but then picked up and were very busy through 8:00 p.m. onwards. We're holding the Match & Fuse Festival in Rome in 2014, most likely in June again, but we also have a 'mini fest' in London in a few weeks on July 25-26 [2013]."

But it's premature to talk about Match & Fuse without first exploring the genesis of WorldService Project, which has finally released the overdue follow-up to its debut, Relentless (Brooke, 2010). Fire in a Petshop (Megasound, 2013) is already creating something of a stir, with Amazon UK slapping a "Parental Guidance" label on the record, citing explicit lyrics (despite there being none), solely on the basis of one song, "Change the Fucking Record." It's a considerably harder-edged and more complex and distinctive recording than the admittedly fine Relentless, with WorldService Project's staggering and, at times, outrageously funny performance at Sweden's 2012 Umeå Jazz Festival being a real harbinger of what was to come. WSP may be categorized as a jazz band, but as much as bands like Britain's seminal Loose Tubes and Frank Zappa are fundamental to its sound, so, too, can the influence of classical composers like Stravinsky be found seeping into the mix.

"I started playing music from quite a young age, because both my parents were professional musicians—classical string players," says Raph Clarkson, WSP's trombonist. "So I actually started playing the cello when I was very young, and then I picked up the trombone when I was eight. I was quite lucky to have really good music at my primary school, ages seven to eleven. There was good local music, and my school was quite strong for music as well; I also got involved in local London orchestras.

"So I started mainly playing classical music, again because of my parents and the kind of music that was going on in the school. But my first introduction to jazz was at Dartington International Summer School, where my parents used to teach and also where—well, sadly, up until last year; he's now stopped doing it—[pianist] Keith Tippett did a course because he lives nearby in Gloucester, which is quite close to Dartington, in Devon. He had this amazingly magical ability to get a kind of completely random band of sorts—five altos, one trombone, three drummers, three bassists, anything and everything—and create an amazing energy, getting people to do free improv.

"I did it for about three years. I didn't really know what was going on; I sort of just came and joined in. But he was very welcoming, and that was the first time I got introduced to that kind of music. I suppose, then, in the intervening years, I sort of doubled in jazz and improvised music but didn't really didn't do it seriously until I went to York University, which had a very open-minded creative course. You could study lots of different kinds of music and be assessed through writing essays, performing and composing. There was a strong avant-garde element there, and we also had [pianist] John Taylor, starting to lecture there as soon I arrived, as well as [saxophonist] Julian Arguelles' Octet in residence. So I got introduced to that kind of jazz, and that's also where I met Dave [Morecroft], who was the year below me."

"Still am," Morecroft interjects, laughing. "I started music from a very young age because my mother was a music teacher, and my dad was a composer and a sound engineer. But I think my musical journey really began at 16 when I went to Oldham College in Hampshire. We had a very influential head of music there who was a contemporary composer—a very avant-garde, post-serial composer called Martin Reed, who sadly passed away last year [2012]. That six months was very important for WorldService Project because that's where I met Tim [Ower]. Tim was a year above me. Conor [Chaplin] did go to the same six-months college, but a few years later, and also Neil [Blandford], the group's first drummer. Because there was a very strong tradition of jazz bands and big bands meeting every year for a reunion, you didn't just know the people on either side of you in a year, you knew the old people when they came to jam. I knew about Conor when he was 11, and I knew about Neil even though we never actually studied together at the same time, because he was coming back and playing. That was also where I heard the first note of jazz. More properly, I was probably playing, actually; Chick Corea's "Spain," arranged for big band, was the first thing I ever heard."

Like Clarkson, until that seminal time in college, Morecroft's background was in classical music. "I played drums in a punk band and stuff like that, but it was basically classical upbringing," the pianist continues. "From there, I went to York, where I met Raph, and that was a very defining period again because I started exploring a lot more compositionally—contemporary classical composition, studying modules, Stravinsky, Messiaen, that kind of thing—which, I suppose, contributed quite significantly to some of the language I use now. Also, at York, I began playing a lot more and playing in different setups, different groups, and wanting to form an outlet. As my main compositional outlet, WorldService Project started. Post York, I came to London, did a few bits and bobs with a septet, a trio and an electronic duo with Leafcutter John . But WorldService Project has always been the core of everything, really, because I'm trying to fulfill maybe 25 roles: manager, agent, et cetera, et cetera."

Meanwhile, Clarkson's own development continued. "I got into lots different kinds of music at York. I suppose I did more jazz, freely improvised music and avant-garde music. Then after that, WorldService Project kind of started towards the end of my third year, which was near the end of 2008. I went on to a Master's in Oxford, which was partly academic, but I also did some performing stuff. There's actually a great music scene in Oxford—lots and lots of stuff going on. I did some slightly experimental early music, free improv, jazz-crossover things and some recitals there. All the while, WorldService Project was consistently doing things and experimenting. As soon as I finished in Oxford, I think it was around the same time that the band sound really started. We would play some tunes by me, by Dave and by Tim. There were lots of different styles being referenced. I guess, in a way, it was a period of experimentation—and then just a coincidence that when I finished studying, we were all in London at the same time, having been spread out everywhere, and the aesthetic became what it's now led towards."

The third piece of the puzzle came with Tim Ower. "I started playing the usual kind of piano when I was seven or eight, then moved onto saxophone about eleven," says Ower. "Went to a school and kept playing in a lot of bands. I had a really good teacher, all the way through school, who was very into jazz. So I had a good kind of springboard from playing that kind of music from an early age but nothing too serious. I went to Oldham College with Dave, a year above, and started to get more into jazz then, again with the same sort of inspirational music teacher, Martin Reed.

"So that was where I found my passion for it. It was one of those things that I felt I was always good at. It never crossed my mind to do too much else. I just continued, and that was something I felt that I really enjoyed as well. I finished studying at school, then went to study at Leeds College, in their jazz course. I spent three years there, which is where I started doing some playing with Dave and with Raph as well. So that would have been towards the end, I suppose, of 2008 where the first incarnations of WorldService Project emerged, with us playing together. And I finished there; it's a great course at Leeds. It's a very open and diverse college, so it really does allow you to experiment with different types of music. They had some brilliant tutors that came in, like [guitarist] Chris Sharkey and Christophe de Bezenac, from trioVD."

Enter the album name hereYork seemed to encourage, beyond the theoretical, the same kind of creativity that schools like the renowned conservatory in Trondheim, Norway have engendered. "Immediately, as you started at York, that was true," says Morecroft. "They almost left you on your own. My first year I actually found quite frustrating because it was, like, 'Why is no one telling me what I should be doing?' Obviously there was some structure, but there was this great exploratory element to the degree. So from day one, I would say, York musically shaped me that way but also in organizing stuff and making it happen. I set up my big band there, and WorldService Project was always going on because York always encouraged you to make your own projects happen."

With Ower at Leeds and Morecroft and Clarkson at York, it might seem odd that they managed to continue working together in the germinal version of WorldService Project, but with the two colleges close enough (30 minutes by train), it wasn't a hindrance. "Initially, it was between us three—Raph, Dave and myself," Ower continues. "That was when I was at Leeds, and they were both at York. It was basically during that year, while I was in Leeds and they were at York, we started playing together."

"But it's worth saying," Raph interjects, "that we were the core three with interchanging drum and bass players. So occasionally we would do a gig where we would use a drummer and a bassist from York, and occasionally there would be a couple of guys from Hampshire, where the guys that went to Oldham College—Tim and Dave—first met."

"That was when the band was doing a very 'jazz' thing," Ower continues. "Whoever was here who can do the gig—great. We were playing these tunes, would turn up and read some charts. We were reading all the tunes."

"Realistically, I suppose, that first period was more relevant to our individual developments than how we came together," Morecroft says. "The question of when did Word Service Project first start has two answers. If you read our official biography, then it started in 2009— essentially the moment that Conor joined. It sounds corny, and it's easy to say in hindsight, which is 20/20, but it did kind of click at that point. We still had Neil [Blandford], our first drummer, then, but that was when we first started playing a lot more challenging music. Also, we were more in the same area, we could rehearse a lot more, and we could try a lot of things. So 2008 was relevant for us three [Morecroft, Clarkson and Ower], and it's got to do with our own personal development, but I think in terms of when WordService Project actually started, I would say 2009. By the time, what I really liked was the fact that we were five people with five different musical backgrounds, in a way. But it sort of made sense when it came together. Like Neil: he was very much a kind of metal head, a rock head. That was his background; he didn't really like at jazz at all, in fact."

"Well, he studied it for two years at Birmingham Conservatoire," counters Ower, "which, in this country, is probably the most straight- ahead course to go and study—and he did it for two years."

Which simply means that when Blandford decided he hated jazz, he knew why he hated it. With Blandford now gone, and interim drummer Michael Clowes also a thing of the past, Liam Waugh seems like more than a replacement—he seems like the perfect one. "Similar to Neal," says Clarkson, "he comes from pop, funk and soul. In one sense, he really fits into the style we're playing because the drum parts—or the approach—are not jazz, they're rock. But he's more into soul grooves than heavy rock. It's one of those things where we haven't played with him enough to see where he'll be creative; so far, we've just been getting our live sets together and changing a few bits. It will really come when there's new material; then we'll see what his personal creative approach is."

"He's been a working musician for a few years; he's done shows and tours, that sort of thing. He really fits in well with us; he really wants to be involved, and he really wants to spend the time," Morecroft enthuses. Clarkson adds, "He's said that he's really been looking for a creative project that he can get into."

As for Conor Chaplin, the youngest in the group (he barely looks as if he's started shaving, despite being in his early twenties), says Morecroft, "Conor is very much a groove-based player. He loves anything groovy—from pop to funk to jazz. He just loves his groove stuff. Obviously, myself and Raph both had more of an interest in contemporary 20th-century classical music. And Tim, I suppose, had the most jazz background out of any of us. Well, Conor's still studying, so he's yet to have his sort of background. He's got one year of college left. But when we all came together, it kind of made sense, in a way. We've also always had a very strong social connection to each other, so that helps moves things along. I think that's become more apparent in the last year, when the music became sillier and wackier. Wackier? Yeah, that's right. A lot of those things came, really, as a reflection of how we interact socially."

As Morecroft, Clarkson and Ower sit around a table in East London, it's clear that there's not only a deep friendship but also an inherent silliness, a Monty Python-esque vibe, with each of them injecting quips as the other tries to articulate a point. But it's that close bond, reflected in an ever-present sense of humor that has, indeed, helped to precisely define WorldService Project. "I think socially is absolutely an important reason," Ower continues. "Dave got me to come across to play some things in York. We did a few things here and there, and we did a few things outside of WorldService Project. So we knew we could get on playing-wise and also socially, which is a massive thing, as we've come to learn, and I'm guessing the same with Raph and Dave."

Raph continues, "It never seemed like Dave came up to me randomly and said, 'I want you to be in this band.' It was more like we knew each other really well from playing jazz in the department together— department ensembles and studying the same modules together. Dave would be in a practice room; I remember [Dave] working on "Breathing Space," which is a very old tune, not even on the first album, and playing it to me and showing me the idea for the tune. He would say, 'Come and play this with me.' I remember [Dave] playing with Tim, certain little gigs, tunes where we would end up as a band. So it was a very natural kind of evolution; we'd played together, so we put together a little gig together, and Dave asked me to play in it. It was just an extension of knowing each other well through playing together and getting on musically and socially."

With its lineup stabilized—at least at that point—WorldService Project recorded Relentless in 2010, released later that year. While many of the cross-genre elements that would come to define the band were in place, it was still a more straightforward document of a group still finding its voice. "There are three or four tracks which are bit heavier," Clarkson says. "That was what the band was really moving towards and had already been moving towards for a while. There are also few other things in there, a few kinds of balladic, softer things. The first album was still a bit of a mix of things. I suppose, through winning the Peter Whittington Award at the end of the year and realizing—I remember talking about it—that it was the heavier stuff that was really the sound we were going towards. Hearing [Norwegian group] SynKoke—that was the time where we learned a whole new set of music, which we started learning after that Christmas [2010]."

"Probably learning it in a way more akin to a rock sensibility," says Morecroft, picking up the conversation. "The very first time we started playing those tunes, it was more structurally set, but within each section there was quite a lot of freedom, improvisation for each person to do. I suppose that, in itself, was a journey with those tunes—we're talking two years ago now, and we're only now releasing the album. So we've been playing these tunes for a long time, and they have gone through a process where—it's weird—it's almost like it's started in a place, gone a bit far away from that place, then come back again and then gone away again. I don't know; it's strange. But I think definitely with more of a rock approach to it, looking at the identity of the band, looking at the ensemble sound and focusing on those things: five equal parts rather than five soloists."

Enter the album name hereCuriously—given how schooled these musicians are and the oftentimes complex nature of Morecroft's material—the group learned the material by ear, according to Ower. But, rock-like, WorldService Project is a group that rehearses regularly and is committed to this band in a way that's, sadly, harder to sustain in the jazz world. "Some of the charts on the album I haven't looked at a very long time. I probably wouldn't recognize what's on the page, certainly some sections of it," says Morecroft. "I've changed a lot, or completely new sections have been added, which we worked out together. With most of the tunes on the album, I would pen something down, bring it to rehearsal; we'd play it and maybe try a couple of things out. The guys would suggest a couple of ideas, and I'd take it back, revise it and then finish it back for me and take it back again. I guess quite a usual approach, really. For me, it seems natural to do it that way."

While Morecroft is now the group's sole composer, there was one tune on Relentless by Clarkson. "We didn't really like it, and it didn't really fit in, so we axed it and banned Raph from writing anymore," Ower says, joking. "Well, I remember saying, 'Can we not play this tune anymore?' and they said, 'No, no, let's play it!" Clarkson retorts.

But, among the many things that define WorldService Project, having a sole composer certainly leads to a group identity, though shaped through the input of the rest of the band. "Dave writes for the people in the band," says Ower. "And because we learn the tunes off copy straight away, in a way they've never really stopped evolving, even when we've been more specific structurally. Even now, they're changing again, and that's possibly from having a new drummer. But from the beginning, little things have always been changing so that after about six months, it's almost completely different."

In the group's Umeå performance of material from Fire in a Petshop, beyond Morecroft's structurally knotty writing—metric shifts, stops and starts and complete feel changes all abounding, often in the space of a few seconds, as in a Carl Stalling soundtrack—the contributions of Ower, Clarkson and Chaplin were fundamental. The interaction between Ower and Clarkson was particularly impressive as they found ways to engage that pushed out of Morecroft's writing but came back to it, as if attracted by a lightning rod, when the time was right. Chaplin may look young and inexperienced, but it belies a deep player who somehow managed to imbue Morecroft's writing with an underlying groove. Clowes, despite now being gone from the band, drove it hard, with a blend of lighter textures and harsher dispositions.

And while there are many touchstones in WorldService Project's music, it's impossible to ignore the influence of classical music, even though it may not be anywhere near obvious or overt. "Well, I did a lot of Stravinsky in my third year of university," Morecroft says. "Loads of stuff to do with him, even extra-musical things ... well not really extra- musical but sort of defying someone's expectations, like setting up a section that is going somewhere, then suddenly changing— Stravinsky's kind of block-like structure. That's my one definite thing. Also, I suppose because of my background in drumming, a percussive element that he has—especially in piano writing and stuff like that. I didn't really get a sort of octatonicism from him, like diminished scales; we do that, obviously, but it came more through modern jazz, if you like, or whatever you want to call it."

"The strongest thing on the album in terms of those things is probably the block-like structure of material," Clarkson adds. "And I remember, as Dave was writing the new material, the economy of the material. And that obviously links to the block-like approach: taking a single riff, gesture or idea that is often a repeating thing, like a rhythmic ostinato. There's a lot of that kind of writing, and then other abrupt section changes being similarly revolving and repeating, being derived from that kind of material. 'De-Friender' is a good example of a very clear diminished section that is very strong and one kind of block idea, which comes back in different forms, but very abruptly, and is played around with. In that tune, there's not a huge amount of variation of the actual fundamental material; it all comes from the same place."

"Some of the leitmotif. 'De-Friender' is, for me, like [classical composer Richard Wagner's 1865 opera] Tristan and Isolde," Morecroft continues, "where you have motifs for grief and despair—but this is for de-friending. That riff is about how you feel when someone removes you from Facebook."

The humorous banter going around the table during the meal at the Turkish restaurant, around the corner from the Vortex, where this interview took place, as well as the absurdity of some of Fire in a Pet Shop's best moments (like in the title track, where, beyond evoking on their instruments the sounds of various animals caught in the titular fire, everyone in the group does his best to vocally inject his own animal imitations), raises the question that Frank Zappa asked in the title to his first album to be released on CD: Does Humor Belong in Music? (EMI, 1986).

"We talked about this in the last year—not just as a band but in seminars," says Morecroft, "probably starting at the 12 Points Festival in Porto, where we played last February [2012]. There's this conversation going on about the relationship between people onstage and people in the front row and that gap and how you address the fact that, in a lot of European countries, audiences are getting a bit smaller and older. And you're looking at the next generation, saying, 'How are we going to address these people?' I've always written things with very much of a gestural approach. A kind of a buzzword for us is looking at a piece and thinking, 'Well what's the gesture of this piece?' Let's remove our musical understanding at the moment and ask how someone is going to hear this. How is someone else in the audience going to listen to this, because they're not going to hear these things that we've just talked about?' Some will, but the majority of people you play to are not going to listen to things in that way.

"From there, it naturally goes into the arena of humor and linking the two things together: a gestural thing and the relationship between us and the audience. The humor bridges those two things and encompasses it really nicely. For me, it's a gestural thing that anyone can latch onto. It's a very honest gesture. I did genuinely write 'De-Friender' about people moving on through Facebook; that's what it's about. It's just us being honest. Like I said, our social dynamic is very silly; it's very fun. So, immodestly, it's a gestural thing that younger people will latch on to and will help to bridge that gap between us and the audiences in the first row."

"The other thing is," Clarkson adds, "that our kind of humor element is probably not that we'll play something or do something that will be a humorous gesture and there's widespread laughter. When I've watched musicians who do funny, humorous things, it's really funny. We do some kinds of slapstick stuff, and sometimes people will laugh, which we like. Sometimes it's more about something that communicates, so people are watching, and they see you making a gesture of humor, and they'll sit there, maybe not laughing, but they get the joke or whatever the gesture is. It's a way to bridge the gap in a way that isn't necessarily: 'Oh, this is hilarious; I'm crying tears of laughter,' it's a communicative device. Although we do like to be wacky and ridiculous, I think a laugh is sometimes as satisfying as a slightly bemused kind of response at doing something a bit crazy."

"I'm very anti-snobbery about it as well," Morecroft concludes. "I've been to a lot of gigs, and it sometimes really frustrates me, actually. That's not something that I want to be at all, or we want to be. Like the tune "Back so Soon," which was from the first album, and which we probably ended our set in Umeå last fall—the one with the really, really big gaps. This is something that involves everyone. The audience is performing as much as the band is: any little noise they give, a clap, a shout. We've done gigs, and people shout stuff at us like, 'Go home.' People have been angry before, too, but that's not the point at all. The point is, 'OK, now it's your turn; you give us something, and we try to hold it and dive back in. It's just trying to create this big party, where everyone's involved; you [the audience] are just as important as we are."

Trying to convey these things on a recording is a different challenge than in performance, where it's possible to see and hear the various gestures and absurdities that WorldService Project throws into its music. "If you listen to the record, there are things that lead on from the stuff that we've just talked about," says Morecroft. "We have put a few curveballs in, with effects and digitally created sections—stuff that just made sense for us to do. Obviously, we can't be there to have a wacky moment onstage, but, for instance, in 'De-Friender,' there's this kind of Game Boy section at the end. Every time I hear that, I think it's just hilarious. I just want someone to be, like, 'What the fuck? What is this?!'— either completely confused or finding it really funny—because it's just something reaching out from beyond the CD tray and grabbing someone."

Enter the album name here"Those things have to be much more exaggerated on record to create an effect," Clarkson adds. "Compared to the first record, which was trying to capture a live kind of sound and had just one or two tracks where the mixing exaggerated things, with Fire in a Pet Shop, we wanted to fully engage it as a recording and all of the post-production stuff that entails, instead of trying to capture a live sound. We've done various gigs and released them as live EPs."

The album is no less impressive, even though some of the arrangements had already begun to shift by the time the group hit Umeå. "We actually recorded last April [2012], which is a long time ago," Morecroft explains. "But I suppose one of the biggest reasons why the first record was in 2010 and the second one will come out three years later is—while I think we wanted it to be two years—Match & Fuse. We were so busy doing that; there's so much administrative and logistical organizing for it but also a lot of touring and hosting bands. Also it meant that if we had any spare cash, we were inclined to put it towards that rather than save it for an album. We recorded the album in April, but then in June we actually ran the first Match & Fuse Festival, in Gillett Square in London. It had 13 bands from 8 different countries, and we basically did that all ourselves: started in March and finished in June with a festival, and it was quite a ride—not one that I would necessarily would like to repeat."

When Morecroft talks of the administrative and logistical organization involved in launching a festival, it's hard to imagine such a young group of players actually succeeding in doing so. "It started from the Peter Whittingham Award, and it was Dave's idea," Ower explains. "We actually applied for the award a year before, and you have to put a proposal for it to a panel. Our proposal was to record an album. Basically that's what it was: 'Give us some money to record an album.' Now they get bands going through all the time because, of course, everyone wants to record an album. So the next year, Dave had the idea of doing something a little different and collaborating with Norwegian band SynKoke to do this collaborative tour and to write some music together, rehearse together and maybe play together on two tours, in the UK and Norway. There was a heavy emphasis on the creative side of it and on the sharing of ideas, fan bases and the whole spectrum, basically, rather than just hooking up and doing a couple of gigs and going home. It was very much, I guess, a way of networking and a way of connecting with other musicians around Europe. That was where the initial idea was."

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