Arts & Entertainment, The Muse

Always sunny in Glasgow

A Sunny Day in Glasgow is a mostly-Philadelphia-based indie/dream-pop band that, through extensive touring and laudatory reviews from publications like Pitchfork, Tiny Mix Tapes and Cokemachine Glow, is gaining national attention and making a name for itself. Its most recent album, 2009’s Ashes Grammar, ran the gamut from woozy shoegaze to soaring pop songs, grounded with electronic beats and some of the catchiest melodies in modern pop music.
The band is touring now in support of its latest EP, Nitetime Rainbows, and The MUSE got a chance to ask ASDIG mastermind Ben Daniels about touring, songwriting, and upcoming projects.
The MUSE: Your sound made a pretty huge leap from the first album to the second, which I’m sure came with new members, but the sound is much more developed on Ashes Grammar. Do you have any ideas for your next album stylistically?
Ben Daniels: We haven’t written anything, but conceptually I hope it will be simpler, and we’ll put the vocals more upfront. There will be more straight lines, with a clearer sound. I would like it if people heard it and didn’t think it sounded like A Sunny Day in Glasgow.
We started recording so many songs for Ashes Grammar, that Josh and I decided not to work on all of them or it would take a year to finish the record. There are probably 10 more aside from Ashes Grammar that we’re wrapping up, including “Sigh Inhibitionist,” which we’ve been playing live a lot lately because it’s fun. All the music is pretty much done, and I’m not sure what we’ll do with that. We might just give it away for free.
TM: Some songs seem to be many disparate sections, albeit in the same tempo, stuck together. What is the songwriting process like?
BD: It’s different for every one. A lot will start with fooling around on the computer with samples or noises, and I’ll hear something and a song will build around that. Other times it’s just fooling around with guitar or mandolin with no set process.
TM: Who are some of your biggest influences?
BD: The Magnetic Fields and Stereolab. I listened to The Cure a lot when I was younger.
TM: How do you develop songs for the live setting differently from how they are in studio? Do you have to revamp parts, take parts out?
BD: There are so many instruments that it’s not possible for six people to play all of them, so there’s a little arranging. For the most part it’s pretty true to what happens on the record. But, for example, “Close Chorus” in the studio has an electronic house beat with real drums on top. It’s much harder to sync that up live, as it would get slightly off and sound horrible, so we abandoned the electronic beat. Little things like that, for the most part. We used to be a four-piece live, but with six of us it’s a little more nuanced, less raw.
TM: The vocals are often drenched in reverb. How do the lyrics fit in to the big picture? Do you write all of them?
BD: They’re no more central than the music, but there is a ton of work that goes into them. They’re not nonsense. I’d like the listener to come to their own understanding of what they are. They never put enough reverb on the vocals live, so sometimes you can understand the words, and if you hear something, that’s great.
There’s one song on the EP for which Annie wrote the lyrics: “Piano Lessons.” My parents made me take piano lessons as a child, and I quit as soon as they let me, but now I regret it. One night I spent hours fooling around and banging on a piano where I was house sitting, recorded a lot of the noise, and made that song. A lot of it is not really playing, just mashing, and there are lots of layers of that.
TM: You played a show with Andrew W.K. at SXSW. Was that weird, as his sound is sort of antithetical to yours? Who else are you touring with?
BD: We played at 3 a.m., and he played at four, to a thousand or so people in a space that should only fit 300. Everyone had been drinking all day, and we played a really short set, since by the end of our fifth song, people were chanting for Andrew. So we covered a Misfits song.
We’re about to play some shows with Japandroids. They came to our show in Vancouver to say hi and introduce themselves. We saw them at the Urban Outfitters party at SXSW; they’re a lot of fun.
TM: What do you like about the Philly scene and what keeps you there?
BD: Actually, I moved to Sydney in October right after Ashes Grammar came out, and we’ve been touring since then. I’m not sure how it’s going to work once this tour is over, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow is playing at the Great Scott on Wednesday, and the show starts at 9 p.m.

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