Interview with Blank Maps, May 2012
Blank Maps release their new track IDST on Monday. It will be the band’s third single since November last year, in which time the group has gained a number of plaudits, including 6 Music’s Tom Robinson who selected ‘Running in Slow Motion’ on his coveted weekly playlist. To coincide with the release, the band played a show at Newcastle’s Cumberland Arms on Tuesday, supporting I Dream in Colour. I caught up with lead singer and guitarist Thom Piddock and drummer Jake Longley beforehand, to talk about the song as well as their recently recorded E.P, due for release in August on Gateshead’s Tiny Lights label.
The four-piece actually hail from the length and breadth of the UK – Newcastle, York, Oxford and London to be precise – and formed in summer 2010 when Jake advertised for band members to take part in a live show at Newcastle University as part of his Music Degree course. After the performance “we all got drunk and decided to become a real band.” While Jake had previously toured the UK as a musician, Yorkshireman Thom, the main songwriter, had only played solo acoustic shows. They quickly gelled however and by Christmas were playing on the same bill as the much hyped Ajimal. As Jake explains “That’s where things started to push on – a couple of blogs started taking notice of us and people from within the local scene started to come to our shows.”
Stylistically the band has been likened to Sigur Rós and Radiohead, due to the soaring effect laden guitars, technical riffs and falsetto singing. The sound is a surprise considering Jake’s previous history in post-hardcore outfit (At the Drive in wannabies) Chinese Finger Trap and it certainly isn’t the sort of music you’d expect someone who greets you with “Ey-up” to be creating either (rather some blokey, shoutey type dross such as that of Leeds’ finest larger induced anthem makers, The Kaiser Chiefs). Blank Maps, however, are far more polished and sophisticated. Since the start of the year, Jake noted that “we’ve become a lot more focussed and cohesive as songwriters and as a group. The ideas are developed a lot more thoroughly too.”
Out of this new found cohesion emerged IDST, which was a deliberate attempt to move away from “long, self indulgent songs” (which have perhaps led to the Sigur Rós label) and instead create something which was “shorter and catchier” with the “immediacy of a pop song.” Coming in just over 3 minutes it certainly achieves its objectives. The familiar ethereal riffling quickly builds into a catchy chorus which strangely resembles a faster take on the climax of Bowie’s cold war inspired experimental track, Subterraneans. The bass is also more pronounced giving the track a groove, something we should expect more of on the forthcoming E.P. which the band promises has “lots of groove, lots of melody, massive sounds”.
Recording sessions for the E.P. took place at Blank Studios and as Thom explained, it was the first time the group had ever entered a professional studio together, having previously relied on Jake’s university trained recording and mixing skills. The sessions, according to Thom, involved “lots of dancing around” and local peers Mausi even sent a message saying “heard some of your new tunes in the studio last night dudes, sounding HUUGE!”
Blank Maps opened the show at The Cumberland with IDST and also treated the crowd to previous singles’ ‘Always in the Middle Never In Between’ and ‘Between You & Me’ as well as a new track ‘Just Call’, which was well received. Despite some sound issues on the night, the general consensus among the audience was this was a strong performance for the band and sets them up well for their next gig at the at Cluny on May 31st, with Stay+ and Waskerley Way, for VICE Magazine’s second launch party.
You won’t, however, see Blank Maps at this year’s Evolution Emerging festival. Despite applying to play back in February, the band missed out – writing and recording the new E.P. and also searching for a new bass player meant that their inactivity on the live scene may have hindered their chances: “It may have appeared on the surface that we weren’t up to much, when really we have been plotting world domination…we also wanted to keep ourselves available for the Euro 2012 squad but now that we’ve been left out, we have been booked for the Vice Magazine Party on 31st May at the Cluny instead!
IDST will be available to download on Band Camp on Monday 21st May. The video for IDST can also be found online “…recorded back in January that is essentially us in a white room miming the song with loads of lush projections over us.”
Blank Maps will also be joining The Railway Club and Natasha Haws at the Cluny on 6th July.