On September 30th West Yorkshire Post-Rock influenced band One Day, After School will perform their specially commissioned soundtrack to poet Simon Armitage’s The Dead Sea Poems. We caught up with songwriter Dean Freeman in the midst of a tough schedule of writing and rehearsing to ask how, and why.
We see lots of bands writing soundtracks these days, mostly film, sometimes videogames. Why poetry, and why this collection?
With the commission being for a literature festival we were always going to be looking at the written word. Our first choice was actually a sci-fi short story but we couldn’t get the rights for it. As I perused my shelves for an alternative I came across The Dead Sea Poems. I’d studied it at A-Level so it was full of pencil written notes like HYPERBOLE and ASSONANCE. I’d barely looked at it for over ten years, so when I started flicking through it all came to life in a way I’d not noticed before. And it struck me that a poetry collection of 25 different poems, the way the themes come and go, the way it’s ordered isn’t so different from an album. So we decided to go with it.
How did it differ from writing an album or individual songs?
The turnaround has been much quicker but the process has also been much more collaborative within the band. We’ve switched to a more laptop based setup for this which has freed us up to swap instruments and vary from our two guitars / bass / drum line-up. We still see it as one whole piece of work but there is less pressure on the music I think. Because the poetry is better than any lyrics I could come up with, the music doesn’t have to be centre stage. I like writing with spaces anyway but sometimes it can be harder to write that way, to risk leaving it a little more empty and open to suggestion but in this context, that can be a positive.
Are you singing the poetry, how will the live performance work?
We’ve turned a couple into what might be considered songs, with melodies. We’ve resisted the easy route of just creating 45 minutes of washy soundscape drones. It’s a pretty varied set of sounds. Writing has been the big challenge so far but now we are drafting in a group of special guest readers and performers to present the poetry. It’s near impossible to read poetry and play an instrument, so I’ve stepped aside for most of the mic work.
For those who don’t know the collection or Simon Armitage, what can you tell us about it?
Simon Armitage is one of the best known and respected poets in the UK; he was named the millennial poet in 1999. This collection is from 1995 and I’ve found it really interesting delving into it. There are lots of interweaving paths and stories, but I think at its core it is about morality, honesty and an ethical truth. So in 2017 I can feel a strong connection to it. There are a lot of lonely characters in it, either damaged by the world or left behind. We’ve not been able to include all 25 poems, but we’ve got most in there. We’re yet to play the whole set – in fact the night of the show will be the first time we do, with all the readers in one room, so it’s going to be pretty special and genuinely unique.
(Click HERE to visit Simon’s page)
When is the live performance?
The performance is a one-off show at Mechanics Theatre, Wakefield as part of Wakefield Lit Fest. It’s on September 30th and is a double bill with another great sounding commission. The festival has been very forward thinking and daring in its programme so I hope it gets the support it deserves.
More details on the September 30th show can be found here.
One Day, After School’s debut album was released in April 2017 and can be found here.
Our previous interview with the band can be found here.
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Photo Credit: SHOTbystAn