The first time I heard Death Rattle was just over 3 years ago in rural France when Chris (one half of the duo) played me and my band “something new me and Helen have been working on…” ‘The Dig’ turned out to be Death Rattle’s first single and a portent of things to come, a heady blend of heavy industrial instrumentals and hook-laden, heavily processed vocals. With the video for ‘Shell’ premiering today I had a chat with vocalist Helen about what Death Rattle have been up to recently, their new album ‘In Shade’ and their future plans.
It’s been a while since we heard anything from you guys, what was the writing and recording process for ‘In Shade’ like?
Well it’s taken about a year to put the album together, over a few different writing sessions. Chris would generally be ahead of me coming up with melodies and beats and sending them over for me to work on vocal ideas. We wrote some of it in France and also had a good trip to Amsterdam back in April to borrow a friend’s studio and wrote some of my favourite tracks on the album – Exhale and Take Down – while we were out there.
Do you think that change of scenery affected the music at all?
Yes. I think in new and unfamiliar writing and recording spaces we were more willing to try out new things – that’s certainly true for me vocally. I decided to strip it back to a more natural sounding vocal, with less layering up of harmonies in some songs and wasn’t afraid to try quite a few different vocal styles. Because we wrote quite a lot of the album songs apart, I think we were able to develop our own parts much more fully, with no inhibitions or compromises.
It’s interesting you mention about going for more natural sounding vocals. I think the album overall sounds more ‘natural’ musically, in terms of instrumentation and recording, than previous releases. Was this a deliberate decision?
Yes, definitely. I think we missed the instrumentation side of things, especially listening back to some of our older songs from our previous band – Los. Without wanting to go backwards again, we wanted to combine some of that raw, natural sound – whether it’s guitar, live drums or vocals and combine it with the electronic stuff, to create something new. I love the mix of both, and certainly welcome back a lot more guitar, which Chris will be playing live on tour.
Did playing live – where you had introduced the guitar back into the mix in the past year or so – influence that desire to bring some more raw instrumentation into the album? I feel like this album represents the live experience a lot more than previous releases did.
Yes, we wanted to sound more real, more human. With our first two releases, I wanted to create a sort of anonymous, android style to the vocals but recently realised that my own natural, unaffected voice is where I’m most comfortable and honest and can give a much truer, emotional performance.
You learn a lot about your songs from performing them live and gigging lots gave us a much better idea of what sort of album we wanted to write and perform on stage. Certainly we wanted something that would feel a lot more natural.
Cool. I was wondering what you guys were listening to musically when you made the album?
Yes.. I was listening to so much music before and during writing.
I was inspired by Young Fathers, Daughter, The Cure, TLC, St Vincent, Port St Willow, Agnes Obel, James Blake, Cocteau Twins.
Were those artists influencing you lyrically as well?
Not so much lyrically although I’m sure these things influence you subconsciously, but certainly they were influential in terms of singing styles, sounds and capturing emotion within the song.
I can definitely hear the Young Fathers influence in your vocals. What does the future hold for Death Rattle after the album? Will you be touring at all?
Yes! We have a European tour lined up in November, and coming back to play a London show at Birthdays on Friday 5th December. We’re hoping to carry on gigging regularly in early 2015.