Breathe Shallow is the third full length album from art/alt-folk band Forefly Burning, and is out this Friday (May 31st) via Fathom Records. The band, Bea Hankey (vocals) Jack Ross (guitar, percussion, vocals) James Redwood (violin/mandolin, vocals), Sam Glazer (cello, vocals) and John Barber (piano, bass synth, gendér barung, percussion and vocals), mould together traditional folk, along with elements of classical minimalism and throw in bits of world and indie music as well. For this record the bass synth liberally splashed all over it adds something almost otherworldly about it. More than that though, these intricate guitar/string and vocal arrangements that intertwine and bring little strands of melody and harmony together into something that sounds ancient and totally modern, and more importantly affecting and emotional and beautiful, is the real triumph.

Drafting in legendary producer Tim Friese-Greene (Talk Talk) and engineer Joe Peet, the band recorded the album in coastal Suffolk, in residence at Snape Maltings, working almost live, allowing the record to keep some of the spontaneity and energy of their live sound.

We spoke to that bands Bea Hankey, who spoke at length about the record, and recording process:

We starting writing the album on a week-long artists residency at Snape Maltings in Suffolk, which was amazing as they gave us somewhere to stay and a rehearsal space. We write all 5 of us together so it’s a slow process. We drank lots of coffee!  And took walks, swam in the really cold sea.…I had laryngitis so that was a bit of a challenge.

We brought a few ideas with us, some of our own words (and some actual poetry! – by poets like Rilke and Thomas Hardy.)   In writing we just worked our way through it, sometimes starting with words or a melody or just improvising. Some songs formed quite quickly, and other took much longer to take shape. We quite often need a bit of distance before we’re sure, and playing them live really helps too.

We went back to record in Snape with Tim (Friese-Greene) and Joe Peet a year later, and also did some recording in an art studio in a house in Camden – surrounded by colourful nudes!  Tim and Joe wanted to create an as-live recording, with minimal mics and separation, capturing the sound of the room and the live character of the songs.

We’re all massive fans of Talk Talk and working with Tim Freese-Greene for the second time has been brilliant. He’s been really involved during the honing of the arrangements and his recording expertise is second to none.

We had a sense that we wanted to write about hope, loss and longing, and how they are interconnected.

Call to Me felt really apt in Snape with the reeds and the flat open windy space.
Some of the words are from a Thomas Hardy poem, Woman Much Missed, but it’s also about being with my grandmother as she died.  We wanted to try and make a wild, raucous sound, which gave a sense of the wind blowing old voices across time and through the ether.
It won’t be long is much more hopeful, albeit tinged with longing. John pretty much had these words fully formed.
Over the course of writing, we were also drawn to the empty abyss of space and death, in Take Me There (words by Rilke) and Forgotten. All sounds a bit depressing, but the process was pretty joyous and cathartic.
Breathe Shallow features the gamelan instrument that John plays and harks back to some of our earlier songs, but with bass synthesizer which felt new for us. We wanted to capture a sense of being suspended, held and arrested and unable to move forward in the song. Shadow really foregrounds the bass synth, which has been a fun addition to our set-up.
We’re thrilled to be able to premiere the album as a whole here on backseatmafia.com

Firefly Burning will be touring ‘Breathe Shallow’, with more UK dates to be announced soon.


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