PREMIERE: Modern Hinterland – ‘California (August 16th 1998)’: some much-needed Americana sun

Modern Hinterland

CHRIS HORNSBY’S Americana outfit Modern Hinterland are all set to release their new album, Diving Bell, on January 29th – almost a year to the day since their last, The Longest Part Of The Night.

Chris and the band, Simon Shippey, Tim Thackray and Colin Marshall, found a new creative level, laying down the album in just 72 hours at Basingstoke’s Embassy Studios; no click tracks, no fancy edits, just a band in a room turned up loud. Simple, yet effective.

Chris now finds himself joined on the songwriting credits by the other lads, moving towards a more collaborative project as Chris originally envisioned. That all came spilling out once the tapes were rollin’ down in Hampshire.

“Once we started playing together it was clear there was something special going on, enough creative tension to keep it interesting and ideas coming in thick and fast,” Chris says.

Preceding the album, Modern Hinterland will be releasing a single, the bright 12-string gleam of “California (August 16th 1998)” , backed with flip “If I Knew You Well (Revisited)”, a subtle reworking of a track from Diving Bell. That’s something to look forward to then, as we lurch to the midwinter solstice. Some Vitamin D-boosting British Americana.

But here at Backseat Mafia we can go one better than even that, as we’re proud to premiere a lovely filmed lockdown take on “California (August 16th 1998)”. Take a watch below.

Does the title seem very specific to you, in the way of The Four Seasons’ “December 1963, (Oh What A Night)?” You’d be right. Chris is looking back at a very specific and optimistic time, when the world really mostly seemed to be heading in the right direction.

“I wanted this song to be the musical equivalent of an old photo,” Chris reveals.

“I was in California when I was a kid and I have a photo with that date on. It’s always stuck in my head as I remember the optimism and the carefree feeling, which aligns with a general cultural optimism of the late 90s … definitely fading now!

“Simon [Shippey] co-wrote this song with me and I think he had a feel for where I was coming from as he lived in California for a while.”

“The single comes with a B-side, ‘If I Knew You Well (Revisited)’ which is a re-imagining of a song from Diving Bell that the band spontaneously recorded in the studio after spending the night before in their studio digs with too much wine and a copy of the [legendary country music doc] Heartworn Highways documentary.”

That yearn is there in the lyrics, as this quatrain shows: “Things were simple, no real worries / Getting driven, no real hurry / Everything could be, around the corner / Nothing was yet out of order”.

They’ve certainly taken their abiding love of artists such as Neil Young, Wilco and Damien Jurado to fashion up something full of seductive guitar sun.

Modern Hinterland’s Diving Bell will be released as a digital download by Label Fandango on January 29th, and is available to pre-order now, here.

Follow Modern Hinterland on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, their website and over at the Club Fandango webpage.

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