IT’S SOMETHING that comes to us all … hopefully later than rather sooner.
Yes, death; something that’s been shoved into our purview a little harder than usual during 2020, what with all of it; but it isn’t necessarily a subject you’d expect a rather blissful and lauded folktronica act to get deeply involved in.
But Tunng are opening up a conversation about this big event we’ll all one day confront on their new album, Dead Club, and also an accompanying podcast on the very same subject.
They’ve released a little teaser track ahead of the album entitled “A Million Colours”: watch below.
“I could feel / How the air / Would survive / Me not there / I can feel / How the ground / Would not cry / Not a sound,” intones Mike Lindsay, with Becky Jacobs iterating the last clause of each; a slow piano advances a song of philosophical acceptance.
“You, I can’t quite imagine you gone” is the chorus hook, delivered sweetly over hand claps and guitars that answer the vocal melody with a light touch.
It’s another lovely Tunng song, but with this unblinking and frank lyrical concern. You could sing along and then imagine catching yourself and wondering … what, not just a song, a whole album; and a podcast, too?
The seminal moment came up about the time that Tunng were putting together their sixth album, Songs You Make At Night, back in 2018. Lyricist Sam Genders came into possession of Max Porter’s extraordinary, fragmentary, poetic novel Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, and like most everyone who opens its covers, was struck by “ … its power. Its viscerality and rawness and rage. Its beauty and love and connection”: the book was passed from member to member, who found themselves broaching the subject of loss and death and grief time and time again.
The diversity of opinion and knowledge among members helped to stimulate the nascent project; there was a lot to be said, to be exchanged, to learn. “When all those things come together that’s what makes it Tunng,” says Sam.
“And because the subject of death is so powerful for people in different ways, we talked about the kinds of issues it might bring up, that we might need to be sensitive about.”
Tunng Presents… Dead Club, the podcast, actually begins tonight, September 1st, and will run in weekly instalments up to the album’s release date on November 6th.
It features a variety of guests, such as Max Porter himself (and he’s a wonderfully warm, intriguing human); Derren Brown; Speech Debelle; philosophers Alain De Botton and AC Grayling, palliative care physician and author Kathryn Mannix, and more. Begin your journey with the band and assembly here.
And then the album? Well Max wrote two new pieces for it, and there are songs drawing on deep research around the whole subject: the Wari people of Brazil, who eat their dead; Sam’s visit to a death cafe in Sheffield; and the Swedish tradition of death cleaning.
“Trying to turn this whole concept into an album, into music, without it being too sombre and difficult for people to listen to, that’s been the challenge,” says Mike.
“We wanted it to be colourful and we wanted it to be kind of uplifting. Although some of it’s a lot darker than I was imagining it originally, I think it’s a thought-provoking and emotional journey; it doesn’t make me feel sad.
“We no longer have the religious script we once had that helped us to deal with death, and I think a lot of us are struggling to know how to behave around it.
“I think in life in general there’s something very powerful in total honesty; in being honest about all the different ways that you experience things. Because it’s nearly always the case that you discover everyone’s got the same anxieties, and the same fears, and having the same experiences. And maybe that can be powerful.”
Tunng Presents … Dead Club will be released by Full Time Hobby on November 6th on digital, CD, trad black and limited clear double vinyl. It’s available to pre-order now, here.