What is your name and role within Pelts?
Hello! I’m Ralph, and I play keys in Pelts. I also run Iffy Folk Records, our record label.
Where are you currently based?
Just outside Glasgow (Scotland), near the river Clyde. The rest of the band are also based in or around the edges of Glasgow. It’s a great city for playing music.
How did you first start playing music?
I don’t remember there being a specific moment of clarity, but I was around 17 and really wanted to learn to play the guitar. We had a piano in the house, and I ended up learning piano and guitar at the same time, which turned out to be a good combination. I couldn’t get a handle on reading music, so I used to work out how to play songs by ear, which was pretty good prep for being in a band.
How did Pelts form?
Pelts rose from the ashes of a band where many of our paths crossed. The driving force was Graham, who was looking for something fresh and new, and wanted to play with old friends again. Graham, Stu, and Olly had been in bands together years before, and Ben and I met Graham along the way. Natasha met Graham through a book group and discovered that their voices worked realty well together. That became a great focal point.
You have an album coming out on the 18th of September, what influenced the sound and songwriting?
We’d like to think the album has a ‘Pelts’ sound, that only really happens when we all make music together. We all bring our own individual influences to the melting pot. The 8 songs on the album are thematically linked, and there’s a lyrical thread that runs throughout, charting the last few years of our lives, big and small life events, hope, redemption, and love.
How did you go about writing the music?
We’re a very open band when it comes to ideas. Some songs arrive from a single source fully formed – ‘Haunted’ was written by Graham and was the very first Pelts song. Songs like ‘Dolphin Road’ have existed in various, mad incarnations until we found the right fit. ‘London Runner’ was one of my home demos, then Ben added lyrics and melody and the band worked it up in the studio to make it an album-closing behemoth! So, pretty much anything goes, and nobody is too precious about music & lyrics ideas, which makes it a joy to make music with this band.
Where and when did you record and who with?
We recorded the album in autumn 2019, at Anchor Lane studios in Glasgow with Luigi Pasquini & Melanie Dutton in the control room. It was great working with that team. The bulk of the recording went quite quickly, but we spent some time recording our vocals, editing and mixing. We all have day jobs, so that slows things down a bit. We mastered the album in early 2020, so it’s amazing to finally hold it in physical format, especially with that beautiful artwork (by Beth Cowey).
How did you approach the recording process?
We spent a long time on these songs, rehearsing in practise rooms and road testing at gigs, so when we took the songs to the studio we wanted to record as live as possible. So, drums, bass, guitars and keys were all recorded live, with guide vocals, to give everything the right feel. Then we added additional layers of instrumentation, and Graham & Natasha’s vocals.
What programs/instruments did you use?
I love technical questions, but I’ll keep this short, and not take us down a guitar pedal or plugin rabbit hole! Logic was the DAW of choice in the studio (although I prefer ProTools in my home studio). I got to play a beautiful upright piano, and the two synths I used were my trusty microKorg and the amazing Waldorf Streichfett String Synthesizer.
Your single ‘Throwing Sticks’ is out now, how do you go about deciding on which track to release as a single?
Doodle poll! Although Throwing Sticks was a unanimous choice, and it’s a song we’ve always known would be a single – it’s a real favourite to play live. Deciding on the second single will be trickier.
What do you like to do away from music?
The label means I’m never far from music, but I do love running. I never listen to music when I’m running (I’ve never liked that), so I use it as a chance to power down my brain for a while.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Our label recently released Pure Concrete, an amazing new album by Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross, so that has been played a lot in our house as we tested the vinyl & CD pressings (sorry for the plug!). But I’ve been listening to a lot of other great stuff this year, new and old, and a lot of beautiful instrumental and ambient albums since working at home became a thing. This is a short list of current favourites, in no particular order; Björk, Nils Frahm, Alice Coltrane, Le Groupe Obscur, Brigid Mae Power, William Basinski, Jill Lorean, Julianna Barwick, KOKOKO!, Khruangbin, Tindersticks, Joanna Newsom. Loma are my favourite band in the world right now, and I can’t wait for their new album to come out.
What’s planned for the remainder of 2020 going into 2021?
A Little Less Lost comes out later this month, so we’ll be trying to get that into as many ears as possible. It would be lovely to play live, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for a while, unfortunately. We’ll be releasing another single (or two) from the album and making some home-made videos. We’ve already got a healthy-looking demo folder for Pelts album #2, so there will be a lot to get our teeth into when we eventually all get together as a band again and start making some noise.
Favourite food and place to hang out?
Seafood at Inver, a rural restaurant on the west coast of Scotland, would be a perfect meal. I’m going to pick some Glasgow gig venues, which we miss so much! The Hug and Pint and The Glad Café are two of our favourites – great food, and great venues. We’ve all had so many good nights there.