“The ghosts in the title are the burdens we carry with us as we get older, the things we’ve done or had done to us that still hurt – actions and memories that occasionally haunt us”
Check out our interview with State Broadcasters’ Graeme Black (guitar, vocals) and Pete MacDonald (piano, trombone, vocals):
Who are the State Broadcasters?
Graeme Black: A six piece from Glasgow described in some quarters as folk pop, indie folk or americana so take your pick! We play mostly quiet songs using harp, trombones, piano, banjo, guitars, cello and lovely harmony singing.
What is your second album “Ghosts We Must Carry” all about – is there a general theme?
GB: It’s about loss and dealing with loss in its various forms and it’s about coping with the actions and burdens of modern life. Bleak as this may sound I think there is a subtle message of hope throughout.
Your sound is tinged with modern day folk leanings, would you say there’s a good scene for that genre up in Glasgow?
Pete: MacDonald: Well, Glasgow attracts a lot of folk musicians from the rest of
Scotland so I think that definitely has an effect. Actually, Gill from our band is a good example – she’s a folk harp player who moved here from Inverness.
Folk is such a broad term though, that I feel there’s a lot of bands who could be said to be ‘folk-influenced’ without necessarily sounding very similar, or sound much like ourselves.
Bands like our labelmates Randolph’s Leap, or like Washington Irving, John Knox Sex Club or Sparrow In The Workshop – they’re all bands who love the folk song, but sound distinctive in their own right. What are your musical influences?
GB: My first loves were The Smiths and The Pogues and I still adore the songcraft of Morrissey/Marr and MacGowan. In more recent times I find myself returning to Wilco, Gillian Welch, Sparklehorse, The Unthanks and most of Lambchop’s albums.
PM: From a production and arrangement perspective I’d throw in Jim O’Rourke, Sufjan Stevens, Tom Waits and Eels too – we record all the music in my bedroom, so I find myself thinking quite a lot about the arrangements and sound of the albums as it’s always an ongoing project: There’s not so much the mindset of “We’re going into the studio now and we need to get this song done by tomorrow”, so it means we can spend as much time as we like on trying out arrangements and new overdubs and things without worrying about a ticking clock counting all your money away. If we had any money.
Some music from your first album “The Ship And The Iceberg” was featured in a few Scottish independent films – how did you get involved there?
PM: With Electric Man, I know the writer/director quite well and he has followed the band from the early days, he wanted some free music and we obliged!
GB: Aye, quite often it’s pals who like our music making films with no budgets. It’s great hearing your music in films, so we’re generally pretty happy to be asked.
The State Broadcasters’ Pete MacDonald won the BAFTA New Talent Award for “Best Original Score” for the film “Fixing Luca” – if you could choose any film from any time to score, what would it be and why?
PM: That’s a tricky one. Do you go for a classic like ‘Dunston Checks In’, or alternative favourite like ‘Richie Rich’? On reflection, I’d say maybe ‘Vertigo’ or ‘Psycho’ would be up there, though I mostly saying that imagining I would have written Bernard Hermann’s scores for that.
They’re also great films of course. I’d like to do ‘The Royal Tennenbaums’ too please. Mark Mothersbaugh did a lovely job on it, but to have scored that would be lovely. Wes Anderson just makes gorgeous films, so to work on one would be amazing.
Is it easier or harder writing music for films or yourselves?
PM: They feel pretty different, though I’d say it’s maybe slightly easier working on our own music – having a completely blank canvas is nice. That sounds really pretentious.
Also though, when you’re making your own music you’re basically making music for yourself, stuff that you’d like to listen to. Writing music for someone else’s creative vision can be a bit more complicated.
You’ve written the track “The Only Way Home” for Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt. Why did you decide to dedicate this track to them?
GB: The songs I was writing for this album were concerned a lot with death and loss and the emotions of dealing with that. During this time both Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt died. I have always loved the music they made and will miss hearing them sing again. I wanted to mark that admiration somehow, a song seemed the most appropriate way.
If you could swap bodies with a metal band for the day, who would it be and why?
The ‘Iron’ bit of Iron and Wine. That’s one of my favourite metals, along with the ‘Tin’ bit of Tin Tin Out (remember them?) , and the ‘Brass’ bit in Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.
Finally, if you could change one thing about the Glasgow music scene what would it be?
GB: Make more people come and see State Broadcasters!
‘Ghosts We Must Carry’ is out now via Olive Grove.