Heavy Salad released their debut slice of psychedelia in the form of new album Cult Casual last month and it was a close run thing that ran pretty much to the wire.
Heavy Salad’s debut album Cult Casual was released at the end of September through Dipped In Gold Recordings. And what a time to do it?
The band is the core trio of Lee Mann (live bassist with The Moonlandingz), Rob Glennie and Allan Hutchison, along with their backing singers, The Priestesses.
Formed in 2018, the band have been dreaming-up their debut release ever since. Just not quite in the way it turned out.
A loose concept-album-of-sorts, Cult Casual explores the idea of finding your own reality in the modern world. Beginning with ‘Death’, the album takes the listener backwards through the very experiences of existence. A prospect that seems like a kind of special challenge at the moment.
Nevertheless, we were intrigued. And, so to Zoom to start the quiz. You know how it works by now. It was cool that all three of the band turned up.
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Rob: I’m in my attic, talking to you and then I’m off to rehearse with these dudes and write some more songs later on.
Lee: Same, really, I’m also in the attic. Just finished doing some work work, interspersed with a bit of daft work. I’ve been doing a remix for a Liverpool band called Silent-K. It’s been a bit of a crazy day, so I’m glad it’s getting to the end.
Rob: We’re gonna play some beautiful new songs at rehearsal, so that will be rad. Our second album’s gonna be better, but we won’t talk about that just now. We’ve got the new album to promote.
P3dro: Tell us a bit about the band. Let’s start with this one. Where does the name come from? What is a heavy salad?
Lee: I actually thought I’d made it up in my head. I just thought it was a cool name. But then we found out later, it’s actually a scouse saying for a situation that’s getting out of hand. We toyed with the idea of changing the name, but it kind of stuck after a bit. Plus, I liked the idea that sonically we’re not a particularly light salad.
Rob: We actually played our second gig in Liverpool [at The Zanzibar] and the promoter said “As soon as I heard the name, I had to book you guys”. He knew what the phrase meant.
Allan: It was phrase he used to use at school.
Rob: And we’ve found out there’s a six-a-side football team from Warrington called FC Heavy Salad.
Allan: Our main aim, is not to play Glastonbury or the like, but rather to sponsor them.
P3dro: You have quite the football link. We saw on Facebook you reached the heady heights of getting on to Luton Town FC’s matchday playlist.
Lee: Yeah, and they won 2-0. So, it turns out that if you put any Heavy Salad tune on your pre-match playlist, then that’s a good omen.
P3dro: Tell us a bit about the album. When was that recorded? Where did you do it?
Rob: It was done with two different producers. We started off with Christophe Bride at Oxygene Studio in Manchester – he has just recently done the new A Certain Ratio album and lots of other cool stuff. He worked with quite a few older artists like Spear of Destiny and Theatre of Hate.
Then we got the chance to go and work with Ross Orton over in Sheffield – he’d just done the new Working Men’s Club and Arctic Monkeys albums.
So, we ended up with three tracks on the album with Ross in Sheffield and seven from Christophe.
When we started making the album, we didn’t actually know we were making an album at first. We were just recording songs, but then we realised were writing, and fast, so we thought, “well let’s make an album”.
It was great to work with two guys with two completely different styles.
Lee: Rob has worked with Christophe before with a previous band. It was a bit of an experiment to see how the recordings sounded for Heavy Salad as an entity. We hadn’t really written an album, although we had a lot of stuff knocking about.
We just kept plugging away as we were enjoying the experience of recording the songs as we were writing them. That meant we could split the recordings up and be independent. We didn’t have a start and a finish [planned].
And then we couldn’t work with Christophe because he was in USA, but we still wanted to record more stuff. I’d worked with Ross over in Sheffield before and he was a friend from over the years. He was originally drumming with The Moonlandingz with me. We sent him some bits and pieces and he said “Yeah, come in” and we ended up doing three tracks with him.
That was great. We were learning how best to use studio time as this band. It became apparent about 6 months ago that there was an album coming, so we just decided to keep going. At the time, we could still play live as well, so we could figure out which songs worked [in a live setting] and which ones we wanted recorded.
And then it comes to 2020 and we were in the studio with Christophe and he said “Let’s finish these songs”. We weren’t particularly in a rush and thought we may release, say April or Spring. Of course, at the time we didn’t know we’d be spending most of the rest of the year Zoom calling.
Rob: It was the last day. It was such a weird thing. It was a nice chilled pace [to make the album]. But then you could feel lockdown looming and it turned into a frantic kind of rush to finish it. But we recorded everything we needed to do.
Lee: It galvanised us a bit. We knew we were going to release something this year. Dipped In Gold have been ace. We were a bit worried they wouldn’t want to release an album as an independent in this environment as we can’t really back it up by playing gigs. But they loved it and said “Lets do it”.
P3dro: We think quite a few bands have felt there’s fuck all else to do at the moment, so let’s get some music out there.
Lee: Yeah, we’re all fairly prolific about writing because its something we enjoy doing. But the lockdown kind of sped that process up a bit.
Rob: Yeah, we could feel it looming. We had it on a number of levels. We’d finished the album. Dipped In Gold were going to release it. Paul from the label came down to our final show and loved it. We had been shortlisted for SXSW, we’d had offers of more shows as well. We got home after that last gig and read that SXSW had gone. But then it was great because we spent lockdown planning the record release.
Allan: It was just as well we had a finished product, because everything would have been put back otherwise.
P3dro: It’s interesting you say you just wrote a series of songs that then turned into an album, because when I listen to it, it sounds coherent, it sounds like an album.
Rob: It turned out that way. We started as a three piece, but then we got The Priestesses in. We’d recorded some of the songs earlier and they’d done bits of backing vocals. But we were starting to evolve as a band and they were bringing more to the live shows. Then we went back to some of the older recordings and got more backing vocals, so it was starting to become more coherent as we went along.
We spent a lot of time sequencing the album. Some of the songs we left off are probably as strong as the songs on the album, but they just didn’t fit the flow we wanted. We were going for a 40 minute album that was kind of floaty, melodic at the start and the end and then for the middle of the record to just go for it.
We did spend a lot of time trying to make it coherent, so I’m glad that comes across.
P3dro: So do you think going back to the earlier songs was to re-jig them and try to fit the concept of the album?
Lee: I don’t think we changed the arrangements, but we definitely went back and changed some of the vocals.
Allan: It’s funny you say “concept” because other people have said that, too. There’s an obvious concept with Lee’s lyrics. But we didn’t sit round at the start and say: “Right, this is going to be the concept”. We didn’t even know what Heavy Salad sounded like. It all happened by accident.
Rob: There are a lot of things that come through Lee’s lyrics that tie the album together conceptually. When we started the band we were all obsessed with the film Mandy A lot of the visual ideas, like being a cult – Cult Casual – stem from there. We all kind of like the same things, such as horror movies.
Lee: I think it hangs together sonically. Everybody in the group has the same sense of sonic adventurism. We all enjoy records that have a lot of threads of different music in them. We’re always trying to push ourselves to try different things.
If you started an album with a heavy metal doo-wop song, then that’s probably commercial suicide. But at the same time, its the kind of record everybody in the band would probably buy!
Some of the lyrical stuff came later. There was a loose theme at the start about trying to find your reality. And then, weirdly, as lockdown came in it felt like looking back and trying to find what was real. A lot of those threads have been going for a long time in pop culture, are you real? You don’t have to live in the real world, so that tied in with some of the more psych elements that informed some of the lyrics. Out of body experiences, psych drug experiences, those kind of things. To me that all just weaves into this kind of palette of life. As we see it anyway.
P3dro: What does a Heavy Salad gig look like?
Lee: It looks like we need a bigger stage. There are 7 of us. I’d like to think its good fun.
Rob: We’ve only played 17 gigs. The Priestesses bring so much and just go for it. In fact everyone just goes for it.
Lee: It’s diverse. We’ve met people at gigs who are thrash metal fans, pop fans. The gigs are full of open minded individuals. We vibe off playing unexpected stuff. It’s a cosmic communal experience.
P3dro: How do you see the future for the arts? How do you see the position developing?
The whole band at once: Ooohh
Rob: Well, we’re not fans of Bozo and this government.
Lee: I think Coronavirus or no Coronavirus, the government is not overly supportive of the arts. They don’t view it as an important thing, both for community and artistic expression. That obviously leaks into the commercial side of things. If you look at the amount of events that usually happen throughout the year, not just the festival season, because that hardly finishes. If it’s not in a field, then its indoors. Every city has something going on all the time.
It started with Brexit. I don’t think people knew the impact it would have on bands travelling. But its huge. The knock on effect is [massive], and because nothing has been open recently. It’s a real shame, its a sector that was considered as not worth putting money into, whereas in fact everybody knows it generates a lot of money.
So, I just don’t really understand why they don’t want to help. It’s not just live music, its anything from dance or plays. One of the UK’s strongest exports is the arts. It’s utterly ridiculous.
Rob: The only thing we can do is to make that extra effort when this is over. There won’t be any support from this government. Bands need to support each other, people need to go to shows and do everything they can to go and support live music.
Lee: It feels like something should have been done, but that’s why the question is so difficult to answer.
I don’t think its the end of the world, because of the enthusiasm of people to do these things. We write, play and put out records. We’ll continue to do that.
Weirdly some of the smaller places might do better at hanging on because they don’t have massive rents to pay. Maybe it will force people to go back to more grass roots.
Some of the places on the non-traditional gig circuit could do really well. Places like Halifax, Preston, Hebden Bridge have become must have stop offs for some bands. Maybe that independent scene could be pivotal to getting things moving again. They don’t rely on having 1,000 people in [to see a gig] to be operational.
Those are the venues that could have done with a break, because their scene has been really strong.
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.
Allan: I’ll start. Tropical Fuck Storm. We all saw them last year in Liverpool. The first album – A Laughing Death In Meatspace – that’s an amazing album. A masterpiece.
Lee: I’ll go with Oneohtrix Point Never. He did the soundtrack for a film called “Uncut Gems“, which is the most anxiety inducing thing I’ve ever seen.
Rob: The new Working Men’s Club album is really good. Also, check out a band from Manchester called The Maitlands. No album yet, but they’re worth a look.
And, one more: J W Francis from New York.