While piecing together today’s guest mix from Firesuite, a thought hit us. Do songwriters hear music differently to other people? While your average listener might hear a certain mood, a melody, an overall musical feel, as a songwriter are you listening for something more specific? Do you listen to the way the bass sounds? The particular qualities of a guitar tone? A particular vocal inflexion? Is it possible for a songwriter to listen to music without, sub-consciously or otherwise, thinking what ideas can I use?
Your reason for listening to music inevitably shifts how you listen to it. As music writers it’s almost impossible to not be in some way thinking about what you’re going to say about it. By shifting the way you think about music, you inevitably shift the way your mind perceives it, perhaps songwriters just naturally shift onto details that us mere mortals can’t perceive. However it happens, somewhere in the music they hear, songwriters are able to click the connections into gear that allow them to produce music, we guess that’s what people call inspiration.
Something in the music Sheffield quintet Firesuite transports us back to a particular time in music: the mid-noughties was rife with bands like Oceansize, Aereogramme and Grammatics, who blended heavy riffing, with melodic, almost post-rock exploration. Somewhere between an alt-folk boom and the rise of bedroom electronica, we thought this sound might have been lost for good, but thankfully it wasn’t. Firesuite take that world as their starting point, and do something fresh and intriguing with it. The bands recent single Harbour is a fine introduction to Firesuite; the track begins with a wall of heavy guitars, before a soaring vocal enters and the steady drift of drums carries the listener through an array of dramatic vocal melodies, glacial guitar lines and atmospheric shifts. The band are currently playing a handful of shows before disappearing back into the studio to finish their new album.
For Firesuite the music of other people is equally inspiring and depressing, as their main songwriter Chris notes, “I LOVE writing music. I often do it walking around the house with my guitar aimlessly strumming away, waiting for something to stick. Waiting for my fingers to find a chord, or a piece of a chord I can latch onto. It’s either that or recording bits and pieces and going for a walk with my little Westie, listening over and over to them until words fall into place. As is often the case though, it can take me a while to push insecurity out of my brain. The following songs inspire me, terrify me, push me on, make me want to be better, make me think I shouldn’t even bother. All at once.” Inspiring? Terrifying? Either way you can listen to Firesuite’s mixtape below, and we think you’ll unquestionably find something beautiful within it.
1. Oceansize – Savant
One of my all-time top 5. This is such a beautiful song from one of the most preposterously underrated (and now no more) bands of modern times. This is from “Frames”, arguably their finest hour.
2. Mew – Apocalypso
Again, in terms of being underrated, despite playing stadiums in their home nation (Denmark) Mew have never really been embraced by the mainstream. Obviously, there are far more important things, like creating an absolute monster of a back catalogue as they have. I’ve seen them live about 15 times, and each time I see them I go home and write music. “Apocalypso” is taken from their “…And The Glass Handed Kites” album which is absolutely incredible from start to finish.
3. Sufjan Stevens – 4th Of July
“Carrie And Lowell” might be Sufjan’s masterwork. I also love, love, love “Age Of Adz” but there is something completely disarming in what he has done here. Listening to some of these songs can be like stumbling across the most personal of diary entries. “4th Of July” is quietly spectacular.
4. St. Vincent – Prince Johnny
My favourite guitarist, and one of my favourite songwriters. She exudes this otherworldliness, in the same way as Bowie. I remember seeing her before this album came out, and seeing her perform this song and thinking “…shit, I will NEVER be this good. Ever”.
5. Elliot Smith – Between The Bars
Elliott Smith had a way of inviting you into this hushed world he created and then not letting you leave. This being my favourite thing he ever did.
6. Bjork – Hyperballad
There are few artists with as impressive a back catalogue as Bjork. I remember hearing this in my formative musical years when I was trying to find my voice (literally and figuratively) and just being demolished.
7. Deftones – Minerva
One of the first records I bought was “White Pony”, which is obviously a high point of theirs, but for me this is the best thing they have EVER done. It’s a tidal wave of purple, distorted, storm clouds washing over you.
8. Efterklang – Sedna
Another horribly underrated band with a fascinating back catalogue. This track, and its parent album (Piramida) for me are the best things they have ever done. They soundtracked a particularly turbulent time, and I remember trying to write and write and returning to the sadness and simplicity of this album for inspiration.
9. Gemma Hayes – Let A Good Thing Go
Gemma Hayes seemed to be caught between wanting to make really noisy, 4AD style music, and perhaps being pushed by her label at the time to make something more “palatable”. This song (and album) is tremendous. I LOVE headphone songs, even noisy songs that at first seem somewhat straight forward, which have little details buried away. This is one of those.
10. Hans Zimmer – Journey To The Line
I mean…it’s Hans Zimmer. Everything he does is heartbreaking
Firesuite’s latest single, Harbour is out now – click HERE to get your copy and to see all upcoming Firesuite shows.