Arborist are the brain child of Belfast based musician Mark McCambridge. Arborist formed when Mark teamed up with drummer Ben McCauley, and they released their debut album, Home Burial to massed critical acclaim at the back-end of 2016. Home Burial is a fantastic collection of tracks moving from bleak-Americana, through maudlin indie and minimal folk, inspired by an array of influences from Leonard Cohen through to Sam Cook. The record also features an impressive selection of guests including backing vocals from Kim Deal and the trumpet playing of jazz legend, Linley Hamilton.
Today we’re sharing the video for Rules of the Burial,the latest song to be lifted from Arborist’s debut record. The closest to a title track Home Burial has, Rules of the Burial, is also one of the records stand out moments. The track builds around swelling slide guitars, gently plucked banjo and rich, soaring strings. Mark’s voice enters, a rich, lightly croaky, baritone, with a touch of Villager’s Conor O’Brien or Stornoway’s Brian Briggs. The carefully arranged instrumentation is wonderful throughout, from the ticking percussion, through to the sweet bar-room piano runs and the unforgettable, quietly triumphant, trumpet outro, courtesy of aforementioned Van Morrison collaborator, Linley Hamilton. Lyrically, Mark has suggested the track is about, “discovering that revenge tastes bitter“, while also admitting that it is, “nice to use the word “belly” in a chorus, a satisfying word to sing.” The accompanying video is part artfully shot performance video, part macabre murder mystery, entirely creepy and more than a little bit chilling.
You can check out the video for Rules of the Burial below, and read on to our Q&A with Mark, where he discusses the vengeful cowboy influences of the video, literature being part of the fabric of Irish life and what’s coming next for Arborist.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are/is Arborist?
Arborist is the musical moniker I adopted in 2014 working alongside drummer/producer Ben McAuley when I moved back to Belfast having spent time in London, Dublin and the south of France. I began playing solo shows and piece by piece gathered up a cast of well-travelled musicians from around the city. We’re now a fairly fixed 6-piece who spent around a year in and out of Start Together Studios in Belfast recording our debut album Home Burial which came out in Nov’16.
FTR: We’re premiering your new video for Rules of Burial, what can you tell us about making the video?
The video was shot by local directors Tristan Crowe and Phil Matier. It was shot in a venue here in Belfast called The Black Box. We wanted nothing to be visible aside from those in the foreground, with the rest of it black; it was more about creating a mood rather than there being a storyline as such. But there are obvious nods to a vengeful cowboy scene.
FTR: The press for Rules of Burial, suggests it’s influenced by Cormac McCarthy, in what way? Is literature something that influences your song-writing?
I didn’t intentionally set-out to write a song based on a novel but often these things seep into your work. I was reading the marvelous Border Trilogy and, though not strictly taken from these novels, the tale was, again, more about creating a mood. There is nothing explicit about the chorus, for example. So, yes, literature is an influence on my song-writing; it’s kind of part of the fabric of life in Ireland, I feel.
FTR:What about musical influences? Who were you listening to when you wrote this album?
As this is my debut album, it has been a long time coming so the musical influences were not limited to what I was listening to at the time of writing and recording but rather from all the key touchpoints from the last decade or more. Like the darker elements of country music (George Jones, Gram Parsons), the rousing elements of soul or gospel (Sam Cooke), the poetic leanings of Leonard Cohen or Bill Callahan, the other-worldliness of The Smiths and The Pixies and the modern song-craft of Wilco and My Morning Jacket (particularly for their reverb!).
FTR: There’s a pretty spectacular trumpet solo from Linley Hamilton at the end of this track, how did you come to work with Linley?
Arborist drummer/producer, Ben McAuley, runs a studio here in Belfast so has built-up a fairly sizeable black book of music contacts down the years. He had worked with Linley in the past and he was the obvious choice when we decided on a trumpet solo at the end. I asked for a “mournful” part but he insisted that “lyrical” was the way to go. I like to think he succeeded in that aim.
FTR: You’ve also collaborated with Kim Deal in the past (on 2015’s Twisted Arrow) – is there anyone else you’d like to work with?
I do like a pristine female country vocal. Like Loretta Lynn, EmmyLou Harris or, current rising star, Courtney Marie Andrews; she definitely has one too.
FTR:What’s the music scene like in Belfast at the minute? Anyone we should be listening to?
There’s certainly a good variation, I wouldn’t say there is one particular blossoming scene. From the alt-country/folk of Malojian and The Holy Innocents to the heavier elements of Bella Union’s Exmagician or Documenta. Though we’re probably more aligned with the doom-folk of Robyn G Shiels. All worth investigating.
FTR:Your latest album, Home Burial came out last year, have you been pleased with the reaction to it?
As it was our debut, it was a leap into the unknown, so I didn’t set any major expectations. Given that, I’ve been happy with the positive reviews. But ultimately as a means of giving us a foothold and an opportunity to earn some kind of living from music which, in turn, should allow more time to be dedicated to the craft and, hopefully, become better at it.
FTR: What are your plans for 2017? Touring? New music?
We have a number of Irish dates in the diary over the coming months, including a headline slot at the amazing Kilkenny Roots Festival alongside the likes of The Handsome Family. Then in May we are planning to record our follow-up LP over the course of a week. We’re working on the new material, as a band, at the moment and are very excited by it. There will also be some UK dates being announced very shortly.
Home Burial is out now via Kirkinriola Records – click HERE for more information.