Named after a city in Pennsylvania, written in Northern Colombia, and the work of an Irish musician heavily influenced by a love of Gothic Folk-Americana; the sound of Joshua Burnside’s upcoming album, Ephrata, couldn’t be much more multicultural. Ephrata is due out in May, and today ahead of that release we’re premiering the video to Joshua’s latest offering, Tunnels Pt.2.
Musically, Tunnels Pt.2 is a fascinating blend of Joshua’s traditionally folk-tinged vocals, with fluttering electronics, steady driving drum beats and pulsating horns. Lyrically Joshua has suggested a lot of his tracks deviate from his folk roots and deal with contemporary concerns; here dealing with the rise of technology, financial globalisation and the duelling concerns of our primal animal instincts and our role in a bigger mechanised world. Joshua sings, “we used to wait all night for something we’d never seen before, now I don’t know where the wires end and my veins begin….God help me I’ve seen everything”, seemingly simultaneously fearful and intrigued by the modern world.
The accompanying video was directed by Darren Lee of Maverick Renegade Productions and scripted by Joshua himself and inspired by the Adam Curtis documentary Hypernormalization, the black comedy of Alan Resnick and the lyrics of ‘Modern Man’ by Arcade Fire. The video for “Tunnels Pt 2” was shot in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, and revolves around a protagonist set in the 90’s internet boom, who, “confronted and chased by a disheveled doppelgänger after learning a terrible truth about the consequences of his work”.
And because you’ll almost inevitably think it, Tunnels Pt.1 does feature on the upcoming album, but you’ll have to wait until May for that – but worry not Ephrata is more than worth the wait. Check out the video below and then read on to our Q&A with Joshua
FTR: For those who don’t know, who is Joshua Burnside?
I am a songwriter and producer from Belfast.
FTR: We’re premiering the video to Tunnels Pt.2, what can you tell us about shooting the video?
It was shot and directed by Darren Lee in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast, a few yards from where the Titanic was built.
FTR: You’ve spoke about it being set in the internet boom, what appealed about that era?
The unglamorous aesthetics of the technology in the era fits well with the somewhat oppressive nature of modern technology, that consumes so much of our attention.
FTR: Is the video nostalgic?
There is certainly an element of nostalgia for a time when all these useful technologies had not yet invaded every aspect of our lives.
FTR: The tracks lifted from your upcoming album Ephrata, what can you tell us about recording the album?
It was recorded in about a month or so last year, after I returned from living in Colombia. Tunnels Pt.2 was recorded at Small Town America studios in Derry, and was produced by Caolan Austin. We decided to go for a big rock/indie sound on that track, with layered guitars, organ and trumpets drowned in reverb and distortion to add bit of drama early on in the record. Blood Drive and Concubine were recorded and produced by myself at home. The samples in concubine are all original sounds from my kitchen.
FTR: Where does the album’s title come from?
It is a small town in Pennsylvania that my band and I stayed in for a couple of nights during a tour of the US. The song Ephrata is a story about one of those nights. I couldn’t sleep as the local fire engines were passing our open window all night long due to the local market being up in flames.
FTR: We read you wrote a lot of this album in Colombia, how did that come about? Do you think it influenced the sound of the record?
I had cousins living there, and I had been stuck in a rut living in Glasgow for a year, drinking too much probably. I love Glasgow but sometimes it can be a miserable friend. So I came out to stay with them, and soak up a bit of the culture and sun. The two main folk musics of Colombia are Cumbia and Vallenato, but it was the rhythms of Cumbia that probably fascinated me the most.
FTR: Your influences seem to come from all over the globe? Do you think music is a good way to understand different cultures?
I would say it is essential to understanding different cultures, and human behaviour in general, and that these cultures are not in a vacuum but exist as a part of a matrix of cultures old and new constantly evolving and mixing with each other.
FTR: What are your earliest musical memories?
Learning Greensleeves and The House of the Rising Sun on my first keyboard I got for Christmas when I was about 6 or 7. Singing in primary school plays and the choir. There was a lot of Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac in my house growing up as well.
FTR: Why do you write music?
I think in another life, I would always gravitate towards a creative pursuit, I originally wanted to be a painter, but when I was 12 I got a guitar and the paintbrushes just didn’t cut it anymore. I guess I still paint in a way, with words and melodies.
FTR: Do you have any other creative outlets?
I still paint, and draw. I write poetry too, sometimes they end up songs like The Red and White Blues, sometimes they are left in notepads forgotten for years until I rediscover them again and then pinch a line or two or a metaphor for a new song etc.
FTR: Which songwriters influence your music? What were you listening to when you wrote Ephrata?
I was listening to the odd combination of Toto La Momposina, Talking Heads, Dick Gaughan and Andrew Bird’s new album. Joanna Newsom has also been a big influence on me the last few years, and I’ve been listening to a lot of traditional ballads, Irish and Scottish, which has started to seep in here or there.
FTR: What about influences outside of music?
I like a good story, and I like songs that flow and have that roundedness about them so I read a lot and try to soak up as much as possible. The recurring themes of late have been, death, technology, alcohol, and the apocalypse. These things seem to be on mind a lot I guess!
FTR: What are your aspirations for Ephrata?
I’m looking forward to playing in live in full and touring it around the country. It’s been fun working out the arrangements with the band. I’m hoping the album will sell out in it’s first week.
FTR: What’s next for Joshua Burnside? Touring? More recording?
I have a few UK dates before the festival season, and then I’ll be touring again in September/ October. I’m also recording at home as well, working on material for my next album.
Ephrata is out May 5th via Quiet Arch. Joshua Burnside is on tour across the UK and Ireland in May, click HERE for more information and all upcoming dates.