We recently had the pleasure of attending the launch show for I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut, the debut album by London, via Somerset, songwriter, Jeremy Tuplin. Flanked by a hugely accomplished ensemble of musicians, they weaved eclectic tapestries of music, moving rapidly from stripped back acoustic numbers to denser, spacey full band numbers, all pinned together by Jeremy’s rich, Jonny Flynn-like baritone. Musically, it was hugely impressive, yet what truly struck us throughout was the sheer quality of the lyricism. Like many of our favourite songwriters, Jeremy manages to take grand ideas and difficult themes, yet within them find both wit and common emotional ground.
A cursory listen to I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut; will most likely leave you impressed, but perhaps not enamoured. It is only on going back to the subtle musicianship and lyrical craftsmanship that the record begins to truly shine. Throughout the record, there is an attempt to fuse the minutia of everyday living, with all its heartbreaks, money worries and existential crises, with the wider questions of the universe and our tiny, almost insignificant place in it all. Like Bill Callahan or Joanna Newsom, Jeremy has the ability to tackle a difficult subject and dig into it’s very core, often pointing out the absurdity in even worrying about life at all.
There’s plenty of highlights across I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut; Did We Lose The Fight and its stunning tracking of a relationship’s demise from a blazing row in a restaurant, “call me any name under the sun, but don’t insult my moustache”, to the point where, “we don’t fight like that no more, could it be that there’s nothing left to say”. Anybody Else, an anthem to trying to impress someone unattainable, “I make things up in order to impress you, I’ve even started wearing hair gel, I pull your hair and tried my best to fool you that I didn’t care that you’re in love with someone else”. While the de facto title track, Astronaut, is just a sublime piece of dreamy space-folk, bright swells of organ accompanied by ticking drum beats, as Jeremy tackles themes of loss, the power of memories and the futility, or otherwise, of dreams.
A splendid debut album, I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut is a record more than worthy of your attention, and today Jeremy Tuplin has taken some time out to answer our questions, discussing reflectivity in his songwriting process, his aspirations for the future and being equally influenced by Andy Shauf and space documentaries.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who is Jeremy Tuplin?
Jeremy Tuplin is singer-songwriter within the indie/alternative/space-folk bracket. In another life I might be an astrophysicist. Or a gardener.
FTR: You’ve recently released your debut album, I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut, what can you tell us about recording it?
I recorded the album with Mark Estall, at his Marketstall Studio in South Bermondsey – the same guy I recorded my last 2 EPs with. More so than with the last recordings I had a really clear, precise idea about how we were going to produce this record, how the instrumentation was going to sound and so on. Having said that there’s something like 12 different people who played or sung on these recordings and of course many of them brought their own interpretation and ideas to the parts.
FTR: Did you actually want to be an astronaut?
I think it would be very cool to go into space, and to be able to look down on our planet – I think that would be an incredibly beautiful feeling. I think once you get into learning about the universe then it becomes a never-ending pursuit of knowledge and truth, and a never-ending fascination. Never-ending in a very literal sense. The reality of being an actual astronaut though might be beyond me. I’ve watched documentaries, and it takes next level dedication and sacrifice.
FTR: If people could only listen to one song to get a feel of the Jeremy Tuplin sound, which would you suggest?
I’d go with ‘Astronaut’ which sort of the album’s title track. It’s over 6 and a half minutes long so you’ll get good value and a sense of what the album’s about. The song’s a kind of a journey, and it’s meant a lot to me.
FTR: You have put out EP’s out in the past, what made this the right time to release an album?
It seemed like the natural step, I had the songs in place that seemed to form a cohesive body that I thought might make for an interesting full-length record. Having a small independent label on board, Folkwit Records, also helped.
FTR: It feels to us like quite an existential album, was it a conscious decision to be quite reflective?
On a wider sense I’m from the point of view that a singer-songwriter’s role is to provide a message, perception or understanding of the world in the most beautiful way possible. And so that’s what I’ve tried to do – but whether that’s a conscious process on any of the individual songs I’m not sure. I try to give myself a clear brief when I write a song but a lot of what comes out in it can be from the realm of the unconscious I think.
FTR: You make reference to “white male, middle class anxieties”, do you worry about whether the world needs another male folk singer?
I don’t know whether the world needs another one, but I think it’s good to recognise and be aware of where you’re coming from. There’s no pretense in my lyrics, I hope.
FTR: There’s a shift in instrumentation on this record, we’ve heard you describe it as “retro-futuristic”, could you explain that?
The instrumentation on the whole is something that we tried to have in-keeping with the lyrical themes on the album. These kind of spacey, cosmic sounding synths, strings and drums to help take the listener to some other place. At the same time there’s a lot of more organic, acoustic or possibly folk instrumentation, so perhaps that’s where retro-futuristic comes from. I’m not entirely sure to be honest.
FTR: Are you conscious of the need to keep your music progressing? Do you set out to always do something new with it?
Again, it’s not necessarily a conscious thing. I tend to get bored quite quickly. And I like to think that I wouldn’t be making music if I wasn’t trying to offer something new and different.
FTR: You dedicate a song to Albert Einstein, is science something that interests you? Do you think Science is coming into fashion?
I was joking my friend Samantha Whates, who also sings on ‘O Youth!’ on the album, that we should invent be another genre ‘fact-folk’. Science-based, educational songs. Could take off, or not. But yeah science definitely interests me, increasingly so as I get older it seems. On King Creosote’s new album he’s got a song called ‘Betelgeuse’ which is a very old, big and relatively near star. On the off-chance that it died around 720 years ago, which isn’t that much of a stretch, due to it’s distance in light years away we’ll be able to see it’s supernova explosion in our sky in our lifetime about the size of the moon. I think everyone should be fascinated by this sort of stuff. I also wish I wrote that song.
FTR: You sing in Kathleen, “is that a soulful Willy Mason or a modern Al Green”, is that a good insight into your influences? What were you listening to when you wrote this album?
They are definitely two influences of mine. I listen to all sorts of music all the time. When I was writing this it was I seem to recall Gaz Coombes solo album was on, Andy Shauf’s ‘The Party’. I was mostly watching space documentaries.
FTR: Do you have plans to take the album out on tour?
Yeah I’m going to Spain on 9th November for a few dates. And then doing a few south England dates when I get back. They’re all listed on my website jeremytuplin.com
FTR: You’re originally from Somerset, but now based out of London. Has that shift affected your music? Is it harder to make music in one place or the other?
It’s difficult to say. Looking back on it some of my earlier music does seem to be a bit more “country” influenced. My first EP has a song called ‘Forever On My Way Home’ about moving to the city and missing the country for example. Whereas now it’s more urban in a way. That’s interesting, I’d never really thought about it. I find being back in Somerset very conducive to writing, just the quiet and time I have in comparison to London. But these days I write everywhere, it’s more of a constant process, fitting it around not having very much time and making it work.
FTR: What are your ambitions for this record? Is music a viable career anymore?
You hear a lot of people saying it isn’t, but a lot of people are making a lot of money out of music still. I think you just need to be very creative about it. Also I’ve just quit my day-job so I really hope it is. So with that and the fact that I’ve got my debut record out, I guess I’m gonna have to work hard and fast if I’m gonna make anything of it /slash have lots of part-time jobs.
FTR: What’s next for Jeremy Tuplin?
Well I’m going to be promoting, gigging and touring this record as much as possible, and I’ve also got an eye on the next album too, which is 90% written I feel. And it’s another direction again, in a way, so I’ll look to start recording that early next year. Once the ball’s rolling you’ve gotta keep it that way.