Songs For Walter – In Their Own Words

Initially a collection of songs telling his grandfather’s story, Songs For Walter has since gone on to become the moniker for all the solo offerings of Manchester-resident, Laurie Hulme. Laurie, who also plays with the likes of Kiran Leonard and Cult Party, as well as his noisier project Chew Magna, has recently released the second Songs For Walter album, An Endless Summer Daze.

The debut Songs For Walter album received a lot of attention for its personal and conceptual reflections, and as a result left Laurie in a slightly odd position approaching album number two. What is Songs For Walter when Walter’s story has already been told? On, An Endless Summer Daze, Laurie leaves some of the conceptual element behind and instead tries to tap into more universal and reflective themes. This doesn’t necessarily mean a series of introspective songs about Laurie himself; there’s still room for The Battle Of Bexley Square, a reflection on the clashes between peaceful protestors challenging a cut in their unemployment benefits and a heavy-handed police force in Salford. It is a song that seems as fitting in today’s austerity hit Britain, as it would have been back in the 1930’s when the events took place. Elsewhere on the records there are nods in the direction of both Louis Theroux and George Orwell, as Laurie grapples to make some sense of the world in which we currently find ourselves, whether that’s hunting aliens or living under constant surveillance.

An Endless Summer Daze takes on different lyrical themes, and equally seems to move Songs For Walter into new musical ground as well. The record is a lusher and more melodic affair, whether delivering acoustic musings like Earwigging and the trumpet driven, I Don’t Know Who You Are, or exploring the more straight up rock sound of A New Beginning and closing track Strangers, there’s a lightness of touch present throughout. The beautiful arrangements and serene production, acting as a perfect counter-point to the sometimes dark lyrical content.

Ahead of a show at London’s Paper Dress Vintage next Monday, Laurie took some time to answer our questions discussing his aspirations for Songs For Walter, being labelled a political songwriter and why his next album might be something completely different.

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Photo by Camilla Lewis

FTR: For those that don’t know who is/are Songs For Walter?

Essentially it’s a moniker for my dreamy folk / indie pop music but with extensive and continuous help from few key individuals

FTR: You’ve just released your second album, An Endless Summer Daze, what can you tell us about recording it?

It took quite a while, over two years to make. I started doing the tracking whilst staying in Edinburgh in summer 2016, recorded additional stuff in Manchester in 2016 and then it was all put together in 2017 and 18 in Peckham by the uber talented Phillip Kay, who transformed my scrappy amateur stems into something far superior! The hardest thing was just getting time when we were both free for a couple of days in a row!

FTR: Your debut album obviously has a strong conceptual element, were you conscious of getting away from that? Or does this record have a story of its own?

No I don’t think there are any overriding themes so to speak off although there is an observant perhaps political under current. I was unsure what to do after the debut –I’d always envisaged SFW to be my neglected side project – it was only after it got a good reception from people I trusted that I thought about making a full album about my Grandfather’s life. After it came out, I contemplated changing my name and ending the project them but I think “Songs For Walter” is a good name and I’d spent years playing under it, so it seemed daft to start again.

FTR: Musically too it’s got quite a different feel to it, are you a songwriter who is always looking to do something new?

I started playing in a new band and that absorbed a lot of my more up tempo writing so this one is definitely more “acoustic” than the first. There’s a song on my debut called “The Joint World Record Holders” that I was really happy with and so I used it as a bit of a blue print for this album.

I feel that an artist should change and develop with every record. I think a lot of artists get worse with time because they don’t (or aren’t allowed to) evolve. I had a really interesting chat with John Parish once and he was saying he thinks PJ Harvey has remained so consistent because she approaches each new album playing different instruments and it makes everything feel fresh.

I’m starting to record my next one soon and I’m considering a few options, maybe I’ll do it totally solo or perhaps with a drum machine. I think the trumpet works well on this album so maybe a bit of that too!

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Photo by Emma Lavelle – http://www.fieldandnest.com

FTR: What are the influences on this record? What were you listening to when you wrote it?

I drew a big plan on my studio wall of stuff I wanted it to sound like…I was really after a warmer, more analogue sound. From a writing perspective I’m always listening to Smog/Bill C because I think he’s the bestest ever but on the plan was The Microphones, David Pajo, Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan, Cult Party, Palace Music, Simon Joyner, Jessica Pratt.

FTR: The album feels like quite a political record, do you feel it is important for artists to reflect the political climate?

It’s strange because I never sat down to make a “political” record. I studied politics at University so I spend a lot of time thinking and reading about it, I guess if I’m in need of lyrics I will maybe turn to the paper for ideas. I like taking a longer term, more zoomed out view of what’s happening, where we are going and what people in the future will think is significant about now. We are obviously in really interesting times post financial crash with Trump and Brexit and people rejecting the move to the political centre. I feel like Corbyn could get into number 10 at some point which seems unbelievable when you think about all the institutions and structures he is up against!

FTR: You also play in Chew Magna, they’re obviously a very different sounding band. Do they feel like two completely separate entities, or are there some similarities?

Chew Magna is in many ways the band I have been waiting to be in my whole life. It’s just so easy and so fun and it has pushed me to write (and sing) in different ways. People are always surprised when I tell them that most of my favourite ever records are ‘loud’ ones like EVOL, Zen Arcade, Goat, Double Nickels On The Dime, Yank Crime, In Utero. We’re recording our debut album at the moment and I’m really excited about it. To answer the question – no, I feel like they are totally different. I feel like SFW is “me” and CM is me and 3 other guys…it’s really great to not to have all the attention on me!

FTR: What are your aspirations for Endless Summer Daze, do you see music as a viable career?

I really hope it gets some decent reviews, I’m told there are more coming at some point! I’d like to play some festivals next year and try to start recording the next one. I’ve got a load of songs that need finishing off!

To be honest I don’t ever expect to be ever do music full-time. The economics just don’t really work – there’s pretty much an infinite supply of good bands or at least good songs! I know people in pretty established acts who are finding it hard to survive. I am lucky enough to teach music for a living which I guess is half way there right(?!)

FTR: What can people expect from the Songs For Walter live show?

I have a floating line up sometimes there are 5 of us, sometimes it’s just me. Sometimes I play electric, sometimes acoustic! I like mixing it up! I’ve been playing the debut for the last three years so I am enjoying playing the new record!

FTR: What’s next for Songs For Walter?

I’m really enjoying play live again so I’m going to hammer the gigs and then think about starting to record the next record.

An Endless Summer Daze is out now. Click HERE for more information on Songs For Walter.

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