Based out of Glasgow, Cloth are the twin sibling duo of Rachael and Paul Swinton. The pair originally decided to try their hand at music back in 2018, working alone on the tracks that would become their self-titled debut album. An album constructed from home-recorded voice notes, Cloth turned them into something rather magical, a fact noticed by both the Scottish Album Of The Year judges, who shortlisted it for that year’s prize, and by Cloths’ fellow Scottish musicians, with support slots for both Arab Strap and The Twilight Sad. Since then the band have signed to Mogwai’s Rock Action Records, who released the band’s 2022 EP, Low Sun, and last week shared the band’s second record, Secret Measure.
Secret Measure is something of a road mark for Cloth, the first time they’ve opened up their creative circle, inviting the acclaimed producer Ali Chant on board, aiming to turn, “their tried-and-tested insular working process on its head”. It’s not the only major change, with Paul stepping out as the band’s sole lyricist, having previously shared the job with Rachael. The result is a more focused and forthright collection, shedding ambiguity for a record that goes in search of reassurance and hope, even if sometimes the world feels like it has hit new levels of bleak, “you can always find a flash of hope to hold on to if you look hard enough”.
Musically, the change in Cloth’s style is instantly evident. Take the opening title track, Secret Measures is a master class in subtle layering, starting with a Cross Record-like guitar line, it grows to a subtle cacophony their label bosses would be proud of. Elsewhere, the recent single Ambulance, a song about, “the aftermath of losing touch with someone who was a really influential person in your life“, is sheer beauty in simplicity, the subtle looping guitar line and flourishes of piano and santoor, “an amazing percussive Indian instrument“, creating a song that feels like it’s always about to explode into sound but never quite does.
A further example of the pair’s progression comes with Pigeon, the song that announced their new record back in May. The production is fabulous, every instrument ringing out on its own terms without ever sounding like they’re standing on one another’s toes, while Rachael’s beautifully hushed vocal explores ideas of being comfortable in the future even when the present threatens to overwhelm. A personal favourite comes towards the album’s close with Money Plant, the simplicity of the bass line allowing room for a delightfully complex array of percussive interventions without ever threatening to overwhelm the gentle wistfulness of the vocal delivery. This isn’t a record of giant proclamations, instead, it is one of gentle earworms, songs that creep into your conscious with repeat listens and refuse to let go, an album out of step with the pace of the modern world and all the better for it.
Ahead of Secret Measure’s release, I recently spoke to Cloth about opening up their creative process, living up to their successful debut and why they were keen to, “keep in mind that bad times and situations don’t tend to last forever”.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Cloth?
Cloth are twins Rachael and Paul Swinton, an alt-rock band based in Glasgow.
FTR: Your new album, Secret Measure, is out at the start of May, what can you tell me about making the record?
We wrote the bulk of the record in our wee home studio after we’d finished working on an EP. We had a bunch of little ideas that we just worked through one-by-one, developing them into full songs and having fun messing around with a few cool new bits of gear that we’d picked up for inspiration (a tape echo and a lovely UDO synth, for example). We then made pretty detailed demos which we sent to our producer, Ali Chant, in prep for going to his studio in Bristol to record the album properly.
FTR: What did you do differently with this record compared to your debut album?
Secret Measure is the first time we’ve ever worked with an outside producer on our songs. We produced our first record and EP ourselves so it felt a little strange at first bringing someone else into the fold. We’d probably say the whole process of making this record has opened our eyes to the power of creative collaboration and how exciting it is to bring other musicians and producers into your own little universe. With Ali’s input, the songs on the record grew bigger and bolder which is something we set out to achieve with this album from the off. Not only that, but his collection of synths and weird instruments is huge so we had a lot of fun building up the song arrangements with some amazing (and pretty unique) sounding gear!
FTR: Your debut album was a huge success being nominated for the Scottish Album Of The Year, did you feel there was any added pressure to follow that success up?
Maybe when we first sat down to start work on the album we were a bit more conscious of what came before and some of the expectations on us. But to be honest, once we got deeper into the writing process that stuff tended to melt away and the focus naturally shifted to our default mode of ‘how can we make this song the best it can be?’ or ‘what can we do here that would be really exciting or unexpected?’ When your head is in the latter place you can kind of switch off from any feelings of pressure.
FTR: The album’s coming out on Rock Action, how did that come about? Are record labels important to you?
A friend had sent our Low Sun EP over to Stuart Braithwaite and he really loved it. We were looking for a label who would release the EP and our next record so we met with him for a pint and just clicked instantly. He and the other guys from Mogwai are lovely and from that first meeting we knew Stuart was a music fan first and foremost, so his belief in our songs made us feel like we would be in safe hands at Rock Action! It’s also a label we’ve looked up to for years as their roster of artists is pretty incredible, so it feels quite unbelievable to be part of that now. Supportive record labels like Rock Action are important to us as they’re just as passionate about the music as the artist is and you can trust, with their experience, that they’ll bring your music to more people.
FTR: What can people expect from the Cloth live show? Do you have plans to take this record on the road?
We’re deep in rehearsals at the moment, working on getting the new songs up to a point where we’re happy and excited to play them live. This record definitely has a bigger, grander sound to it than our first album and that’s something that will be quite apparent in the live show. ‘Never Know’, sounds huge!
We’ve got quite a few shows around the UK in May when the album comes out and then we’ll be doing a UK headline tour in the Autumn for it.
FTR: What’s it like being in a band with your twin?
We get asked this question a lot and the honest answer is, if you get on with each other, it’s great! We’ve also developed a sort of shorthand for when we’re writing which just makes that process feel really comfortable and intuitive. We can’t read each other’s minds though, just in case you were wondering.
FTR: I read the album is themed around hope in bleak times. Is that something that comes easily to you? Or is it sometimes hard to see the flash of optimism?
We’re pretty optimistic people at heart. That doesn’t mean we’re able to put a cherry, positive spin on everything crap that happens but we do try and keep in mind that bad times and situations don’t tend to last forever.
FTR: How’s the music scene in Glasgow right now? Is there anyone we should be listening out for?
The scene in Glasgow is always super exciting. Not every city is like that so we’re really fortunate that we have this amazing community of art and music on our doorstep. We’re both loving the new Free Love album, Inside. It’s so good and properly sounds like a classic dance record.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Making music together is something that has always come naturally. We’ve both always been really captivated by the possibilities of making interesting sounds and noises and packaging them up into neat little songs. We love and appreciate other art forms as well and dabble in things like stop-motion animation but, honestly, nothing feels as immediate or gratifying, for us, as making music.
FTR: What’s next for Cloth?
Well we’re going to be out on the road a lot for the new album. We’re getting to play some cities we’ve never even been to so definitely looking forward to that and getting to spend a bit time in some great music cities. We’ll be playing some festivals during the summer as well including TRNSMT in Glasgow so that’ll be great fun. We’re always writing away as well so no doubt we’ll be back in the studio before long!
Secret Measure is out May 5th via Rock Action Records. For more information on Cloth visit https://linktr.ee/clothband.