Interview: Pure Grief On New Double A-Side ‘Hearse Me/Part Liquid’

Wick/Thurso three-piece Pure Grief last week released their excellent new double A side single, Hearse Me/Part Liquid – as well as a video for the first of the two tracks. As with their previous releases, including last year’s dual singles Pure and Grief,  Hearse Me subverts the downbeat nature of the band’s name, the song title and even the somewhat desolate setting of the video with another supremely catchy slab of heavy alt rock. Part Liquid, meanwhile, channels Biffy Clyro with a quiet/loud dynamic and superb vocal harmonies.

Pure Grief are former Cactus & Cardigan duo Peter Bacon (Vocals/Guitar) and Marc Sutherland (Bass/Vocals), along with drummer Darren McLeod.  They generally eschew the off beat, racous, sometimes shocking stylings of Cactus… in favour of more melodic, hook filled music. The multi-talented Bacon proves, for example, that he can sing as well as he can scream and his vocals here – kicking off Hearse Me accompanied only by some fairly clean rhythm guitar – are startling and expressive.

To find out more about the origins of the band, how they see the new music compared with their previous work, and get some hints about what lies next we caught up with the three members of Pure Grief for an exclusive interview.

Pure Grief seem more melody oriented than Cactus & Cardigan, there’s more conventional singing, more recognisable song structures and also, dare we say, a bit more of a serious attitude – just a bit! Were these conscious choices?

Peter – Back when we started the band, just after C&C dissolved, I definitely went into writing with the aim of more melody. But I feel there was still a bit of that band that I needed to get out of my system.

“Pure” and “Grief” were us finding out feet, we recorded/released those songs without ever playing a show. After leaving the practice room and heading to the stage, it became clear that more traditional, dare I say it “poppier” songs, were the direction we wanted to head in.

Marc – We’ve all got this soft spot for some really poppy music, so it was no surprise when it started seeping into Pete’s writing and our playing.

The band name, and some of the song titles like the new single ‘Hearse Me’ sound kind of negative or downbeat, and some of the band’s imagery can be quite sobering. The music, however, seems much more euphoric, with something of a life-affirming vibe. Again, was this a conscious choice? Do you see this as a dichotomy, and does that aspect interest you?

Peter – I guess it’s a reflection of our sometimes dark sense of humour. Probably 90% of our interaction with each other is sarcastic and cutting. Personally, I’m very interested in the occult and that can sometimes seep into our output, whether it’s in the imagery, music or lyrical content.

Darren – I have a mild obsession with dichotomy. I love seeing opposites or contrasting aspects coming together to create something greater than its individual parts so it’s no surprise it seeps into our music and imagery. It’s not something we really think about too much though.

Marc – It’s more a natural reflection of ourselves, rather than a conscious choice.

Continuing from that, where did the band name come from? How did the band actually come about?

Peter – I submitted a list of loads of names to the other guys and that was the one they hated the least. Even then, it took them a while to accept it. I like that the name is funny. There’s that sarcasm again… The band came about as Marc and I still wanted to play music together after our previous effort. We approached Darren in a drunken haze at our local nightclub.

Darren – We drank tequila and sang Bon Jovi to celebrate. That was probably the peak of our career!

Peter – The vision for the band was, and has always been very simple; write music and play shows. No frills!

How do you guys write and put songs together?

Peter – I compose the music and lyrics, demo it, and send it over to the other guys. Then we take it to the practice room and argue about the composition. Sometimes a decent song comes out of the melee!

How do you feel the band has progressed with the new double A-side, compared to your first releases last year?

Peter – I think we’ve finally found our path, and it’s taken a year of composing and playing to do so. We know what works now. I’d say the new material is more refined and melodic.

Darren – Pete is always trying to push his writing and it definitely shows. There’s a lot more focus on the song as a whole rather than individual riffs or sections.

Marc – We’ve gone through a lot of songs in the last 18 months. We must have over 40 demos from Pete but we probably play about 12 of those tunes as we’re constantly swapping older, and sometimes maybe weaker songs for newer, stronger ones.

What’s your masterplan?

Peter – There’s no plan set in concrete, we take it as it comes. We have something in the can, which we are very excited about. But more on that when the time is right…

We’re looking to get out and play more before the year is out.

Darren – We’re probably a little too easy going to be in a band. We really should plan better but that might suck the fun out of being in a band and that in itself, would suck!

You’ve not played too often outwith the Highlands, can we expect to see more of you in the future?

Peter – Absolutely, plans are afoot at this very moment for such activities. We’d love to get out of the Highlands if they let us across the border!
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