North London indie rock band The Reverse released their new EP If The World Ends Now on Blang Records this month. It’s been over a year since their album Which Way Out was released into a world in early pandemic confusion, cancelling their plans for launch events and tour dates. Instead they set to work on new material, writing and recording bits and pieces remotely from home before making it into the studio in the summer gap between lockdowns. These recordings form the new EP, a record that builds on their previous work, but incorporates more layers, new electronic textures and a mix of styles from folk to pop to brooding, epic rock.
We asked singer Nathan Loughran to talk us through the new record, track by track.
Cocktails in the Rain
This is definitely our lockdown EP. We were stuck at home, unable to rehearse or record together, so I started recording on my own and sending stuff to the rest of the band. This led to a new way of working and a different approach, most obviously on “Cocktails in the Rain”. It opens with a drum machine and a synthesizer, not radical in itself but for us it’s a huge departure. We put this track first as we wanted people who knew our music to be taken by surprise. It’s still recognisably The Reverse but the electronic textures add something new. I love it when the live drums and bass come in. I feel it lifts the track brilliantly. I was thinking about repetition and variation when writing and recording this and how electronic artists in particular use subtle variations to build the dynamics of a track. Air, Hot Chip, MGMT and LCD Sound system were all on my mind, although, of course, it sounds nothing like them, it just sounds like us.
It’s probably one of the most upbeat songs we’ve ever written and recorded. The lyrics are (I think?) about making friends later in life. It can be harder in your thirties or forties to make new friends so when it happens it feels quite significant. Everyone’s got the friends they’ve known since forever, so if you meet someone at work or wherever and think they could become a good friend, it can seem weird to suggest going out socially, especially just the two of you. So the song is a summery, upbeat ode celebrating new friendship. It’s very “The Reverse” to release it in winter. My favourite line is “And if work brings you down we’ll phone in sick and hang around, drink cocktails in the rain”. The phrase “Cocktails in the Rain” came to me when writing the song, but I’ve started to use it a bit in conversation now, maybe it could catch on as an idiom for making the best of a less than ideal situation?
Raise the Alarm
This started life as a delicate finger picked acoustic number. I liked the melody but didn’t know what to do with it until I came up with the punctuated, distorted sounding chords. We had played this in a rehearsal room before lockdown, but never quite finished it. When I started messing about with it at home I began using drum tracks we’d previously recorded for songs from our last album, (last year’s Which Way Out). I cut them up, looped different sections and started playing over the top, using the drums as a kind of click. I think Jason, our drummer, found it a bit disconcerting hearing his drums in this context, so I replaced them with a more conventional click when recording the main parts. We then added all the guitar parts, bass and vocals. Jason’s drums were pretty much the last thing we did, and I love the way they sound.
Jason had been shielding so we only managed to get him safely in a studio for two days between lockdowns and we recorded all the drums then.
We don’t record to a click often and on Which Way Out we had consciously avoided it. We recorded nearly everything live, wanting to capture the sound of us playing together in a room. On this EP we took the opposite approach. As we were recording most of it separately and sending parts back and forth it was all done to a click, which has added a different quality to these songs.
The lyrics to “Raise the Alarm” address social inequality and are kind of a social commentary, however I wanted to retain some ambiguity. “Something is wrong but we don’t know what, a car alarm or a loud gunshot”. It’s an attempt to capture a sense of unease and discomfort without spelling out what’s going on. There are a few clues if you listen closely.
This is possibly my favourite song on the EP in terms of lyrics and melody, but it’s also the most straightforward in terms of arrangement and production so perhaps less exciting sonically?
It’s again an attempt to play around with repetition and subtle variation. I am quite pleased with the line “Opinions, opinions we can say what we like because nobody’s wrong if we’re all sure we’re right”.
I think it’s about nobody really being 100% sure about anything, but feeling scared to express doubts.
I’m always amazed at how sure some people seem to be of their opinions, especially on social media or programmes like Question Time. I have some strong opinions, but I also find myself increasingly thinking, “I don’t know what I think”, which I feel can be a valid response to the complexities of the World. There seems to be a lack of nuance and compassion in public discourse, which worries me at times.
I had some difficulty getting the original picking pattern to sound quite right, so in the end I recorded two different guitar parts, one picking the lower notes and the other strummed, so the original guitar part went out of the window.
I recently performed this solo live, firstly supporting The Wave Pictures in Bedford and then as part of the Blang Records 16 year anniversary residency at The Hope & Anchor. Both times it was one of the highlights of the set. I feel it works well stripped down in front of a crowd.
If the World Ends Now
This might be the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s very typical of The Reverse to put the best track last but the way it builds and almost explodes at the end, well, I don’t think we could follow it with anything else.
I’m really happy with the way it sounds, intimate but huge. Every member of the band gets to shine. The drums, bass, the vocals, the piano and Sam’s dirty dissonant guitar are all so intense, yet also minimalist. Our mix engineer, Graham Dominy did a fantastic job pulling this together into a cohesive whole sonically. Nothing gets in the way of anything else. It’s got an apocalyptic, end of the world feel to it but it’s really about the tiny details of life, a kind of personal apocalypse. Thematically this continues to explore repetition and variation, this time in the lyrics as well; “there’s no beginning, there is no end, just a moment and a moment count them one to ten and again and again”.
The lyrics are about an individual trying to make sense of their life, trying to escape, running away maybe? I was thinking of people who don’t like goodbyes, someone who… if the World ends now they still wouldn’t say goodbye.
If The World Ends Now is available on CD and digital download via Bandcamp
Introduction by Paul Maps