Song: The Mother We Share
Writers: Iain Cook, Martin Doherty, Lauren Mayberry
First release: 2013
Back in 2006, Roddy Woomble of Idlewild approached me about writing for a project called Ballads of the Book which he was curating in collaboration with Chemikal Underground Records in Glasgow. His idea was to have Scottish bands and songwriters set to music lyrics by Scottish poets and novelists. The musicians included Emma Pollock, King Creosote, Aidan Moffat and Norman Blake. And the writers numbered Iain Rankin, Alasdair Gray (who designed the album cover too), Louise Welsh and Robin Robertson (recently Booker shortlisted).
I was delighted to be asked, and was offered a beautiful wee Edwin Morgan poem called The Good Years. The song setting would later become the opener to my 2008 album This Earthly Spell.
In 2007, just ahead of the Ballads of the Book album release, Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow programmed a sister concert, at which I played. Closing the show that night was a band I didn’t know: Aereogramme. It was love at first quivering synth patch.
Their setting of Hal Duncan’s If You Love Me You’d Destroy Me is my favourite of the Ballads of the Book project, and the cinematic pomp of the band’s live set totally slayed me.
I left the show thinking: I want to work with them.
And then, three months later, after four album releases that had failed to break, the band split up, releasing a wry press release that cited, amongst other things “an almost superhuman ability to dodge the zeitgeist”.
From the ashes of Aereogramme emerged The Unwinding Hours, a writing duo of Craig B on vocals and guitars and Iain Cook on pretty much everything else. Their opening musical foray was the spare and lovely Solstice.
I fell for thus band too. Indeed I convinced myself I was the band member they just didn’t know they needed yet.
By the autumn of 2011, I had gathered enough songs for a new album of my own. And I thought of Iain Cook. He seemed to come from an altogether cooler musical world than mine. I sent him a demo of a song called Half A Mile and asked if he might test out some production ideas with a view to producing my next album.
Yes, came the reply. And what came back a week later from this first demo test was utterly beautiful. Disconcerting static textures. Intricate percussion. Broken riffs. It was a sound quite different to any I’d made before. And I loved it.
And so began an intensive 3-month period of pre-production to create the palette for my album Traces.
By the time we switched to final stage recording at Castlesound Studio in Pencaitland, Iain was working on a new musical collaboration. I remember him playing us some demos and testing out the logo look for this new band: Chvrches.
It sounded, and looked, mighty.
By the time, I took my Traces album on the road, in 2013, Chvrches had launched their debut album The Bones of What You Believe In. I remember stopping for a break at a dismal service station on the M6 and hearing the muscular, hooky synth pop of The Mother We Share getting piped across the foodcourt. This is when you know you’ve made it, I tell you.
I love the song and that first album, in particular. All three band members, Lauren Mayberry and Martin Doherty, as well as Iain, are gifted writers, multi-instrumentalists and producers in their own right.
Chvrches have since released two further albums, Every Open Eye (2015) and Love is Dead (2018).
I’m glad I got to work with Iain. Just in time. I hear he hangs out with Dave Stewart these days … I totally couldn’t afford him now!