Despite being really loveable gentlemen MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY really don’t want to be the music industry’s next gentle thing when it comes to catchy electropop. The sound of the Welsh duo is dominated by cinematic darkness and lyrical despair, often mixed with quite bittersweet stories. Ryan James and Thomas Greenhalf think big without and are ready to work hard for their ambitious concept of eclectic and intelligent widescreen pop. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION is following these two gentlemen for a while now which makes us as happy as the duo’s fans that the band is about to release its second longplayer Maximum Entropy on January the 19th.
The follow up to last year’s EP Entropy Pt. 1 and the more than enjoyable debut album Foe from 2012 sees MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY moving forward while relying on former strength. It’s about time to catch up with the crafted musicians in the form of our latest ‘Confronting’ feature. Here’s what they have to say about their latest collaboration with RÖYKSOPP, being compared to the PET SHOP BOYS and how to face these cold winter days.
01. The Beloved – ‘Sweet Harmony’
‘Sweet Harmony‘ really is one of my childhood favourites so thanks for picking it. Was it your first cover choice for a single or did you consider other ones as well?
Tomas: I remember having that song on repeat when I was younger. I vividly remember listening to it on my first hi-fi system over and over again, good times. Last summer I heard the track on the radio for the first time in years and it brought back all these memories of being young. I played the track to Ryan while we were visiting our drummer Mike in Oxford over the summer and we decided then and there to cover the song. There were no pre-conceived ideas of what the cover could be used for, we just thought it would be interesting to record our own version. We wanted to pay homage to the original, not totally revamp the song.
02. Man Without Country – ‘Catfish’
The new LP includes the entire Entropy EP from last year. Was it originally planned as Entropy, Pt. 2? What did change your mind?
Ryan: That was the original plan, but before we knew it we had all the music for a Pt. 2, and a Pt. 3. And we’d always intended on compiling it all into an LP in the end anyway. We knew it would be frustrating to have to sit on this music and wait for it to be released in parts. We also feel like we need to move forward, and that means moving on from the Entropy theme. With the title being Maximum Entropy, which basically means the end of the universe, it seemed like an abrupt way to do so!
03. Pet Shop Boys – ‘Rent’
When I tried to convince my girlfriend to attend one of your shows she said you guys sound a bit too much like the PET SHOP BOYS. I personally love them. What’s your opinion on them?
Ryan: We probably get compared to PET SHOP BOYS more often than we get compared to anyone else. Genuinely, neither of us have ever listened to them. I know, people say that all the time, especially when they are blatantly ripping off the artist they’re accused of sounding like! We’re fairly happy with the comparison though. We don’t dislike them, they’ve just never really been an influence of ours.
04. Morrissey – ‘Life Is A Pigsty’
‘Maximum Entropy’ is once again dominated by dark and bittersweet lyrics. What fascinates you about life’s abysses?
Tomas: On a purely musical level, the majority of our songs are in minor keys, there’s something about the sound that really appeals to the both of us. I guess writing in this way instantly lays down a foundation for darker, sorrowful sounding music.
05. White Sea – ‘They Don’t Know’
Great having Morgan Kibby on board for the album. How did the three of you end up together? Was it the M83 connection?
Tomas: We’re so happy with how Laws of Motion turned out. Morgan has such a great voice and an amazing sense of melody. Indeed, we first met while touring around Europe with M83 and stayed in contact ever since. We sent Morgan two or three different demos we were working on during the writing of Maximum Entropy. Within a day or two we received an email back with a really strong vocal idea for Laws of Motion that we instantly fell in love with. Morgan and Ryan sent lyrical ideas back and forth and within a week or so the final vocal was recorded. It was a very straightforward but fruitful collaboration.
06. Röyksopp / Robyn – ‘Monument (T.I.E. Version)’
Great new record (with the contribution by Ryan being one highlight). RÖYKSOPP stated that they don’t believe in the album format anymore for themselves. How do you think about this?
Ryan: I think it’s a positive and exciting thing that they’ve chosen to make this their final ‘traditional album’. Piecing together a full-length album is an undeniably difficult thing to do. If they have ideas which are limited to a small bunch of songs, then they no longer have to forcefully extract music from themselves, or try to fit music together on one release which doesn’t work. They’ll have more freedom musically, and they’ll be more prolific.
07. School Of Seven Bells – ‘I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)’
You once remixed SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS. Benjamin Curtis died almost one year ago. How painful was it for you?
Ryan: We’d never met or spoken to either of them, but it was still pretty shocking and sad to hear about Benjamin. It makes you acknowledge how brutal and fragile life can be. And the reality is, there’s no reason why something similar couldn’t happen to you or someone you’re close to.
08. Jon Hopkins ft. Lulu James – ‘We Disappear’
Any thoughts on him? I know he inspired your album and you both share a quite ‘cinematic sound’. Is scoring a movie (like HOPKINS did in the past) an option for you?
Tomas: Given the opportunity, scoring a movie would be something we’d love to do. When I first started writing music I was really into ambient, cinematic soundscapes. The majority of my writing at the time was based around long evolving pieces of music, I really enjoyed it. It would be interesting to explore that side of music within a movie. I find JON HOPKINS‘ work very exciting and intriguing. I love the unusual structures, sounds, and textures in his music. It sounds quite otherworldly but at the same time really warm and accessible. That’s one reason why Immunity is still an album I listen to a lot. It’s great.
09. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow’
Winter is coming. Or better said… it already arrived. What strategies can you recommend to face it?
Ryan: Not sure if it’s much of a strategy, but I would advise to choose comfort and warmth over fashion and appearance. If you can, get a log-burner. And don’t eat shit.
10. The Beatles – ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’
And the final question. BEATLES or STONES? Or neither of both?
Tomas: THE BEATLES for me, they have so many great, interesting songs.
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