NWfA Festival: Interview with Her Name is Calla

Bearded are sponsoring the Nice Weather for Airstrikes Festival next weekend so Rich Kemp had a quick chat with headliners Her Name is Calla

Posted on May 20th, 2012 in Features and Interviews / By Richard Kemp
NWfA Festival: Interview with Her Name is Calla A three-day extravaganza of post rock in all its wild and wonderful forms, this year’s Nice Weather For Airstrikes Festival takes place in Brighton between the 25th and 27th May. With little over a week to go before the band’s performance at the festival, Tom Morris from Her Name Is Calla kindly took some time out to chat with Bearded about songwriting, the joys of touring and their brand new documentary.

Bearded: For anyone who has not yet had the pleasure of listening to you play, how would you describe your sound?

Ah, that’s normally the kind of question I try and avoid. No one likes to describe their own music. Miserable bastard music? I’m not sure. People seem to take different things away from our shows and records. Some people think it’s inaccessible, others think it’s uplifting to them or insightful. Others just say it’s bleak. I try not to inform people on what their opinion should be since all art is subjective. If I had to be two dimensional about it, I guess we’re just a rock band really who plays quite quietly. We use dynamics as an extra instrument. Played by some invisible member who doesn’t get an opinion.

B: Your live shows often come off part musical performance, part dramatised art event. Is this something you actively pursue as a band? Do you consider your music to work on a number of different levels?

I had no idea we were perceived like this. I guess we see writing a song just a small part of the whole. A live situation is the only way to really connect with your listeners. It can put a whole different spin on the band. I think it does work on a number of levels. I hope it does anyway; otherwise I’ve wasted huge parts of my life. We’re a mix of pretty dramatic, intense and obsessive people, so live performance can be…cathartic. That’s probably what I think a live show is for us.

B: Your records are longer than many listeners might be used to. Your debut album The Heritage, for instance, is over 50 minutes long across just six tracks, while 2010’s The Quiet Lamb clocks in at around 75 minutes. Is this a product of meticulous arrangement or in-studio improvisation?

A bit of both.

B: You recently released your debut solo record We Were Animals. How does your solo work differ from Calla? Will we get to hear any of it at this year’s NWFA Festival?

I write a lot of songs, not all of which get released. I’m not sure how they differ from HNIC songs since most of those are written by me too, or start with me at least. For my solo releases I like to do things live and just use the first take usually, so it’s different from HNIC in that respect. Oh, and the other guys in the band don’t play on it. I do it all on my own. I guess the solo stuff is achieved a lot faster as there’s only me involved. HNIC is spread all over the country. I’m sure if I was spread all over the country then it would take me just as long to record a solo record as it does to record a HNIC record. But that would be weird. I can’t imagine playing and recording guitar with just one hand. NWFA mentioned about playing a solo slot at the festival. I’m not sure if that will still happen or not. Otherwise no, there won’t be any solo material.

B: You tour regularly as a band across Europe and the UK. Does travelling the continent and meeting new people night after night affect the music you create?

I would think so. It is certainly a very strange experience. From crushing loneliness to being swamped with people around you at times. You kind of get lots of exposure to things that you wouldn’t normally experience. See places you would never visit unless on tour and things like that. I personally love being on tour. I’ve seen some amazing towns and countries. I don’t know how it intertwines with the music. I guess it does, as I’m a retrospective songwriter. I write about things that have happened, things that I’ve seen or experienced.

B: You recently collaborated with Sebastian Dehesdin to produce the 30-minute film On Tour With Calla. What were the reasons behind making this film? How has it been received?

Well, we went on tour as normal. Beforehand, some of us had met Seb and he’d asked to join us on tour. He came along and just stayed in the background filming us covertly. At the end he produced a documentary, which had captured a lot of important events. It was the last tour we did as the original line up. There are things like Sophie having to leave tour early and fly back from Hamburg as her Mum had had a series of heart attacks. The van breaking down at the furthest point from home; losing money, playing in tiny clubs etc. We really liked what he had captured and he asked if we were interested in releasing the documentary, which of course we were.

B: What can we expect when Her Name Is Calla play this year’s NWFA Festival?

I think it’s best not to expect anything. Then we can’t let you down.