Thumpers – duo Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr – release their debut album Galore on Monday (19 May). To ease us in the pair have written us a track-by-track guide to the record.
Marcus Pepperell: We knew from early on that we wanted to start off the album with a kind of scene-setting and when we first sketched out Marvel we had an idea that this song could do that. It’s this introduction to let people know 1) that drums are our lifeblood and 2) that revisiting our firsts of love and life is our theme.
John Hamson, Jr: We made our own “treated” piano by resting broken drumsticks and ping pong balls on the strings to make it sound a bit wonky and odd.
JHJ: Once we’d established a lot of the sounds and direction we wanted to take after finishing Sound of Screams (below), this was the next song we recorded where we really wanted to see what this palette of sounds could do and where we could take it. Quite a bit of MIA influence on this one, with some Michael Jackson thrown in there too.
MP: Lyrically it’s an escapist fantasy about not wanting to have to tell someone that they have an impossible vision for their future and they’ll never get what they want. The holiday-esque imagery and sound are meant to be dream-like but the chorus lyrics are the reality and they end on a “low”.
Sound Of Screams
JHJ: Writing Sound Of Screams was pretty much the process that cemented the band’s sound. We scared ourselves a little when we first recorded the spoken-sung verses, nearly deciding to rewrite the entire thing. On top of that we then added Marcus’ sisters’ vocals for the first time. There was this idea that we were out of our comfort zone with something so direct and so led by R&B-esque vocals. In the end, though, that feeling was actually inspiring – it became a marker for when we thought we were doing the right thing for other songs on the album.
Unkinder (A Tougher Love)
MP: THis was written on a New Year’s Eve somewhere inbetween watching Rushmore and the original Carrie for the first time. It’s about feeling larger than life because of the intense, dramatic friendships you can’t help but have growing up. You’re stuck in school with your neighbours’ kids, then after that you’re stuck in life with your neighbours’ kids’ version of you. And that can make you pretty crazy.
JHJ: The octave-detuned distorted vocal riff on this song (a technique that appears throughout the record) was a sound we really had to push and work on to make sound as dirty as possible to offset probably the most “pop” song on the record. There’s a lot of hip hop influence on the drums here too to really drive home the heartbeat pulse the song has.
Come On Strong
MP: This song is about having the best night of your life with someone who, um, isn’t.
JHJ: The writing and recording of parts of it was just so full-on – and took place at such late/early hours – that we honestly can’t agree on exactly what happened. There was a lot of layering on keyboard after keyboard. And shouting. And the middle section kind of wrote itself I think. Some weird stuff going on here!
Now We Are Sixteen
MP: ‘Sixteen was the first song we recorded as Thumpers. The original inspiration for the delayed piano was this Tom Jones song With These Hands. It’s really schmaltzy but so warm and big-hearted for it. There’s something mesmerising about the piano sound on that song and it seemed perfect for 16’s theme of sadly trying to revisit your childhood with someone you met after it had all already taken place.
JHJ: Originally this was going to be made up entirely of just drums and vocals (similar to what we did when we covered Björk’s Innocence with Gaggle) for its opening half but the fever to record bass keyboard in the chorus overtook us. We’re still really happy with the boldness of the opposition between the first heady vocals and harsh drum sound though. The synth/guitar solo at the end is pure digital/computer games influences – the music in the those games we played growing up is deeply ingrained in us.
MP: The title track was written as this place of freedom from guilt, like South Pacific’s Bali Ha’i or something. It’s hedonistic and the atmosphere of the song is supposed to be lush and intense.
JHJ: The reverberating claps were recorded in this incredible tomb in Petra, Jordan and the first sound on the song is of falling coins – throwing away money/baggage that can hold you back.
The Wilder Wise
JHJ: The lyrics for this are rooted in an early memory of looking out of the window of a car at the night sky. That view is the most overwhelming thing possible and at that age you want answers that no one around you is qualified to give so you make up your own.
JHJ: The demo of the song was this slow-jam and similar in tone to other songs we’d already made so, just to see if we could take it somewhere else, I stripped it out but took the same riff and changed the rhythm to this fast swing meets Roobard and Custard thing.. took a bit of convincing with Marcus but we got there in the end!
MP: Um, this is a fantasist revenge song about wishing a wave of mutilation onto your primary school bullies.
MP: This song is about feeling bound together by fate the way that only bandmates can. That can mean being a bad friend that uses all the worst kinds of emotional blackmail and these lyrics are about trying to make up for that destructive side of a close relationship.
JHJ: The demo of this song was so strong that it was mainly about making sure we kept the same feeling that it had but using the palette of sounds at our disposal. There’s this single bass drone for the first two and half minutes which builds this incredible tension which when it changes is one of my favourite moments on the record.
MP: The song is about inventing a siren to call you from the short-term trappings of your day job to your passion at home instead. That’s real, that’s amore, and you should let it wreck you.
For more head to Thumpers.co.