Alternative ambient collective House of Cosy Cushions have released their new album Spell this week. The band will perform at the Workman’s Club in Dublin on March 28th, the Roundy in Cork on March 29th and Debarra’s Folk Club, Clonakilty on March 30th. Richard Bolhuis spoke to theLastMixedTape recently about the making of the record and the inspirations behind it.
How do you feel you developed your sound while making Spell?
I’ve always been into sketches as they have this lively raw feel. I wanted to make an album that is heartfelt and didn’t really want to define or develop anything consciously.
I was commissioned to write music for a painting in the collection of the Groningen Museum and I cycled to the church that the painting depicts and I was moved by the atmosphere of the place and the tranquil surroundings. That would lead me to writing the final track on the record ‘Kerkje te Oostum’ (Church in Oostum). For me this album is about allowing things to happen naturally. I was improvising a lot during the recordings of the album Spell.
Do you feel this new approach has changed you as a songwriter in relation to your previous albums?
It’s really hard for me to reflect on the process like that. Especially when writing or selecting the songs that will appear on the finished album. When I’m making music, painting or drawing I always try to be in the moment and not think too deeply about what I have done.
What is the overall concept or theme that formed Spell?
It was an intuitive process. There are more instrumentals on the album compared to our previous albums. When I record the music I’m never really sure if I’ll release it or not, so it’s hard to know exactly how the finished piece will sound like until I’ve gone through it all. I never really work conceptually. The music just seems to happen.
I was lucky enough to work with amazing musicians on the album too, Stephen Kiernan who played the drums, Dominique Brackeva who plays trombone and I collaborated with viola player Saskia Meijs on two of the tracks.
Does that sort of collaboration open you up to different techniques and ideas?
I’m not that interested in technique really. If you trip and fall, there’s a technique to that because you can never do it the same way twice and you can spend your whole life trying to recreate that fall. I am more interested in creating something that is still mysterious to me after I made it.
How has your live performance changed with the making of Spell?
We will be improvising more. It’s not about sticking too closely to the arrangements as they appear on the record, as they were recorded in the heat of the moment. I have also performed my installation-performances in the Groninger Museum and the Van Gogh Museum. These performances are more abstract. My filmloops and paintings are also part of these installations. Improvising during the installation-performances also made me want to improvise more during gigs.