Interview: Patch & The Giant – Aiming For The Top Of The Mountain

Ahead of the release of their debut record All That We Had, We Stole, we caught up with Luke Owen, Angie Rance, Gabriel Merryfield, Nick Edward Harris and Derek Yau, aka the wonderful Patch & The Giant, to discuss their highly-anticipated release, musical and personal changes, and their future goals…

We first featured you on Thank Folk For That over four years ago, back in 2012, and you’ve been working hard on creating some wonderful music for even longer – why has the album taken so long to drop, and have you built up some added pressure on yourselves to ensure it’s a belter?

Indeed Thank Folk For That was one of our earliest features and you’ve always been good to us, so thank you very much!

The album did take a while, yes…I guess we took a while to cement who and what the band actually is. Our first couple of years saw a few changes, as with a lot of bands. A few members came and went in these early days, all very amicable we should point out, we’re actually planning a Patch re-union at the moment and it’s proving genuinely hard to schedule because there are so many people who’ve been involved! We had a gig once with 3 ex-bass players in the audience, Nick was really nervous. Joking aside though we are all still friends and it’s lovely, never any hard feelings.

But in terms of the album, we just didn’t want to approach this until we had a situation where we felt comfortable with the identity of the band and if you’re swapping members all of the time that’s hard. We’re also of the mind that there’s no need to rush this stuff, we were having a lot of fun just cruising festivals really and in a way it’s quite nice having people asking ‘when are we finally going to see a full album’ because we know there are people in the world who want to hear it. We also wanted to take our time and enjoy the process and let the songs breath all that they needed to. When we finally came to be the five musicians that we are now, the newer members were adding totally new things to old songs and we wanted to take the time to bed that in properly before recording them and we’re glad we did.

The album is set to feature a couple of tracks written a fair while ago – have you edited or added to these, or will they be as they were when you first put them together?

As alluded to, each time a new musician came along they’d add something totally new – a bit like one of those old family quilts where each generation adds a section and it’s always growing. In this sense it’s also very important we give credit to the band members who moved on elsewhere as some of those melodies have stayed in and been passed to others to play, or whose ideas have gone on to form the structure of songs. One of the first songs we ever wrote together, A Local Man, has already been recorded twice elsewhere and it’s incredible how much it’s changed over the years. This song even changed as we were recording it because we brought in a new drummer and suddenly there was a whole new dimension, which we liked so we recorded it that way. If we’re still playing it in another 4 years, maybe we’ll record it again totally differently. Fundamentally we are musicians in the moment (however pretentious this might sound) and our collective lives and influences change all the time so naturally the way we interpret a certain song will change with time if we continue to perform it. Another good example is Love & War which we did release previously on The Boatswain’s Refuge EP – we were really happy with this recording and it’s had hundreds of thousands of plays but we decided to re-record it for the album because we wanted a recording to reflect the arrangement we now play live.

Over the years, you must have had some great experiences as a band – what have been your highlights up until now, and how have these experiences influenced your work on the album?

So many! We’ve travelled around a lot together and seen a lot of other mesmerizing performances that have really inspired us. A moment we often recall with beer and sun glazed eyes is sitting at the top of a hill at Green Man Festival in 2013, watching the band Lau together after we’d performed our own set, on a much smaller stage. Gabriel said ‘it’s like me, Luke and Ange if we were Gods’ and that really stuck. We put ourselves up there on the main stage (The Mountain Stage) in our minds and it’s stayed there as a sort of go to happy place to strive towards.

Also if it’s not a bit of a tautology, the process of recording itself influenced the way the album sounds – meaning the mood, the coffee, the whisky, the physical surroundings, our relationship with Nick (Trepka – our producer) and so many more things – because we recorded the vast majority of it live, every moment fed into the way we performed and recorded and that’s the way it will now always be on this record.

How excited are you to be heading out on a headline tour, playing songs that are now together as one on a record?

It’s really great. And we’re particularly excited for the album launch gig because we’ll be playing a couple of songs that we’ve literally never performed live and may never again. But for posterity we want to have at least played them once. At the same time though – as so many musicians will tell you, there’s also the urge to crack on with new material. The ‘new’ songs on the album are now over two years old…

All That We Had, We Stole is the name of your new album. Have you ever stolen anything musically, and do you believe in the phrase, “Good artists copy; great artists steal”?

Ohh…good question. Actually never heard that phrase before! The answer is of course there are things we’ve stolen musically – not least the musicians in the band – but also thematically and aside from melodically loads of the songs are influenced by books, poems, paintings and all sorts of other people’s art in some way or another. There are a few songs on the album that have very direct nods to other songwriters and we’re presenting them as ‘an ode to’ rather than shying away from the idea. The Day You Went To Sea for instance is completely and utterly a song about the songwriter Elvis Perkins and there are deliberate nods to his lyrics throughout. It’s really frustrating though when you think you’ve come up with a really amazing melody and you hum it somebody and they say ‘um, yeah that’s a Joni Mitchell song…’ – inevitable though because until somebody finally invents that H chord, there are a finite number of notes after all.

Where do you hope to be in the next five years?

Somewhere closer to that Mountain Stage at Green Man Festival…

All That We Had, We Stole is released on Friday 10th February, and features their latest single The Beggar’s Song, which can be heard below…