James On How They Write Songs

How does the writing process manifest itself?

Jim Glennie: There’s five of us that write, so we just get in a room and improvise. We set up the studio to record, and we also tend to get a drum machine going. Then the process starts. Everybody joins in and there’s a lot of shifts and changes. Tim usually sings phonetics. Most of the time we think he’s singing words but they’re not. They’re just a range of sound levels. Occasionally he’ll fire a phrase or a line out. Sometimes it can be nonsense, other times it could be the beginning of the lyric. More often than not though it tends to be phonetics where he’s using his voice as an instrument. He’s looking for melodies. We’re all very supportive so we all tend to listen to one another. Then we try to pick out the main bits we want to mould together into a song. So instead of being free flowing there’s a lot more of a process involved. Which means more work so everyone starts arguing about it, yet once we start playing everything is fine. It’s probably very unconventional but that’s how we’ve always worked. It’s worked for fourteen albums so why change now? And it is amazing fun to go in with nothing and then something emerges over time. Songs lift off in front of you. It’s not something we take for granted and same as Saul said earlier, there’s always nerves and an element of fear because technically there is no thought process. It’s always at the back of our minds that one day we’ll go in and nothing will appear. It’s odd because I don’t think we’ve ever bumped into anyone else who writes like this.
Saul Davies: I’m surprised more people don’t to be honest. I might be wrong but I suspect a band like Sigur Ros might take a similar approach? I would imagine they record everything then mix and remix it really well before deciding on whether it’s right or not.
Jim Glennie: I sometimes wish we could do things as straightforward as that. There’s something to be said for being able to lock yourselves into your own little world and not really reference anybody. You end up being your own little unit. There must be some influences in there from somewhere, but at the same time making a conscious effort not to get too embroiled what’s currently knocking around. It’s difficult to get your head around, but then also probably explains why a band like Sigur Ros has existed on their own terms for so long.

Via Drowned In Sound