Githead are far from your ordinary supergroup. Made up of Wire’s Colin Newman, Minimal Compact’s Malka Spigel and Max Franken, and Scanner’s Robin Rimbaud—Githead’s all-star cast premiere an advance listen to their upcoming album, Waiting For a Sign, available December 8 from Colin’s Swim imprint. Following up their 2009 album, Landing, Colin, Malka, Max, and Robin pick right up and start creating where they left off in a collaborative tradition founded back (and well before), 2004. Waiting For a Sign is a document that attests to the group’s instinctive bond of intuition, recorded ‘tabula rasa’ at Rockfield Studios in Wales through a method of songcraft informed by improvised sessions.
The resulting nine song run is made with the kind of sky-glancing wonder that feels like the late nights / early mornings spent waiting to watch the perfect sunrise, or an epiphany from up in the cloudy heavens. Githead set the stage with the hypnotic introductory ceremony of “Not Coming Down” that soars on a continuous hedonistic high. The group’s chemistry weaves through seamless arrangements, where Malka brings breaths of different air on songs like “Bringing The Sea To The City” that turn and face the strange where oceanic chord hooks splash on the shores of industrious metropolises. The band specializes in kinetic physics of perpetual motion heard on songs like “To Somewhere”, which embody the artistic journey as the rhythm involves all combined individual instruments and audio into the mix. Colin takes the lead vocals on “For The Place We’re In”, providing a compass of direction at the album’s half-way point, as duets illustrate the group’s aesthetic chemistry on the ethereal, “Air Dancing”.
Emulating the patterns of life, “Slow Creatures” slowly, and softly moves like following the routes of the sun and moon. Turning up the horizon rising morning lights, “Today” brings the meeting of the night’s dreams to the new day’s realities, while “What If” entertains the chances of brand new possibilities against the adversity of cynics that Malka addresses with, “Some say there is nothing new under the sun, everything is only repeated…” New opportunities and auras of providence burst like an audio aurora borealis on the closing title track, “Waiting For a Sign” that fires up a host of new projections, and all the pyrotechnics that Githead have saved for the finale. We had the honor, and privilege of catching up with the post-punk power couple, Colin Newman and Malka Spigel, immediately following this exclusive album stream.
Take us back to the first Githead formation-performance back in 2004. How did you all discover that you all had an intrinsic music connection?
Colin: We’ve know Robin for quite a long time as an electronic musician, he did a remix for our Immersion project back in the 90’s. He also went to the same school our son did (although obviously not at the same time!) We had planned a label anniversary gig and we wanted to make a band for it. Robin was really interested in the idea and told us he could play guitar which is something nobody knew at the time. He came to our studio one day and it just clicked. When we needed a drummer Max was the obvious choice as he and Malka have been a rhythm section for years now.
From releases that count Art Pop and Landing, tell us about the experience of recording Waiting For a Sign, walking into the iconic Rockfield Studios without any prior written material?
Malka: The three albums were recorded quite differently but there is a link. The thing about Githead, and that goes back to that first session with Robin, is that as a band it can just stand and play and work something out and remarkably quickly. It’s not every band that can just walk into a studio and get some stuff going all in just a couple of days. I guess it’s our ESP! Wire had already recorded at Rockfield so Colin knew it was a great studio, it’s in the middle of the Welsh countryside so there are not many distractions plus you stay at the studio. So although it was quite a brave thing to do it wasn’t totally foolhardy. Of course there’s always a risk but but Githead does love to play!
Colin, with the all the latest tours and recordings from Wire, how have you managed to juggle your post-punk band with Githead, to curating Drill: Brighton?
Colin: Probably not very well This year has been especially tough as we have moved also and since September I’ve been working pretty hard on the next wire album. However Githead is a definite band which needs to have it’s own life, even demands to have. Without it I would be a poorer person and all the other things I work on would not get the depth of experience working on Githead gives me.
Malka, how have you found aspects of your solo work, and Minimal Compact informing Githead?
Malka: The only way I know how to make music is to stand in a room with people & play. This was always the Minimal Compact way. We took it further with “Every Day Is like The First Day” by having just Colin & I start an album in a studio we were paying for, from scratch. This gave us the idea to do the Githead album that way but with a whole band. Obviously there are other things that are harder to describe but really the main thing is how the music is initially made.
How have the collaborative environments of Githead impacted everyone’s other projects?
Malka: I tend to do things in a similar way whether its music or photography or whatever. For me everything comes from the same place so it’s not really about how one thing influences another it more like how that artistic essence unfolds in different circumstances & disciplines.
Colin: For me the working methods are both similar & completely different. Wire can very easily find an arrangement for a song that has already been written (its one of its great strengths) but could never do what Githead does which is invent from the ground up all in one go. Each method has its strengths & weaknesses but I feel very lucky to be able to operate in both worlds.
I like how everyone’s synergy on the album works in an anticipatory fashion, where there is a constant motorik-hum that keeps you on the edge of your seat, as if a sign in the sky or something like that is about to present itself. How did this overall feel of Waiting For a Sign come into fruition? Is the name a sort of reference to waiting on a certain kind of inspiration?
There are many ways to interpret what we do. The combination of the title & the cover image give a certain kind of feeling perhaps of anticipation but this is not by far the only theme of the record. Perhaps the cover has been too successful at evoking something? Waiting for inspiration is actually pretty much the opposite of how Githead tend to work, it’s much more about not thinking & just doing than waiting around!
Favourite stories on the making of Waiting For a Sign, anecdotes of interest?
The making of the album happened in two main parts. The recording at Rockfield and the subsequent refining, finishing & mixing that went on in our studio. Rockfield is of course it’s own source of stories. It’s quite an institution! For a start accommodation is offered at the studio, you can also self-cater. So you are quite a little unit. There was the band plus Gijs who helped with the transport & Tim who engineered. We recorded during August Bank Holiday the last hurrah of summer so the weather was mainly nice. The studio we worked in is on side of of a courtyard with accommodation on another side & horses stabled on a third, the scene was rendered more bucolic by the presence of many swallows flying around. They even made it into the lyrics of “Air Dancing”.
The latter part mainly took place against what has been a pretty tumultuous year for us, during which we have moved (already something difficult especially after 22 years in one place), but that move itself was not without problems so the album was completed against backdrop of anticipation of a new life and the series of hiccups that nearly derailed it.
Drill: Brighton sounds ridiculous with Savages, Swans, Toy, and the like. What else is everyone looking forward to on this upcoming festival?
The festival is quite a lot bigger that previous DRILL events have been so it will be interesting how that translates into what people perceive of it. Obviously the highlight for Githead is the “album launch” on Saturday 6th December at Sticky Mikes Frog Bar. It will be the first Githead gig for 4 and a half years! Otherwise the personal highlights will be the collaborations — The Pinkflag Guitar Orchestra, which has been on every DRILL so far but also the Krautrock Karaoke (it does what it says on the tin) which we’ve done a few times already in London. Otherwise there is an embarrassment of riches to be had from such a line up!
What’s next in the cards for the wondrous world of Githead?
Good question! We are talking of possibly doing some dates next year with a couple of bands we really like. Be nice to see how that works out. This year hasn’t yet stopped being crazy busy but things get a little easier after February next year.
Githead’s Waiting For a Sign will be available December 8 from Swim.