Every genre has its strengths.
EDM and House can make hours spent dancing feel like minutes, metal can help people channel darker emotions into something energising and positive, classical can make an otherwise torturous study session fly by like magic. Indie’s strength is in its accessibility: most people don’t have a favourite pirate metal track to soothe them at the end of a long day, but almost everyone has a favourite indie jam.
However, this low barrier to entry is a double-edged sword. The indie landscape is competitive; it can be hard to stand out among so many, and it can be even harder to make something unique, challenging and beautiful.
With that said, “Away From The Rousing Parades” makes it look effortless.
A musing on mortality wrapped up in the language of an idyllic day at the beach, every lyric is precise: dripping in nostalgia with just the slightest edge of melancholy. Callum walks us through coastal arcades that have seen better days but, unlike Morrissey’s “Everyday Is Like Sunday”, there’s a reason for the sombre vignettes we are being treated to.
Whether it’s secretly lonely people treating each new day as a battle to be won, or career-heads clamouring over obstacles at a breakneck pace just to feel accomplished, everyone ends up at the same broken down beachside. Everyone hears the same music. Everyone has to join the parade.
Put simply: everyone dies.
Not the cheeriest subject matter, I’ll admit, but Away From The Rousing Parades is anything but nihilistic. The moral is in the lyrics, and it’s one of hope:
Well I don’t mind losing, only need one to hold onto
‘Cause chasing a number just won’t do.
Even if you miss it in the vocals, the triumphant shift in the final minute makes it clear: this isn’t a song about death, it’s a song about love.
As the layers build and the vocals become freer and less burdened, harmonies glide in that make it clear Callum is not alone in his quest for meaning, and neither are we. At its highest point, it’s the kind of sun-drenched, soaring festival fodder that’s bold and optimistic enough to keep you from fearing anything, even if it makes sure to end on a quiet note that leaves you introspective.
Be sure to listen, and then come back to hear Callum’s own thoughts on why he chose the subject matter he did, as well as how he crafted the song from beginning to end.
Who knows, it might give you a whole new lease on life.
How did you get into music and songwriting?
I first got into songwriting through Elliott Smith and boredom during school holidays.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
‘You’d Better Sell it While You Can’, which is also the first song I ever released as a single. I wrote that song a good eight years and to be honest I’m still not tired of singing it, probably because it has developed a lot during that time. It slowly became a song I was happy to release as a debut.
Why do you write songs?
It’s just something I need to do. It’s a great outlet and I need to express myself, which is something I don’t really have any other way of properly doing.
What part of writing comes easiest to you?
The melody and guitar parts. I spend a lot of time fiddling around, constructing and improving ideas on the guitar, and then when I’m happy I add some words, which takes a little longer.
How did you find your current style?
I think I’ve gradually picked up different musical elements that I love and tried to develop my own style of them. For example, I am really into falsetto because of Bon Iver, and my guitar parts are inspired a lot by Elliott Smith. As for the rest I haven’t consciously tried to find a style, it has just come out naturally through songwriting and letting the song be what it is, not trying to make it something else.
What makes a song good?
Any song is good if it makes you feel something.
Which song by another artist does that for you?
The song which has made me feel the widest range of things is “Red Eyes” by The War on Drugs. Since it came out 4 years ago, it has been relevant in all the different aspects of my life, and it’s absolutely incredible.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a songwriter?
How vital it is to craft your own identity and be original. When you’re not trying to sound like somebody else, songs come across much more honest, which is very important to me.
Where do you start when you write a song?
I like to start with the guitar part, combining a melody with chords, and then work the lyrics around the rhythm.
How do you write lyrics?
I get a feel from the instrumental, choose a theme, then I write as much as I can while inspiration is still in my head. I then add more in the notes on my phone and when I think I’m finished with the lyrics, I test them in full with my guitar and listen back to the recording. I then change any bits which I think are a bit rubbish and, when I can’t find any, I consider it finished.
Would you rather write on personal experiences or general themes, and which approach comes more easily?
I’m slowly becoming more comfortable writing about personal things, though I still keep them a little more cryptic. I’m heading more in a personal direction though because I personally relate to songs that are honest and personal, and I would like my listeners to relate to my songs as well.
Do you put more emphasis on lyrics or sound? Which would you consider more important?
I think I put more emphasis on sound. I have very strong ideas about how I need my music to sound, but I feel like my lyrics can change in style quite a lot. I would never put out a song which I felt neglected either lyrics or sound though.
What emotions, thoughts, feelings do you want your music to inspire?
I personally don’t think it matters how people feel when they listen to my music, as long as they are feeling something. Music is so powerful and what I love is that it can have such a range of interpretations. For example, I find lots of songs sad which aren’t sad lyrically or musically, it’s just feeling I get.
What role does production play in your writing?
It’s a massive part of things. Even though I write on an acoustic guitar, I demo with effects included, and the feel of the song then influences how lyrics are delivered.
Do you tend to start with a goal to write towards, or shape the track along the way?
I very much like to have a main goal to write towards, but I’m always open to editing the shape of the track. Lots of the time that happens after playing a song through with my band and talking through how it could be better.
What was the first part of Away From The Rousing Parades to be written?
It’s one of the rare songs of mine where the lyrics and guitar part were written pretty much at the same time.
How and why did you settle on that specific rhyme scheme?
I didn’t really consciously consider the rhyme scheme, it came naturally from the structure of the song, so it was more decided on in order to fit the guitar part.
How would you describe the main theme of the song?
It considers my own mortality and the process of working out what I value most in life. It’s very optimistic and empowering, at least in my opinion.
What was your favourite part of the song to write?
I loved writing the melody and harmonies, but those are my favourite parts of writing every song.
What do you want listeners to take away from this song?
I hope it helps people to find perspective who, like me, get caught up in things way too easily. Failing that I’m happy for whatever sort of meaning people derive from the song, as long as it’s positive!
What’s next for you in terms of upcoming music/shows?
I’m spending the summer recording as many songs as possible and hoping to take the next step on from releasing singles!