Written by: Andrea Janov, CC2K Music Editor
I have written about Great Cynics a few times here on CC2K (check out Don’t Need Much and In The Valley reviews) and I finally got the opportunity to talk with Giles about the band, the transition from solo project to band, their music, and what is next for them.
Great Cynics started as an acoustic solo project, what prompted you to change direction and start recording with a band?
I was writing songs for an album and kept on thinking “I can hear a drum part fitting in here”. So I asked Bob, who had been in a few bands I’d seen at ska-punk shows when I was 16, if he’d be up for playing drums on a record with me. We practiced and it just felt inspiring and fun so we kept it. When we went to record Don’t Need Much we originally thought we weren’t going to have any bass on it, but Peter Miles insisted on playing bass himself and it sounded good. We left it like that and Iona joined when we started touring. We don’t think too much about it, we just do what feels right.
Is there any difference recording with a band rather than solo?
It’s more inspiring, more fun. You can try different things to make an interesting record, even if it’s a ‘simple’ record. Since recording Don’t Need Much, I’ve got really into Pavement and Pixies. Those bands’ records have so many layers to them and have been an inspiration to the songs we’ve started writing for our second album.
Great Cynics is a name that evokes specific connotations, but your music is more upbeat and catchy than those connotations. What is the reason behind the name?
The name is about overcoming your self-doubts, and doubts of people around you. When I was playing acoustic, I played under the name Cynics. That name came from having an argument with a friend from my old band about the logistics of touring, and thinking “you’re a fucking cynic”. We kept the name when we became a band. But then we had to change it a week before the release of our album due to some kind of copyright issue with The Cynics, the psychedelic rockers from Pennsylvania.
I read that all the songs on In The Valley have been recorded acoustically when you were still a solo artist. Have those acoustic songs changed personality at all once they were recorded by a full band?
Our plan was to do exactly not that. We kept the tracking as simple as we good, recording the backline live and not layering on more vocals than needed. It was something we thought about, because when you have three instruments you have to think about their dynamics which I never did when I was playing on my own. We didn’t change any of the structures or lyrics, we just kept it as simple as those songs originally were.
Are you the sole songwriter in the group?
I write the guitar parts and rhythms, and Bob and Iona do their own thing. I write the lyrics too. It would be weird for a solo acoustic person to become a band and not keep the same lyrics; the lyrics that were personal to the one person who it was before. It seems to work.
I adore the lyrics “45s that play like 33s” it is so quaint that it instantly made me feel nostalgic for my local shows in high school. Is that feeling of the importance of music and the culture that surrounds it something that is important for you to convey in your lyrics?
I think I write about the things that excite me. Growing up and getting into punk rock, getting excited about it and wanting to be involved is the kind of stuff that gives me a buzz. That’s one I can’t control.
Are you guys record nerds? I’ve noticed that both Don’t Need Much and In The Valley have been released on limited first pressing colored vinyl. Is that something that you guys are into or is that the decision of the record company?
Getting our records pressed on vinyl was something we just assumed we would. Records are more interesting than CDs, and now that high street shops are selling record players it makes sense to buy records rather than CDs. We’re so lucky that we have this relationship with Lisa at Kind Of Like Records, because we get excited about the same stuff. Records and variations of them is most definitely one of those things.
The listener can hear the progression from Don’t Need Much to In The Valley in terms of your sound as a band, and it feels like they are just the beginning of what Great Cynics is going to record. What is next for the band, are you currently writing any new material or is there a new album in the works?
We’re always writing and talking about what we want this band to be. We’re looking in the direction of album two, which I’m really looking forward to. We had practice today and the songs for the second album dig a little deeper than the ones on Don’t Need Much. I think we may have scratched the surface on that one.
Do you have any plans to tour the U.S.?
It looks like we may be over later on in the year, which is something we’re currently figuring out.
Best show you have played?
The Atlantic, Gainesville at Fest 10
Best show you have been to?
Most recent best show was Lemonheads at Shepherds Bush Empire
Dream line up for a show that you are playing?
Jawbreaker, Jets To Brazil, Forgetters. Do we have to play, or can I just go?
What are you listing to right now?
The new Cheap Girls album, Giant Orange.
What are your guilty pleasure bands?
Motion City Soundtrack, but I’m pretty bad at keeping that a secret.
There are kids discovering punk rock every day, what bands should they be listening to?
The bands that have always excited me most are the local ones. It’s kind of special when you fall in love with bands who are living in and singing about the same city you live in. There’s a connection to be made there. So my advice would be to find something that’s not a world away.