Sometimes you just have to rip it up and start again. Come early 2017, Fatherson – comprised of vocalist/guitarist Ross Leighton bassist Marc Strain and drummer Greg Walkinshaw – found themselves at a turning point. Digging up their roots and decanting to a new studio home in Glasgow, they longed for a change. Sum Of All Your Parts (out September 14th via Easy Life Records) is the result, and their most assured record to date.
Forming in Kilmarnock, Scotland, in early 2010, Fatherson immediately captured hearts with their raw, honest alt-rock sound. Inspired by Scottish stoicism as much as their own personal turmoil, debut album I Am An Island and its 2016 follow-up Open Book were masterclasses in full-throttle rock songwriting, and garnered support from (and tours alongside) their north-of-the-border brethren in Biffy Clyro, Frightened Rabbit, Idlewild and Twin Atlantic, as well as further runs alongside the likes of Kings Of Leon, Augustines, Enter Shikari and more.
“When you’re away on tour for a long time and you haven’t been back home, there’s a realism in people, especially in Glasgow, that’s very refreshing to come back to,” says Strain of that Scottish connection, “I think the music encapsulates that quite well.” It’s an attitude that Leighton’s songwriting feeds off, too. “There’s an element of not being allowed to be too big for your boots,” he explains. “Your ego will get pummelled out of you as soon as you get home, and that’s good grounding. Even the people who are massively successful who come from here, when you meet them in real life, they don’t have this sensibility of narcissism. It’s not cool to boast about yourself, so just write about things that you know.”
That no-bullshit, heart-on-sleeve approach is integral to Sum Of All Your Parts. Where before, Leighton admits to masking his thoughts and feelings behind metaphor and anecdote, this time around he pulled back the comfort blanket. “I think this is the first attempt at being a bit more specific, lyrically,” he says. “I was listening to a lot of Frank Ocean, who’s very specific with his lyrics, even though it’s very ambiguous. You might never know what it actually meant, but you can extrapolate something that’s a bit more personal. It’s less of a generalisation on the whole - it’s like, ‘I feel like this about this, and you can understand it or you can not’.
“You definitely code things,” he shrugs. “That’s what makes every songwriter different, I think: the way they code the things they’re trying to say. This time I didn’t really bother, I thought, ‘Fuck it, this is how I feel about this’, rather than tarting it up and hiding what I was really trying to say.”
Returning from the tail end of the Open Book tour, the trio immediately began hashing out their third record over nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday sessions in Glasgow studio. Free of deadlines and buoyed by the success of their second record, they promptly threw out the rulebook. “This was a ‘no stone unturned’ album writing process,” explains Strain. “We gave everything a shot, whereas before it’s been a bit more about getting results.” Being granted the time and space to experiment allowed Fatherson to break free of the British rock mould they’d found themselves being placed in. The opening one-two of ‘The Rain’ and lead single ‘Making Waves’ is testament to that fact – within ten minutes, Sum Of All Your Parts skips from hypnotic, looped piano, through storming post-rock passages, to the soaring pop nous of that first-released single.
Embracing the “wacky stuff”, as Leighton puts it, was integral to pushing Fatherson forward. “You can end up losing your mind a little bit, but I think it’s an important thing to do – it means all your shit ideas are out, so hopefully in a couple of days you’ll just have good ideas!” he adds with a laugh. “It’s something you don’t really get unless you have space and time to go towards a project like that. You end up having to engage that part of the brain where you can be a bit left-field with it.”
“We made music that I never thought we could make,” nods Walkinshaw.
Recorded live and in chronological sequence with Claudius Mittendorfer (Arctic Monkeys, Interpol, Weezer), Sum Of All Your Parts fizzes with a youthful energy, reinvigorating the group from the get-go. “A big part of this process was trying to capture that feeling of when you play a song together for the first time, and you look at each other in the face and get that smile that you can’t get rid of,” explains Walkinshaw. “We weren’t so concerned about some of the pop sensibilities – it’s a little bit more raw, and a little bit more loose, and a bit funner, at points.” Shaking off the preconceptions of their open-hearted, raw rock sound, Fatherson instead found themselves embracing that ‘anything goes’ approach, and rewriting their legacy in the process. No longer content to be one element in the pantheon of British rock bands, instead they sought out their own path.
“There’s an element, when you make music nowadays, where you try to work out what you fit into,” Leighton says. “I think this album, we decided not to preconceive how it was going to be reacted to.”
“This album is the most laid bare record that we’ve ever made,” Strain continues, returning to that thread of honesty. “None of them have ever had too many bells-and-whistles, but the heart of this one is just the three of us playing together in a room. We did it all just standing together in a room, like you would if you were in someone’s garage just starting out.” Harking back to the innocence and innovation of those early days, while taking confident strides forward, the result is Sum Of All Your Parts – a record that finds Fatherson reborn.