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Music Interview: Third Lung

Music Interview: Third Lung

British band Third Lung have a big sound and even bigger ambitions.

The up-and-coming four-piece, ( Tom Farrelly – vocals, guitar, piano; Camilla Jurasek – lead guitar, piano /keys, backing vocals; Sam Waugh – drums; Rob Jacques, bass) who come from Reading, in Berkshire, play indie-rock that’s steeped in the stadium sound of U2, Coldplay, Queen, Muse, Springsteen and Foo Fighters, and they don’t shy away from citing those acts as an inspiration – even though they may not be the hippest influences to shout about.

Although they are not playing arenas yet, talking to the group in a bar in Reading town centre, hi-fi+ puts it to them that not they’re afraid of being labelled stadium rock or playing large arenas.

“No – we’re not,” says Jurasek. Adds Jacques: “We’ve been doing a tour of record shops and when people ask me what I like, it’s always big artists – I love Oasis, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Bowie, Elton John, Tom Petty…”

“It’s all the stuff that’s uncool to like,” says Farrelly, laughing.

Jacques replies: “Maybe I should talk about some John Coltrane records instead, but at heart I’m a rocker and I love stadium gigs.”

Farrelly then admits that when he and his two brothers were younger, his mum bought them Springsteen baseball jackets with Glory Days emblazoned on the back, adding: “One of my earliest memories is of dancing around in the living room, listening to Springsteen.”

Talking about some of his other influences, he says: “There’s a song on our album called ‘The Little Man’, which is the last track, and that’s very much like The National for me. I know the album has got a lot of big rock stuff on it, but there are also some more folky moments.”

That album, which came out last year, is called Gameplay, and was mostly made at RYP Recordings in North West London, with producer and studio owner, Michael Smith.

It’s the band’s first official record – prior to Jurasek joining, the other members dabbled with prog-blues-rock on an album called The Girl With The Red Umbrella, but it wasn’t released.

“I bring a kind of edgy indie to the band – when I say ‘edgy’, I don’t mean Edge-y, as in The Edge from U2,” says Jurasek.

Although, to be fair, there’s more than a touch of Bono and co to Third Lung’s music – especially the widescreen rock and Eno atmospherics of The Joshua Tree, but more on that later…

Farrelly, Waugh and Jacques were playing as a three-piece for around 10 years before Jurasek joined – she’s married to Farrelly, and they met at college when they were in their late teens.

“I was a drummer back in those days, in a band called Yankee Nine Niner,” says Farrelly. “The lead singer left, and Camilla took over vocal duties. We then became a four-piece rock band called The Alive. When that disbanded, I started writing my own material.”

Music Interview: Third Lung, Music Interview: Third Lung

The name Third Lung came from when they played a local open mic night.

“My mum was there,” explains Farrelly. “I’ve always had a powerful voice, but I was nervous and over-egging everything. When I came off stage, she said, ‘You sing like you’ve got a third lung,’ and it stuck.”

SH: Let’s talk about making your new album with producer Michael Smith (see sidebar, below). How did you hook up with him?

CJ: We’ve worked with him for a long time, so it was a natural thing for us to do an album with him.

RJ: We were introduced to him – we did a load of live recording and we wanted to make a EP. We thought it would be cool to use some of the live recordings but make them into studio tracks – he remixed three live tracks for us and then we recorded another three tracks in the studio.

Michael’s great at simplifying things – he trims the fat off.

TF: We recorded the album in January last year – we pretty much did it in one hit. We got the drums and the bass down to tape in the first three or four days and then we did the guitars and vocals etc.

Did you know how you wanted the record to sound before you went into the studio?

CJ: We wanted quite an ambient, but, at the same time, raw sound. Some of our references were Coldplay and U2.

There are quite a few synth sounds and effects on the record…

TF: Michael is a massive Eno fan – he’s always looking to broaden things out, so you can immerse yourself in a soundscape – and we’re big U2 fans, especially The Joshua Tree. That Eno influence serves our songs quite well.

The first song on the album, ‘All of That Love You Can’t Lose’, is a ballad, with acoustic guitar and U2‑like keyboard sounds. I expected it to turn into an epic, but it’s more restrained and understated than that…

TF: We tried it a few times with a full-blown band groove, but it never felt quite right. We do a live version which is very stripped-back – acoustic guitar, piano, bass and drums – which seems to work nicely, but it didn’t feel right putting it on the record.

Music Interview: Third Lung, Music Interview: Third Lung

CJ: ‘All of That Love You Can’t Lose’ is almost like an intro to the album. We always had vinyl in our head when we were choosing the order of the tracks.

The second track, ‘Laura’, is completely different – a rock song with a big riff, and ‘Maybe’, which follows it, is very full-on…

TF: Yes – it’s ridiculous! Full-blown from start to finish – a big old tune.

‘I Won’t Sleep Tonight’ is a piano ballad – effectively just vocals and keys…

TF: It’s me trying to play the piano – I’m not a pianist but I write on piano. We ended up recording the piano at Woodworm Studios [in Oxfordshire].

CJ: They have a lovely baby grand there – that was Michael Smith’s idea.

TF: A guy from Fairport Convention [Dave Pegg] used to own the studio.

The song ‘Lo-Hi’ has an ‘80s soft-rock feel, with its chugging, Springsteen-like guitar…

TF: Michael Smith really captured the ‘80s U2 vibe with that one.

And on ‘Head Heart Halo’ there’s a huge intro riff that sounds like Muse…

CJ: Yeah – one of our friends heard the playback of it and said, ‘What the f***? It shouldn’t be on the album.’ I quite like that – there’s often a song on an album that almost feels like it shouldn’t be there, but it should.

You mentioned the last song on the album, ‘The Little Man’ earlier – I like the big, echoey drum sound on it…

TF: I got that idea from The National – they use a lot of tribal drumming as almost as a pad underneath all the other more subtle stuff, which floats over the top. I was also thinking of James Vincent McMorrow.

When it comes to songwriting, do you collaborate?

TF: Yes. Sometimes I’ll bring in chords, lyrics and a melody but then the other guys will flesh it out. For our single, ‘No Names’, Camilla had all the guitar parts and the arrangement all sorted – I then put the melody and the lyrics over the top, and then Rob and Sam did their thing.

Where you’re based is famous for the Reading Festival, but what’s the current local music scene like?

TF: It leans towards indie, rock and alternative. The music scene is good – there are a lot of really talented bands – but it goes in waves. We struggle to crystallise a community in Reading – we’re in the shadow of London.

So, what’s your plan for the year ahead?

TF: We’re going to promote the album all year and play more gigs. We’re growing in confidence and we’re starting to believe in ourselves as a band. It’s been a bit of a battle to get to that point, but we’re in a good place now.

Music Interview: Third Lung, Music Interview: Third Lung

Gameplay by Third Lung is out now on CD, vinyl and digital.


Michael Smith: Producer

Michael Smith (Image Credit: Ruari Meehan)
Image Credit: Ruari Meehan

We asked producer, Michael Smith, who runs the studio RYP Recordings, in North West London, to tell us why he wanted to work with Third Lung and how he nailed their sound.

“Tom’s a fantastic songwriter and his voice is like nothing I’ve ever heard. It’s so powerful but also gentle at the same time.

“My favourite songs are the more delicate ones.

“It’s a big sound, but with quieter moments – that’s what we were looking for. Unlike a lot of musicians, they weren’t afraid to push themselves – they wouldn’t settle for less.

“In the world of rock music, where everything has to be quantized and fit perfectly on a grid, we went the opposite way.

“We tracked the rhythm section to tape and every song started out in a room as a full band – guide vocals and all – but we built on that.

“When it came to programming, I picked up a couple of analogue modular synths.

“Third Lung love U2 and that Brian Eno world, so I delved into it. The record is full of imperfections, but when you blur the lines, it makes things sound bigger – Phil Spector spent his life doing that.”

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