Prehistoric Friends is the personal project of multi-instrumentalist and multiple band member Liam Chapman and Glasgow Chamber Orchestra violist Nichola Kerr; along with a whole host of ultra-talent musicians making up their live line up.
With their debut single ‘Bermuda Triangle’ set for release I caught up with Chapman for a quaint wee chat over couple of burgers at the Rio Cafe; of course the single has now been released after what sounds like a successful show at The Old Hairdressers on Saturday.
The charming lo-fi synth pop of the single was the first thing of Prehistoric Friends Rave Child was exposed to and there’s plenty of the man behind it in the music; it is part of a forthcoming self-titled album in which Chapman has laid his heart bare.
Chapman does note that the record being so personal has had a few close friends labeling it ‘cheesy’ (indeed Chapman’s description “is a musical projection of my soul” would be fitting with this), however it’s safe to say with the team he assembled to put it together that someone would have said something if it’s a step too far in terms of cringeworthlyness.
He’s the first to admit he’s scared of what people may think of the album, especially with it being so personal: “sometimes I would be afraid to even show Nichola what I had written as there was a fine line of it being too cringey.”
Still, it’s recorded, mixed, mastered and ready to be picked up by a label: “I’ve sculpted individually written lovely emails to 30 or so lovely labels who’d be nice to be involved with; perhaps their fingers are too frozen with awe to reply,” Chapman jokes, of course while the modest Chapman remains hopefully it will get picked up, he assures us it will be release later this year no matter what.
“It’s an eight-track collection of the songs I had written between living in Yetts O’ Muckhart and Glasgow; a blend of heart-felt, warm, atmospheric dream-pop songs, combined with zany 80s pop elements; touching on themes of healing, dreams, questioning of existence and soul transportation.
“It is definitely a cohesive ‘whole’ and is a wee relic to me.”
The album was recorded with Andrew Pattie and co-producer Gavin Thompson (grnr) at Pattie’s home studio, South Sounds, in Autumn last year and the duo also helped out instrumentally on the record:
“It was a joy to work with the guys, the collaboration of Andrew’s organic technique and desire to record all of the sounds and takes naturally, creating a human feeling along with Gav’s experience in electronic production and array of knowledge in gear and plug-ins was a winner.”
It seems Chapman makes a habit of surrounding himself with super-talented individuals, he himself is a functioning part of Friends In America, Quickbeam and Miaoux Miaoux as well as playing in Frances McKee’s live band, and the Prehistoric Friends line up consists of bassist Joe Rattray (Admiral Fallow), guitarist/synthist Julian Corrie (Miaoux Miaoux) and drummer Andrew Truscott (The Seventeenth Century), not forgetting Kerr.
Still, he’s eager to point out that these guys are his friends and their talent enhances the Prehistoric Friends experience, but they’re not what could be considered a gimmicky ‘super group’:
“I wouldn’t want to use my own friends as a gimmick (as magic as they are) because we are trying to do our own thing.
“I wanted to assemble the musicians who I know are lovely people and reliable as well as super-talented, because we all enjoy each others company, there’s a really friendly good vibe and no awkwardness when we play together… I think.”
Of course Kerr, who met Chapman while playing in Quickbeam and became one of his best friends in the space of a day, being the only other permanent band member is really important to how Prehistoric Friends works.
“I love her viola (not violin) playing; it contributes a hearty and folk element to blend with the warm organ tones.
“We had a good musical working relationship and a shared passion for the 80s, which developed from writing instrumentals to creating dream pop songs with vocals and lyrics, which became Prehistoric Friends.”
It’s clearly important to Chapman that this band are considered in their own right rather than a sum of their parts and although the project has been born out of tradition and super Scottish surroundings (“in the countryside, up a hill, in Yetts o’ Muckhart”) he’s keen for them to not be tied down by their nationality.
“I like to think of ourselves as a band from Scotland rather than a Scottish band; not to disregard it in any way as we love the Scottish music scene and our involvement in it but I’ve been slogging hard at it for years and I want to be open to new opportunities and adventures.”
What Prehistoric Friends promises is something a little removed from the array of bands Chapman is involved with already, if only a little.
His output with his other bands isn’t entirely all in the same box, the upbeat electronics of Miaoux Miaoux couldn’t be further from the guitar pop of Friends in America for example, but it’s not easy to stop influences leaking through, however the majority of influence flowing through Prehistoric Friends comes from Chapman’s own background.
He openly admits that there may be hints of Capercaillie, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Hornsby scattered through the album but these aren’t anywhere near the leading elements of the Casiotone heavy record with a strong root of pop/rock with dashes of folk, shoegaze and some samba and calypso for good measure:
“I’m very open minded to music and just discover things myself without having too much of an influence from a scene.
“Everything I write is very heartfelt because it’s the only way I can do it, which I guess could relate to the idea of folk, but we don’t sound like a traditional group.”
And what of the name? It may be a disappointment to some that Prehistoric Friends doesn’t contain one hint of Jurassic Park, and indeed Chapman seems fed up of the constant questions about dinosaurs his band’s name prompts:
“I feel the word ‘friends’ can also used to describe genuine “things” as well as humans and that it’s important to preserve tradition and remember where we come.
“With everything constantly moving forwards and developing so quickly in the modern mass-consumer world, I worry that these ‘relics’ will be forgotten and become extinct so I feel it’s important to acknowledge and carry forward old ways, manners, stories and history, hence ‘prehistoric’.
“Basically, I’d rather look back knowing I was a human in the world rather than seeing a glowing blue ‘F’ before my eyes close.”
At Rave Child the first thing we considered wasn’t dinosaurs (that’s a lie, it totally was!), but as Chapman is also a member of Friends in America the possibility of a Prehistoric Friends In America split and possible pitch as a potential movie title, obviously with literal meaning this time, appealed vastly to us.
Chapman doesn’t seem opposed to the idea either (the split, not necessarily the movie) and he’s open in his admiration of FiA vocalist Matthew Rawlings’ lyrical skills.
Still, it’s early days for that, the debut Prehistoric Friends single is just out and the video, shot by the lovely Beth Chalmers who’s worked with Rave Child before, premiered on The Skinny last week, a video that Chapman seems chuffed with after having so much fun doing it:
“The video was so much fun, although we travelled round the whole universe to film it, just Beth, Nichola, Walt the Skeleton and I with a metal detector.
“We went to two quarries, the Botanics, my mum’s pond, book shops and the fantastical Titan Props.
“There’s some footage of Nichola metal detecting my face while I was sleeping that unfortunately didn’t get used.”
The video fills a new role within the song and hints at discovery and exploring new paths in life: “it’s a message to myself that I will get to where I want to be eventually.”
“‘Bermuda Triangle’ focuses on the fact that I never dream (or remember my dreams anyway) when I sleep; however, I think I do all my dreaming while I’m awake.”
“So, there are subtle hints of little props and trinkets within the film that link with this theme (look out for the uncanny burned hole in the ocean on the globe!).
“Overall, it’s daft and goofy, overacted, bad hair-cutted, action packed and full of gems but at the same time, there are some really endearing moments and beautifully shot scenes, in a way, I’d like to think this mirrors our music.”
Words: Iain Dawson