Big Country Info Big Country Info


30 April 2015

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(This is not an episode of The Great Divide podcast, but as the two hosts are both on this Infomercial it might sound like it at times!)

In this Infomercial, Thomas Kercheval talks about his album “We Were Here”, released in April 2015. Following him on this journey through the album, the themes, and the creative process is Svein Børge Hjorthaug.

We talk about the significance of the cover photo. Tom leased it from the Imperial War Museum after seeing it and immediately knowing that this was it. What is its significance, and why was it so important to get this image?

Track #1: We Were Here.

  • Why did this song become the title track? What it is about this song, if anything, that summarize the album?
  • It has a “war” theme, but more with the perspective of steeling yourself for the battle to get rid of negative emotions, old baggage, bad memories…
  • This was the song which was the hardest to get right musically?

Track #2: Flicker.

  • An incredible touching song about the birth of Tom’s first son. Lots of memories and personal experiences around becoming a dad has gone into this one.
  • This is the song people should consider the single. It was also considered as the album opener for a while.
  • And how about that backing vocalist?

Track #3: The Ones Who Love You.

  • The song opens with a Kerch trademark: very heavy, guitar-driven opening, but the song goes in a different direction.
  • A song about (and to) Stuart Adamson, addressing him directly.

Track #4: Bells Ring True.

  • A great example of Tom’s very percussive guitar style. Tom reveals some of his inspiration for it.
  • One of the shorter songs! Tom is happy that he has gotten better at editing himself and this is a good example.
  • The guitar solo is an example of the style often employed – melodic, not overtly technical, but very catchy, memorable, and hummable.
  • The bell sound sounds incredible! How long does Tom spend getting sounds like this exactly right?

Track #5: Lost Lamb.

  • A re-recording of a song from the previous album “Greenhorn.” Tom talks about why he wanted to go back to it and doing an updated version.
  • The big e-bow moment on the album – an admitted and unashamed Big Country rip-off!  
  • Based on the biblical story about the shepherd who lost one of his hundred lambs and almost sacrificed everything to find/save him.
  • The loss of the thunderstorm…

Track #6: Lonely Rider.

  • The song with the bagpipe sound! Not real bagpipes (but real bagpipe samples).
  • A song about someone who refuses to be bound down, going where the road takes him/her, feeling a sense of freedom. Tom adds some personal memories that adds a good backdrop to the song.
  • The album’s tendency to mix well between positive songs and more troubled ones.

Track #7: Window Unit.

  • A great example of how a song can build. This one starts slowly and tenderly, but builds dynamically to a pretty high level of intensity. Tom talks about how he builds his songs.
  • What is a window unit anyway, and how did one of them inspire the song?

Track #8: Melt Away.

  • Another example of a song on this album about someone who is out to get you (i.e. the voice singing). Tom talks about whether this is coincidental or not, and what inspires a lot of his lyrics.
  • An angry rant about one of those “opposite” type of people that you don’t want to be anything like, or don’t want anything to do with. You just want them to go – or melt – away.
  • Possibly the most aggressive song on the album.
  • Music vs lyrics and how one can influence the other.
  • Tom tells the very funny story about how he went about recording the vocals for this song – in full paranoia mode.

Track #9: All That Shall Be.

  • Another strong Big Country influence musically, going back to the earlier songs. Driving floor-tom type of beat, similar rhythms, guitars, etc.
  • The haunting mid-section. Tom talks about wondering whether to add a guitar solo to that section vs. the instrumental piece.
  • Lyrically, one of the denser/mythical songs. There are elements of childbirth in there but is much wider than just that. Possibly elements of looking for the way home or to something/someone – Tom struggles to explain it.

Track #10: Hold My Light.

  • A lovely ballad centred around having kids, comforting them, and also catching something that they can look back on years from now, knowing how you felt about them.
  • This song went through several revisions before Tom felt he got it “right.” Some of the earlier versions of the song are included on the bonus edition of the album on Bandcamp.
  • Tom talks about how some of the lyrics were also inspired by the movie “Interstellar” and still fit thematically.
  • This is an example of very direct lyrics. Tom talks about the difference between writing direct vs. abstract lyrics and what he finds easier.
  • The use of sitar on the song.

Track #11: Quasimodo.

  • Tom pleads guilty to the obvious Skids influence. A short, harder-edged, direct, punk-inspired song.
  • Another song about a person, mindset, or belief that you’re rallying against. An anthem of “I will not listen to you or go by your rules.”
  • The theme of “suffering those bells” which runs through the song, and what that signifies.
  • Tom shares some personal examples which speaks more to the background of the messages in the song.
  • Svein’s favourite misheard lyric from the album is on this song…

Track #12: Papoose.

  • A song with bagpipe and banjo sounds, but (again) no actual bagpipe and banjo. Tom explains.
  • Some of the musical inspiration behind the song.
  • Tom wanted to create a song that was purely acoustic yet very driving and playful, and that became this song.
  • The playfulness and jaunty feel of the music is a stark contrast to what the lyrics are about. Tom shares a sad and very personal story about the background to the song.
  • The song is however not meant to be dark, but triumphant. There are definite elements of looking up to someone and being proud to stand beside someone, which is a lovely sentiment to end the album on.

“We Were Here” is Tom’s fourth album. We look back at the previous albums.

  • “Valiant” (1995).
  • “Gunnysack” (2000).
  • “Greenhorn” (2004).
  • Tom reveals that there is an even earlier album by The Dissidents (Tom’s first band) called “Invocation” (which Svein didn’t even know about).

We discuss the 11-year break between the previous album, and how long “We Were Here” has been in progress.

We discuss the concept of making music when it’s not your main career, and how some big-name artists also talk about how they would make music as a hobby even if they never “made it”.

“We Were Here” is the first album Tom released under his real name and not “The Dissidents” or “Diss”. How does that feel? And how did it feel to be known as “Diss”?

Music as a product. How disposable it seems to have become. Do people listen to music as albums anymore, and in good quality? How does Tom feel about making an album in these days?

Tom thanks a number of people who were helpful in the album making process, and mentions a number of friends in the Big Country universe who is also making independent music and is well worth checking out.