Interview: Get to Know Nuclear Club and Their New Album, 'Cultrecope'

As an Alt/Rock band from the West End of Glasgow, how do you feel the current music scene you reside in attributes to the growth and success of your sound?

We’ve found that Glasgow is sort of the epicenter for our music scene in this country, it’s where all the alternative, independent, underground artists seem to congregate. We’re originally from the Perthshire area, and once you go further north you tend to stray into the traditional, folk, Celtic music scene. We base our performances in Glasgow because it’s where we can most easily find other artists to work with, be that performing or recording music. Particularly in the alternative music scene, it’s quite a close-knit community, and it’s a real hot-spot for progressive, inclusive, and often fairly experimental acts. This is especially true in the West End, which hosts a comparatively young, academic, and diverse demographic. Performing in an environment in which we are often the most conventional, most predictable artists on the bill, it inevitably encourages us to be less cautious with our approach to writing and the way we present ourselves on stage. We’re made to attempt things we wouldn’t ordinarily attempt or risk seeming boring.

Let's get into some of your past work as a band. The release of your 16-track debut album 'Pop Psych' happened in 2018, and the self-released and produced album took over two years to construct! Can you walk our readers through the obstacles that came along with creating an album all by yourselves?

Writing and releasing a full 16-track album was never much of a conscious decision for us, we had performed shows regularly for a couple of years prior to our first time working in the studio, and we had found little success as a live act. We figured that the lack of an accessible back-catalog was to blame, so we hastily made two EPs compiling the songs we had written thus far. By that point we were nearly half-way towards an album, so we just committed to the remainder of our songs. Probably the main obstacle we came up against, besides the lack of money and resources, is discovering that writing for the stage and writing for the studio are two very different things. We found that the power and dynamic variation of our live performances wasn’t translating correctly into the studio, so in many ways, we had to re-write our material to be easier on the ear. This usually meant adopting a more mature approach – getting rid of loud, cymbal-laden instrumental sections, scrapping excesses of distortion, and generally limiting the use of volume to communicate dynamically. Instead, we had to learn how to create arrangements that varied between minimalism and maximalism. Typically an artist signed to a label, and therefore with some financial support, might have a dedicated producer on hand to perform that translation from stage to studio, but we’re ultimately thankful that we had to learn that lesson ourselves. Marc Thow, who recorded the album for us, did a fantastic job as a producer, and he certainly created the best possible versions of the songs we had written. But ultimately, he was limited by our own inability to write for the studio. The lack of money also limited the hardware available to us. I’m sure if we had access to a glockenspiel, or a celeste, or a full brass band, we would have found a way to incorporate that into our music. Instead, most of the arrangements in the record had to be produced using guitars and effects pedals, which in itself led us to more innovation than we may otherwise have considered.

What would the band say is its ultimate culture? What kind of themes and/or messages is the band inclined to portray through the released music? Do you guys find it easier to use your music as a platform for specific issues, or is the goal of Nuclear Club to impart more of a lighter, less politically-driven atmosphere onto listeners?

We try to be inclusive, we’re not writing music for anyone specifically, we’re not promoting any particular kind of ideology, although of course we do all have our own strong personal beliefs. But most of the music we write is deliberately introspective, we would much rather sing about things that are personal because that’s more universal. We’re more inclined to write music about people who are close to us, and about the minutia of our lives, because that’s who we’re writing the music for, and it’s the only way we’re able to write music that’s emotive. That’s very important to us; writing music that’s emotional and expressive is at the heart of our culture as a band. Our favorite bands are typically sad, wistful, and nostalgic, and often found success later in life. That lack of urgency, and the importance of making music for ourselves and for the people we know, and being comfortable to move on our own trajectory, is what keeps us going. The other thing is, we’re probably too small as an independent artist to have a significant platform from which to speak about specific issues. Perhaps if our audience continues to grow, we might one day feel compelled to use our music as a platform for activism. But for now, we tend to reflect on significant issues through the lens of how they affect us personally, rather than in general, objective terms.

We've heard that Nuclear Club is in current works to release the band's second album, featuring producer Robin Evans! How has the construction and vision of this album contrasted from 'Pop Psych'? Did the band go into the creative aspect of the second album with lessons in mind from your previous one?

Absolutely, in fact, the two main obstacles we faced when making our first album were the two most significant changes we made when approaching our second. Everything we wrote for this album was done with the studio in mind, and we had very little regard for how it would sound in a live setting because we didn’t anticipate live performances as being our focus while we made the album. As a result, the arrangements of these songs are much mellower than our first album. Our parts are simpler, the energy is less frenetic, and there’s a much greater emphasis on atmosphere and texture. Where we may previously have tried to make a section sound ‘big’ by amping-up the volume, throwing in some crash cymbals, and going heavy with the distortion, we’ve instead started adding new instruments to the mix, and piling layers-upon-layers of different tones. One example would be how frequently these songs feature drones/pedal notes, using either guitar effects or a harmonium. And that brings us to the second most significant change towards our recording process – for this album, we have had access to a much greater range of instruments, and keyed instruments of all kinds have had a huge introduction. We’ve used a harmonium, a baby grand piano, and an authentic floppy-disk-operated synthesizer from the 1980s. Using new instruments like these is not a result of any greater financial backing than we had with our previous album, but Rob (who recorded the album) has accrued a medley of weird and wonderful contraptions over the years that he is delighted for musicians like us to play within his studio. As a result, Rob has also had greater power as a producer than would have been possible for us in the past, and his input on the music has been akin to that of us as songwriters.

Apart from your second album being in the works, where is Nuclear Club planning on going next with the overall sound? Can listeners expect to receive a similar and consistent sound with Nuclear Club, or should listeners prepare for any drastic changes?

We’re trying to reach as wide and varied an audience as possible, and inevitably as part of that, we’ll try to get better at writing pop songs, and not just glum alternative music for the small indie following that we’ve accumulated so far. That’s exciting to us because really all the most widely-known artists that we admire have reached success through their aptitude for blending pop sensibilities with the innovation and expression that comes with alternative music. Hopefully, the lessons we’ve learned from these two albums will put us in the best position to make that possible, and along with that comes sheer practice – we have another two years of gaining confidence and ability as musicians. We don’t expect any dramatic changes, as our guiding musical influences remain rooted firmly in alternative, rock, and grunge. But we will perhaps work towards a glossier, more maximal production, with a widened entourage of resources and collaborators at our disposal. The plan is very much to continue towards a bigger, more self-assured sound, that reaches new listeners of all kinds.