Three years on from the release of their debut album Graceless, London quintet SULK are back with the anticipated follow up: a shimmering venture through shoegaze aesthetics at their most euphoric.
Taking an affinity for ’90s nostalgia and transporting it straight into the present day, SULK’s second record is a bold offering from a band that has learned every inch of their own standing.
Inspired by everything from the artists that helped define their own tastes through to stray cats that wouldn’t leave, the album is a venture through the everyday and into the extraordinary.
Stream the album below, and read what Tomas and Andy had to say about the inspiration behind each track beneath.
Black Infinity (Upside Down)
Tomas: The opening track of the album is also the youngest song on the album. I wrote it after having heard/seen Future Islands on David Letterman, funny enough. The drum beat was initially double time so it was very up tempo. It didn’t feel very SULK so I decided to change it to the current beat which felt more apt. That’s how it became the psychedelic stomper it is now instead of sounding like something from a fitness instruction video from the ’80s.The quiet bit in the middle of the song was initially only four bars, but was changed to a more cinematic eight bars by our producer and good friend Jonas Verwijnen. Good move.
Andy: This song is about that feeling when you just feel at one with the universe. That state where there is no space, no time. Where you feel like you are nothing but that you can do everything and you feel like you have it all figured out, but when someone asks you what that is, you have no idea. It’s impossible to explain. But you just felt it.
The Only Faith Is Love
Tomas: I’ve always been a fan of good pop and psychedelic music so writing this song was a a lot of fun. Similarly to the previous track, the song revolves around a main riff which constantly pops in and out. The solo in the middle of the song was written and recorded in my bedroom on my midi keyboard. I had never really been unfaithful to my guitar before so this was quite a new experience. I guess I liked it so much I added all kinds of shit (horns, shakers, sitars, wah-wahs, strings), which in all fairness, sound pretty decent altogether. The song’s about staying true to your heart. Especially at times when you feel swayed or tempted to do things you know you don’t really wanna do or when you feel fatigued about doing something you’ve had a lot of passion for (this has nothing to do about me cheating on my guitar by the way).
Andy: I heard this song and thought the main riff should be on a sitar, thats my contribution to it. Oh and the New Order-like “woo” in the middle eight.
Tomas: I’m always confused about which part of this song is the chorus and which part is the verse. I suppose it doesn’t really matter as it’s more all about the overall drive and optimism of the tune. This is probably the most quintessential indie pop song on the album.
Andy: The lyrics to this song were based on my mate. I played it to him expecting him to be really happy, and he just looked at me confused. Its about the power in believing in something, even if it is so deluded its never gonna be true, you believe in it so strongly that that kind of overpowers everything else. Sometimes you need that belief, or you never would have got where you are without it. No tricks, no illusions, just an insane belief that something is real.
Tomas: This is about the sad affair of drifting wayward, losing foothold, struggling to find the right place in your life. The kind of stuff we all experience from time to time. The main riff was originally an octave lower and the beat was more baggy. However it all felt a bit parody like so I pretty much immediately scaled it down to a more straight beat and moved the riff an octave higher. The result feels like a mix between The House of Love, Bruce Springsteen and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Andy: I remember Tomas spent ages asking for the mix to be dirtier and more distorted. It just kept getting cranked more and more and he’d be like “hmm yeah that’s fine”, then the next day there’d be an e mail – “more”.
Tomas: I’ve always loved “Saturday Night” by Suede. It’s an evergreen classic that could’ve been sung by greats like Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. A song that is able to transcend time and generations. I guess I wanted to do something along those lines (no pressure). Well, whatever the result of my songwriting is here I’m in no position to judge. However, the inspirations and influences for it are true greats. Speaking of inspirations, for the guitar solo, I pretty much went all in for that kind of laid back, borderline cheesy,Roxy Music Avalon-era vibe, which I do have a big soft spot for. It’s probably my favourite bit of the track too. And what the song is about? As Metallica once poetically put it – Carpe Diem, Baby.
Andy: Yeah I’m in a position to judge it and I don’t think this song transcends it’s 3 minute running time, let alone “time and generations”. Talking of Metallica this one’s a bit like the “Fade to Black” or “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” of the album. The ballad basically.
Tomas: The song’s about hubris, temptation and fall from grace. Like Icarus – flying too close to the sun, or like Adam & Eve – eating the forbidden fruit. I wanted to spin on that theme with an intro that would create a dystopic, post-apocalyptic, wasteland vibe. I used four or five samples which I reversed, time-stretched and put lots of delays on to create this effect. The embryo for this song is pretty old. The only parts I liked from those early demo sessions were the verses, the rest was pretty bad. After we releasedGraceless I was quite determined to finish this one off as the verses felt too good to go to waste. I’d say the timelapse between the composition of the verses and the choruses are about seven or eight years.
Andy: This is the one that when everyone in the band heard it they were like “we don’t like it” and then when we’d finished it and it was mixed and mastered, everyone was like “we effing love it”. There’s a couple of things I did on my guitar where I had to bend it out of tune with the tuning pegs as I was playing it. I’ve no idea how I’m gonna replicate that live.
Tomas: Ever wondered how Oasis and Blur would sound together..? Like the previous track I started writing this song quite a while ago. It’s the same story here, the chorus came about long after the verses. Nothing more to say really, the song is a pretty straightforward swagmuncher.
Andy: This song is about creativity. Its about being sat there banging your head against a wall, not knowing when creativity is gonna come and bless you with its presence. You can end up doing some weird things while you’re waiting for inspiration – I tippexed my watch white, put all my DVDs in alphabetical order, and fed a stray cat ham for a week. In the end it wouldn’t leave, so I had to spray it in the face with a hosepipe. Probably the saddest thing I’ve ever done. If you’re the cat and you’re reading this – I’m really sorry. It wasn’t my fault, it was creativity’s.
Love Can’t Save You Now
Tomas: A rock/pop number à la The Charlatans, Primal Scream that revolves around a swirly riff (unsurprisingly).
Andy: This song is about the scene. Its kind of about how cliques in the scene are like cults. And like a cult it sometimes doesn’t feel like a healthy atmosphere. Sooner or later you realise you don’t want to waste your energy being inducted into some kind of secret society. Unless they give you a cloak and a cool mask. I’d be in one then.
The Tape Of You
Tomas: The story behind this song begins back in 2008 when Jon played me “Thursday” by Asobi Seksu. I instantly fell in love with it and it really got me inspired me to write something as melancholic, emotive and euphoric. Again, the chorus didn’t come along easily so I decided to take a break from it and move one with something different. It wasn’t until after we released Graceless that I decided to work on this song again. Pretty much straight away I got the chorus right and I finished off the song a lot quicker than I could’ve imagined. I was listening a lot to The House Of Love at that time so there’s a good chance that had something to do with the inspirational bit.
Andy: I wrote the lyrics to this about 4 years ago. It’s about not letting go. Choosing to live inside your head in a memory rather than in the now, and how destructive that can be. You’re just trapped in this cycle, and how comforting that bubble can be but its stopping you from feeling anything else. You’re kind of in stasis and the only way to move on is to stop replaying the memories over and over again.
Another Man Fades Dawn
Tomas: The oldest song on the album. The main core of song was written over ten years ago (before I even moved to London). Inspired by Joy Division and Ride I wanted to go for something that I would describe as a “musical procession”. I wanted to have that type of celebratory and ritualistic feel to it as the song is about how religious organisations become politicised over time, how their origins/ideals become corrupted and how they blind their followers.
Andy: My favourite line on the whole album is in the first line of this song – “So you live for your mother, in the name of the father”. That’s not me being bigheaded by the way. Tomas wrote the lyrics to that one.
No Illusions is out now via Perfect Sound Forever.