Dry Cleaning release a new single, ‘Anna Calls From The Arctic’, off their highly-anticipated second album, Stumpwork, out 21 October.
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On ‘Anna Calls From The Arctic’, Florence Shaw narrates an off-kilter conversation with a distant friend. The track is whacked-out and otherworldly. “The lyrics were partly inspired by phone calls with a friend who was living and working in the Arctic,” explain the band. ”The song developed from a keyboard, bass and clarinet jam. This then took shape during our pre-recording sessions with John Parish and Joe Jones in Bristol and finalized at Rockfield studios a month later, with some musical inspiration coming from the dramatic scores of John Barry. The song is observational and sensual.” Today’s visualizer features the band’s drummer, Nick Buxton, displaying perfect form while skating backwards.
Having already started writing their second record before 2021’s acclaimed debut New Long Leg was released, Nick Buxton, Tom Dowse, Lewis Maynard and Florence Shaw proposed to producer John Parish that they spend twice as much time on the follow-up. Listen to the album and you can feel that increased boldness – vocals which coil tightly around deft and complex riffs, great meshes of instrumental texture and the willingness to launch into full-on abstraction. It is a heady mix that is entirely Dry Cleaning’s own, distinguishing it from their contemporaries.
Shaw demonstrated increased spontaneity in the studio, improvising many of her lyrics straight on to the album. The lyrics are almost entirely observational. There is one quote from the artist Maggi Hambling on the woozy title track, text from an old Macintosh computer virus on ‘Don’t Press Me’, and snippets from the press cuttings library of archivist Edda Tasiemka scattered throughout, but the use of ‘found lyrics’ employed in the band’s early years is now far in the past. “I wrote about the things that preoccupied me over this period, like loss, masculinity, feminism, my mum, being separated from my partner for little stretches in the lockdown, lust,” she continues, preoccupations from which wider political and social commentary emerges. “I think if you make something observational, which I think I do, it’s political,” Shaw says. “There were two murders of women in London that were extensively covered on the news, and the specific details of one of those murders were reported on whilst we were at Rockfield. That coverage influenced some of my writing and my state of mind.” The band’s instrumentation, too, may well reflect our increasingly bleak socio-political landscape, the way it can pick up intense and urgent momentum, or zone out into icy detachment.
The band’s loss of a number of loved family members over the last year would also have an impact on Stumpwork. Among them was bassist Lewis Maynard’s mother Susan, at whose home the band rehearsed in their early days, the location of which inspired the name of their debut EP Boundary Road Snacks And Drinks. On the day that the band appeared on Later With Jools Holland, she was in hospital and unable to receive visitors due to coronavirus restrictions. “It felt special that what we had achieved from the first record, could still entertain her and communicate with her while no one could see her,” says Maynard. New Long Leg was released a week before she passed away, so she was able to see it reach number four in the charts. “The success of the band became a distraction for the whole family while grieving. And it gave even more importance to what we are doing,” Maynard adds.
Stumpwork was made in the aftermath – they were in the studio writing the day before Susan died – but from their grief they found fuel for the record’s most joyous elements. “I see the album as a celebration of what she gave us and a reflection of how fortunate we were to know her,” says Buxton. Guitarist Tom Dowse also lost his grandfather who was extremely proud of the band’s success. “It’s of course devastating to lose close family members but their legacy in Dry Cleaning is wholly positive,” he says. “The moments in the songs which are upbeat and joyful made me think of them both the most.”
The breadth of influences on Stumpwork is dizzying, a definitive rebuke to those who might reduce Dry Cleaning as a post-punk band. Their music is bolder and more expansive, Shaw’s lyrics explore not only loss and detachment but all the twists and turns, simple joys and minor gripes of human experience too. Ultimately, what emerges from it all is a subtle but assertive optimism, and a lesson in the value of curiosity. As Shaw sings on ‘Kwenchy Kups’, “Things are shit, but they’re gonna be OK.”
Stumpwork will be released on 21 October digitally and on CD, cassette, standard white vinyl and limited-edition black eco vinyl. As well as limited edition t-shirt bundles being available from the 4AD & Dry Cleaning webstores.
Dry Cleaning – Stumpwork
1. Anna Calls From The Arctic
2. Kwenchy Kups
3. Gary Ashby
4. Driver’s Story
5. Hot Penny Day
7. No Decent Shoes For Rain
8. Don’t Press Me
9. Conservative Hell
10. Liberty Log
Dry Cleaning upcoming 2022 tour dates below – get tickets here.
16th – Hidden Door Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland
17th – Castle Howard w/ Duran Duran, York, England
18th – Sideways Festival, Helsinki, Finland
21st – INMusic Festival, Zagreb, Croatia
24th – Glastonbury Festival, Pilston, England
2nd – Down The Rabbit Hole, Ewijk, Netherlands
3rd – Rock Werchter, Werchter, Belgium
9th – Summerfest, Millwauke, WI, US
10th – The Bishop Bar, Bloomington, IN, US
11th – Basement East, Nashville, TN, US
12th – Ace of Cups, Columbus, OH
14th – Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH, US
15th – El Club, Detroit, MI, US
16th – Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago, US
24th – Standon Calling, Standon, England
28th – All Together Now, Co. Waterford, Ireland
31st – Deer Shed Festival, Thirsk, England
6th – OFF Festival, Katowice, Poland
11th – Haldern Pop, Haldern, Germany
19th – Green Man Festival, Crickhowell, England
25th – All Points East, London, England
27th – Mayfield Depot w/ The National, Manchester, England
31st – Deer Shed Festival, Thirsk, England
11th – Le Guess Who? Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands