Band of the Day

2012.04.05

Tall Ships

Captivating experimental rock straight from the British seaside
You are a triumph of natural selection, every mutation leading to your perfection.
lyrics from Vessels

Tall Ships are a three-piece experimental rock band from the town of Falmouth, in the coastal city of Cornwall, England. The band’s lineup includes Ric Phethean (guitar, vocals, synths), Matt Parker (bass, sampler), and Jamie Bush (drums). Inspired by post-rock/experimental bands like 65 Days of Static, Battles, and Sigur Ros, the trio first started making music together in 2008, while attending University College Falmouth. They were offered a supporting slot for Tubelord, at their university bar, and started recording music. Live, the band is known for swapping instruments and looping tracks, and have supported Minus The Bear and 65 Days of Static on their European tours. Their debut, self-titled EP was released in March 2010 on Big Scary Monsters/Blood & Biscuits, and was limited to 250 screen printed, hand-numbered copies. This was followed by their second EP, There Is Nothing But Chemistry Here, which was recorded in an abandoned surf repair shop over the course of a week.

If you were to compare bands to companies, Tall Ships would most likely be a startup. In a startup, employees wear many hats; it's not uncommon for a CEO to walk a dog in between closing rounds of funding, or for an engineer to go on a toilet paper run. Similarly, members of Tall Ships will often swap instruments with one another while playing live, or they'll suddenly switch between electric and acoustic guitars. The trio—Rick Phethean, Matt Parker, and Jamie Bush—first came together when they were attending University College Falmouth in Cornwall, England. Shortly after landing a gig in their university bar, they released their self-titled debut EP in 2010. With songs entitled “Chemistry” and “Books,” their collegiate background even permeates their music. The latter track is a slow-burning lesson in math rock. Complex rhythms and loops build up for nearly two minutes before lead singer Ric Phethean lets the words, “God, I'm scared” come out of his mouth. Experimental, yet playful, “Beanieandodger,” starts with the sound of distorted dog barks before incorporating a twinkling xylophone line to the instrumentation. Perhaps paying respect to the ships docked in Falmouth Harbour, in their native Cornwall, is “Vessels.” Leading up to the final verse is a synthesized, Old World-style accordion line. It's like a prog-rock sea shanty, especially when all three band members chant, “Our vessel, we carry you and me/now sits at the bottom/the bottom of the sea.” The seaside pull runs deep in Tall Ships—their latest EP, There Is Nothing But Chemistry Here, was recorded over the course of seven days in an abandoned surfboard repair shop. Nestled in sand dunes, and without a kitchen or bathroom, members of Tall Ships were forced to devote their full attention to creating the EP. “Bearandblitz” is an understated, yet carefully-created soundscape. The lyrics of “Chemistry” are sparse (there's only one verse, which is repeated in mantra-like fashion), with Tall Ships treating vocals as another instrument to be manipulated and looped. “Plate Tectonics” is their most accessible song to date; a modern indie rock love song for the geologically-inclined (“we collide into each other like tectonic plates,” sings Phethean). Their music might be too cerebral or experimental for the average listener, but give Tall Ships a chance and you'll be rewarded with captivating songs.