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Talking To... Public Service Broadcasting

Rich Lee 07/08/2017 Deputy Editor


Public Service Broadcasting is the corduroy-clad brainchild of London-based J. Willgoose, Esq. who, along with drumming companion Wrigglesworth and multi-instrumentalist JFAbraham, weaves live drums, guitar, banjo and electronics with archive footage and propaganda material to create stunning sonic vistas of the past.

With the recent release of their third studio album, Every Valley, PSB are bringing their dazzling live show to Always the Sun this September…

 





The last time we saw you perform on Stoke Park, you blew away the crowds at GuilFest. That was 2014, so what have the last three years been like for PSB?

J. Willgoose, Esq: Hmm, I remember that gig well. Well, they’ve been busy. We’ve released two albums and done an awful lot of touring, but that’s what you want to be doing as a band, right? We’re actually taking it relatively easy this summer in terms of festivals (I think you have to as you start climbing the billing, as festivals tend to want you not to do so many), and it feels a bit odd; it’s nice to be busy and feel wanted.
 


For your new album, Every Valley, you’ve focused on one subject in particular: the plight of Welsh mining communities. What appealed to you about that topic?

I think I wanted to do something different from what we’d done before, to take more of a risk on a more human story. The more I read about the mining industry. and the strike in particular, the more I realised I wasn’t just researching and writing an album about mining; it’s as much, if not more, about community as it is about the commodity. It made sense then to start looking at framing it in terms of a community, and given the solidity of the Welsh Valleys during the strike I was naturally drawn there. There’s something about the geography, too, that I find inescapably romantic, even in the post-industrial landscape. Ultimately, though, I found it a fascinating story and one that just grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go.
 



From left to right: Wrigglesworth, J Willgoose Esq and JFAbraham

Some might say you're almost as much historians as you are musicians now. Do you see yourself that way?

Definitely not. I think a lot has been made from our early quote about ‘teaching the lessons of the past’… blah blah blah, but that was just a snappy one-liner I thought up to try and sell my solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe. I don’t see us as being historians or as teaching anything to anyone - we’re not that arrogant that we think people need to be educated about these things, or that we think we know more about these things and that puts us in a position to speak about them. I can see how we’ve helped to create that impression ourselves, but it’s really not what we’re about.
 


This feels like your most pointed, political PSB album to date. What other historic events, movements or issues might you want to explore in the future?

This is definitely a more quietly political statement, yes, but I don’t think it’s hectoring and I don’t think it’s overly didactic or patronising. It’s not intended to be. I think it’s more powerful if you leave room for interpretation and for people to find their own way through it, rather than hammering people with a big Message Stick. And in terms of the future, I have a few ideas, but the main one is having a rest, to be honest, and letting my brain recharge a bit!
 


What was it like incorporating collaborators into the work this time around such as singers Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura and James Dean Bradfield from the Manic Street Preachers?

It’s great in that they’re all fantastic people to work with and brought a collaborative spirit to this album that we’ve been missing in the past, but also in terms of their voices, too, and just the quality of those instruments. It’s just a privilege to be able to work with musicians of that calibre.




 

Your appearances over the summer at events like Always the Sun kick off a major UK tour supporting the new album. Do you enjoy the touring life?

I love playing music for a living. It’s the greatest privilege I can imagine. Some of the travelling and the lack of sleep gets a bit trying, but one of the things you learn from making an album about coal mining is that we have it very, very easy.
 


The sound, subjects and visuals of PSB continually evolve, but it’s less easy to say the same about your image. Is corduroy simply non-negotiable for you?

It should be non-negotiable for everyone.




 
Public Service Broadcasting headline the Park Stage at Always the Sun Festival in Guildford on Saturday the 9th of September. Head to www.alwaysthesunfestival.co.uk for tickets and find out more about the band at www.publicservicebroadcasting.net



 
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