22nd September 2022 0 By Jon Deaux

Having first met in 1991, music photographer STEVE GULLICK and JAMES JOHNSTON, founder of Gallon Drunk, began blurring the boundaries between audio and visual in 2004 when they formed their own band, ‘…bender’. They’ve maintained the habit ever since, with Gullick subsequently founding Tenebrous Liar and Johnston pursuing a career, alongside his work with PJ Harvey and a tenure in Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, as an acclaimed visual artist and painter.

After working together on an art show in late 2019, the idea of making music again immediately resurfaced. Without any firm strategy, Johnston and Gullick began recording, unprompted, drawing upon a shared love of noise, folk, and classical. This became the album ‘We Travel Time’, a compelling and mysterious record that bravely embraced beautiful piano, voice, violin, and guitar to create a drifting haze, forging an imagined soundtrack which offers echoes of Big Star, Nico, Lee Hazlewood and Palace Brothers alongside the haunting influence of contemporary minimal classical.

Due for release this coming November 18th via God Unknown Records, Johnston and Gullick have returned to their craft to create a stunning new selection of songs and moods, brought together for the album ‘Everybody’s Sunset’. Recorded at their homes throughout 2021 and 2022, the ten songs on this new album take the fragile intimacy and agenda-free approach of its predecessor and go out even further into the fringes of tone and feeling. Utilising a vast selection of instruments between them (violin, organ, guitar, banjo, autoharp, harmonica, piano, synthesisers….), ‘Everybody’s Sunset’ ebbs and flows, bringing different instruments and signals to the fore as the album progresses.

It all begins with ‘The Moon & The Stars’, through sweeping strings, delay pedals and Gullick’s ancient and creaky upright piano. Steve had to navigate his way around the broken and out of tune keys, which determined a lot of what was played and gives the music its human and fragile sound. The simple refrain allows Johnston to create a thrilling unease with slow hanging chords and a fragmented melody. “A lot of the record is about tension,” says Johnston. “Eno and Tavener are things I was listening to; we were pushing away from songs.”

This drifts perfectly into ‘Shimmer’, a piece that feels like a whole soundtrack in one song, aurally conjuring a winter wasteland with piano and strings, before ‘A Fear Of Everything’ amps up the tension and finds the swirls of piano, synthesiser and electric guitar ambience complemented by Gullick’s voice sung into the piano chamber. “It’s almost like an orchestral version of early Gallon Drunk off ‘From The Heart Of Town’ with some of the instrumentation, harmonica and distortion, but in a different context,” suggests Johnston.

‘Save Our Souls’ arrives next and sees Gullick in full voice as the shimmering strings and buzzes give way to a simple plucked guitar and choral murmurs before the words “You try but cannot find it” seep through and the song starts to flow. “James sent this complete tune over,” explains Gullick. “I sang a loose improvised vocal which I then wrote and re-wrote until the lyrics worked. The words touch on the ever-increasing struggles endured by so many in Britain today and their latent rage.”

Elsewhere, ‘Medieval Death Song’ and ‘A Greater Silence’ float by with haunting, descending strings that are as beautiful as they are utterly apocalyptic, whilst ‘Who Eye Who’ is like, says Johnston, “something cast adrift. This has the key feel to much of the album; fragility, held together by a shimmering web of strings. The looseness of it all means the track can slowly shift and changes mood halfway through. Light on water was a recurring image we had…”

This gives way to the album’s final, yet centre piece, the epic near ten-minute title track that closes the album. Rising in a sparkling flurry of string parts and guitar delay pedals, ‘Everybody’s Sunset’ melts into a beautiful meandering synth, guitar and violin wig out that aptly completes the apocalyptic vista they have created, with lyrics that touch upon the idea of desperately holding onto all that is dear, with no support in the face of an uncertain future.
“This track, that’s the centre of the record, was cut together, cut apart, ending up almost unrecognizable from where it started and then goes off on a complete tangent,” details Johnston. “Even though we record fast, to keep a live feel, we really spent time on this album reassembling and disassembling a lot of the tracks. The fractured, wistful song has a kind of damaged psychedelic yearning we both love on Big Star 3rd, or at least that’s what we were going for, which goes into a totally spacey and almost Wagnerian synth and string freak out, or a Popol Vuh Herzog soundtrack. 

We were definitely both listening to side two of Low and Heroes at the time too and wanted to give the music a chance to stretch out, go somewhere unexpected.”
This concludes a bold, adventurous musical trip that finds Johnston and Gullick’s musical bond grow ever deeper and closer. Tune in and watch the Sunset glow.
‘Everybody’s Sunset’ is available November 18th via God Unknown Records. Pre-order the album HERE:
All songs written, arranged and recorded by James Johnston and Steve Gullick
Track listing:
01 The Moon & The Stars

02 Shimmer

03 A Fear Of Everything

04 Save Our Souls

05 Ice Moon

06 The Town That Couldn’t Sleep

07 Medieval Death Song

08 A Greater Silence

09 Who I Who

10 Everybody’s Sunset
James Johnston: violin, voice, organ, piano, guitar, banjo, autoharp, harmonica.
Steve Gullick: voice, piano, electric guitar, organ, synthesizer.

How useful was this post?

Click on a thumb to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!