Originally from Liverpool, Ben Thomas has been writing for bands since he was 13. His previous output as L’Etranger spanned over a period of six years, with a string of prior releases. However, after growing frustrated with the electronic music scene, a change of direction was imminent. Meeting producer Matt Johnston (Eagulls, Spectrals, Pulled Apart By Horses) who produced and mixed big tide at his Suburban Home Studio, and William Jones – former Spectrals drummer and percussionist on two of the singles, Thomas undertook his first explorations into big tide, recounting that they sounded very much in the vein of Big Star and Teenage Fanclub.
A former French House music aficionado, his previous moniker L’Etranger caught the attention of tastemaker publications Clash, Nest HQ, Indie Shuffle, Earmilk, HBF, Purple Sneakers, French Shuffle, Amazing Radio and Bella Union Simon Raymonde amongst others. However, after joining Spectrals as lead guitarist on their 2013 tour, the seed was planted for a change in musical direction. A stay in Paris was the final catalyst for the transition, when Ben picked up his 12 string and the chiming jangle-pop sound of big tide was born.
We caught up with big tide to talk about upcoming artists and what makes him tick:
(Be sure to stream big tide’s latest single ‘Half The Time’ below)
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
I come from a bit of an arty-farty background so it must have rubbed off on me.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
The idea? Usually I’ll play a chord or riff hear all the other parts. The song pretty much writes itself.
What’s on your current playlist?
Teenage Fanclub, The Thrills, The Rubinoos, The Bird and the Bee.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I let the instruments speak for themselves, no FX or fancy processing. The tone comes from playing technique. Guitar into clean amp.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
We’ll start by tracking drums and laying down a guitar scratch track. Then build the song up each element at a time, bass, guitars, vocals. Pretty conventional really.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I can’t really remember a specific moment. I think i’ve always just assumed it’d be something to do with music. I don’t think I’d be that good at doing much else to be honest.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
A guitar. A mic too.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Spinning Coin from Glasgow are ace. They’re very much in that vane of brilliant Glaswegian bands like Orange Juice, BMX Bandits, The Pastels. They’ve got a record coming out on Domino this November which was recorded with Edwyn Collins.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
The most mundane scenarios, in the shower or going to the shops. Usually a lyric or line will pop into my head and I’ll go “hmmm that might work in this…” and I’ll use it in a song I’m working on.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
Rickenbacker 330 12 string, Burns Double Six 12 string, Fender Super-sonic half stack. That’s the bulk of my rig.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Writing pop songs for other artists, but I’ve said too much…
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
I’ve gone back to a more traditional approach to songwriting, picking up a guitar or bass and taking things from there. As opposed to solely relying on a computer like I’ve done in past projects. My arrangements are a lot stripped back too; guitar, bass, drums, voice.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
Two singles which will be released digitally and then on 12″ vinyl.
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