Interview with Rob Marshall of Exit Calm

Give us a little of your back-story. When and how did Exit Calm form?

We got together about 3 and a half to 4 years ago. Me, Scott and Si had been in a band together before and Nicky had been doing his own thing in Leeds. We came together by luck or fate depending on how you look at it. The past became irrelevant at that point. We had to use the days ahead to prove our worth. I still have that attitude now. We’re just about to start the second album and it feels like we’re writing our first again. It’s how it should be.

Your self-titled record was recently released in the U.S. and it sounds massive. Where was it recorded?

The album was recorded at Miloko Studios in London (Shoreditch) with producer Paddy Byrne and mixed by Ulrich Schnauss in his home studio.

What was the recording process like?

If ever I am lucky enough to make another record and come out the other end saying it was relaxing, but a fairly boring experience, then I must have made a wrong turn somewhere.

It was pretty tense, to be honest, for a lot of reasons. I spent the first few days tearing my hair out ’cause I didn’t think the guitars were sounding right. Eventually, things clicked into place and we found our feet. We were pretty much set up in the same room and recorded all at the same time with the guitar amps just off in a room at the side. It needed a little separation ’cause they were recorded that loud. That was full-on in itself playing at that level for 9 hours a day. The engineer wouldn’t step in the room without his industrial earplugs, for fear of popping one of his ear drums. [laughs] I’m still suffering. We always put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves, but it’s how we are and how we work.

You build these huge walls of sound. What effect pedals are typically being used?

The gear we have is all custom in its own way ’cause it’s been broken and repaired many times. A good kick, for example, is a good way at personally modifying something that’s not quite right in the first place. It never sounds the same after that. I’m not one for reading manuals. I prefer to lose my way with something and discover its qualities over time — that way, you don’t have boundaries. Trust me, if somebody was to look at the wiring at the back of my amp, they’d probably stick a hazardous sign on the thing. It shouldn’t really work, but it does and that’s that.

In the music video for “Hearts And Minds” the band appears to be playing onstage in a cave of fog. Where were you guys?

Cave of fog! Tell me about it. I think the director had a twitchy toe and couldn’t manage to keep his timing in order for the day. Some good came out of it though, as they were able to use the set after for the film The Fog. On top of that, we were all having bad hair days which meant more wasn’t enough and well…Of course, none of this is true. It was filmed in Barnsley at the Civic Hall, a lovely venue which we ended up playing on our album release tour — a real high for us actually. People came from all over and it was incredible to receive that kind of reception before a note was played and feel that kind of energy in the air. As a one-off, we did the album start to finish as well, which added to the whole thing. It was nice to go back to the place where we did the video and have all those people there.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

We’re all into so many different things that it’s a tough one to answer. Where we meet together musically though are with your Factory/Creation/Mo Wax kinda bands.

Do any of the songs on the new album pay homage to those influences?

Not really, no. I suppose there’s a bit of a nod when it came to mixing things. Like, a Spector-sounding snare and what not. But, for the most part, we just wanted to capture what we felt we were about and try and get on to the record what we felt was a true representation of what we sounded like live.

How did the songs come together for the new album?

We basically all write our own parts. Some is written outside the room and brought in, but it’s together where an idea turns into a song.

Tell us a little about the song “Atone.” The track sounds both sweet and sorrowful. What’s it about?

You’d have to ask Nicky about that, as he takes care of all the lyrics. Musically, the verse parts came around fairly fast, but didn’t really have any direction after the melody. The first time we played it together I remember there being some concern over the fact that it sounded so different — like two songs stuck together — ’cause it’s in a different key, but I always liked the contrast of it. Listening to it now, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I think it’s the most soundtrack-like song we have. It’s also one of my favorite vocal takes on the whole album. You kind of forget about everything else when the melody comes, which helps make the second half work so well.

It must be surreal to have musicians like Clint Boon (of Inspiral Carpets), David Francolini (of Levitation and Dark Star) and Mani (of Primal Scream) attending your live gigs. Have any plans of collaborating with them ever come up?

It’s always a privilege to have the musicians you admire and grow up listening to giving you the nod. It’s becoming more and more, which is a beautiful thing. But, people are people. We know who we are and what we do and are comfortable to be in the same room as the people we admire. The fact that some of them have become good friends along the way and gone out of there way to help us is an absolute blessing. As for collaborations, it’s always a possibility, but there’s no plans as of yet.

You’ve supported quite a few acclaimed groups like Echo & The Bunnymen and Modest Mouse. What tips have you picked up from these bands?

The fact that they’re still here, still have relevance and they still mean it, is enough of a lesson. It’s best not to over analyze or busticate the reason. If anything, it just gives you the courage watching them to keep up the fight, despite the fact that sometimes you feel on your own and not part of the current season. It transcends all the bullshit and puts realness into a new perspective. We’ve never followed a trend, it’s not what were about. I know I’m real, and I believe the same for the others. And, that’s why I’m still here, still fighting, still believing. Playing with the Bunnymen was an honor and it gave me hope that the so called outside bands can still exist, survive on merit and continue to inspire through these times of confusion where the majority of the media is running around with their tails between their legs. Music has never been more alive than now — just don’t expect to be reading about it in your glossy magazines or buying it from Asda anytime soon.

Any plans to tour the U.S. soon?

There’s talks of us getting out there early next year with a bit of luck.

Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

Pick up Exit Calm’s self-titled record and check out their official Myspace page.