No identity crisis for False Bliss

By Stuart McHugh
Wednesday, 24 April, 2019, 12:09

If the name sounds unfamiliar it should be no surprise. Edinburgh-based foursome False Bliss were previously known by the less-catchy moniker DTHPDL, but for frontman Alastair Chivers, it was time for a fresh start.

“The name change is probably the least important point about the new album,” he insists, “but it felt required really.

“DTHPDL had initially been the vehicle for me to get songs out there, but it had become a completely new thing by the time we started coming up with songs for ‘Ritual Terrains’.”

The addition of three members saw Chivers’ solo setup – he’d previously recorded as Battery Face – expand, and the music grow from its more experimental roots into a fully-fledged pop monster, while losing none of its creative edge. But the process has, he says, changed from his ‘solo’ days. “One person might have initiated a song here, or two people there but we came together when creating everything.”

So making for a more collaborative effort overall?

Chivers agrees. “Chris (Laidler) produced and mixed, John did the art, Dave promoted our launch. We’ve really become a team in both songwriting and working as a band.

Sadly, this unit now has to withstand another change, with guitarist Dave MacDonald leaving for Canada. “Dave is going to be a massive loss,” says Chivers. “Being in a band is like being in a family. You fall out, you love each other, you laugh, you depend on one another.”

However, the frontman still takes a lot of the responsibility for what is now a shared project, including the lyrics. These, according to their blurb, range from “art to technology to multiple personality disorder and supernatural folklore”.

Quite the range of subject matter, but Chivers isn’t for giving us a blow-by-blow account.

“I believe that art should be about interpretation without an explanation behind it”, he insists, “where it prompts you to consider who you are and what your surroundings may be.”

“We’re over-saturated with information now,” he continues, “and a lot of it is a complete fabrication or a total misunderstanding of how people think, feel and behave – especially towards the youngest generation, who strike me as open and understanding towards each other and anyone who is different.

“These themes and meanings work in collaboration with the music, as does the art for that matter, and if you want to find out more, you just have to dig a little deeper. It was certainly important to me in making all the lyrics available through our Bandcamp.

“We don’t want to tell people what to do, but as a band we want to search for a meaning in music and I think you can make a statement without candid political lyrics like say Fugazi or Minutemen."

And given the mention of art, it’s no surprise that the album’s packaging – “a fantastic mix of themes and colours” created by guitarist John Muir – should also be an important factor. “John came up with something very powerful and beautiful at the same time,” Chivers enthuses.

Ironically, given that the band’s previous release as DTHPDL, on cult Edinburgh label Song, by Toad, was entitled ‘The Future’, the quartet take a traditional approach to releasing their music – on attractive yellow cassette. “Digital is great and loads of people operate that way when consuming media,” Chivers admits, “but I think every band wants to have something physical. Who wouldn’t want to have their work pressed on vinyl or released as a sonic yellow tape with ’70s influenced cover layouts?”

And the retro influences continue in their musical tastes, now drawing from four members rather than just the singers’ own record collection. “There’s loads between the four of us: Sonic Youth, Suicide, Magazine, Rowland S Howard, Brian Wilson, Scott Walker, David Lynch, Bjork, the list goes on...“

But musically, the band’s future is uncertain. “Ritual Terrains has been a culmination of three years’ work and now that we have completed that, the main aim is to completely change.” He relates that one interview criticised the band for “not being shoegaze enough”.

“We don’t really subscribe to what is acceptable… if they dislike the music now, they’re probably going to loathe whatever comes next.”

‘Ritual Terrains’ is out now on Scottish Fiction. More at www.facebook.com/FalseBliss666.