Lyle’s Golden Syrup, a sweet and sticky kitchen press staple. An unusual title, I wondered if the album’s name was something to do with the long string of syrup that pours easily, only to smooth over and imperceptibly fold back into itself?
“Yeah! It’s so clear and so dark, it’s really good.” he agrees. “I wanted the sound of the album to be quite smooth, and I hope it is, so maybe it works that way. I’m really addicted to sugar. I eat way too much chocolate and sweets so I thought it was relevant to me. Also there are themes, like the name Samson comes up in the album a couple of times, this idea of a hero. Everyone knows the story of Samson where they cut his hair and he lost all his strength: suddenly all his power was gone and he had nothing. Some of the lyrics on the album explore changes like that. Hopefully it works together. At the same time, it’s artificial that I picked that name. The whole album isn’t about that at all but that name seemed to be more relevant than any other that I came up with.
[He goes to the kitchen and returns with a familiar green and gold tin of Lyle’s famous product.]
“I’ll show you the thing I like about it…you see this lion with the bees? [He reads the motto below the image] ‘Out of the strong came forth sweetness’. It comes from a biblical story about Samson who killed a lion. He came back a few days later and the bees had made honey in the belly of the lion so he took the honey and ate it. I like the fable or parable, whatever it is. I thought I was really clever putting that into a song but Patrick from Osaka gave me a song by Coil and they make reference to the exact same thing. So I’m not really original at all.”
You Look Cold got a widely positive reception from critics on its release in 2009, a surprising result for an independent artist who had made little effort to court the media. It must have been unexpected but certainly made the transition to serious artist considerably easier?
“I was surprised that it got good reviews from serious people. I didn’t, and still don’t, read much music press and I didn’t know what people were expecting so I wasn’t trying to conform to one thing or another. I was living in Dun Laoghaire when I recorded the first album and I had no idea what was going on in the music scene in Dublin. I mean I came up to Dublin for gigs, for American bands and stuff like that. I just made the kind of music I wanted to. I didn’t expect it taken to be seriously by pure music journalists. I wasn’t part of that world at all. But yeah, I should read more and know what’s going on in the music world but I don’t and I’m sure that being less informed makes my music a little more of an outsider.”
I heard one critic remark that You look Cold was like a collection of demos, very experimental in nature, as if you were uncertain of the sound you wanted to make. Do you think you found that with Golden Syrup?
“Yeah, I think I’ve succeeded a little more in creating an Album-album, a coherent piece from start to finish. Whereas You Look Cold was me learning to record and putting it out as a record. I think this one has more of a theme and someone listening to it from start to finish might be able to understand what is going through my head a little better than the last album.”
It may be silly to ask if that early success is something he wishes to replicate because of course every musician wants their new album to do well. Rather than focusing on the media’s reaction to Golden Syrup however, how important is its reception by people who like music?
“I want everybody to like it. I spent a lot of time on it and I know there are elements of it that could sound better than they do and I don’t think it would be my best. I plan on trying to continue getting better at recording and stuff. But I hope people will like it. I put thought into trying to make it so that people would enjoy it and that it’s not just a purely self-indulgent stream of crap from me. I tried to put it together in the way a public speaker would put together a sentence so that people would understand it and get the point of it and yet not make it too predictable at the same time. So yeah, I do care what people think of it.”