Sean McGowan curates calm and creates chaos for homecoming gigs at The Joiners
When Sean McGowan released his debut album, Son of The Smith, its frenetic blend of indie, punk, a hint of ska, and anything else that came into his orbit, was no surprise to anyone who’d seen his riotous live shows.
But his recently released EP Curate Calm, Create Chaos – the first new material since Son of The Smith – has thrown fans a bit of a curveball. Largely acoustic, it exposes a much more tender and introspective side of the punk-poet.
But as Sean reveals, he hadn’t initially intended to record an EP at all.
‘Curate Calm, Create Chaos’ was born from a particularly turbulent time in my life. A string of events knocked me for six.
‘I picked the five things that were wrecking my head, and then wrote something about each of those five things.
‘I'm a storyteller, that’s my style, so it’s not always focused on those five things – they’re kind of the trigger points for each of the songs.
‘I didn’t really want to do an album of songs like this though because I want the next album to get back into the band stuff and playing electric guitar.
‘But I thought these songs were important, and the stories behind them were important. And I thought they were alright as well!
‘I went into the studio and recorded them without telling my management or my label – I just went in and did them with Jay Malhotra who plays in Kate Nash’s band and with Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly.
‘we did it in maybe three or four days. We locked ourselves in and then I turned around to my label and management and said: “By the way, I want to release this…”
‘They were like: “What the hell is this? This doesn't sound a bit your last record,”’ he laughs.
Fortunately Sean’s signed to Xtra Mile Recordings, the home of likeminded souls (and former tourmates) Frank Turner and Beans on Toast, so he was able to release the EP as he planned.
‘In my deal, I've got full creative control. I wouldn’t have signed the deal otherwise, I don’t think.
‘It's been quite nice because it just allows me to go at my own pace. But I’m a songwriter, it’s my job, I do it all the time.
‘This EP was probably the first time where, by the time I’d written the second song, I knew they were all going to be part of a whole.
‘Before, I would write songs and then slot them in to where they fitted. It’s been a lot more focused, this one.’
Sean has been touring to back the EP, and it wraps up in his hometown of Southampton, with two nights at The Joiners, a venue that is Sean’s home-from-home.
‘I wouldn't even dare to tell you how many times I’ve played there. I’ve worked there too – I still do every now and then if I’m around and they need me.
‘The first night certainly sold out quicker than I expected. Just because you sold out a show last year doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to do it again, but we’ve been fortunate this whole tour – most of it has sold out, which has been astonishing to me.’
But he’s back out on the road in January, playing Derry in Northern Ireland, Bishop’s Stortford, Bournemouth and Reading during Independent Venue Week, a cause close to his heart.
‘When I do a support tour, I could end up anywhere, and it’s often an O2 venue, which are not my favourite places to play – but they’re fine, and they give people jobs and all the rest of that, and offer fans a place to see live music.
‘I'm not militant about it, I'm fine, they're just a thing that exists, and it's annoying you have to spend 400 quid for a pint, but whatever, they serve their purpose.
‘But independent venues are absolutely crucial, that’s where I play and that’s how I earn my living – and from working in them as well.’
The Joiners, Southampton