From southern France to Southsea, Curl prove to be Shapeshifters at Victorious

Curl performing in Castle Street, Southsea on Record Store Day, 2015.  Picture by Sam Taylor
Curl performing in Castle Street, Southsea on Record Store Day, 2015. Picture by Sam Taylor
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There’s a treat in store tomorrow for fans of dark pop as Anglo-French act Curl will be playing their new album, Shapeshifters, in full.

The show will be a rare hometown gig for half of the band, vocalist Hayley Alker and drummer Jon Callender. Jon also plays with Portsmouth goth/dream pop legends, Cranes, who last released an album back in 2008.

The French wing of the band is producer and guitarist Frank Amendola and guitarist/keys player Wil Sintaste.

Jon has played Victorious before in its first year on the Common, in a very-occasional side project with friends, but never with Curl.

‘We’re really excited about playing, and I’ve got a link with the AMP (Academy of Music and Performing Arts) stage because I lecture part-time at the academy.

‘They invited us to play, so I said I’d ask the guys and they were coming over anyway because we’ve got a video shoot this week. It’s literally the first chance for us to air the new material – it will be the first proper gig, and we will be playing every song from the new album, plus a few old ones as we’ve got a full hour slot.’

The new album sees the band continuing to evolve away from its roots.

‘Curl was originally an electronic project that Frank was behind. The first proper album, We Are Complex, was half-band, half electronic, then our last album Exit Real Life was a bit electronic, mostly band.

‘Now this is all band and very slightly electronic, but it’s not like when the album’s conceived, we’re like: “Right, we’re going to take it in this direction”. Whoever’s got an idea, on any instrument, whether synthesiser or wall-of-sound guitar, they put it on the table, then Hayley will write a melody and often the lyrics dictate the sonic sculpturing around it.

‘Lyrically this album’s very dark and quite personal to Hayley. Unfortunately she lost her dad a year ago, and she was incredibly close to him.

We will be playing every song from the new album, plus a few old ones as we’ve got a full hour slot

Jon Callender

‘He was a really cool jazz pianist, so they would sit at the piano trying to make sense of the musical world. Losing him was a big influence on the record.’

Work actually started on Shapeshifters fairly soon after 2015’s Exit Real Life.

‘We were at this studio in the foothills of the Alps, just north of Antibes, and it was really lovely, we did two or three sessions there and we were thinking this is a really great album, but there was something not quite right. We didn’t say anything to each other oddly enough, though. Our long-standing engineer, Teo, he said you guys have now got to see if you can play this live. So we went to a studio in Monaco and he threw up some mics to see how tight we would be when we were rehearsing. We listened back and we said: “You know what guys? This sounds better than the actual record.” So we decided to go back to this studio in Monaco and did another three sessions there.

‘By then we knew the songs inside out and smashed through the songs in a week and went back a month later to mix it. It’s this vintage analogue studio, and it’s great, it was exactly what we wanted.

‘The whole feel, it’s got a softer, more creamy fluidity to it. It’s darker and probably a bit more down-tempo, but the single is totally in your face, it’s a steam-roller, rollercoaster from start to finish.’

The album’s title track is out today as a single on Hampshire-based Beth Shalom Records. The album will follow on October 13 before they head out on some European dates.

‘We’ve gone with a label run by this guy called Joe Booley, He’s 22 years old, but he’s all over it, he’s amazing. He’s probably the most highly motivated young music industry entrepreneur I’ve ever met, actually.

‘He understands what artists want because he’s an artist himself and he always tries to use Hampshire-based companies to work with so he can keep it kind of local.

‘I was a bit suspicious at first, maybe just because he was so young, but he’s been an absolute revelation – he’s put his money where his mouth is.’

There’s also a little treat on the new album for fans of Jon’s other band.

‘The last song on the album is a reworking of one of the songs on the A-side called Lonely Hearts. Jim Shaw from The Cranes has done a complete reworking on it and that’s only going to be on the vinyl.’

And there’s further potentially exciting news from the Cranes camp.

‘Jim’s virtually finished mixing two Cranes albums,’ says Jon, ‘but there’s various reasons as to why they haven’t finished them, which only Jim and Allie (Shaw) can tell you about.

‘That has been going along on the background – Jim’s such a perfectioninst – well we all are, but Jim’s got that creative madness about him.’


AMP Stage

Saturday, August 26, 5pm