Liverpudlian trio, SPQR, are set to release their debut EP this week. Titled ‘The House That Doubt Built’, it sees Peter Harrison (guitar/vocals), Bex Denton (drums) and Jack Sanders (bass) fuse a mix of off-kilter art rock with a hint of alt-rock drive popping up throughout. From the opening, multi-layered whirlwind of ‘Or So I Say’ to lo-fi yet raw finale of ‘Dystopia’, SPQR take you on an enticing insight into Harrison’s troubled psyche. Throughout, there is a pessimistic, self-conscious and melancholic tone to songs such as ‘Whatever Weather’ and ‘Suffer’.
On the eve of its release, we spoke in detail to Peter Harrison about each song on ‘The House That Doubt Built’.
Or So I Say
This was a tough one – both writing and recording-wise I found this song a pain to do. I did and redid the vocals around 8 times because I kept coming back into the studio and thinking “not good enough!” I still think that now, but there’s a point when you’re recording on your own where you have to just say “this’ll do”, or you’d never finish anything, let alone release it.
It’s the track on the EP that deals heaviest with my idea that not being here anymore isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I find the quiet refrain in this song quite healing and humbling when I sing it for that reason. Although this is a difficult song, it’s a good’un for me. Also, it’s bloody long so have a nice sit down before you begin!
‘Suffer’ was recorded first. About a year and a half ago now, if not more. It was the easiest to record as I had Con Dickson from COLOUR in the studio helping me. I had been looking for a space in a song to add a spoken word section for ages, because I had read ‘The Screwtape Letters’ and one section had really represented how I was feeling then (also because I’m a pretentious arsehole). The bridge in this song was the perfect moment for this, so I got my lovely friend Jim to say it over the track in his lovely Essex accent and it fitted the song perfectly and turned out great.
This song deals with a lifelong issue that I seem to have. I’m a people pleaser and will go to the point where I damage myself and my health to make other people happy. I do this an absurd amount, being fully conscious of how pathetic and ridiculous it is. It makes me feel like I’m selling myself, hence the line “a piece of Pete for everyone”.
Life Would Be Easy
‘Life Would Be Easy’ is the least structured and least hooky song on the EP. The structure is a bit all over the place and messy which I thought was a great contrast, as I sing about my desire for things to be clean and nice. It was another fairly straightforward recording until the vocals. I redid them all, over and over like the first track. I particularly like the bridge in this track, it was very “where I was” at the time.
The lyrics are about being so sensitive to everything that you just can’t fathom coping with another thing you don’t like. You want everything to just be nice and skippy, happy fun – good and clean and simple because you’ve had enough awfulness to last five lifetimes. I know that’s dramatic, but that’s what music is for isn’t it? You get to be a bit naive. You get to throw a little baby tantrum and have people clap for you!
This song was the original dramatic end to the EP before we stuck ‘Dystopia’ in afterwards. It was a joy to record. I really enjoyed singing the vocal lines and playing the guitar lines. Apart from a last minute change of the crescendo at the end, it was straightforward recording and I think it sounds OK. Obviously, it’s at a very basic recording level, and it was my first ever time tracking by myself.
‘Whatever Weather’ goes through themes of pointlessness and lack of thought or care. People sweating the small stuff and missing the important things – myself included. It’s so very easy to get trapped in your own little world, and to detach yourself from what’s really going on. We all do it every day. It also addresses the meaningless nature of things. I’ve learned more recently that YOU attach meaning to things, they don’t have meaning by themselves, but at the time of writing I felt like life was all one big pointless lie and that no-one else seemed to mind that.
Written in half an hour, recorded on a cheap USB mic, and played very badly on piano, ‘Dystopia’ was never going to be a big standout track, but I had opened up and it had poured out. I was very reluctant to put it on the EP but my friend and label boss Michael had very strongly insisted. I’m glad he did now. It’s a bare-bones, heart-wrencher, and that’s it. It hurts to listen to because I remember what an awful time I was having but hey, that’s music! It’s how it’s supposed to be. You’re either close to the bone to the point where it’s sometimes a little too uncomfortable, or you’re singing about an imaginary girl you’ve never met. I know where I’d rather be.
‘The House That Doubt Built’ EP by SPQR is released on 10th November on Loner Noise Records.
SPQR will be touring the UK on the following dates:
26th Alexander’s, Chester
11th The Five Bells, London
17th Fallow Cafe, Manchester
18th Sunbird Records, Darwen
25th The Red Lion, Bristol
1st EBGB’s, Liverpool (EP release Party)
16th The Ferret, Preston