Gradually swimming into sharper focus over the past 18 months, SHE DREW THE GUN are set to issue their magnificent debut album Memories Of The Future towards the end of April. With a clutch of SoundCloud tracks steadily accruing them under-the-radar praise up to this point, the band went overground with an acclaimed session in the hallowed surroundings of the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios for Steve Lamacq last year. The build-up is now over: She Drew The Gun are squarely in the crosshairs.
Memories Of The Future is a beautifully understated collection of latter-day torch songs that plots a course between Portishead, Nina Simone, PJ Harvey, and is supported by instrumentation that suggests Radiohead’s mellower tracks. She Drew The Gun is primarily the outlet for chief gunslinger Louisa Roach, for whom the band was initially a way for her to realise her own solo ambitions. “I wanted to get something recorded, so I bought a decent mic a recorded at home and put something out on the internet. I didn’t just wanna call it ‘Louisa Roach’; it had to be something a bit different and something that could grow afterwards if you wanted it to,” Roach explains on a bustling evening in Tabac on Bold St. “I thought, ‘I’ll start on my own and see what happens’.”
“I took me ages to think of a name,” the songwriter notes. “She Drew The Gun is a bit different and I thought I could do cool visual stuff with it – plus, I didn’t want to define things too much. I’ve seen quite a lot of people do it before and thought ‘I wanna do that rather than just use my own name’ – like Villagers: it’s basically him and he’s grown it into a band. I thought, ‘That’s cool, that could be the thing for me’. It’s grown up now, there is a band and the people in the group are really important, so it’s evolved into something. It started off as a little seed – just me – and it’s grown into something better.”
Placing Roach’s beguiling vocals front and centre, Memories Of The Future combines smoky jazz-cellar ambience with the lyrical introspection of bedsit indie. “Probably the most deep-seated influences are old country songs,” Roach says of formative inspirations. “I first started to fall in love with singing when I used to sing Patsy Cline songs and stuff like that with my nan, when I was little. After that, I massively fell in love with The Beatles and Radiohead.” Current Spotify choices, meanwhile, include Father John Misty, Australian duo Holy Holy and underrated US alt. pop singer Santigold.
Pieced together in The Coral’s practice room and Parr Street Studios, the album’s production duties were helmed by James Skelly – who’s also releasing the LP on his own imprint, Skeleton Key Records. “We went into Parr Street and recorded all the basics and spent more time mixing and adding to it. The vocals and guitars took two days, then we went back and tracked a few different things in the practice room. The only pre-production was going round to James’ house and playing him the tunes and him saying, ‘That’s good, let’s do that one’. He’s got really good ears for what’s going to sound good,” Roach enthuses of the sessions with Skelly. “When I went to him it was just me playing the guitar, and me and him talking about music all the time, sending each other tunes. He was sending me loads of tunes he thought would be good for various tracks.”
Playing their respective hands subtly, the gentle ebb of Pebbles and the chugging rhythm of Chains come to full bloom over repeated listens, while the otherworldly Billie Holiday-esque vocal that leads What Will You Do seems to have been beamed in from a distant galaxy. The LP reaches its summit, meanwhile, on the beautifully underscored Since You Were Not Mine. “That song is 100% addressed to me, that was based on real-life experience,” Roach confesses. “It’s based on the experience of being in a dream and something feels so real, and you wake up and it’s not real anymore. Say you have a dream about someone who used to be close to you and when you wake up they’re gone, but in the dream it was so real – that’s what sparked off the idea for it.”
Highlighting the influence of Abingdon’s most famous export meanwhile, the title of Where I End And You Begin references Thom Yorke & Co., albeit subconsciously. “The track was originally called Drunken Girl, cos it’s about me when I’m drunk,” Roach explains. “It’s about when I woke up the next day and people have been like, ‘Do you remember what you were doing last night?’ And I was like, ‘Err, no, I don’t remember any of it!’, and the track is a song to that person who was drunk that I don’t remember. When it came to the album, the track title fitted right in.”
Similarly, one of the disc’s standout moments – the crepuscular Be Mine – combines a repeated guitar figure, Mellotron strings, cello and Roach’s haunting vocal to stunning effect. “It’s about addiction,” Roach states. “The voice that’s singing ‘be mine’ is the thing that’s giving you pleasure, so at first the person in the song goes towards this voice cos it’s taking them away from everyone: ‘Oh sweet nothing/Please take me away/The kids aren’t so nice/So I don’t wanna play’ is about turning away from the world, cos I wanna be with this person or this thing. The second half of the song is about how you’ve gone too far into the addiction and you’ve lost touch with reality.”
Elsewhere on the LP, the Theremin-assisted 1950s sci-fi garage rock cut Pit Pony points up a treasured influence in groundbreaking US novelist Kurt Vonnegut, with the album title being sourced from a line in the author’s best known work, satirical anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
Roach’s fellow sharp-shooters in She Drew The Gun – drummer Sian Monaghan, guitarist Jack Turner and multi-instrumentalist Jenni Kickhefer – will be an integral part of the band’s next manoeuvre: that of taking the songs out of the recording room and delivering them to an audience. What they’ve discovered so far is that translating the material to a live setting sees the songs take on an edgier quality. “There’s the recording side and then there’s the live side,” Roach says of the contrast. “We’ve got all the elements from the album, so you can’t be too by the book and exactly like the album is. Also, cos we just went in the studio and recorded some of the songs without doing demos or anything, they’re different when we play them live now as we’ve added new sections. If we recorded the album now we’d probably do it differently. The album’s a snapshot of that time, but with playing live you’ve got to do the right thing and not be too precious.” With their first UK headline tour backing up the album’s release in April, as She Drew The Gun take aim, you’d be a fool not to get caught in the crossfire.
Memories Of The Future is released on 22nd April 2016 via Skeleton Key Records.