In January of this year, we released a two part article documenting a variety of bands that where set to dominate this year. Luckily for us, the majority of artists we featured erupted this year, with a number of listed artists going on to become colossal success stories. Yet, there was one band we featured that has spent the vast majority of this year within the shadows. However, that’s not to say the said band have not successfully established themselves. There’s still some time left to this year, time that will see Exploring Birdsong majestically take flight.
Hailing from the historic streets of Liverpool, a city known for it’s musical importance, Exploring Birdsong are a tantalisingly unique and fresh proposition. A piano-led trio that bridge the gap between progressive rock, pop and symphonic neo-classical, Exploring Birdsong have the spent the vast majority of this year intricately crafting their phenomenal debut EP The Thing With Feathers. Due to be released November 29th via Long Branch Records, the highly anticipated release is an offering that shimmers with excitably unlimited promise.
Whilst the group have spent the year tailoring the release to a minute detail, the origins of The Thing With Feathers trace much further back to earlier this decade. “In terms of the time of writing, all of the songs on The Thing With Feathers date back to a time before we even had a name for the band,” state the band. “We originally started writing the earliest versions of the songs you hear on the EP way back in the autumn of 2015 when we were in our first year of University - they’ve grown and developed way beyond what they started out as, but they began formation a fairly long time ago. We had the inspiration for the concept some time ago too, but it took a while to decide how we wanted to release these songs.”
Much like many of their contemporaries, Exploring Birdsong draw influence from the rich pool of inspiration that is classical poetry and literature. It’s not a surprising fact considering the ornate and elegant symphonies within The Thing With Feathers, with Lynsey Ward’s tender, intricate and hauntingly beautiful vocals waltzing with the barbed progressive instrumentation that’s courtesy of Mat Harrison and Johnny Knight. However, what is unprecedented is the direct inspiration for the EP, with the record’s lyrical subject matter being inspired by one of the most harrowing and obscene incidents of child abuse ever recorded.
“It was only when we stumbled across the Emily Dickinson poem ‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’ that we felt a connection suitable enough to reference the poem as a title, and as a home for the songs we’d worked on and held on to for so long,” elaborates the band. “But Before we had even thought about a title for the EP referencing poetry, we were introduced to the Seamus Heaney poem ‘Bye Child’, as well as the story behind it.
“In short, the poem is focussed on the story of Kevin Halfpenny, or otherwise known as ‘The Henhouse Child’. The story dates back to the 1950’s in Northern Ireland, where Kevin was subjected to one of the most bizarre cases of child cruelty ever recorded. It’s a harrowing but fascinating story. The Thing With Feathers conceptually focusses more on the idea of how it may be inside the mind of an individual in a similar position to Kevin’s, should they have the consciousness / ability to even think as far as the situation they’re in. It’s a fairly open ended idea conceptually, but a topic we were really fascinated by at the time of writing. It then just so happened that we found a fitting title that also referenced a poem by a famous author.”
To further elaborate on the tale behind ‘Bye Child’, Kevin Halfpenny was found trapped in a cramped chicken coop in 1956. At aged seven, he only weighed two stone, was only 30 inches tall and suffered from severe rickets due to the constant lack of sunlight. On top of this, he couldn’t speak and could only make noises of similar to that of chickens. Whilst such a harrowing subject matter may indicate a level of claustrophobia and heightened distress within Exploring Birdsong’s sound, The Thing With Feathers sounds the polar opposite. The record soars with freedom and flexibility, with the sound within the EP being incredibly aerodynamic and free. It’s the sound of a band who are liberated from cliché and convention, with the record being void of crunching guitar and the aggression that’s commonplace with alternative progressive music.
With Exploring Birdsong’s originally fresh take on progressive music, it’s no surprise the group have already been handpicked to appear alongside some prestigious and acclaimed artists. Over the past year the group have toured alongside Godsticks and the ever enigmatic Sleep Token. Lofty achievements indeed, but what truly stands as a testament to their skill is the fact that Exploring Birdsong managed such feats with less than five songs to their namesake.
“It was actually kind of hard to detach ourselves and realise that we had only released two or three tracks at the time of those shows,” state the trio.”We’re so involved in the creative process constantly, and we’ve been writing for way longer than we’ve been a ‘thing’ to the rest of the world, so as crazy as it was to be performing with two great bands, we were also in a position where we felt we’d put enough work into what we do to warrant us playing shows like those. Shoutout to both bands for having us, too!”
Whilst such achievements are indeed colossal, such publicised shows are destined to be frequent in the coming year. To be put simply, The Thing With Feathers is utterly breathtaking. It’s a captivating release that completely reworks the perception or progressive music and one that radiates warmth, gripping engagement and tender catharsis – an element the band experienced when following the creation of the record.
“To be honest, it wasn’t the recording process in particular that brought a sense of catharsis, because we recorded the individual parts at different times - we re-recorded the drums over a year after the original recordings had been done, for example. But, it was when we heard the EP and the finalised product for the first time that was probably the most emotional part of the process. We’d had those songs for so long, and had heard them grow from the very first embryonic stages into a fully formed body of work, so it was strange but also a very rewarding feeling.”
With The Thing With Feathers being on the verge of being released, Exploring Birdsong are about to take flight and reach lands other artists can only dream of achieving. The EP is an original and spellbinding release that just shivers with dynamism. It’s a fact the band have even acknowledged, with the EP being engineered to deliver a sense of freshness, an element that truly separates them from their respective peers.
“We want them to hear music that has really had attention paid to it and that has been cared for - we don’t want to just sound like the next band in a genre that sounds just like the last, so for people to feel like they’re hearing something as original as possible would be amazing.”
To what heights The Thing With Feathers takes Exploring Birdsong is yet to be seen, but it’s certain that the release shall allow this extraordinary band to spread their winds beautifully. The Thing With Feathers is released Friday 29th November via Long Branch Records. Pre-order here.