Rising Bristol quartet Swallow Cave have dropped ‘Cold Moon’, their hotly anticipated follow-up single to their track ‘Nostalgia’ which came out earlier this year. The new track builds upon the pensive disposition of its predecessor with its earnest ruminations on struggles with mental health, but adds to the brilliance they previously showcased with further sonic territories being explored.
Initially adorned with a lilting country feel to the guitar lines that intertwine with one another, ‘Cold Moon’ gradually grows from being a gentle, laid-back affair into a reverberating release of passion towards the closing passages of the song; all the while maintaining the soothing vocal harmonies that have become a hallmark of their work to date. Whilst there were similar elements on previous Swallow Cave outings, it’s the heavily layered effects within the climax and delicate drone of keys on the verses that demonstrate a leap forward and are used to lift the track to greater heights.
While the instrumental transforms through its gentler passages into a blissful culmination at the end, the lyrics zoom in on darker aspects of the self and the mind and their contrast with the positives in life that they can sometimes cloud over and obscure. The use of metaphor and invitation to imagine certain things that invoke feelings of pleasure or despair (warmth across the skin vs cold water lapping against the waist) is consistently clever and feels incredibly relatable – the listener knows how it is to feel everything in both the literal and implied sense and can grasp the contrasting moods conveyed through the lyrics. Despite the looming misery that drapes itself over aspects of the track, there are clearly bright things on the horizon for the band if this is anything to go by.
Speaking to Wax in a short Q&A, lead vocalist and guitarist Polly gave a deeper insight into the story behind the track’s inception and the process of working alongside producer Ali Chant to bring the song to life in the studio.
You return with your second single of the year in ‘Cold Moon’, can you tell us a little bit about the inspirations behind the track and its creation?
‘Cold Moon’, as with most of our songs, started out with me in my room reflecting on whatever I’m feeling at the time, which on this occasion was a struggle with the mind and feeling particularly low at night. My favourite moment in the songwriting process is always taking a simplistic demo from my bedroom to the band and then turning it into a Swallow Cave song. This one came together really quickly, and I think that’s because everyone could really relate to it and there was a lot of room for layering and sounds. It was really exciting working on this together and we instantly loved playing it.
You’ve said that this track best encapsulates the sound of the band more than any other song you’ve made to date, what makes this one stand out to you above the rest as being your favourite?
I think with this song we just all really connected with it straight away and enjoyed it so much. Lyrically and sonically it’s a reflection of us; we’ve all had struggles with mental health in our lives and musically it just feels like the perfect balance between the 4 of us and our own musical influences. I’ve said before that no matter what, I don’t think anyone would ever love this song as much as we do because we wrote it for ourselves.
The lyrics seem to come from quite a dark place, yet the song itself to me feels quite uplifting in places – what made you feel like this juxtaposition was the right approach and would fit together?
The lyrics definitely have a dark overriding theme but actually they came from quite an uplifting and positive place initially. I went for a walk one morning after feeling particularly low the night before; it was such a nice day and I felt everything really intensely like the sun, the wind, the sounds etc. Then I went home and wrote this song. It’s really about the contrast between the lightest and darkest sides of the mind and that pull of dark/existential thoughts that creep in but also the nice moments that kind of pull you back. It’s like a constant tug of war in the mind and I feel like the song as a whole reflects that.
It feels as though you’ve pushed your sound to be even more expansive than previous single ‘Nostalgia’, what took you in the direction of experimenting with a wider range of sounds for the recording of this song?
It felt like the right song to be a bit more expansive sound-wise for us. When I recorded the demo, it was just my guitar with loads of delay on it and my voice. That kind of echoey, layered delay was something we really wanted to encapsulate in the final track and we were keen to incorporate keys which we had not done before. Working with Ali in his studio was also really exciting; Florrie [lead guitar] is a bit of a gear nerd and Ali was more than happy to nerd out over all his gear together with her. As soon as Florrie spotted the space echo, she got super excited and wanted to use it to produce a weird echoey loop that ended up adding a really vital layer to the build up at the end of the song. It was nice to be able to play around with things like that during the recording process and add layers, there’s also a piano recorded into an old dictaphone in there!
There is a definite development on the cinematic feel to this track, and you have often spoken about the importance of cinema to your work, what effect and influence did this have on the creation of ‘Cold Moon’?
We all share a passion for film and music and the crossover between the two. Sarah [bass] and Izzi [drums] met whilst working at an independent cinema so film has always been something we talk about a lot as a band. I think the cinematic quality is something that comes through quite naturally in our music from the way we create, think and work together but there was not a strong direct influence on this song. I would say that Sarah is probably quite a driving force in the cinematic vibe that we have and it’s something that comes across strongly in her art and photography too. Interestingly, Sarah and I studied art together at uni and would consistently but separately get comments on our work having cinematic qualities so it’s something that’s always been present.
What can we expect next from Swallow Cave?
This year has been difficult creatively but has also been a good time to reflect and we want to take time to work on new music together. Hopefully we can come back to live music sometime next year with a fresh set and get an EP out at some point.
Words: Reuben Cross Photos: Chelsey Cliff
‘Cold Moon’ is out now via Sad Club Records. Stream below or purchase a limited cassette run of the track alongisde previous single ‘Nostalgia’ via Bandcamp.