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The Nightingale talks us through their latest album

The Sound Of Animals Fighting is the best post-hardcore band you've never heard of. Despite the big names associated with the band, The Sound Of Animals Fighting has been resolute about maintaining the seperate identity and creative purity of the project; going as far as wearing masks, and insisting the media only refer to them by their animal names in write-ups. New album The Ocean and The Sun sees the band combine the experimental sounds of their second album with the guitar-driven template of the first; creating a ground-breaking record that made our Staff Picks of 2008. However the changing circumstances of the band, and the restrictions of the pact made at its creation may mean this album will be remembered for other reasons.

With their new album completing the planned trilogy from the band, we asked The Nightingale to talk us through The Ocean and The Sun, what could be the last record from The Sound Of Animals Fighting.

Why did you call the album The Ocean and The Sun? I understand there's a theme involved...

"The Ocean and The Sun was the title of the first song on the album and it just kind of felt epic. We like titles that are epic, there's nothing more vast and powerful than the ocean and the sun so it just sounded like a good overarching title that we could put on the album. And that was one of the first songs to have lyrics to it, so we could just kind of carry on the theme of nature throughout the album. The other themes in the album are a violent love affair between a swan and an artist ['Eye Of The Swan', 'On The Occasion Of Wet Snow'], and two ghosts that are in love with each other but can't touch each other because they're ghosts ['Cellaphane']."

Did you go in with that already decided or did it randomly pull together?

"No, I went in this time - one of the differences of this album, as opposed to the others, is on the others you'll notice when you listen to the vocals that it's almost impossible to make out most of the words. That's because the vocals were very much improvised, and the cool thing about that is they were raw and directly from the soul. And with this album they're still from the soul, but the lyrics are clearer and easier to understand because we actually went in holding pieces of paper of stuff that we had written. The process was still the same, we started backwards with the drums, and everybody recorded at separate times. We never sat down as a band and wrote the songs, we just added on to each other; but there was less improvisation in things like the vocals."

For Tiger... everyone only got to hear their own individual parts, and for Lover... everyone had a day to do their part. Did you put any creative restrictions on this one as well?

"Yeah, this one it was the same as the other two. The only difference is rather than doing it in a day, I would say everyone did their part in about a week. But that doesn't mean they were recording a week straight, that just means this time we recorded, put it aside, came back, listened, tried it again just to get a clearer sound. Mostly too because everybody was so busy, I mean it's like you'd start to record one song and then someone would have to go on tour for 2 months. So then they'd come back and they'd record another song, so that was another factor. The spirit is very much alive still, it's just we took a little bit more time with this one."

You've described this one as a "difficult album to tame" on your Myspace. I was just wondering what you meant by that.

"Man, I don't remember the context of that, I remember saying that the words... It was a difficult album to tame, in the sense that there were so many ideas. We had a lot of guitar driven ideas, like on Tiger..., and we had a lot of abstract ideas, like on Lover.... And there was so many ideas that it was hard to narrow them down to just doing this one album. Does that make sense? So many different ideas, we didn't want to just end up with complete chaos and something that just made no logical sense. We love abstract music, but we wanna make sure that it doesn't just sound like we threw things down. Honing in on what ideas made the most sense and filtering through the many, many ideas we had was quite difficult. So when I say tame, I just mean focus the plethora of ideas that were there."


The Nightingale takes us through The Ocean and The Sun...

A recitation in Faarsi

"The intro is Faarsi. She's [Newsha Mohajeri - Ed.] reciting a poem by Stephen Crane, the famous author that did The Red Badge Of Courage. He wrote a poem called 'In The Desert', and she's reciting it in Farsi, and we did that because I personally enjoy ethnic flavour in music. We have a lot of that on Lover... and I wanted to make sure we carried that element over."

'The Ocean and The Sun'
A thrumming driven, woozy piece of rock, and the epic inspiration for the song title

'I, The Swan'
The start of the story of the affair between The Artist and The Swan.

Did that come along later?

"Um, no. The music was recorded pretty much like one song after another, and then the different vocalists were sent different songs to work on. The vocalists were working on their stuff pretty much at the same time, it wasn't like one song was written and then six months later another song was written. the drums were tracked, and then the guitarists put guitars on 'em and then we divided up the songs and sent them to the vocalists and we recorded vocals."

'Another Leather Lung'.
A bipolar piece of alt rock.

"That title came from a lyric that is sung somewhere in the last song on 'The Occasion Of Wet Snow', and we were running out of cool titles" [laughs] "and so I just pulled that lyric for that song. I dunno what to say further except it's a good song, nothing extremely enlightening went into it, it just kind of turned out good."

Like the sound of ghosts drifting across the mic.

"That's just short for interlude, and on the album itself that's not even listed as a track. That's just for iTunes and what not, we had to put something. It's just a little kind of spacey segue from one song into another."

A love story between two ghosts.

"Well, the Walrus on guitar, when he wrote this song, I believe he said it was part of a musical he was writing at one point, and the story was about two ghosts who loved each other and couldn't touch each other. So I did the vocal part for that song and I had some lyrics written out already that kind of followed that theme. The first lines of the song are "swimming in a sea of linens/I belong to the night" - that image of swimming in linens like a ghost, kind of fluid and white sheets. And then I called it 'Cellophane' because cellophane's kind of like this invisible barrier. If you put cellophane over something you can't necessarily go through it, but you can't necessarily see it either."

'The Heraldic Beak Of The Manufacturer's Medallion'
The first taste of the new album

"Well, we understand that Lover... was a little hard to digest, and there's a lot of ideas on this album, but we wanted to just reassure people that this album was going to have guitar-driven moments on it. And so this was kind of 'uh hey, you haven't heard anything new from us for a while, so the first thing you're gonna hear is an energetic, pick me up, "let's get excited about the album" song'."

'Chinese New Year'.
Chanting over the sound of a New Year parade.

"What we did was we took a sample of a Chinese new year parade and then we tracked Newsha, the girl who did the Faarsi at the beginning, chanting in Faarsi over the the sample of the Chinese parade. That's just another interlude again, that won't be listed on the packaging, it's just listed for iTunes purposes."

A warped piece of electronica.

I haven't been as freaked out by a piece of music since I was a kid and first heard Jean Michel Jarre!

"That's cool. Yeah, that song started out as just a series of arpeggios on the synthesizer, and it just didn't feel right to me to have a normal vocal over that. We had a girl that's a friend of ours - her name's Lauren Coleman - she has a cool voice, and I was thinking let's start this out as just a vocal exercise. That's what you hear at the beginning of the song, it's kind of like almost a classical vocal exercise where she's just kind of parallelling the arpeggios. And drums were added, and then eventually it gave like a more rock feel that allowed her to sing like a normal vocal line. It just turned out really cool."

'Blessings Be Yours Mister V'.
Coheed and Cambria, but with Iron Maiden influence replaced with Captain Beefheart

"The V is actually for [Kurt] Vonnegut, and he was a big influence with the Walrus, and so the Walrus kind of wanted to pay tribute to him. He died not too long ago, right? Like the last couple of years, I think."

'Ahab' .
An explosive little piece of noise

"'Ahab' is actually listed on the record. The reason why I have that listed, as opposed to some of the other interludes, is because I wanted to make the distinction that we are actively dabbling in the noise genre at times, and so in my mind [that] is considered an actual song on the record. I think that there's a lot of cool ideas in that genre, so we put that out there. It's a Moby Dick reference but the lyrics to that is actually the Stephen Crane poem read in English."

On the Occasion Of Wet Snow
The shimmering conclusion of the The Artist and The Swan story

"Off the top of my head I can't remember if it's the first or second half of Notes From Underground by Dostoyevsky [It's the second half - Ed.]. I read that for the first time last year and it just blew my mind, and I thought that, he only labelled the two halves of the novella. One of the halves was On The Occasion Of Wet Snow, and I just thought that was such a cool phrase!"

'In The Desert' by Stephen Crane appears twice on the album - once in English (on 'Ahab') and once in Faarsi. Why in particular did that poem have such a resonance with you guys?

"I discovered it last year. I'd always known about the author, but I didn't realise what a brilliant poet he was. Everyone knows him from The Red Badge Of Courage and the few novels that he wrote - he died very young, in his twenties. He was actually a fantastic poet and it's pretty hard to find his poems in a book store. You can get 'em pretty easily online, they're all absolutely amazing. He wrote only 2 collections of poems - one is called The Black Riders and one is called War Is Kind, and every single poem is just really dark. There's no real poetic form to them, and they're pretty experimental. I just happened to come across that poem one day last year, and I just thought it was so cool, and short, and beautiful that I just wanted to make it a part of this album.

"In general, the theme to this band is paying homage to the artists that inspire us. All of the titles for Lover the Lord Has Left Us reference other artists that inspire us. I just I love music so much, it's so much a part of me, that I love to feel like the people that make me want to do art are also a part of what I do. So when I read something like the Stephen Crane poems and they resonate in me like those did, I just so badly want to make Stephen Crane a part of this band. And so then to pay tribute that poem becomes a part of our fabric."

Is there any kind of meaning behind the symbol on the album cover?

"No, Sheldon Hunt is the artist and he's EXTREMELY talented. His style is he'll take kind of a picture of a piece of art and then he'll add this kind of geometric kaleidoscope type element into it. That's not all he does, he does a lot of different styles of art, but that's definitely signature for him. He's done a lot of other work for a lot of really cool bands and he just inspires me, so definitely recruited him for the album art. I wanted him to keep in the theme of nature, so he took some photos of nature and kind of built his style around it."

I was going to say, trees always feature quite prominently in your artwork. I was going to ask you if there was specific instructions that you give your artists, but you obviously always ask them to focus on the nature thing.

"No, actually the only thing we said, literally the only thing I said was, 'I like your style, make sure it's nature-centred'. Oh, and the other thing I said, 'be sure that the art is based around nature, but that doesn't mean that I want a picture of the ocean and the sun!' You know what I mean? Cos I think that's kind of stupid, if it was the albums's called the ocean and the sun and you pick it up and it's like a sunset over the ocean, you know? So I said make it based around nature and he ran with it. And we didn't say a single thing. I'm not an artist - a photographer, that kind of artist - I leave that to him. We hired him for a reason, and I didn't want to disrupt his vision at all."

Click HERE for our Interview with The Nightingale

The Sound Of Animals Fighting's new album The Ocean And The Sun is out now on Epitaph.

by Ruth Midget

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