Face to face with Reichenbach Falls

Reichenbach Falls

Reichebach Falls, led by Abe Davies, are your essential alternative folk listening. Varying all the way from pop folk extravaganza to intimate, low-key quietness and upbeat, rocky numbers, Reichenbach Falls’ music will always keep you enchanted and listening to every word. December 2nd sees the release of the band’s album ‘Reports Of Snow’ – the record produced by Richard Neuberg and featuring collaborations from Cornershop, Little Fish, Viarosa and Goldrush. Abe Davies talks to Rock Britain about the album, former desire to be a novelist and Elliott Smith.

 – Your album ‘Reports Of Snow’ is out on 2nd December. What was the starting point of this record? What’s the story behind it?

– The story of this record is essentially that I moved to Oxford a couple of years ago and had a little bit of a rough time at first, with a break-up and so on, but at the same time met a bunch of people – principally Rufus Thurston, Richard Neuberg & Michael de Albuquerque – who are incredibly musically talented. And they wanted to help turn all the songs I was writing into a fully-realised record, which was something I’d never done before. And Richard had this amazing pool of musicians to call on who were incredibly generous with their time, so we’ve ended up with a pretty storied bunch of players and an album that I’m really proud of.

– How would you describe the character of this album?

– It’s kind of a break-up album, I guess, so it’s pretty sad. I guess it’s got a range of moods, but mostly it’s pretty bleak. I wanted to see if I could make something like ‘Heartbreaker’ or ‘Under the Cold Blue Stars’, where even if the story isn’t all that clear there’s still a real unity to the record. Hopefully we did that.

– A lot of other musicians took part in recording ‘Reports Of Snow’. How did you enjoy working with them?

– It was terrible. I’ve tried and tried but I just can’t imagine anything worse. Not really! It was great, especially for me who’d mostly done only very rough home-recording – these guys are all real artists, so working with them (and watching them work) was pretty magical at times.

– You’ve recently recorded a cover version of Elliott Smith’s track ‘Needle In The Hay’ for a tribute compilation. What was this experience for you like? What part does his music play in your life as a musician?

– He was one of the reasons I started playing music in the first place. I picked up a guitar wanting to figure out his song Condor Avenue when I was 18 or something, and now it’s more than ten years later and I still can’t play that song! Weirdly, I actually picked Needle to do for the compilation because it’s one of my least favourite of his songs, and therefore the only one where I felt like there might be something different I could do with it that wouldn’t just detract. Because that’s the problem with Elliott Smith – it’s pretty perfect.

– What’s your most favourite record by Elliott Smith? 

– Probably ‘Roman Candle’, but only because it has associations of a particular winter for me that are still pretty powerful. It’s hard to tell why one record can assume that kind of significance while another won’t, but there you go. I do love ‘XO’, though. And to be honest ‘New Moon’ is probably the one I listen to most often.

– You wanted to be a novelist and studied Shakespeare. How does this love of literature influence you as a musician?

– It’s kind of what animates music for me – the impulse to make a song or a piece of literature is the same, and it’s the impulse to tell a story of some kind. But with a song you aren’t tied to narrative rules in quite the same way, so you can be a lot more oblique or elliptical without the whole thing falling apart. It shouldn’t be vague or I think people will sense that and stop listening, but you’re not tied to the kinds of narrative mechanics and sustained focus that you are with a novel. But you still have the opportunity to conjure little moments and phrases, passing emotions, that kind of thing, and to tell a bigger story if you want to. After writing a couple of novels it became clear to me that I probably wasn’t ever going to make really good literature, but that the things I was good at in the books were actually better-suited to the song form.

– What’s your most favourite book of all times? 

– Shakespeare’s collected works? ‘The Great Gatsby’ or ‘Tender Is The Night’? I love Richard Ford a LOT. ‘A Passage to India’ is unbelievably good, as well, as is ‘East of Eden’. Recently I loved both of Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books, and I’m just finishing Jim Crace’s ‘Harvest’, which has that luminous, quiet power that makes me think it’s genuinely great.

– The name Reichenbach Falls was inspired by Sherlock Holmes. What do you think makes these stories so relevant nowadays, with films and TV series based on them and so many people still reading the books?

– To be completely honest, I don’t know – I picked the name because it had an obviously foreboding ring to it and because I have a dear friend, a professor of history here in Oxford, who is also a Holmes fanatic, and we were talking about it around the time I picked the name. It just sounds cool, I think – though if I’d known they were going to call the last episode of the TV series exactly that I might have reconsidered, as our name isn’t that brilliant for Google and Youtube etc now that everybody’s posted clips and theories and mash-ups and whatever else …

– What’s your most memorable live show experience?

– Good or bad?? I played a show in the Baroque room at the Ashmolean Museum here in Oxford a few weeks back, and that was pretty amazing. It’s much more normal to play surrounded by drunks than by priceless art in this line of work.

– What’s your most favourite atmosphere for writing music?

– Anywhere that I’m alone and have a guitar. That’s usually home, but sometimes it’s useful for it to be elsewhere, and for it to be a different guitar – you’re more alive to your surroundings in new places and that can lead to different types of thoughts and phrases. And a different guitar sometimes means you play things you wouldn’t on your own instrument.

– What has been the evolution of Reichenbach Falls since your first day as a band like?

– Well, Reichenbach Falls is still kind of just me working with whoever’s around and can make the songs better. I like that I can play a show at a couple of hours’ notice, without having to worry about others’ schedules and so on, so it seems like I’ll stick with it being basically a solo project to which a lot of other people make a lot of contributions. That kind of seems like the most practicable way of going ahead with the next record, anyway. Watch this space.

Find Reichenbach Falls on Facebook

Pre-order ‘Reports Of Snow’

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