Born from the ashes of frontman Andrew Cameron-Braithwaite’s previous project Brash Isaac, smallmint are centred around an evolving and revolving line up. The band have funnelled their collective talents into a debut full length, released initially on Bandcamp and physical last year before finding its way to streaming services this year. Across where we all end up in the end, the band explore their indie rock sound taking on aspects of Americana. Guitar based emotive songwriting is at the core of everything smallmint do, with Cameron-Braithwaite’s vocals generally atop twanging guitars on album that flows through up-tempo choruses, guitar breaks and quieter, reflective vignettes. Smallmint’s debut record is a cohesive listen from a band playing to their strengths.
We asked the band to shed some light on each of their debut’s ten tracks and peel back the album’s writing & recording process.
I think this was the first song that we tracked in the initial live band session at the end of 2017. It was already sounding good, but I knew I wanted some sort of organ opening for the track, which would grab the attention of someone on first listen (I’m a sucker for a great album opener, which big boys such as The National and Radiohead do oh so well). Our producer Caolán Austin and I were banging our heads against the wall, until we finally came up with this one day in the studio and it all clicked.
I love the way it builds with the part of each band member coming in gradually, introducing each musician as it progresses, then culminating in the big middle/chorus part – one of my favourite bits of the whole album.
A short, snappy, punk-inspired song, with added sleigh bells (because I jump at the chance to put sleigh bells on any song ever), a great bass line and a very slick final drum fill (another album highlight).
One of the oldest songs on the album, written at the start of 2017 after coming home from America on a long plane journey. It’s about the dark places your mind goes to when the plane starts to swerve around in the sky and you worry it’s going down, leading you to question life and/or the afterlife in a short and panicked period of time. Relatable, no?
Very happy with the guitar tones and drum sound on this one, a testament to Caolán in getting everything right sonically from the word go. It helped that we worked as a band on this song a lot in terms of parts and structure, so it came together pretty immediately once we got a tight live take.
The lads hadn’t heard this track at all, I just told them when to come in and when to stay out, and thankfully it worked. Sure all you need is three chords and the truth.
We recorded lots of feedback from the lead guitar which builds the whole way through the second verse, until it hits into that mighty guitar solo, which we turned up as loud as we could in the mix!
This one took a while to complete, as we wanted to have the right balance between dark and light. So with a lot of lot of different parts and layers, we eventually got it. Distorted guitars and feedback, alongside some acoustic and a more jangly, Americana-style electric guitar part did the trick.
One of my favourites songs we’ve ever done and the last to be written for the album, which happened to work well as a companion track to ‘Synonym’ in terms of theme. Big influence from Pedro The Lion musically and lyrically, and the interlocking guitar parts were something quite different for us. We recorded the final tracks ‘Pseudonym’ and album closer ‘The Dark’ in an additional two day tracking session in 2019.
A four chord, two minute pop banger dealing with existential crisis and the concept of religion – it’s what I do. We were aiming for Plans era Death Cab For Cutie in terms of production.
It took us a long time to get this song right. After initially live tracking it in 2017, it just wasn’t sitting well with the rest of the album. Before we threw it completely in the bin, I wrote a new Frightened Rabbit adjacent guitar line about two years later, making it fit a lot more. So we overdubbed the guitar, and the rest is history.
Another that the band hadn’t really heard, I just played it on the day and the boys wrote their parts over the top of it in the studio. My guitar line was initially tracked on acoustic, but we decided to ditch that and go all electric.
This was the only time we used multiple lead vocal tracks. The rest of the album songs have a single vocal track, but for this song we needed something different, as it felt flat with just the one. The very last vocal track on there is the lovely voice of best chum and longtime collaborator Beulah Kim, and let’s not forget my friend and yours Conchúr White, who filled in the missing parts by writing the bridge of the song. What a team.
The lyrics of ‘The Hallway’ is where album title where we all end up in the end came from, suggested by our drummer after we were struggling to name the damn thing! It worked.
The Dark (pt. 1 & 2)
Those that are familiar with my initial solo project Brash Isaac will know that this is the oldest song on the record, albeit a reworked version. ‘In The Dark’ was the first song I released under that name in 2016, and it made the cut when we transitioned to a band. We were careful about what songs we would redo for this album, having considered some other Brash Isaac numbers that didn’t fit with the newer material. This song was always in the mix, but it was only when pt. 2 was conceived in 2019 that we knew it should be included, providing an emotional closing piece.