A few months shy of two years since the release of their debut album, Junk Drawer have returned with new impetus and a new EP, The Dust Has Come to Stay. Led by the brilliant ‘Tears in Costa’, which previously appeared on compilation A Litany of Failures Vol III, this is a change of scenery for the Belfast based band.
By and large their debut Ready for the House was marked by a much darker tone with songs that snaked or barrelled through longer run times, but on The Dust Has Come to Stay Junk Drawer pull out snappier tones and weaving guitars. In ‘Tears in Costa’ and ‘Railroad King’ they’ve got two of their most immediate tracks, the latter written by the band’s Jake Lennox on pulling away into a world of imagination; a song that winds away delightfully into duetting and duelling Television-esque guitar lines. Latest single ‘Suspended Anvil’ meanwhile leaps into psychedelia before closer ‘Middle Places’ which perhaps is the closest link to the band’s previous sounds.
The Dust Has Come to Stay is a successful step into new sounds, an inspired release with ‘Tears in Costa’ given a deserving spot on an official Junk Drawer release. Below the band dip into the spirit of the music that informs their new tracks. Read their thoughts below, stream the playlist and check out The Dust Has Come to Stay on Bandcamp.
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Tropical Hot Dog Night
If Junk Drawer had an anthem, it’s this. What more can you say? Beefheart & the Magic Band are more or less the pinnacle of pure creativity and experimental abandon within a rock setting, and were we in charge, ‘Tropical Hot Dog Night’ would play on loudspeakers every evening to get people in the mood to enjoy their lives a bit more. Songwriting is obviously an important craft, but it’s possible to polish gold until it loses its shine, and you lose what fundamentally makes you yourself. Beefheart is pure anathema to that.
It’s not for everyone, but more artists should inspire to recreate the energy and spirit of his music – he once gave 10 commandments to his guitarist, including “If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out. If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. Play like a drowning man”. You’ll never play an idea with an energy of the first time you ever discovered it, so don’t chip away until you end up with a beige husk. A lyric on this song about triangles is actually a secret message found on the vinyl release of the EP.
Omni – Southbound Station
Stevie: We’re in an oversaturated market of indie rock guitar bands right now – and we are part of the problem, I suppose – but Omni are a different beast. Intertwining, gelatinous guitar licks full of warbles quite like your Wire, Television and all the rest, but with something definitively of the now. It comes as no surprise that I was learning this album when the first ideas for ‘Tears In Costa’ came. It’s some of the most tight-knit, wonderful playing around.
Television – Days
Stevie: Quite simply one of the best songs, and certainly best pieces of guitar playing to come out of New York ever. I was obsessed with this song & their much overlooked second album Adventure, particularly while we were writing ‘Railroad King’ & ‘Suspended Anvil’. I was fixated on trying to squeeze a G major 7th chord in, because in ‘Days’, it’s just one of the most satisfying little resolutions that simultaneously asks a wistful, hopeful question. Major 7ths are never too far from us really. ‘Tears in Costa’ has an Amaj7 though, so we got one in.
Bob Dylan – I Shall Be Free
Jake: This song is endlessly hilarious to me as it’s just Dylan spitting rhymes and having fun. It’s a rework of ‘We Shall Be Free’ by Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. Its style and rhythm were a big influence on the writing of ‘Railroad King’ because it just chugs along like a train in a relaxed but constant motion. When we were writing ‘Railroad King’, I kept coming back to the lyric “I just walk along and stroll and sing. I see better days & I do better things.” which remained in the working version of the song until I eventually replaced it, to my dismay.
I love the idea of building off ideas that other songwriters have used. Realistically, no one has ever had an original thought, I don’t believe so. But this occupies a space in the creative realm akin to fan fiction, where you’re expressing your love of this art and how much it means to you by adding your own meaning to it along with bringing some new ideas like the notion of autism and wanting to spend more time in your imagination than with reality.
‘Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ is one of my and our favourite albums and it’ll always be an influence on my writing whether I realise it or not. Other mentions on that record go to ‘Talkin’ World War III Blues’ which rambles similarly.
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Old World
Jake: Speaking of artists who love homage more than most anything, Jonathan Richman was a big influence on Railroad King as well. He’s basically given me permission to be my inner child, which is something that most adults get oppressed into hiding away. His playful lyrics show that you can have fun and be a credible artist, like when he decides that the ‘Old World’ section is finished and he moves onto the ‘New World’ by declaring “Okay now we say bye bye old world”.
This song also has the forward motion that we used in Railroad King. That’s a good pace.
Robert Wyatt – At Last I Am Free
Stevie: This song is definitely my favourite cover of all time. A rare bird in that it’s a fairly straight cover of a downtempo Chic song, but due to the nature of everything Wyatt touches, it’s spacious, and dripping with a melancholy that runs through everything he’s done. If you don’t know Wyatt, he was also the drummer in early psychedelic jazz rock & prog pioneers The Soft Machine, and their playfulness definitely has a spirit that’s infected the way I like to make music, but solo, he’s on another plane. I think hearing him for the first time – and Richard Dawson too – was like the key that unlocked the door to my singing without self-consciousness, and trying to achieve a purity of expression.
It was Chris Ryan, who produced the EP, who picked up on it on ‘Tears In Costa’s odd melodic choices, and on the chorus of ‘Suspended Anvil’, where I’ve tried my best to strip back all veneer and leave my vocal as bared an unaffected as it can be. His former bandmate Kevin Ayers – who also had a big influence on this EP, particularly Bananamour – is well worth pursuing too.
Crumb – Part III
Stevie: Another one of those rare modern bands we’ve all really latched on to who absolutely nail what perfect modern psych can be – and damn near perfected it on Jinx – just gorgeous textures, infectious melodies and great writing. We were gutted not to have anyone in the band who can sound anything like Lila Ramani, so my falsetto’ll have to do the job instead.
Sonny & The Sunsets – dark corners
Jake: I found these guys about 6 years ago and I’m constantly amazed that they never got huge. They have multiple albums of killer country rock, garage and indie rock that are all different but all hit me deep in different spots. I could’ve picked any number of tunes but this was one of the first that I heard from their synth-y psychedelic indie rock kinda album. When we were writing ‘Suspended Anvil’, I heard something similar in my head to the lofi synth and bouncy bass. It’s got such a groove without audibly having a groove. It’s an invisible groove!
Deerhunter – Agoraphobia
Lately, we’ve been labelled as art rock, which I suppose is maybe true, but we’re hardly Devo (we’re nowhere near high-brow enough to pull that majesty off) and only one of us has a creative degree of any sort. I only own one suit, and it’s hot pink. We’re proudly from South Derry & Tyrone, and our feet are planted firmly on the ground, I think. I think we prefer ‘indie-psych’, and of that niche genre, I think Deerhunter are the gold standard. Beautiful, imaginative gems that owe a dime or 2 to Phil Spector and the Beatles, but with Bradford Cox’s latent idiosyncrasies baked in.
There’s not much to say – they’re what bands like us can aspire to: beautiful pop songs that aren’t afraid to lean into their own weirdness. You take the best bits of what you like, and fire it through the filter that says ‘me’. You circle constantly around creativity and what it all means, and what it is that you are, whether you’re really expressing yourself genuinely, but if you think too far and don’t rely enough on your ability to do it in the moment, you’re only a projection of yourself.
Broadcast – Echo’s Answer
Stevie: This whole playlist is largely a bunch of the music we collectively play on road trips and journeys to gigs together – it’s a really sacred bit of time spent together, as the majority of our shows take place outside the North, and playlisting is important, diplomatic stuff for people as…opinionated as ourselves. It’s just some of the key music that we’ve independently arrived at that we absolutely adore. That said, it’s really hard to choose a single Broadcast song, if we’re honest, but the influence of Broadcast is all over this EP – in the vocals, synth layers, emphasis on mood, then the layering of sound from all variety of sources. For example, in the back half of the release, we’ve buried some field recordings from my work as a sound recordist that helped create a bit of what I call a ‘sound world’ in its more ambient parts. They get called hauntology a lot, which is absolutely fair – if you’ve not heard them, they draw from library music and old BBC Radiophonic Workshop creations, as well as 60s pop (incl. French) & psych, in a combination unlike anything else.
Sadly, vocalist Trish Keenan passed away in 2011, but they left us one of the most flawless back catalogues in music with 3 proper studio albums, some collaborations, collections of EPs & soundtracks. If they were still around, they’d be involved in absolutely incredible things now, but so it goes. Do treasure them.