Punk rock group Great Cynics have had their fair share of musical movement with three albums’ and one EP each released through a different label, from 2011’s Don’t Need Much which came from Household Name Records, In The Valley in 2012 through Kind Of Like Records, Like I Belong in 2013 through Bomber Music and 2015’s full-length I Feel Wierd released through Specialist Subject. To say it’s been a busy few years’ would be an understatement.
Next month the band are back with their brand new album POSI and ahead of it’s release we had a chat with vocalist and guitarist Giles Bidder.
Mosh: How does the lyric writing process begin for you – Does the music come first, or the lyrics? Do you collect fragments and ideas when inspiration strikes?
Giles: Unless it’s a riff that comes to mind, our lyrics are often taken from one the of the million lines I have written in the notes on my phone. I’m always writing down bits and bobs – usually taken from things that I’ve said or other people have said that make sense in the context of my thought process. I watch a lot of movies, especially John Hughes ones – so many of our lines have been inspired by his films.
Mosh: Is this process always straightforward for you? Have you ever struggled with ‘writer’s block’ or similar?
G: I have a rule to not force it. After making a record I usually won’t write anything for months afterwards in an exhaustion/grace period. That helps me get perspective, although I sometimes think I might produce better material if I kept on writing after recording – but I just don’t enjoy forcing it, and most of the regrets I have from playing in a band is doing things I don’t like doing for the sake of doing it.
Mosh: Do you go back to lyrics you have previously written and edit or refine them, or is it a case of ‘one and done’? Do you collaborate or share lyrics with other band members and take their feedback on board?
G: A lot of the time I rejig the words so they make more sense – a lot of what I initially write doesn’t make sense and a friend/producer/engineer will be like “yo I’m not sure that actually makes sense…”, so I’ll change it so it does. I’ll say the words out loud when writing and ask for peoples’ opinion – band members and friends.
Mosh: Are there any bands or artists that have impressed or inspired you lyrically? Do you try and emulate any other lyricists in particular?
G: Father John Misty and Elliott Smith are both huge lyricists for me. I think everyone has their own voice – and their own experiences – which can’t try and be recreated, so I don’t try and recreate anyone myself. Although a few times I’ve accidentally stolen lyrics without knowing, until someone tells me after we’ve recorded it. We have credited those people on the linear notes of the record – if we’ve found out before the release!
Mosh: Do you draw lyrical inspiration from outside of music, such as authors, films or artists?
G: Books, movies, talking to people, accidental eavesdropping on trains and buses… all as much of an inspiration to me as music is.
Mosh: Is there a specific space (mental or physical) where you get ‘in the zone’, or can you write anywhere at any time?
G: Anytime – it can be the first thing in the morning, last thing at night. Sometimes the best stuff I’ve written is when I’m hungover and not thinking about it too much. I find it more inspiring to try not to think about anything at all.
Mosh: Do you choose to publish your lyrics or keep them personal? Is it important that fans be able to access lyrical content?
G: We have all our lryics on our album sleeves and they’re a pivotal part of what our band is about – believing in yourself, doing the best that you can with what you’re given and not caring about how you appear to other people; only to yourself.
Mosh: Can you remember when you began writing lyrics? Was it a conscious choice? Something you drifted into out of necessity?
G: I started writing lyrics when I was 15 out of necessity to take myself out of a place where I felt lonely. Having words and colours floating around my mind kept those demons out.
Mosh: What is your favourite lyric and why?
G: “I don’t know what they want from me, but it’s like the more money we come across the more problems we see”
– Notorious B.I.G.feat. Diddy and Mase
Mosh: What is your favourite lyric that YOU have written?
G: “Waving a butterfly net your thoughts are UFOs/the ones you hold onto take you somewhere you don’t wanna go”
– Butterfly Net, by us…
Mosh: Is there anything you actively try and avoid when writing lyrics? Any topics or themes you think are overdone?
G: There’s a lot of lyrics I regret writing – but at the time they made sense. And I can’t regret that. The lyrics I write down are my thoughts, and there aren’t many thoughts I actively try and avoid. I try and let myself float.
Mosh: Is it important to you that lyrics always tell a story or have meaning?
G: Yeah, some lyrics I’ve written don’t have any context within a story or a meaning, so I haven’t used them. If it doesn’t mean anything, it isn’t anything.
Mosh: Does your knowledge of your vocal delivery have any impact on how you write lyrics? Do you write to fit a vocal style, or fit the delivery to the lyrics?
G: I demo everything on voice notes, so if the pronunciation of a line I’ve written sounds bad on that then I’ll scrap it or try and change it. But if it doesn’t work I move on until I find something that feels and sounds right.