Quickfire Questions With: Lonely the Brave’s Ross Smithwick

There comes a time during one’s album campaign where it becomes necessary to stop, take a breather and look back on the high and low points which you encountered during your journey. For Cambridge quintet Lonely the Brave, this resulted in the complete repackaging and re-releasing of acclaimed sophomore album Things Will Matter. The album’s newly released Redux edition sees David Jakes and co. take a completely new approach in re-imagining the original songs, adding some sonic sheen to them in the process. We called up guitarist Ross Smithwick to discuss the decisions behind this re-release, as well as what the future holds for Lonely the Brave, in particular alongside his current solo escapades.

Hey mate, how are you doing?
I’m great thanks!

Today we’re going to discuss your brand new Redux album. Tell me a little bit more about how this came about.
Well, we did the same kind of thing with our first album The Day’s War. It was more of a deluxe edition, though. We’d reissued it with six redux tracks and four brand new ones, so it’d always been something that we dabbled with. We loved that first session so much that we knew we wanted to do it again in the future, so with this new album we wanted to push it even further and rework all the tracks. It’s essentially remixing yourself, to be honest. Some bands go down the remix route, but we’ve never really looked into that as we wanted to keep it internal and do everything ourselves. We wanted to have fun with it, and we also had huge freedom to just go crazy with it and do what we wanted. It allowed us to experiment, and we loved doing it. It was always going to be there; once we released the second album we knew this would follow later down the line. Then it just became a case of fitting it in with touring schedules, which meant that it took about a year to complete. We didn’t have a set amount of studio time to complete it by, so we did it in bits and bobs. This allowed us to look at it, change things and expand on it so that we could experiment even more.

The tracks all take on new sonic directions, but did you also uncover any new personal associations you may have had with the initial songs?
I don’t know, really. The songs are essentially the same, and they still mean the same things. The lyrics haven’t changed, but the music has taken them and given it a whole different feel. It’s exciting, because it shows you that a song never has to be finished and that it can have the same theme. You can know what it’s about, but it can have a completely different feel if you want it to. Take the song Play Dead, for instance. On the original record it’s quite a fast-paced rock banger, and it moves at quite an epic pace. We’ve slowed it down on the Redux, and it’s got a completely different vibe. It’s interesting to do this kind of stuff, because you can get a completely different feeling from the new versions.

Which of the reworkings would you personally say stand out to you the most?
There’s a song called Strange Like I, which is a good example of completely switching things up. Again, that was a three-minute uptempo rock banger which we completely changed. The only guitars on the new version make for some wailing feedback throughout, but the rest is a complete transformation with synths. There’s a lot of layers on it, which makes it more of a soundscape. That, and What If You Fall In? is another good example of a complete transformation. I started that one on my own in my little home studio. I’m really into hip hop production, so I used that as a rough guideline of where to start with it. That’s something which we never really do with the original tracks, so just having complete freedom and time to experiment has really opened things up. What If You Fall In? starts in that kind of vein, but then it goes into this expansive middle section which even I can’t begin to sonically describe, haha. I can’t describe some of the new stuff, it’s just a bit weird and I love that. If it works, then it works.

Speaking of your own studio, you’ve also started releasing music yourself under the name Future Lives. We last spoke about it in August, but how have things progressed since then?
It’s been great, yeah. Having time off the road with Lonely the Brave this year has given me the time to do Future Lives, and since we spoke last I’ve released my first EP! It’s gone down really well. The live band has come together, and we’ve played five shows now. There’s a few more lined up, but the first five have really been great. I’ve got these guys in Bristol, where I live, who play with me and are really into it. It’s been really exciting and nice to do something on my own. Whenever I talk about this, I do clarify that I love being in Lonely the Brave, and I also love the whole writing process with the five us. However, there is a part of me which does enjoys doing things on my own, and that isn’t a bad thing. Everyone’s been supportive and into it, so it’s something that I’d like to keep doing. We’ve got lots of stuff to do next year.

I suppose 2018 will be heavy on Lonely the Brave-related work?
Yeah, hopefully. We’ve got to start thinking about our third album at some point. We’re not quite there yet, as we’ve had the Redux album come out while we’re also taking a bit of a break. We’re still trying to work out what we could do for the third album, and some of us have been writing separately. We’ve not played anything to each other yet, though, so it will be interesting to see when and where that happens.

Best of luck, and cheers for your time.

Lonely the Brave’s Things Will Matter Redux edition is out now, and you can stream it below.