Poster Paints came about as a collaboration between beloved musicians Carla J Easton and Simon Liddell, who have been operating in the Scottish music scene for years as part of TeenCanteen and Frightened Rabbit respectively. Working remotely during the 2020 lockdown, they’ve produced their eponymous, brilliant, debut album of ecstatic, jangling guitar pop. We talked about how the album came about, over a massive stack of hot pink vinyl waiting for their signatures in Glasgow’s Monorail Music.
Congratulations on the album – on pink vinyl!
Carla: The vinyl delays have been crazy lately but somehow the universe is on our side!
Serendipity seems to play a part in your story – you said you met by accident?
Simon: Carla was playing with The Vaselines and I was working with them on a few shows, then I played guitar for her solo thing, a few shows pre-pandemic.
Carla: When we met we very quickly worked out that Simon’s dad and my mum know each other – but we met through Eugene [Kelly] and Frances [McKee].
Simon: I started sending her stuff just after the lockdown started. I think a lot of folk were doing that, trying to support creative outlets, but I wasn’t really looking for a band. I asked Carla to do vocals for a track I’d made for a friend’s short film. It’s on the album as well. Because it was fun and easy, we started recording more.
Carla: It was a totally different co-writing thing from anything I’d ever done before – Simon would send over these tracks and then the lyric content would be a response to how the track would present itself: rather than sitting down and deciding ‘today we’re going to make a sad song’, it was a response to each other. We weren’t really writing for anything other than fun, which was quite nice.
Did you use these creative constraints to start songs off?
Simon: Like the [card-based creativity tool] Oblique Strategies? Yeah, putting rules in place gives you a different path to the same outcome, but even so it’s about the route.
Carla: For me, songwriting-wise – I’d get a song from Simon that had this structure and as a writer I kind of follow that classic songwriting ‘verse, chorus, bridge, chorus’ thing. Maybe it’s [Simon’s] theatre background but they’re quite cinematic and didn’t follow those structures. I think that allowed us to come up with stuff that we wouldn’t have if we were sitting in the same room together. That’s made for some of the more interesting stuff on the record, like ‘My Song’ or ‘Circus Moving On’ – they’re quite weird structurally but there’s an element of freedom in doing that.
Did you release ‘Number One’ as a flexi disc?
Carla: It was a postcard.
Simon: We put out ‘Number One’ just to test the water. Any time you start co-writing with someone you have a point where you kind of go, artistically, ‘Oh, wait a minute. I think we’re on to something here’, and it becomes more focused on the idea that it could be an album, that it could get released. So I think, just putting out ‘Number One’, it sounded like a seven-inch single.
Do you think it’ll change how you work in future?
Simon: It’s a weird one, because you don’t want to bang on about how straightforward it is and how much you can do at your home studio. Because you still love studios, studios still need to be there, and there’s lots that you can take from depending where you are and what you’re looking to do.
Carla: But then you could say that we managed to do what we did with the album because of working with producers and engineers who’ve been supportive in allowing us to learn in that environment. Any time I was doing a vocal, even though I’m singing into my wardrobe, I was thinking back to what producers and engineers told me before about where to stand and what to do.
Simon: Yeah. We wouldn’t have made that album without having years of studio experience between us, between everyone on the record, really.
Carla: I think there was a lot of pressure on artists to produce during lockdown. Like, you have stopped, now you can write; you can produce, so you must produce. But it never felt like that. There was never a deadline to finish anything either, which was good. I’m making a solo album right now and there’s actually been parts where I’ve just been like, do you know what? I’m just gonna redo those vocals at home because I can take my time and do it in the comfort of my bedroom and feel more relaxed, or there’s bits that I’ve recorded at home that I’d be like, ‘Oh, I need to redo it in the studio’ but it actually captured the performance already. That to me is more important than what equipment it was captured on. I think that’s what’s so great about the Poster Paints album. It sounds live, almost. It sounds like you’re in a room together, but none of us ever were.
Poster Paints is out on 14th October via Ernest Jenning Record Co. & Olive Grove Records