In our latest Band Spotlight, we talk to Daniel Cross of Birthmarks (formerly Little Death Machine) about the name change, new direction and new material.
Talk us through the transition from Little Death Machine to Birthmarks?
The transition was a long but natural one. Basically five years ago I decided to start working on an album. During that time we did a few releases and a lot of shows as Little Death Machine and I think we built a certain aesthetic and sound which was built around pushing technology to extremes within the music. Meanwhile we were working on this album which was way more focused on the more organic side of songwriting.
We’ve pretty much spent the past year exclusively working on finishing the album and when it got the mixing stages it just didn’t feel like Little Death Machine anymore, the machine had died. I know it’s corny but it did honestly seem like a rebirth and the perfect time to rethink every element on what we were doing. Little Death Machine never got boring but I like the idea of things being temporary and letting things have their own place and time.
What inspired the tracks ‘Breathe’ and ‘One Pulse’ in regards to personal experiences?
The whole record is extremely personal to me and there was no real poetic licence taken with any of the lyrics. Breathe’ was probably the hardest track to write as it came from such a raw place. It’s about a break down of a relationship that happened a couple of years ago and my own inability to accept responsibility for it, the acceptance of the end of the relationship due to previous events and not from a lack of love. I suppose it’s an apology to the person in question.
‘One Pulse’ as a track deals with a nostalgic longing of a sexual experience, on how that person in that moment seemed godlike to you with the perfect combination of physical and emotional intensity and the track is a sad reflection of how temporary these moments can be and the jealousy that can result from that.
How does this material push you in new ways in contrast to your earlier work?
I’d again say it feels a lot more organic, that was important to us. I think it’s still got the same energy (if not more) but directed in a different direction. There was a lot of outward anger in Little Death Machine but I think that Birthmarks is more introspective, lyrically and musically. We were really focused on the groove of tracks, which is something I don’t think was something we ever gave to much thought about with Little Death Machine. Grooves appeared accidentally every now and again, but it was never a conscious effort to find them but with Birthmarks that has been at the forefront for each track. I think a lot of it comes down to Jason [Andrew Fletcher-Sennin]’s drumming style, when he first joined Little Death Machine the groove of his playing became so vital so quickly, it’s so key to the sound.
Will there still be a strong visual element to the Birthmarks live show?
Yes definitely, the way we frame gigs has always been important to us. The current vibe is more minimalistic and based around the number three, three band members, three Edison Bulbs, three strip lights. It’s more of an atmospheric thing than immersive like the Little Death Machine gigs.
How has the dynamic in the band changed over the last few years?
I’d say that we’re much more of a unit now than we’ve ever been. Before it was very much myself leading us but now it’s so even between us which is just a joy, we have a lot of fun together and enjoy each others company. There is so much laughter when we’re working on stuff, but I think we all genuinely feel sadness of the music when we play, its cathartic. Having Jonno join us has given us the opportunity to completely rethink how we do things live, he’s an amazing musician with a great ear and has injected a new energy into the band. I feel really lucky to be in a band with two musicians who I’m just in awe of, it’s my safe place. We’ve also got a really great team of people around us and we’re really grateful to all of them, there is a lot of love shared.
What are the biggest challenges you face now as artists?
I think that the biggest challenges we face definitely tend to be self-imposed creatively. The way that we wrote the record was extremely challenging, every element was continuously questioned and evolving. I really wanted it to have it’s own honest sound which I think we achieved that with the help of Lorenzo De Feo who recorded the album, he was extremely patient with us and gave the production of it room to grow on it’s own. I really don’t know if we could of got it sound the way it does without that time and space for growth.
What would be your advice be to emerging artists now?
The best advice I was given when I first started out was to never stop writing. From my experience it’s really important explore every possible idea within a song and to make sure that you finish things, the time spent exploring your craft is so much more important than other superficial elements which come with music. Honesty in music is crucial and in my opinion something that seems to be missing more often than not.
What are the biggest plans for you guys as we approach the end of the year?
We’re about to get the record mastered by someone who’s mastered some of my favourite records, which is extremely exciting. Then we’re trying to figure out the best way to release it, there are so many options now each with their own benefits and pitfalls so it’s about finding the best one for us. We don’t want to rush anything as it’s taken so long to make and is so precious to us. We’ve got a few odd live dates booked in and we might drop a single towards winter but we will see.
IMAGE: THE RED BEANIE