The likes of Sigur Ros, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and 65 Days of Static have made the post-rock trope of a race from the sedate to a cacophonic, euphoric rush something of a template. I toyed with the idea of doing my interview with Sheffield post-rock quartet (and this month’s In Session artists) Gilmore Trail by asking a single question louder and faster over the course of ten minutes.
But this is a band all about balance. Two guitars and a rhythm section;. two northerners and a pair of southerners, all sat on the cusp between the Steel City’s blaring buzz and the peak district’s chilly tranquility. Bassist Joe even transports us with a evocative description of walking out his back door to wander the Bolehills in Crookes, as all four members of the band explained to me when we met at their rehearsal space for a chat…
So as is often the case, with these things, it was the Northerners who started it…
Danny: It was me and Sam for about three months. I met him through me cousins, going out to clubs and all that.
Sam: We just wanted to start an instrumental band.
Danny: Sam used to be a drummer with Dave in a group called Bring Out Your Dead.
This is from the metal phase you were talking about earlier?
Danny: So we started getting into it and started jamming, realised we needed another guitar element. Sam got in touch with Dave and that’s when it started going really well.
Sam: Dave were with us for about five months before Joe came in.
Danny: We were longing for that low end, that bass. Joe’s actually a guitar player.
Joe: I’d never played bass before. (To Dave) We were just talking at about four in the morning. On the way back from (Legendary Sheffield Rock Venue) Corporation, Dave just turned to ask me, just as I was turning to go home.
So Gilmore Trail are instrumental. There’s no singers. Do you know which of you can sing?
Sam: Dave can sing!
Dave: I was in a singing society at University. Singing with a choir.
Are you always surreptitiously setting up mic’s and going ‘Who left that there? Shall I belt one out?’
Danny: (Laughs) We’re so into the post-rock sound – God is an Astronaut, Explosions in the Sky, that kind of stuff at the time. That was the kind of stuff that influenced us – and there doesn’t tend to be a vocalist.
Tell us about the methodology by which you create your material.
Dave: Generally Danny has an idea. He’ll play it to us and we’ll jam it.
Danny: Sometimes I’ll have three riffs, sometimes just one. It’s wide open.
Sam: And sometimes he’ll send an idea through to me on his phone. I’ll just tap on me lap to it and we’ll start from there. No kit at home so I just do it on me lap. That’s how I taught meself drums really. A lot of the time we record on the phone if we’ve got a song together. We’ll record it on the phone.
Dave: And some of those we’ll put up on YouTube. Some we’ll do as private if we want to have a look at them and riff on them separately.
There’s a lot more emphasis placed on the song names when there’s no lyrics, isn’t there? Where do the names of your songs come from?
Danny: It takes about four months. For a long time we just named them ‘Song 1’, ‘Song 2’, ‘Song 3’, ‘Song 4’ and so on. All the way up to 10, when we started getting confused and realised we’d have to have names!
Joe: Once we’ve got an idea of the ‘feel’ of the song we do a bit of research. Like if it feels a bit pastoral or a bit space-ey… Do a bit of research, find a nice working title, then keep on calling it that working title for forever.
So where does that research come from?
Sam: Aurora Borealis! That’s where the band name comes from .
Dave: It’s a place in Alaska. Danny found it.
Sam: It’s one of the great spots in Fairbanks Alaska to view the Northern Lights.
How do they fit with the music?
Joe: Kind of expansive, atmospheric, hopefully.
Sam: Wi pretty colours!
Pretty dreamy. Joe, when you’re playing, do you associate certain songs with certain feelings?
Joe:Well some seem spacey and some seem grounded. There’s comets flying round in some of them! Then you’ve got tracks like ‘Seven Meadows’ that are more grounded.
Sam: Mine’s colours. I have colours in mine. I can’t really explain it. ‘Chasmata’ – that’s blue – a dark blue.
Joe: And that’s a space-ey name. It’s named after the chasms on Mars. Dave turned up with a list of space-ey names one day asking if any of them were any use.
So is that how it works, naming your songs?
Joe: We never bother naming them til Dave comes along with a piece of paper!
Dave: It’s just one list really. Stuff related to the Northern Lights – I’m studying Astrophysics at the moment so it’s an interest.
There’s more storytelling than you might imagine in these songs isn’t there?
Sam: When we did our first gig our mate’s girlfriend, she absolutely loved one song – ‘Jovian Sunset’. She said when she heard it she could see her Dad driving through harsh weather and getting home and walking through the door. It told a story to her. She saw the building up bits as her Dad driving and battling through this weather, with this epic ending when he goes through the door.
You provide the music and they provide the story.