More about: The Wytches
When The Wytches hit the road in 2017 they were self-admittedly touring with “absolutely nothing to promote”. Having amicably parted ways with their label Heavenly Recordings following the release of 2016 album All Your Happy Life, the band were left with no long-term plan. As such, the departure of drummer Gianni Honey last year came during a hiatus for the band. Frontman Kristian Bell was left needing conviction "to even do another album".
It was illustrator Sam Gull - a long-time collaborator of the band, and personal friend of Kristian - who gave The Wytches the push they needed to get the wheels turning again. “In many ways,” Kristian says, “he was kind of the one who told us to just do the album”. With their new-found drive to create, the band recruited drummer Demelza Mather (formerly of Projector) – who they met when she was working behind the desk at a rehearsal studio - to replace Gianni late last year. “She smashed it completely. She was the first person we auditioned, and we knew straight away”.
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With a new lineup, the band set out writing material to match. Their upcoming third album Three Mile Ditch was mercifully finished “a few months before the pandemic”, but with the uncertainty of Covid and subsequent factory delays, the album ended up being pushed back twice. In hindsight, Kristian feels this was a positive move. “When there aren’t any gigs and the album is released with nothing else going on, it puts more focus on the music itself”.
Like the rest of us, The Wytches have truly been starved of live music. They played just three shows with the new line-up before the pandemic led to mass cancellations, including "loads of cool stuff" the band had pencilled in. With that in mind, you can only begin to imagine the release that was provided by two socially distanced performances in Walthamstow mid-October.
“It was a lot of people’s first gig for a long time and that made it really special”, Kristian said. Of course though, the nature of a socially distanced show meant the usual vibe of “getting into it based on how much the audience is into it” was flattened. "All I could really go off was some guy tapping his foot on the front seat”.
Three Mile Ditch is the first album The Wytches have released themselves via their own label Cable Code Records. Without the influence of an external label, the creative juices flowed: “the DIY approach made us more passionate to put the hours into the finished product”.
It's been a long break between albums. And why? Simply, The Wytches “didn’t think we would have been able to fill that four year gap with material.” Personally, Kristian "struggled to write music for a long time” and despite the band “continuing to be solid and writing new material” through that period, the break could have actually been a good thing. In Three Mile Ditch, there's a “freshness and excitement”.
Self-releasing has also seen the band strip back their team and “start being a bit more prepared and thinking more efficiently”. This extends to time spent in the studio: as younger people during the making of their previous albums: "we took studio time for granted...with the first album we were touring the songs for a long time before we got signed” but with the second album “we were on a label and had time in the studio and maybe weren’t so prepared. It didn’t feel as solid before we went in”.
Now, the approach in the studio has changed again. 2014's Annabel Dream Reader engineer Luke Oldfield continues to be a mainstay, although this time they recorded in Luke’s own space, Tilehouse Studios.
In the sessions for Three Mile Ditch, overdubs and additional pieces were planned out in advance of recording; less concern was given to writing something that could be emulated live. Kristian used to be “really bothered if things weren’t as organic and raw as they could be” but with these sessions, his main concern was, simply, "making the album as good as possible”.
With the band’s hiatus and subsequent album delays, Three Mile Ditch has felt like a long time coming - not just for The Wytches, but for their dedicated fanbase too. “One thing I really noticed is we still have such a lovely fanbase: I honestly didn’t think anyone would be that bothered anymore. I think it’s really surreal how much they’re still into it and how fans that were there from the start are still here” Kristian wonders.
There’s a sense of excitement for the future of the band in a post-Covid world. "Music lovers must feel a bit deprived” Kristian muses, "when people do come back round there will be a wave of energy for live music again”. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the industry at the moment, Kristian has faith in The Wytches’ fans: “if we have to tour the album a year after it comes out then we’re quite confident there’ll still be interest there. The fans are just so good”.
Three Mile Ditch will be released 13th November via Cable Code Records.
More about: The Wytches