Cloth's Rachael and Paul Swinton on their self-titled debut
Twins and close collaborators Rachael and Paul Swinton discuss the stark, elegant and haunting debut record from their band, Cloth
There’s a compelling sense of mystery surrounding Cloth at the moment. Most bands with a debut record on the horizon are likely to be found touring and tweeting relentlessly. The Glasgow three-piece, on the other hand, only have a single show planned to celebrate the launch of their self-titled debut album, having recently returned from a short jaunt around the country supporting Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert.
After uploading their music to YouTube in April 2018, Cloth quickly learned to let their songs speak for themselves. Last Night from Glasgow, home to the likes of Annie Booth and L-space, signed them within a fortnight, and generous support from the likes of Vic Galloway, LP Radio's Lorenzo Pacitti and 6 Music’s Tom Robinson swiftly followed the release of their debut single.
“Last Night from Glasgow have opened a lot of doors for us,” Paul Swinton begins, speaking in the living room of the label’s founder Ian Smith, who has left his famously enthusiastic dog Bennett to supervise our conversation. “Lots of people championed and stuck with us. We’ve been very lucky.”
Cloth’s sound is defined by the close collaboration between Paul and his twin Rachael Swinton (vocals), who traces the roots of their approach to songwriting back to a Christmas present she was given by their parents as a ten-year-old: a BOSS 4-track recorder. “For a while it was just me," she says, "building up harmonies, and then we ended up with so many different 30 second clips on iTunes. A lot of them were just humorous things… power ballad experiments.”
From this experimentation, the two gained an appreciation for “original takes” and the irreplicable magic of bedroom recordings, hence the title of one of the first songs they wrote, Demo Love. “The opening song on the record is an iPhone recording,” Paul begins, referring to Other. “It was really distorted originally, and came out very different when we reversed it. We try and utilise as many of those happy accidents as possible. I’d like to experiment even more going forward, with found sounds and anything that’s slightly different from bashing a chord out on the guitar.”
Ironically, Demo Love is one of the most straightforward songs on a record that, despite being recorded at Glasgow’s illustrious Chem19 Recording Studio (where classic records from the likes of Songs: Ohia, Emma Pollock and Life Without Buildings have all been cut) with in-house engineer Derek O’Neill, still has a few phone recordings present. “The first track is just pure iPhone,” laughs Paul, who has yet to receive a sponsorship deal from Apple.
“Demo Love is the one song that has full-on trashy chords in it,” he continues. “We were listening to Sleater-Kinney and other bands that had this intricate dual guitar thing going on. We knew we wanted it to just be guitars and drums.”
After writing Demo Love, the two, alongside drummer Clare Gallacher (who they met years prior, studying music performance at Stow College) decided to strip things back more, continuing to write in Rachael’s bedroom. In lieu of a bassist, Gallacher “plays the drums and triggers bass noises on her sample pad.”
The contrast between their intensive recording process and the sometimes thrillingly, sometimes disarmingly unpredictable elements of live performance required a little adjustment for both Paul and Rachael, both having become accustomed to spending hours ensuring that parts of the record, "pretty much unnoticeable" to anyone but themselves, were flawless. “We spent a lot of time mixing and got three extensions from Ian,” Rachael explains. “For us to get things to the standard we want them to be at we need full, back-to-back days.”
“Towards the end was mega intense,” Paul nods. To ensure they had the record finished in time for a 2019 release, “the last session was 21 hours straight.”
Around this time, Paul noticed Chem19 regular Aidan Moffat (Philophobia and Everything's Getting Older, two cornerstones of his formidable discography, were both recorded at the studio) in the crowd during one of their gigs. Moffat, after a short exchange on Twitter, extended an invitation for the three to open for himself and notorious flamenco-wizard RM Hubbert on the duo’s short farewell tour around the country. “We’d been fans for ages,” Paul enthuses. “It was a really lovely thing, those shows with Aidan and Hubby.”
A few songs from the record received their first airing during that particular voyage. “Everything feels quite meticulous when you’re in the studio,” Rachael laughs. “It’s kind of hard to get out of that mindset (this doesn’t sound like the record: ergo, it’s rubbish) when you’re playing live.”
“That was a different planet we were on, making that thing,” her brother agrees. “We’ve had to come to terms with there being a rougher element to playing live. We’ve got a lot of rehearsals planned before the launch show to get everything sounding the way we want it to.”
While Rachael’s elegant and quietly captivating vocal is what those who tuned into the band’s recent Maida Vale session will be best acquainted with, the majority of the lyrics on the record were penned by Paul, who found himself “honing in on relationships with friends and people I know that I think are special people, that have pretty unique outlooks on life, or a trait I really admire and would like to have.”
The second track on the record, Felt – a hypnotic, slow-burner elevated by sharp, shimmering, jittery guitars – was written in response to the twins “hopefully not unhealthy co-dependency.” Paul elaborates: “Rachael and I write everything together. I can find it difficult to work by myself. I like being able to write something people can relate to, and a friend who is a filmmaker already has.”
London noise-pop outfit Chorusgirl and LNFG labelmates Lemon Drink are set to join Cloth at Glasgow's CCA on 15 November, to celebrate the launch of the Swinton twins and Gallacher's labour of love. A sublimely crafted, low-key pop gem like Old Bear sits perfectly next to brooding and breathtaking new offering Curiosity Door on Cloth's highly anticipated self-titled debut: an emotive, beautifully textured offering that rewards close scrutiny.