In Bloom: Spinning Coin's Chris White on Hyacinth
Split between Scotland and Germany and with an uncertain future looming, Spinning Coin have delivered on their pop promise with their second album
Spinning Coin always felt like an apt name for this Glasgow outfit. For a long time, they seemed to be in perpetual motion. Most bands would love to have one songwriter as prolific as Jack Mellin or Sean Armstrong but with both in the fold, they’ve had an embarrassment of riches from which to construct both their debut album, 2017’s Pavement-indebted Permo, and now Hyacinth, which was largely cut in four days during some time off on tour in France. Support slots to the similarly jangly likes of Alvvays and The Pastels kept up a freewheeling sense of momentum through 2018 in the wake of Permo’s release on Domino, but as drummer Chris White explains over the phone, things changed dramatically last year.
Rachel Taylor, formerly the group’s touring keyboard player and now bassist after the departure of Cal Donnelly, makes her first contributions to the band as a permanent member on Hyacinth, but has also been, in effect, ousted from Glasgow by the UK’s increasingly strict visa policy – a victim of the country’s creep towards small-minded insularity over the past few years. “She moved to Berlin, just because it’s easier to be a person from across the world there,” he says of Taylor, who hails from Toronto.
“She’d have happily stayed put, I think – she had a job here she liked – but it’s just much more straightforward for her to make a go of things in Berlin. Sean then followed her out there, which he was happy to do, and obviously that’s changed the dynamic within the band. Half of us here, half of us there.”
In practice, that meant that if the coin didn’t quite stop spinning in 2019, it certainly slowed considerably. Even with Mellin and White heading over to Germany every now and then, their twice-weekly practices in Glasgow were now a thing of the past, and the knock-on effect was obvious – less rehearsal meant less touring, and less time spent in the same room together meant fewer opportunities to throw around new ideas, to flesh out new tracks. “We’ve probably already got enough songs for a third album, at this point,” reveals White. “But I have no idea how we’d go about making it. Less of it would be done live, I’m guessing. There would have to be a new approach.”
Hyacinth, then, almost feels as if it’s closing the band’s first chapter, and setting them up for a different second act entirely. For all that Mellin and Armstrong both have a keen sense of melody and an ear for a hook, there was something ever-so-slightly rough-and-ready about Permo, whether that was something emanating from Mellin’s pointed political lyricism or the fact that there was plenty of crunch to the guitars to go with the breeziness that their influences imbued. Hyacinth feels better rounded and more cohesive, but prettier and sunnier, too, not least thanks to Taylor’s synths – it’s as if you can hear Spinning Coin blooming into a fully-fledged pop outfit in real time.
With almost all of the instrumental tracking crammed into four chaotic days at Black Box, a residential studio in rural western France, the process was nothing like as easygoing as Hyacinth actually sounds. “It was really stressful,” groans White as he recalls it. “We just kind of overworked ourselves. It seemed like a good idea, finding somewhere to record in the middle of a tour, but we really went in just to see if we could work on a single or an EP or something. It was only after the first day went so well that we just said, 'let’s keep going'. I think we did 15 songs in four days. By chance, it turned into an album. It was pretty frantic, but I don’t think it would have the same energy if we’d made it in Glasgow, all living in our own houses, and not having the snappiness you get from coming in fresh from two weeks on the road. I love how it’s worked out. I wouldn’t change it.”
The band head out on a European jaunt this month to mark the release, which White admits he’s looking forward to primarily just to have the four of them in the same place for a change – “we’ll get to try out some new songs, and maybe make a plan for what’s next.” Beyond that, they’re hoping to remain on the road well into 2020 – Spain and Portugal top the touring bucket list for White – but as much as uncertainty looms in the distance, the priority for now is to let Hyacinth breathe the same new life into the live show that it has into the band on record. “It does feel as if everything’s been flipped upside down,” says White, “but for now, I’m just looking forward to us getting back out on the road.”