Declan Welsh and the Decadent West: Debut album track-by-track

Declan Welsh gives us a track-by-track run-through of the Glasgow band's debut album, Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold

Feature by Declan Welsh | 18 Oct 2019
  • Declan Welsh and the Decadent West

With their debut album Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold now fully unleashed on the world, frontman Declan Welsh talks us through the album track-by-track.

No Fun
"No fun was a song I had for years but never brought to the table. I write all of my songs on an acoustic guitar, and I have a hard drive with about 400 songs and ideas on it. It's constantly growing so sometimes really good tracks get lost in the ether. I mind just hearing the melody to it one day and going back, finding it and being like 'here, this is a tune!' I then rewrote all of the lyrics around the line 'Really, you're no fun at a party'. I just thought that phrase was so cutting. Just getting told, you are boring, you are bad chat, you are a buzzkill – it's brutal.

"So it's about people who really think they are amazing fun, have no self-awareness and are a huge hit for themselves. When we were in the studio it [really] came together. It's me doing the mad london accent at the start, talking nonsense about Berlin having a vibe and guitar music being dead. I'm basically impersonating every London major label A&R ever."

"There's a recording on my laptop of me playing this on an electric guitar that isn't plugged in and drumming the beat on said guitar. I play every part of the tune, the bassline, lead and chords and it sounds like a mess but this song came almost fully formed. The only part of it that was added in was the instrumental bit (which is a KEY CHANGE, people, yass) and that was us in the studio looking to put something interesting in a song that is essentially the same four chords. 

"When we went to the studio with this, it was the first time we added synths to any of our tunes. It's got this 808 clap and hi-hat, and this amazing arpeggiated bass synth running under it. This, I think, was us getting a bit groovier.

"The lyrics I wrote in a night. We had the song fully formed and I think I was having a slight crisis of confidence. When you have to exist as an artist in a world where you are going to be treated as a product, some people lean into it and some people stay awake wondering if there's any point to it. I am one of the latter. But I always tend to come out the other end and think, 'you can make an impact and have principles while existing in this system.'

"I also like that this song is so straight up indie at points and it's talking about quite big ideas. That guitar line almost begs for a story about getting on it with the lads and shagging doesn't it? AND YET HERE WE ARE, TALKING ABOUT CAPITALISM NOT BEING VERY GOOD. What a concept."

How Does Your Love
"This song is all about that bassline. I was listening to a lot of Prince, Rick James, that kind of 80s funk. And so I wrote that bassline and immediately knew that it was gonna be a screamer of a song. Then I heard the chorus, the pure falsetto, 'How does your looove feel so goooooood (Do it to me once again)', and at first was like, great melody but that is an utterly ridiculous chorus. 'How does your love feel so good?' That's hilarious. But then I ended up really liking how it sounded. So I kept it and wrote around it.

"I wanted to ground that sort of well over the top chorus in a story, so that's when I landed on it being about 'provincial discotheques' and escaping the ordinary. It's a total escapist song about the power of music, dancefloors and nightclubs, a proper live-in-the-moment/escape-the-monotony-of-nine-to-five life. The guys are unreal on this tune, the bass, the guitars, the drums are all amazing. I think this is maybe the best pop song I've written."

Turn Me On
I really love this song. I was listening to a lot of Aztec Camera, Frank Ocean and Burt Bacharach actually, and discovered all the diminished and major seventh chords running through their music. It gave me this whole new arsenal to write with. I think songwriters should be obsessed with discovering that kind of thing, getting into what other great songwriters use to build their songs.

"So this is just four really interesting chords changing in dynamic. The reason it works is because it never quite resolves, and the tune is about a break-up, sort of in response to that musical tension and lack of resolution. Again, the chorus came and I wrote around it. I recorded this on my phone and sent it to the guys, and Ben [Corlett] (who plays bass), phoned me up and put me on loudspeaker to [let me hear] the bassline he'd come up with. It's great, and Duncan's [McBride] guitar work on this is unreal."

New Me and You
"This song is a great example of the value of having people you trust producing. We took this in as a shoegazey tune without a chorus. I still quite like that version but Chris and Johnnie pointed out that the instrumental gap between verses was calling out for a chorus. So sort of on the spot I came up with 'Nothing stays the same for too long / You said it'd change, you weren't wrong / It's the way that every good thing goes / I've forgotten more than I'll ever know'.

"I really think the story of this is the most honest assessment of  break-up I've ever done. It isn't, you know, All By Myself wailing and greeting, because I don't really think break-ups are like that. You just notice everything becomes different and it's a bit uneasy. Until you see the person and the both of you are totally different people. It's tragic in its own boring, subtle way. That's the kinda stuff I live for, man. The daily examples of heartbreak, love, failure, triumph and that. Nobody really is running through the airport, saying 'I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME WITHOUT YOU, PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME' and if they are they're a giant man-child who is too self-involved to see the other person has agency and it's over. The serious sadness is the people accepting that reality and moving on."

Be Mine
"This is a song about love, and it just really works. It's simple, almost like a nursery rhyme. You know what the weird thing is about album one? It's every tune you've ever written competing with each other. And so you have this vast well of experiences to dip into, and songs come up that have been about for so long you forget the specific situation it arose from. I think what's good about this song is it's doing the big grand 'I'd do anything for you' thing but placing it in a realistic context – I'll leave the big light on during a sunny summer day, drink a mix of orange squash and antifreeze. 

"I like trying to make the most unromantic thing sound romantic. I'm trying to illicit the same response as when I take the bins out unprompted and get a look of love from my girlfriend which is as close to what Pablo Neruda wrote about as I've ever seen in person. I also really like that we have a proper vinyl side one album closer. This tune gets pretty massive, especially for us, the layered guitars and keys build up to this crescendo which is dead powerful. I really do like this song a lot."

Image: Declan Welsh and the Decadent West by Neelam Khan Vela

Do What You Want
"I think this is about as interesting a song as we've ever done. The subject matter is important, the first line is a great way to open any tune, the bassline grooves and it builds up into this huge chorus and outro with this great riff. We wanted to limit ourselves to one tune from before because we didn't feel good about saying to the people who like our tunes, 'mind all those ones you've heard, well here they are again but in a SPECIFIC ORDER!' Also, we write so many songs. We had about 150 sitting there for this [album] that had a chance, it's testament to how much we love Do What You Want that it made it."

Different Strokes
"This and Times are maybe the two most personal songs on the album. We had the music to this for a while, the sort of New Order-y bassline along with proper noughties indie guitars (christ did I just accidentally quote Danny Dyer? 'propah nawty guitars'), but I had no idea where to go with the lyrics. I had a chorus melody in my head, and words that really went with the feeling, but I was just sitting for ages writing love songs or vague political things and then I just sat down and started to write about me going over to Palestine (I went to the West Bank and witnessed the occupation first hand a couple of years ago).

"I tried as much as possible to be forthright and telling a story rather than communicating a message. It's like the chorus is the response. You're being given facts – grim facts – about what's going on. Is that enough? Do you believe me now? I really love the line 'My friend Saaed, covered his heid with a balaclava 'cause soldiers remember a face'. That's as good as anything I've ever written. And Saaed is a real guy, who gave me his blessing to use his name. Shout out to Saaed and Free Palestine."

People Let You Down
"Probably the biggest departure from our usual stuff, this is a pretty straight up rock song that heavily features piano. I heard the verses to this in my head walking down the High Street in Glasgow and had to record it on my phone. I still have the voice notes of just gale force winds in the background and me going 'People, people let you down...' I must have looked like a total weapon to any passers by. But yeah, I think this is the darkest the album gets.

"It's a strange thing because people are all we have, people are by a mile the best thing about existing, but people are also nailed on to make you feel awful a lot of the time. This is me giving into the latter, and just venting, sort of. When this was finished I went 'this is the most 'proper song' song I've written'. I feel like you could give this to Adele or [Lewis] Capaldi or something. If anyone is reading this and wants to talk cash, get in touch. The bidding starts at my maw's mortgage."

Image: Declan Welsh and the Decadent West by Neelam Khan Vela

The Dream
"[The Dream] made it by the skin of its teeth and I am so glad it did. It's as explicitly political as the album gets and it's about doubt. It's about my personal journey from being religious, to believing fully in the Scottish independence project to now being committed to socialism. I think sometimes we want to be a thing, if you know what I mean? We want to belong to a group or tie our flag to the mast. So we say that we're a 'centrist' or a 'liberal' or a 'progressive', 'communist', 'nationalist' etc. When actually anything anyone of any intellectual worth has said is that it's a dialogue, it's about understanding the world and being open to being wrong.

"The reason I think socialism or leftism is something worthwhile is because the principles that underpin it are all about compassion, collective struggle, solidarity and fairness. Those are things to fight for, those are things any good society should possess. This tune is about answering those doubts we can have, with that affirmation. At the end of the day, it's socialism or barbarism, isn't it?"

Never Go Home
"A sort of melancholic ode to the end of youth, [Never Go Home] is me trying to condense those hours between like 3-10am into a song. It starts defiant and euphoric, much like the chats just after a club. Everyone back to mine, this is gonna be amazing. The middle is more contemplative, that point where you get into deep chats. 'We'll right the wrongs and write the songs that'll change the world'. Then the end is like someone coming in and pulling the curtains open. You panic, and you resist and you wonder what the hell there is after this, but eventually you have to accept it.

"I think we should be prouder of those moments. When we go out and dance and talk for hours and hours, we are connecting to other people. I think that period of your life where you're young enough to go out all the time can be properly transformative. This is about that, and about the fact that the end of it is really quite tragic. Or maybe I just love a night out."

"This is the best tune on the album for me – I love two chord songs. There's something about them that really let's you build up emotion. This tune is about the last summer that my pal Gary was here. It was this amazing time, where we were all this tight group and felt indestructible. Despite the fact that life isn't as kind as that, I truly believe it's those times that give you enough in the tank to cope with how cruel life can be. And the most cruel thing life can do is take away someone young with so much to give.

"This is a celebration, though more of a wake than a funeral. It's also universal. It's about living as much in the here and now as you can, cherishing those you love and knowing that exactly because it could all be gone in an instant; that we should be so glad we get to experience life while we have it. More than anything, though, it's about friendship being just about the most important thing in the world."

Cheaply Bought, Epensively Sold is out now via Modern Sky UK; Declan Welsh and the Decadent West play Album Release In-Stores at Chameleon, Aberdeen, 18 Oct, 6:30pm; Assai Records, Dundee, 19 Oct, 12pm; Assai Records, Edinburgh, 19 Oct, 4pm; Love Music, Glasgow, 21 Oct, 5:30pm; St Luke's, Glasgow, 15 Nov; Mad Hatters, Inverness, 17 Nov; The Tunnels, Aberdeen, 18 Nov; Beat Generator Live!, Dundee, 19 Nov