Today, Elstow release their debut LP, a smooth psychedelic wonderland going by the name Planets Away. It follows on from a wash of lead-in singles, equally pertinent jams warped by songwriter Jared Shaw’s tripped out rhythm… we’ve really been hanging out for this one.
We reached out to Shaw before today’s release, seeking to swim a little further into his dreamy, space-tinged mind ocean. Here’s his take on every song from Planets Away, for better or worse. Take it away, Jared.
Ripe in neo-psychedelic flavour and the genre’s proclivity for starry-eyed escapism, Planets Away is a warm, vivid and hypnotic debut LP from Elstow.
Night & Day
Night & Day was written to open the album… a dense and full up-tempo(ish) tune to get the ball rolling. I was thinking a lot about how we humans don’t live up to our own expectations, and how we always seem to end up doing the exact things we hate in others.
Its like we all have a shadow-self, who is ready to sabotage us when our guard is down. Anyway, the song doesn’t seem that heavy, but yeah its kinda addressing that part of myself.
Self Imploding Identity
There’s a lot of space imagery in the album, thanks to my obsession at the time with the science fiction of John Wyndham, and so this song – like quite a few of them – really narrows in on the sun as an analogy to talk about more personal matters. Like how an entire worldview can completely implode. Or how acid rain burns the skin (I’m told).
Zenith is a really old song we use to play back when we released our first EP. I remember reading Day of the Triffids, where almost everyone on earth is blinded by lights in the sky and then these alien plants (who can pull up their roots from the ground and run on them like legs) start attacking everyone.
I’ve always been really taken with apocalyptic end-of-the-world stories, probably due to a religious upbringing. But yeah, there’s nothing like the idea of alien killer plants stalking your every move to put you in the right frame of mind for songwriting.
For So Long
This is my favourite song on the album. Quite a few demos were thrown around before this one found its way. For me, its all about that bass. My brother Toby, who played half the guitars and all the bass on the album, really surprised me when he first showed me those James Brown-esque lines he came up with.
We weren’t sure it was gonna flow and work but once we added everything else it just came together so nicely. For So Long was a deliberate attempt on my part at writing lyrics that were a little more straight forward. But then I ended up writing about immortality, so yeah.
I had a dream once that an alien took me up into their spaceship and we flew off into the air and then plunged down into the depths of the ocean where an alien race were living. Hardly all that original… there’s a few sci fi movies that were clearly on my mind that night. But nevertheless it was an intense dream – partly because the depths of the ocean are so damn scary.
I picked up a guitar the next day and came up with the chord progression, melody, and first verse for Alien within an hour. Unfortunately writing the rest of the lyrics took foreverrrr.
Evil Dreams started out as a little sketch. It was just two verses with a little guitar riff in between them. I couldn’t come up with a chorus I liked so I left it at that. Then I was showing a guy from a record label some songs and he was reading the titles of my demos on my computer and I had named it “EVIL” .
He wanted to hear it so I showed him the two verses and he loved it. He told me to go home and write a George Harrison-esque chorus. I remember thinking there’s no way I’m gonna go home and listen to George Harrison or The Beatles in order to find a chorus. But when I got home again I struggled to come up with something I liked. So, eventually I caved in and I put on Here Comes the Sun and immediately was struck by the time changes, and I thought fuck it, I’m gonna try something like that. Then it all just flowed.
In the end, Evil Dreams changes time signature twice by the time the chorus starts, and surprisingly comes off far less wanky than it might sound.
It’s comforting and at times helpful to imagine a god, or aliens, or something bigger and more powerful looking down on earth. It can give a bigger perspective, or should give a bigger perspective, of humans as one group of beings – you know, like we’re all on the same team. Well, it seems like most of us act as if there’s nothing looking down judging our actions – for better or worse. This song is about that, kinda.
The Magician’s Rhythm
The Magician’s Rhythm is unapologetically pro-escapism. We all have moments in our lives where we’d like to just disappear into the vast emptiness of space and forget earth every existed (right?).
Plus it was a good excuse to ask my friend Chloe to play some sitar, and there’s nothing like a good drone to convert the dull and monotonous of everyday life into a sort of cosmic nirvana.
This one’s about the sun (again). Except this time the sun is a female and she’s an immature teenage girl. What if there is a god, but she’s relatively young and naive and makes mistakes and spews forth vulgar language upon the slightest critique? Sounds like the kind of question you might ask on a particularly drug-filled evening.
That’s my mind sober (whilst I should be studying or something).
Planets Away/Sleight of Hand
Planets Away was written also with the aforementioned alien dream in mind. It also features some imagery from a Wyndham novel called Chocky where a kid has an invisible friend who (SPOILER ALERT), as it turns out, is actually an alien surveying the human race and must leave after being discovered.
Stories like that are so outrageous. But they can also provide such a good analogy for more everyday things. The jam that comes after is my favourite moment on the album. We went through the song one day and then just kept jamming without any idea or plan – one of those magic moments where it just came together. Ben’s organ solo couldn’t be more perfect (and it was his first and only take!).
Then it leads into a reworking of one of the earliest songs I ever wrote – Sleight of Hand – which is pure mellow space-folk and I think closes out the album nicely.