It’s funny to think Tugboat Captain may never have existed. After writing a collection of songs for a private project, the Captain himself Alexander Sokolow, was content to just sit on the material and that be the end of it. However, as the songs got passed around from one friend to the next, he was convinced to put a band together and tour the material. This might hint towards why Tugboat Captain are surrounded by an aura of the homemade, of inclusiveness and of the DIY. Not only is the band itself made of long-term friends; its fan base is a tightly knit circle of music lovers whose appreciation of memes and self-deprecation has earnt Tugboat Captain one of the most organic cult followings of recent years. Just a year after the release of ‘The Tugboat Captain,’ the rapidly revolving Battersea sextet are back with their new album ‘Everybody Seems To Think That I’m A Raincloud’. Come along Tuggers.
Clocking in with a run time of around 20 minutes, ‘Everybody Seems To Think That I’m A Raincloud’ is a collection of 16 melodically rich, lyrically concise and texturally mesmerising tracks. It’s difficult to narrow down what makes this record so special without the aid of a Dewey Finn-esque diagram, but I think I would be right in saying that the band’s ability to write poignant and relatable lyrical content without having to resort to time-worn clichés or solely romantic subject matter certainly has something to do it. Each song manages to maintain a focus on the interiority and mental grappling of its writer, whilst simultaneously ushering in the listener with open arms. It is this pervading sense of proximity between musician and listener which gives the record such a confessional atmosphere. During the Bluegrass-infused whimsy of ‘Grace,’ Sokolow sings: “Well I’m drinking from the top till there’s an empty bottle, just so I can make it through the day.” It is the kind of song writing which bares all, and it is this same frankness that makes for such a personal and intimate listening experience.
However, it is also Tugboat Captain’s expansive scope which marks them out amongst the all too narrow minded indie bands of recent years. Rather than restricting themselves to a given creative formula, in ‘Everybody Seems To Think That I’m A Raincloud,’ the band blend a wide variety of genres and disparate instrumentation, and in doing so have created a record which rejects any pre-conceived notions or expectations of what a band such as Tugboat Captain should sound like. From the swirling alt-folk of ‘Signs to Come’ and the cavernous Sitar-dappled psychedelia of ‘Interlude/ Buddy and Edmund’s Song,’ to chorus-soaked dream pop in ‘Don’t Want to Wake up on my own,’ Tugboat Captain have seemingly curated an album which is in many ways a celebration of the unstoppable imaginative force of indie music created on its own terms.
If this record proves anything, it’s that a great piece of music is about more than just the talent of the musicians, their influences, or which chords fit neatly together. It’s that which surrounds the music as well. A sense of comfort, familiarity and friendship permeates each and every note of this album. Whilst many of the songs convey feelings of confusion, doubt and instability; the understanding that it is a record made by a group of friends sharing such fears and doubts with each other, just goes to show that everybody feels like they’re fucked in the long run. The trick is to realise, that if you’re all screwed together, at least you’ll be having a laugh. With a UK tour underway and a burgeoning reputation for unpredictable and chaotic live shows, it looks like you’ll be hearing a lot more of Tugboat Captain. I urge you to open your ears.
The new album ‘Everybody Seems To Think That I’m A Raincloud’ is out now – and available to purchase on Bandcamp (here) or alternatively, when you buy a ticket to the band’s next London show, a free MP3 download of the album can be made (here).
Catch Tugboat Captain at the following live dates:
1st Nov – The Wheatsheaf, Oxford
24th Nov – Thousand Island, London
Find Tugboat Captain on Facebook.