In Conversation with…DOUGA

‘Hidden Tapes and the Golden Tide’ is the compelling new album from Manchester four-piece Douga, out 8th December 2017 via Do Make Merge records.

With the release date looming, we caught up with band member Johnny to get the latest on the spectacular new album.

So, your second album ‘Hidden Tapes and the Golden Tide’ is set for release on 8th December, can you tell us a little bit more about that?

It’s a record that we took a bit of time to complete because the recording of it started during the last album campaign. We started recording late in the year that was released and it’s been a band in transition. Two members joined, and they got involved during the recording of it. It was me and John from the first album, we started it off, and then Andrew and Pranam came into it. It includes some more improvised pieces in the record which really kind of involves the other two massively in the creation. We did that over three sessions and the rest of the album is what I’d written after ‘The Silent Well’ material. It’s really varied. It feels like a record that has the different shades of what we do as a band and it’s made it quite difficult to pick singles because there’s not really a representative track on there, because everything sounds different. It’s tied together by the characters within the band whether it’s the singing that I do or the guitar parts, the bass grooves John creates, and Andrew gets the musicality, it’s tied together by that. It’s a bit all over the place.

From my experience, every time [you] do an album, you have a real mixture of feelings about it. You’re really proud that you’ve finished off something and it’s like other people can take this on board, we can hand it over to other people to make sense of it but there’s a little bit of “for the next one we’d like to do these ones better” but I guess that’s just the whole craft and the whole improvement. You just keep on getting better at things and working out what you are… maybe it’s an identity thing as well.

Very pleased with it, feel like it’s ready for other people to take it over now.

Is there anything that you did differently with this album compared to ‘The Silent Well’?

Yeah, very much so. ‘The Silent Well’ was a record that was done really quite quickly. We did it all ourselves apart from the mastering; I mixed that record. I felt a little bit out of my depth, but you’ve got to throw yourself in there really. It made me go a little bit mental mixing it because it took up a lot of my time. This next record we handed it over to a guy called Rob Jones, he’s also worked on records by Sweet Baboo, he is a pro. He knows exactly what he’s doing. We recorded it over weekends up at Seed Studios in Trafford and then Rob took it over to mix it and he’d done a cracking job.

You released ‘Partly’ not so long ago, why did you choose to release that song in particular?

I think “where do we start with this record?” and ‘Partly’ lyrically kind of comes from a place of the different layers in human beings and how we’re not always sure of things. There’s ambivalence there and I think that probably comes across in the lyrics on the record. As a track, there’s probably no other track like it on the record. It’s much more of an indie… almost poppy for us really. It’s prettier sounding than a lot of what we do [because] we do quite clashing, gritty sounds. It just felt like, yeah, let’s put this one out and then we’ll go with ‘Footprints second up. ‘Footprints is the first track on the album which is probably a core track.

Both albums have been recorded at Seed Studios in Manchester, why there in particular?

I volunteered there! Basically, I’ve gone in there and done music with people that are suffering with their own distressing thoughts and mental health difficulties and they always said to me “[you] can use the studio out of hours” which is over the weekend. Raoul who engineered the album was a big part of it really. He’s not a band member but he sat in and was there the whole time – we needed someone to bounce ideas off. He does volunteering all the time at that place, but he’s also got a big roll up at the one in Broomwood as well. It was like, I’d given to them, so they said you can take a bit back with the recording side of things and, I feel it’s really important as well to speak about what an incredible space [it] is for people, whereby the mental health system is a little bit rubbish, it doesn’t have much for people who step out of [intensive] care for instance psychiatric units or hospitals.

It’s just the people that go there and put their time in, they’re so important for making life better for people that are really struggling, so it’s kind of like I have a place as well. It’s a big building, it’s got a hell of a lot of different rooms and we could do the different things we needed to do whether that was creating sounds using the art studios, the stairwells to bring out more atmospherics in the tunes, so it’s kind of a practical and more of a meaningful reason as well.

Has the volunteering and work you do outside of the band had an impact on the music you make?

I don’t think it has on [this] record but I think the more I write lyrics, my training and my reading as well comes across in what I write about really… I don’t know whether it affects this one so much but yeah, I love doing it and I’m sure the fact that as a therapist you work with new people all the time and you enter different people’s stories and worlds so there’s no doubt that it will influence the artistic side of things.

Can we expect some live shows soon?

Well, we were trying to get a couple of things [in] before Christmas. We’ve managed to get on the support for Sweet Baboo; that’s going to be a gig at the Brudenell [Social Club] and one at Picture House in Sheffield. The Brudenell is on the 23rd of November and the Picture House is the 29th.

There’s a launch that’s going to happen in February at The Castle [in Manchester] as well. We’re in the process of planning more gigs for February.

Where are some of your favourite places to play?

The Brudenell [Social Club] has got to be up there, there’s not many places that have the character of that. I guess we chose to play The Castle in Manchester on Oldham Street because it’s intimate, it always has a really nice atmosphere for a venue.

What’s next for Douga in the coming year?

In terms of new stuff, we’ve probably got in the regions of 7 or 8 new tracks, so we’re well on the way to another record and we’re going to try and record that later in 2018. That becomes a bit of a priority, just in the sense that this one took a while to finish, we’re very much chomping on our bit to do new stuff. We’ll be looking at the gigs in February and then hopefully some more festivals and things. That’s the way it’s looking.

Catch Douga supporting Sweet Baboo this month in Leeds (23rd Nov) and Sheffield (29th Nov).

Find Douga on Facebook and Twitter.

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