Frightened Rabbit and TeenCanteen side-project Poster Paints: “The cuts that are about to be made to the arts are quite worrying”

Simon Liddell and Carla J Easton talk roping in indie friends from Chvrches, Arab Strap and beyond for their self-titled album

Poster Paints, the new side-project from Simon Liddell of Frightened Rabbit and Olympic Swimmers and Carla J Easton of solo fame and TeenCanteen, have spoken to NME about putting together their debut album and the importance of funding for the arts.

In addition to her work with TeenCanteen, Easton has performed and worked with the likes of Camera ObscuraBelle And Sebastian and Aidan Moffat, while Liddell has collaborated with the likes of Aaron Dessner and Pearl Jam‘s Mike McCready.

Their self-titled debut album, released earlier this month, was written and recorded during lockdown with the help of government funding through Creative Scotland – but they fear that impending government spending cuts may prevent acts like theirs from existing.

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“It’s highly competitive – you’re never guaranteed when you apply,” Easton told NME. “We were quite lucky that during the pandemic, Creative Scotland were quite keen to support artists to continue working remotely. It wasn’t that we set out to do that, it was that what we were doing to fit that brief. It allowed us the time and support to really explore our ideas.

“All of the cuts that are about to be made to the arts are quite worrying – particularly in Scotland. We’re losing independent cinemas and world-renowned film festivals. I don’t know what the landscape will be like for arts funding as of March next year. Only time will tell. You hope that other projects like ours will get the support they deserve.”

The funding that the pair received also allowed them to “support friends and peers that were stuck at home and losing income from touring” – paying their friends from the music world to contribute to their album. Their international roster of collaborators recorded their parts remotely from the USA (Gabbie Coenan AKA RVBY MY DEAR), Canada (Andrew Chung and Laura Hickli) and their native Scotland (Chvrches’ drummer Jonny Scott plays on the whole record, along with contributions from Lomond Campbell, Graeme Smillie from Arab Strap, Suse Bear from Pictish Trail, Andy Monaghan from Frightened Rabbit and Amanda Williams AKA AMA JANE).

“Me and Jonny go way back,” said Liddell of their record’s sticksman. “I’ve been playing in bands with him since I was a teenager. He’s the most phenomenal drummer in Glasgow and he’s been playing with Chvrches for the last few years. He did The Kills before that and loads of Scottish bands.

“He was stuck at home during that time and has a nice little drum studio in his house, so we’d send him stuff and he’d record these amazing studio-standard parts. When the record is being tracked separately from different places, there’s a fear of it sounding stale; but he might it sound live. He really brought that energy. He’s the man!”

Liddell added: “It was so nice to make music with friends. It was also the one time you knew that all your friends were not on tour or recording their own albums. Everyone was just available and it felt so good to approach them.”

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The duo were both part of the same Glasgow music scene for years, but never crossed paths until Liddell found himself working on the crew for The Vaselines, who Easton was playing keys for. Before long, he was invited to play guitar as part of her solo project, and their collaboration grew from there.

“About a month into lockdown, I needed a bit of music for a short film I was working on,” said Liddell. “Carla added a vocal, but then it all felt so natural so we tried a few more songs together. It all came together from there pretty fast.”

Easton added: “Poster Paints just sort of happened by accident, really.”

Explaining how they landed on the ethereal pop sound of their album, Liddell explained: “Reverb and soundscapes have been my bread and butter for years. I love Carla’s solo stuff, but from playing guitar with her I had an idea in my head of how she would write songs to a dreamier, more shoegaze-y backing. That was the motivation.”

As for the vivid lyrics of the record, Easton revealed: “It’s weird because I don’t like calling it ‘a lockdown album’, but at the same point in time those periods where you’re alone with your own thoughts make you reflect a lot on previous relationships and situations. I was journaling a lot and would listen to the tracks that Simon sent me. I’d stick my headphones on and go for a walk on my own and let the ideas arise in response to the music. A lot of the music felt like it had sad undertones that would inform what direction to go with lyrically.

“It’s quite reflective, whether it’s in the sadder moments or in the happier moments, rather than writing about the here and now.”

Poster Paints CREDIT: Press

Having only played a handful of shows – including festival dates, support slots with Teenage Fanclub and this past weekend’s headline album launch show in Glasgow – the band are keen to tour more.

“It’s been great to make a home-recorded record then get into a rehearsal space and know that it can exist in that environment with the band you get to put together,” said Easton.

“So many people compromised on the work they were producing and we were really lucky that we didn’t have to. We could have live drums and live strings and now we can translate that into a live experience.”

The duo also said that they were enthused to have brought along the fan communities of their other projects.

“That was the vibe from a lot of the headline shows we’ve done in Glasgow and Edinburgh,” said Liddell. “There are hardcore F’Rabbit fans retaining an interest in whatever we’re up to. Carla’s got a really good fanbase that follow her solo stuff. The sound isn’t so much of a departure from what we’ve done so it’s a nice wee group.”

In the immediate future, Poster Paints are hoping to hit the road in the new year before starting work on a follow-up album.

“It’s just quite nice to put the record out and see what kind of life and journey it has,” said Easton. “The whole thing was kind of accident. We started to see if we’d enjoy co-writing together, then we had an album then needed a band name. There are no plans really, but I guess that means it’s an open door whether to decide to do more or not.”

Liddell added: “Given how easy it was to make the first album, we should probably get started on the second.”

Poster Paints’ self-titled debut album is out now.

Meanwhile, Grant Hutchison – former Frightened Rabbit drummer and brother of late frontman Scott Hutchison – has joined close friends and former labelmates Twilight Sad as a permanent member. The band are currently supporting The Cure on their European tour.

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