Stephen Carey from The Eden House
UK gothic-rock collective THE EDEN HOUSE have just released album number three, entitled ‘Songs For The Broken Ones’. Stephen Carey, along with Tony Pettitt, formed the band to showcase their musical ideas with an ever changing line-up of female singers. We caught up with Stephen to ask him about the band, his influences, and the new album…
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: How did the idea for THE EDEN HOUSE first come about, and did you ever think it would still be growing strong on album number three? Were there ever fears that the idea for what is essentially a “super group” might implode, as such projects have inevitably led to clashes of ego historically?
Stephen: It started around 2001 after the band I had been in disintegrated. We had worked with Julianne Regan from AAE and I thought it would be good to do some tracks with her, and maybe even some other female vocalists. I really wanted to get away from the out-of-tune droning male vocal style which seemed to be everywhere in the 90s/early 2000s. I spent a long time writing but nothing really came together until I started working with Tony Pettitt in 2006. We started putting some songs together that had lots of elements we liked but wouldn’t fit in the band we were in at the time. Bit by bit it started to come together, and before we knew it Jungle Records offered us a deal. Three albums later and the way we work is exactly the same. Ego wise, there are never any problems. One of the first things we look for when we want to work is someone is the lack of a diva attitude. If they come across even a little precious, we don’t work with them.
RoD: THE EDEN HOUSE has an overall sound that is certainly very distinct and recognisable, yet there's always been a freshness to each new release. Do you put this down solely to the different singers who have performed so far or is there always a conscious decision to explore different moods, atmospherics and textures?
Stephen: We write for ourselves, on our own schedule. When we think we have enough good ideas to release we let Jungle know there’s an album on the way. There are quite a lot of bands that are on a treadmill of release/ tour/ release, but after a while you can see they have nothing to say and are just going through the motions. By taking our time and having new guests we avoid this staleness, because there are always new ideas and inspiration coming in to the project. Sound wise there are hundreds of hours of music we have created, sitting on hard drives that might see the light of day, but they have to fit in with what we’re trying to achieve with a release. So while there’s not usually a conscious decision at the start of an album how we want it to sound, after a while it starts to make itself obvious what the album should sound like.
RoD: Is it increasingly difficult to steer clear of overtly political lyrics in these days of Donald Trump, terrorist atrocities, Brexit divisions and increasing domestic and international unrest?
Stephen: We have brushed with those themes on ‘Bad Men’, and again on the new album. Monica Richards shares our views on a lot of those issues and we’re happy for her to address these in the lyrics.
RoD: The new album ‘Songs For The Broken Ones’ feels like the darkest release by the band so far. Are the “broken ones” people, or groups of people, you specifically had in mind when writing the album, or do they represent a general malaise in society, and a feeling that the weak and vulnerable are increasingly ignored and marginalised?
Stephen: The album title is taken from a lyric in one of Monica’s songs from the new album called ‘Let Me In’. It seemed to sum up the feeling of the record and thinking about it, everyone is a “Broken One”. We’ve all lost our first loves, all had loss and pain in our lives. Inside every adult is a scared kid thinking “How the fuck do I do this adult shit?”
RoD: There's an aching melancholy on songs such as ‘Misery’ on the new album, and the violin, played by Bob Loveday, certainly adds to this. Have you ever considered a fully orchestrated song, EP or album?
Stephen: We did some work last year on a film soundtrack that was never released. It was mostly piano, bass and soundscape textures. No guitars at all. We have been thinking of re-using some of those pieces as jumping off points for new THE EDEN HOUSE music. They would definitely work with violin, so some of these might see the light of day.
RoD: Another instantly standout track from the album is the Monica Richards sung ‘Ours Again’ - the spoken word middle section is particular spine-tingling - do you ever finish a song and just think "that's it, nailed it!". Or are you always critical and wanting to add or subtract or change a song even when it's finished?
Stephen: There are definitely moments during recording when you get something and think ”Fuck yeah” (and Monica’s vocal on that song was one of them!) but for me personally records are never finished, just let go. After an album release I can’t listen to it for about a year as I’m still wishing I could make microscopic changes to the mixes.
RoD: On songs from the new album such as ‘Let Me In’ and ‘The Ardent Tide’, there's a patient, dreamlike quality at work, but also some powerfully dramatic moments. Yet despite the darkness here, they manage to sound wonderfully uplifting. How do you consistently achieve this fine line between dark and light without ever sounding maudlin or self-indulgent? And have you ever written anything and just said "No way! Too miserable!"
Stephen: That’s one of the things we always try and achieve, to have little moments of beauty in the mix. It can be a brush of vocal against guitar, or a violin part that tickles the bass, but they’re so important to how we want the records to sound. And yes – we’re definitely had those moments where something is too dark or crushing. Sometimes we leave them in!
RoD: Is the songwriting a fluid process for you or are there any particular directions or genres you set out to explore? For example, would you ever set out to write a 'rock' or purely ambient album?
Stephen: All the music on the new album came from myself, Tony and Simon Rippin just playing for hours/ days in the studio at a time and leaving the recorder on. What comes out is entirely by chance, we never set out and say “Let’s write an X type song”. Even if we tried to do it I think something entirely different would come out.
RoD: Growing up, what were your major musical likes, loves and influences? And can we hear any of these on ‘Songs For The Broken Ones’?
Stephen: I was a big fan of THE CURE growing up, not just the way they sounded, but the way they did things. They could have crushing darkness on one song and follow it with a silly pop song and it would still be recognizably the same band. I try to have the same attitude and freedom in what we do. Tony brings a sense of perspective and is always the one who will take a song and turn it in such a way that it’s new and interesting.
RoD: Live, THE EDEN HOUSE have always been phenomenal. What has been your defining moment on stage so far? Have you had any genuinely terrible live moments? And out of all the people you have worked with, and are currently working with, do any of you have any strange rituals or superstitions before you perform?
Stephen: The strange thing is, this was never meant to be a live project. We did a video called ‘The Looking Glass’ which was us live in the studio. That was the first time we had ever played live as a band, bar a brief rehearsal the night before. We were halfway through the video session and we realized we had something special, the room was vibrating! The version of ‘Sin’ on that video was the first time the song had ever been played live, with no rehearsals. There are defining moments (good and bad!) at every gig, and we play live so little, it keeps it special for us.
RoD: Are there plans to tour the new album, and is it a logistical nightmare to bring so many people together at any one time? Also, do you have any plans to release a live album at some point?
Stephen: There will be a few live gigs, maybe some festivals but not a full tour as it just isn’t possible to get everyone to get everyone together for long stints in the road. Also - we’re all way past the time when sleeping on amps in the back of cold transit van is something we would want to do. It would be good to record some of the sets, so watch this space!
RoD: I'm sure you already have future singers for the project in mind - and we'd love to hear who if this is the case! - but if you could write an album with singers who are no longer with us, what would be your dream line-up?
Stephen: That’s a tough question. We’ve lost so many amazing artists lately. Maybe something bond theme-esque with Nina Simone or something terrifying with Gil Scot Heron.
RoD: If you could sum-up THE EDEN HOUSE in five words, what would they be?
Stephen: I couldn’t sum up the music in five words, but of the people we’ve had a chance to work with over the last three albums? Beautiful, Crazy, Intense, Mercurial and Passionate. Actually, that sounds like five of our favourite seven dwarves.
RoD: Thank you for your time, and we wish you all the best with the new album!