Back at the beginning of the month, I was able to hop on a call to Tom Havelock and Llywelyn Ap Myrddin of PREP; the purveyors of funky, synth-laden, perfect-for-summer (and anytime) tunes told me how they’ve been faring in the UK during the pandemic, which interrupted their tour plans, but gave them some pleasantly unexpected extra time to work on their forthcoming record (out October 30th via Bright Antenna Records). Internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below, and check out brand new (v. gorgeous) track “On and On”, which dropped today:
So how are you guys doing? I’m currently in Brooklyn, and we’ve slowly started to reopen certain businesses, but it’s just kind of bizarre. And not super scientific.
Tom: What stage are you guys at with reopening? All the bars and pubs are reopening this Saturday for the first time here, and it’s going to be mayhem. Everyone’s going to be going nuts. Have you been through that yet?
Sort of. Most bars and restaurants are doing cocktails to go, and some have just started doing outdoor seating, but you can’t actually go inside and sit.
Llywelyn: Yeah, for some reason someone’s come up with the name Super Saturday. It sounds so bad. They should call it Take It Easy Day. With Super Saturday, basically everyone’s going to be out going crazy.
I saw on TV that Premier League matches had come back to empty stadiums over there, too. (Which, even with no audience, it seems crazy to me that contact sports are coming back.) I feel like if there are any matches scheduled for Super Saturday, that seems like a recipe for disaster. [Laughs]
Llywelyn: Yeah, people getting together to watch the match. Totally.
Tom: And shout in each other’s faces.
Llywelyn: And singing, I guess. Lots of people singing songs.
Tom: That’s the thing about gigs, and live music.
Llywelyn: Yeah, or choirs. I reckon choirs won’t be able to restart much longer than anyone else.
Tom: Or just any live shows. They’re gonna have to ban people from singing along or getting too enthusiastic.
It’s so bizarre to think about. Now, you guys were supposed to be on tour, right? This interrupted some dates?
Tom: We were gonna be in Asia and America this year. We managed to do one show in Indonesia, just when things had started to get a bit bad in Italy, but it hadn’t gotten bad here yet. But it was interesting, because we were only away for a weekend, and people were starting to get quite dressed up wearing gloves and masks on the plane. And then by the time we got back to London, you could feel that it was starting to get real.
Llywelyn: Yeah, and then we had a tour we would’ve done by now. It’s just such a shame. We were going to do our biggest-ever show in Thailand. And also, we had people who were going to be helping us really bring the production of the show up, and make it really amazing. Anyway, that’s all going to hopefully be happening next year, but obviously we’re really sad that our fans were excited about it and had bought tickets. But of course we’ll be back.
Do you have even any inkling of plans to travel outside the UK to play shows in places that have less strict regulations about it? Like I saw, for example, that Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavik is still going forward in November, and it looks like some of the talent will be coming from out of town.
Llywelyn: It’s very hard to know what the situation’s going to be, isn’t it? And how much our country’s going to be allowing artists in, because most countries are requiring people to be isolated for two weeks after they arrive. It’s a moving situation, I guess.
Tom: I feel like so much about life in music is that things pop up unexpectedly, these exciting possibilities; you kind of get your hopes up, and then they back out, so you wait for the next thing. There are a few things we’ve discussed, but we can’t pin too much down since things are subject to change on such short notice. Who knows what kind of flare up there could be in London where we’d be on lockdown and not able to go anywhere.
Llywelyn: Well, yeah, exactly.
Tom: We just don’t know what the situation’s going to be like on all the different borders, so it’s complicated stuff.
Absolutely. Well, in terms of the things you have a little bit more control over, what’s it been like working creatively together and apart?
Llywelyn: In a funny way, because we’re in the middle of making this album, it was very difficult not to be able to meet up, but in another way it gave us more time to work. I don’t know if you’ll agree with this, Tom, but I wonder how the hell we would’ve done this album without this time; we were supposed to have a tour in the middle of all of it! It’s still always going to be a bit tight with getting things together, but it’s given us a bit more time, which is kind of cool.
Tom: Without wanting to start any conspiracy theories, this all worked out pretty perfectly for us. We couldn’t go on tour, but the album really needed a lot of pulling together, and this allowed us to get into the studio and work, finish lyrics and vocals…
Llywelyn: It’s got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Bill Gates is your godfather. [Laughs]
Tom: Heavily invested in the album. [Laughs]
Llywelyn: We also did this amazing string recording session in Northern Macedonia where the whole string orchestra was socially distanced and wearing masks and visors, and we were doing the whole thing on Skype. It was absolutely amazing, and was just like being in the room with them, and it sounded absolutely brilliant when it came back. So I think that was really interesting.
Tom: The time to finish the album was really important. We kind of finished it this month, and there was a lot still to do. If we had had less time…
Llywelyn: It would’ve been tight.
Did it take any unexpected turns because of the extra downtime that you had to think about it? Like, had you already completed a significant enough portion that you might’ve doubled back on some stuff?
Tom: It’s hard to know, isn’t it? In some ways I think it probably ticked along as it would’ve done, we just had a lot less external stuff to do. And there was the weirdness of not being in the studio together as much, which we were pretty constantly for the last three months of last year. But actually, those three months were kind of weird for us, because normally we have worked separately.
Llywelyn: Yeah, that was the first time we’d ever worked together! Having that intense three month burst was cool; we had two rooms in the studio and were going between them with ideas and stuff. But has this made it different? I don’t know. I feel like we’ve been able to have that time that we like to really debate every detail and stuff, which we always do. We try to get a consensus between everyone, which takes a long time. But the result is worth it.
Absolutely. And tell me a bit about “On and On”, because I’ve really enjoyed that one!
Tom: The way we tend to work is that the other three make instrumental tracks, and I hear them when they’re pretty developed. For me, it’s like I get to listen to the song that I’ll be singing on. So I just see what comes into my head, and it happened really quickly for me on that one.
Llywelyn: Yeah, it came together really quickly, didn’t it?
Tom: It did! It really reminded me of…it’s not a reference I’d normally use for us, but it felt kind of Flying Burrito Brothers-y. It’s a romantic song, and then the chorus…I really vividly remember the feeling of being reminded of a sixties French song, like a kind of Michel Legrand song or something like that. I think I really loved that immediately, and also, I slightly wanted to react against it. Melodically it’s quite big, but it’s actually kind of a break-up song, almost just to kind of undercut the sort of sweetness and rush of these lovely chords.
Llywelyn: Interestingly, the main part of the song was written, and then Dan (my bandmate) put the melody on the beginning of it, which wasn’t there before. And, I dunno, it felt like, “Well, what’s gonna come here?” And then that big hook is like the first thing you hear, and it really takes you straight into the song. Once that was down, it was like, “Yeah, this is really good.”
Tom: Yeah, and during lockdown we’d been toying a lot with the arrangements, trying different versions, and then we ended up coming back to what we started with. Which is what we felt from the very beginning; we loved it from the start.
Llywelyn: It’s had a really nice vibe about it from day one. And it came together really quickly as well, which is a good sign, isn’t it? When something feels like it doesn’t need to be changed around, it’s good. It sort of means it’s natural; it feels almost like you improvised it a bit and it just came out of you.
Totally. It’s seriously so good. Alright, before we wrap up, what else (besides putting out the record) do you have on the books for the foreseeable future?
Llywelyn: Well, yeah, releasing the album. We still have some work to do, and we’ve got a month to go. We’re all really excited about it, being able to show these songs to the world, and to play them live, whenever that’s allowed to happen again.
Tom: We’ll have to do something around it to celebrate. Before all of this happened, the label had been talking about having a boat party out in San Francisco or something.
Llywelyn: Oh yeah! Oh my god, thinking about that is just…what a different world. Maybe we can rent a pedalo or something. [Laughs]
Tom: Get an Uber and just ride up and down green lanes.
Llywelyn: We can all just get into the bath and Zoom each other. That would be similar to a boat party. [Laughs]
Featured photo by Em Cole