Interview: Sounds of the Sirens Talk New Album ‘Damage Control’, working with Saul Davis of James, writing about mental health and life experiences and more.

Last month we caught up with Hannah Wood and Abe Martin of Sounds of the Sirens to discuss their new album Damage Control.

The duo are based in Exeter, Devon and are highly talented singer/songwriters.

Stunning vocal harmonies, Damage Control showcases the band’s dexterity and finesse for songwriting. From the uplifting, foot-stomping, ‘Why Not Now,’ to the delicate and heart-wrenching, ‘Wish You Luck,’ ‘ it’s an album that takes the listener on a powerful voyage of love, loss, reflection and hope. Lyrically, the duo expertly and elegantly weave through tales of life experiences as well as expressing their commitment to the important topics of today such as the album’s title track, ‘Damage Control.’ that addresses mental health awareness. 

Produced by Saul Davies from James, Sound of the Sirens continue their vast exploration of instrumentation and timbre with Abbe Martin performing acoustic and high-strung (Nashville tuning) guitar, mandolin and bass drum whilst Hannah Wood plays acoustic and electric guitar, tambourine, snare drum and the piano. 

Hello – how are you both?

Currently we are driving back from a gig with a 5.5hr drive in front of us. We are feeling full of adrenaline from the gig, full of pastry as we’ve just had a feed and full of gratitude that people came out to see our new Damage control set even up in Yorkshire so far from where we live in Devon.

Abbe I hear you have the dreaded covid, how are you?

I did have COVID for a 2nd time but it was gone within a few days so I felt super human. We are both. This time last week we were climbing on Statues after a night out in Winchester. We intened to be wholesome but the venue allowed us to leave our gear there and so this was our passport to a night out, a few Rums and a static horse ride. We then played in Bristol and a home town show with the lovely Mad Dog Mcrae-who we love.

How were the lockdowns for you both as of course music was shut down for a while. What did you manage to get up to? Did you learn a new skill or anything?

Lockdown was a strange but productive time. We started off with a weekly live stream in April 2020. We decided to record our parts independently. I (Abbe) filmed myself playing and talking as if Hannah was there and then Han watched it back, played and recorded herself. The outcome was hilarious and it became a bit of a thing for us whilst we weren’t allowed to be together. As soon as we could meet up we would sit on picnic blankets where Han lived a field at that time and we would write. ‘The Hope that we sail on’ from our new album started life this way. We also learnt to record ourselves and use programmes we were always scared of. Han learnt to use Photoshop and she didn’t scream or curse once! We did online collaborations with so many lovely artist including Nick Parkers ‘Stranger Tunes’. We then joined Patreon to connect with our lovely fanbase offering live streams, podcasts etc. Looking back we kept ourselves busy writing and recording demos and learning to be independent with our sound and overall jobs.

How was the album launch on the 8th?

The launch was a really special event for us because we have never worked with a band before and it was quite a process for us. It’s always just been us two and so it was a bit of an experiment and it was lovely to have other people to bounce off. We hope that our audience appreciated this. It’s always fun to play in London and there was a lovely crowd. People seem to be extra appreciative of live music and up for a good old sing song. Like with most things Covid stripped from us we are now so aware of how important music is to us. You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.

Do you find at the moment that gigs are a bit more special because we have been so deprived for so long?

Absolutely we do. People are so excited to be out and about and supporting their local music venues again-its great! We are aware that alot of people may still feel wary adn we would do all we can to make people feel comfortable.

Tell us a bit about the new album Damage Control. Firstly can you tell us how you settled on the album’s title and was that an easy one to come up with or did you have a few ideas?

Han wrote this song in 2019 and we tweaked bits over time and started gigging with it. The end line was changed to end with Damage control. When we had all the songs for the new album we realised that each one could relate to a different state of being or emotion. The song Damage control sums this up perfectly and so it made sense for that to be the name of the new album.

What song was written first for the album?

The first track was ‘I’ll find you’ written all about losing inspiration

What song was written last?

So nearly’ was the last song. We had a late night burst of inspiration and it came together fairly quickly……the bones of it at least.

What song was the biggest challenge to write? Perhaps took the longest?

Ironically the longest process was on the shortest song. ‘I wish you luck’ originally sounded very different. Saul Davies the producer questioned why the song was so wordy and it made absolute sense and so we started o be a lot more succinct with our message until we became downright ruthless.

Are there any songs that have had certain lyrics you love but ended up cutting out for whatever reason and perhaps have saved for another song in the future?

The hope that we sail on’ was written in 2020 and we had a little animated video made for it. The original version has a small accapella part at the very beginning that we cut in the recording. Sometimes we still include this when we play it live. If you to a show you get this added section for free!

How do you determine the track listing order?

Saul put them into an order that would take the listener on a journey and we loved it!

Your lyrics are so relatable and honest – do you ever worry about people close to you learning about some of your experiences and pain?

No because sometimes this can be a way for them to learn but to be honest we tell everyone everything anyway. Music can be really cathartic. It’s our secret diaries performed live.

Do you find music is a healer and if so, what music heals you?

100% we do. Where would we be without it. It can take us out of the darkest depths of despair. To think that our music may help even one person is an honour. Throughout the years Music has been a great solace, healer and friend and enemy. Our teenage years saw us screaming to Alanis, dreaming with Britney, crying with Michael Bolton, twerking with Destinys child and harmonising with Hanson and Mumford and Sons.

What song on the album is a favourite for your family or friends?

We’ve found that our families are enjoying ‘Heres to us’ and ‘So Nearly’ and ‘Hear what you want’ They clearly like the aggression!

Is there a lyric you are particularly proud of or that has a clever meaning? Or both?

Han loves the line ‘of course I fucking lost’ in ‘Heres to us’. There is no other way to say and the line could absolutely never be polite. We’ve suppressed our potty mouths for 15 years! Abbe loves ‘ I know that we’ve got this, we know what the cost is. I know that we do –from ‘I’ll find you’. We both love ‘sweeping up the floor from all your sadness’ from ‘So nearly’ for the imagery it evokes

What was it like working with Saul Davies? What did you learn from him and what was it about his work that made you want to work with him?

We met Saul at Music Feeds event in Dec 2020 and instantly got on with him. He is very charming and has a great sense of humour and we warmed to him immediately. He took the mickey straight away and so we knew we would get on. We sent him our tracks simply asking for advice or an extra ear for our songs. He came back to us and said he’d like to produce it and we couldn’t be happier.

He has taught us to be mindful of the amount of words we use and to simplify our message, to cut songs that ‘Have a serious lack of cool’-his words! To be brave with reaching new audiences, trying new sounds and learning to develop. We will always have our style but its ok to try new things. No one wants to stand still forever.

Was there anything that he did with the album that surprised you in a way that perhaps you didn’t expect certain songs to sound that way?

Absolutely. We tried different rhythms for different songs. ‘High Hopes’ changed the most. Certain songs became bigger and more powerful like ‘Why not now’ Nothing happened with out our agreement and we said no to lots of ideas and we were strong in our faith of certain lyrics.

How much involvement do you have on the production overall? The albums end approval so to speak?

We recorded all Vocal and Guitar and Piano parts and we had Andres Malta on Drums and Saul on Bass and lead Guitar. When it was all finalised we listened through all tracks together and we all contributed to the mixing. We were just so grateful to have his ‘ear’. He’s been in the Industry for a long time. We’ve had so much great feedback so far.

What are you looking forward to this tour and where else can we see you?

We are excited to be playing in new areas and new venues that we’ve never been too. We are back at Band in the Wall in Manchester and we always love playing there

What else are you up to this year?

This summer we will be playing at various festivals and we intend to release our Winter EP digitally later in the year. We have recently been added to various Spotify playlists and so we are excited to see how this grows and of course we will continue to tour, write and laugh.

Thanks again for doing this and hopefully we will see you soon

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