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On the Radar - No 216: Algernon Doll

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  • by ELAINE O’CONNOR
 

Ewan Grant of Glasgow-based Algernon Doll tells Elaine O’Connor how he turned loss into something positive on his debut album, which is released this week...

“I’m the worst person for talking about myself,” says Ewan Grant - which, given how he’s laid bare on the debut from alter ego, Algernon Doll, seems a funny contrast.

The album, Camomile - due for release on Monday (Nov 26) - is brooding, full of swooping melodies, dark and difficult subjects; but presented with an accessible pop sensibility, all building up to an epic conclusion on the title track. Then there’s Grant’s voice itself, wound through the songs - plaintive, defiant, engaging and strikingly honest.

The sound and subject matter come from Grant’s own experiences dealing with anxiety and the sudden loss of close friends. After spending his formative years in hardcore punk bands, he turned to writing acoustic music instead.

“I didn’t want to just write about myself,” he says, “so it’s sort of told through someone else. But for about five years I had severe anxiety problems and couldn’t really leave my flat.

“I wrote a lot of songs in that time. I was just trying to write pop music, but the subject matter isn’t really poppy.”

The album was recorded at the end of 2011 with the help of school friend, musician and filmaker Tom Mitchell (Allegro, The Barents Sea) - who himself had dealt with losing a mutual friend.

“It was easier working with him because I didn’t have to explain anything,” Grant says. “In fact it was this strange thing we shared.

“And it was great to be able to do the album with Tom as he’s such a talented person.

“We took some ideas for songs and made a big, atmospheric album - it was done in the studio (Clearwater in Perth) basically just with the two of us staying up really late and playing about with some weird instruments. There’s timpani - not real timpani but the sound of them - and a toy organ someone gave to the studio as a present.

“The sound comes from trying to express yourself fully and take it to a ridiculous level.

“It took something really bad, and has helped me turn it into something positive.’”

Not only positive, but quite beautiful - and a sound fresh and intriguing. But Grant hasn’t been twiddling his thumbs since.

“I’m already doing the next album, but I don’t know how much I should be saying about it. I’ll keep that quiet for now,” he teases.

• Algernon Doll plays the 13th Note, Glasgow, on Monday (Nov 26) - Camomile is released on the same day. You can order the album and also get a ticket to the release show on Bandcamp.

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