The Story Behind Every Song On Arab Strap’s New Album As Days Get Dark
Back in the mid-’90s, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton formed a band called Arab Strap. On paper, the group was a funny prospect: Acoustic guitars and programmed beats and Moffat’s Scottish sing-speak, all cataloguing the youthful listlessness of big weekends, long nights, and dead-end dalliances. But as often as Arab Strap could come across as sad or bleary-eyed, there was also wryness, charm, commiseration. Arab Strap were a cult favorite in their day, their sound often resembling the comedowns and reckonings of the stories they told even as their dance-oriented rhythms played like faint echoes of the prior night at the club.
Perhaps, at a certain juncture, that made Arab Strap the territory of younger men. Moffat and Middleton disbanded in the late ’00s, and at the time it seemed they had little interest in ever considering a revival. When they regrouped for some live shows several years ago, it didn’t quite seem like the reunion would stick long enough for new music to be written. But it did: Last year, the duo announced As Days Get Dark, their first album in 16 years.
Whether it’s the beginning of a new chapter or an isolated event, As Days Get Dark presents a new version of Arab Strap — still turning over many of the same ideas and encounters, but doing so with an older and wiser tone. True to its name, As Days Get Dark can often come across like a haunting, heavy listen. Moffat depicts people in various states of desperation or existential drift, and the places (or people, or substances) that provide some temporary solace. All these years later, he and Middleton have crafted a sound that is both more muscular and more glistening, emphatic synths and percussion underpinning arrangements that are textured just so. None of it slides into being too pretty, or too elegant. Arab Strap still have a way of confronting human ugliness and transcendence in equal measure, and while the album may on the surface seem to be born from a tumultuous stretch of years, it’s really just about eternal themes of lost souls looking for a little bit of meaning.
As a vocalist, time has been kind to Moffat. His voice feels lower, gruffer, full of presence. You can hear all the years and late nights etched into his words, making the album’s most confessional moments resonate with profundity at the same time that his jocular asides are that much sneakier and more hilarious. There’s a poetry in the matter of factness on the album, Moffat just as capable of making the strife of a normal person feel (slyly) biblical or crafting an allegory about a long self-destructive train ride through the night.
As Days Get Dark is a striking return from the band, a signal they have something meaningful to say in this new era (and hopefully aren’t done doing so yet). Perhaps you will come to the album as a new fan, all these years removed from Arab Strap’s first act, or perhaps you’ve been along for the whole ride. Either way, there’s a lot to unpack with As Days Get Dark. Ahead of the album’s release, we caught up with Moffat, calling over Zoom from his home in Scotland. Now that you can hear As Days Get Dark for yourself, read along below for the stories behind each song on Arab Strap’s excellent comeback.
1. “The Turning Of Our Bones”
I don’t mean to do too much of a predictable journalist thing here, but: Your first album in 16 years begins with the words “I don’t give a fuck about the past.”
AIDAN MOFFAT: [Laughs] Yeah, it wasn’t intentionally written with the band in mind. Perhaps subconsciously. There’s obviously a bit of a relationship and a rekindling. As soon as I wrote it, I thought, “Oh, that’s the first song on the album.” When you write something like that, you think it’s a really good way to start. But also the song was inspired by the Famadihana, a Madagascar ritual where they exhume bones and dress them up and dance around. At the time, it was on obvious metaphor for love and romance, things like that, but also as soon as I started to write it I realized it was very much about the band as well. Even once we had the demo for that, it was pretty much the first song we wanted people to hear.
Several years ago, the band first reunited for a run of shows. I was actually at the performance at Iceland Airwaves in 2017, when you’d supposedly told someone outside that could quite likely be the last ever Arab Strap gig. How long after that did some of these songs start to germinate?
MOFFAT: I can’t quite remember. When we came back from that tour, we weren’t quite sure what we were going to do. It felt like the end of something. But I think we did it pretty quick actually. Halfway through 2018. We had worked on stuff previously, in 2012 or something, that we were going to release as a soundtrack. But we decided not to. It started to sound very much like Arab Strap, and we didn’t want to release an Arab Strap album. We knew if we did start doing stuff again it would probably gravitate towards the sound that we are used to. I don’t think any of those songs made it to the record, I think we felt they were a bit too… they seemed old to us. Like the older Arab Strap. So it wasn’t completely new when we started, we’d fiddled with some stuff before. But it must’ve been early 2018 when we started to exchange some ideas.
This thing in 2012, was that an actual finished album?
MOFFAT: No, no, I think it was three instrumentals with very bare bones parts and then we abandoned it. I think Anton Newcombe got the job instead. He was doing some music, we were doing a bit, and we said just let him do the whole thing.
I want to go back to this tribal ritual that inspired the song. How did you come across that?
MOFFAT: I was reading a book about death rituals, because that’s the sort of shitty books I like to read. [Laughs] The way people dispose of bodies and stuff. That one came up and it was fascinating. I think the belief is the soul doesn’t truly pass until the corpse is completely decayed, so you’re still within the carcass for a while. It’s every seven or 10 years they exhume the skeleton and hold it up high and dance around it and celebrate. It seemed like a really bizarre and macabre thing to do but also very sweet. I’m interested in ideas that challenge the way we think about death in the West.
When this first came out last year you said the song was about “resurrection and shagging.”
MOFFAT: Yeah, what the band does, we are capable of dragging the corpse out and having a dance with it, we’re lucky in that respect. But there’s other parts in the song, too. There’s a quote from an old English folk song, “Down Among The Dead Men,” that says, “If Bacchus is a friend to love.” It’s a great old song about, basically, getting drunk and shagging. And death.
2. “Another Clockwork Day”
There’s a mix of sad, quotidian scenes with something more poignant in this.
MOFFAT: Like all of them, it was inspired by real events. I found some old pictures and I found myself thinking about how beautiful we all looked 15 years ago. It was a silly thing. I was having an argument with a guy on Twitter — this is going to sound stupid. He was arguing with me and said I should fuck off with my silly songs about wanking. And I was like, “…I don’t think I’ve actually written a song about wanking.” I think I saw it as a challenge. [Laughs] It was in the back of my head for months, wondering how I could do that in a way that wasn’t grotty. In a way that was sensible and mature.
Aye, no, it’s also porn. I worry about porn. I have a young son, who hopefully can’t hear me right now, he’s in the other room. I wonder about how these things effect the way people are learning about sex. I never had that. When I was young, the thing in Scotland was when someone got a porn magazine they would bury it somewhere in a field and everyone knew where it was buried. [Laughs] All the local boys would take turns to go and find it. What you’re really trying to find when you’re going through that is what you’re trying to connect with.
A lot of these things, I don’t try to think about them too much, they just kind of come together. You know, yes, it was a way to try and deal with it and add a bit of loveliness to it. Many Arab Strap songs in the past had quite intimate details and I’ve never understood people being shocked by these things. I find it interesting people are still shocked by the things people do every day. Not even just sexual things. Picking your nose and things like that. People still find that strangely offensive, as if we aren’t just very intelligent beasts.
Like you said, a lot of songs begin with some slice of real life, and later on there’s some more character sketch type songs. With the new album, what do you feel is the line, or the balance, between autobiographical and fictional?
MOFFAT: When I was younger, I was absolutely determined that everything had to be absolutely true. There’s only one Arab Strap song that was fiction, on the first album, and even then it wasn’t complete fiction. Now… I wouldn’t want to write the same way anyway, because I’ve had many more years to think about it, and since Arab Strap stopped I’ve made albums so the way I write has evolved. I didn’t want to change that.
I don’t know, maybe 60-40? Something like that. There’s one, like “Kebabylon,” that’s based on something I read; it’s not me at all. But also there’s a lot of me in that, the very fact that I interpreted the work of a man who sweeps the streets at five AM as a guardian angel who keeps all our secrets. That says quite a lot about me. [Laughs] The events are not all autobiographical, but the feeling and the message is about me.
3. “Compersion Pt. 1”
So “The Turning Of Our Bones” was the reintroduction, but this was the official lead single.
MOFFAT: I’m really awful at picking singles. I don’t understand the concept of singles at all. “Bones” was an obvious one I think. The lyrics played a part in that definitely, it seemed like a good introduction. I really like the sound of “Compersion.” It’s also in a funny time. I’m very out of practice but I’m a drummer. A 7/4 disco beat was quite interesting, I thought. I discovered in 7/4 you can still dance, but 5/4 you can’t, it’s just too strange. I feel like it has a good drive. It’s good at being a bit of a rock song but quite intimate at the same time.
In the album bio, you said one of the general themes of the album is “what people turn to in times of need. And how they can hide in the night.” There’s a lot of scenes like that on the album. There’s a hotel hookup story here.
MOFFAT: Yeah, yeah. I don’t want to go into the private life too much. But what I was inspired with with this song was the language that comes with it. In that scene a “unicorn” is a woman who wants to have a relationship with a couple. They call her a unicorn because it’s so rare and a complete fantasy. [Laughs] And “compersion” itself is a new term for enjoying your partner enjoy pleasure [with someone else]. There’s another wee line I thought was funny… “fluid bonding.” When you are allowed to exchange fluids with someone else. I was fascinated by the language that comes with the scene.
It’s named “Pt. 1,” are these ideas you’re looking to explore more?
MOFFAT: No, that was a joke. Obviously it ends pretty badly for the protagonist. My joke was to call it “Pt. 1” as if there was ever going to be a “Pt. 2.” But, no, there’s not. [Laughs]
This one feels like one of the sadder songs on the album to me.
MOFFAT: Really? That’s one of the ones I suggested as a single. [Laughs] “Bluebird” is about social media and people being assholes. “Bluebird” obviously being the Twitter logo. And also, why we do it. You were saying the “turning to things at night.” I don’t do it so much now, but there was a point I’d be on Twitter all night drinking a beer and talking to people. It’s a strange thing, social media. It can be really bad for you. I’ve had times when it’s really upset me, I went to bed shaking. So [social media] can be a bad thing but it’s addictive too. I suppose that song just came from me questioning why anyone does it, why I continue to do it.
With “Another Clockwork Day,” you’re also talking about something that’s different from the past. Technologically speaking, a lot has changed in the 16 years since Arab Strap released an album. Was the digital landscape something that loomed large for you?
MOFFAT: It’s a big part of the lyrics now. I don’t think I ever mentioned social media or anything online before, because it was fledgling stuff when we split up. That was 2006. I had a computer but I didn’t really — I wasn’t on any social media. You’re absolutely right, it has absolutely overtaken us, and had a very heavy effect on us. As you say, “Clockwork Day” and “Bluebird” are specifically about it but it’s a big part of [the album] — even the artwork. This idea of windows, I sing in “Bluebird” about gabbing with ghosts in windows. If anything, “Bluebird” was probably the biggest inspiration for the cover. I wanted it to be from my point of view, or the lyrics’ point of view.
I think I’ve witnessed this scene in London and Dublin. The drunken zombie march when the last place closes down and everyone’s roaming the streets hitting up kebab shops and convenience stores. But it’s also a story about the people who have to come and clean up the mess left behind by all of that. Why did you want to inhabit that character?
MOFFAT: I read a book about London after hours and all the things you can find and do. One of the chapters was all about the street sweepers. The stories they told about what they found were just fascinating. Besides the obvious things like needles and condoms, there were wedding rings — and a lot of underwear apparently. It seemed pretty foul, but it also seemed like these people were helping us. The idea that someone comes and sweeps up the debris of all the secret meetings and shenanigans and silly things we do, that spoke to me.
Obviously there’s a few points on the album — it’s amazing now to talk about nights out. I don’t know how long ago that was now. I had hoped [the pandemic] was all going to be over by the time the album was out but I guess not. So I suppose “Kebabylon” is almost nostalgic now. But the tales they told [in that book], there’s something exciting about that time in the morning. When I used to go into Glasgow a lot, on Saturday nights sometimes I would go to this casino, and you wouldn’t get out until half past five. You’d see all the street sweepers along with bugs eating all the chips and people actually asleep and the sun coming up. It’s a very vibrant, exciting time for me. I suppose it’s the potential for stories. It’s a very fertile time of day.
Also, “Kebabylon,” it’s used over here but mostly in England, to describe that time of day, what happens after a night out. But also there’s quite a lot of kebab shops across Britain called Kebabylon and I love shops with silly names so I wanted to get that into a song for years.
I was going to ask how long you were waiting to use the term “Kebabylon” in an Arab Strap song.
MOFFAT: [Laughs] When Malcolm heard the title he kind of groaned like, “For fuck’s sake, no.” Then I explained, “It’ll make sense when you hear it.” He’s quite happy with it now.
As you’ve gotten older and written a bunch of music, that bleary early morning scenery still pulls you in, still inspires you?
MOFFAT: I get very romantic about the city sometimes. I was starting to ease off on that sort of thing. I live a bit outside the city, about 10 minutes on the train. I was becoming quite local before the pandemic. I don’t know. I’m getting older, too. I’ll be 48 this year.
And you’ve got kids now.
MOFFAT: Ah, they don’t care. [Laughs] When it all comes back to normal I’m either going to sit at home and not go out again really, or I’m going to go out for two months and then I’ll come home.
This is going back to that idea of what people do in the night: When you’re talking about being the kind of person who’s experienced these nights, but then telling a story that really gets into the filth and aftermath, do you feel like there’s an objective remove to the album? Like, you’re not exactly casting judgment on people and the perhaps misled ways we seek connection.
MOFFAT: I’ve never really written about right and wrong. If anything, it’s all about the space in between and the mistakes we make. I mean, pretty much every old Arab Strap song is about me being an asshole. Although they are ostensibly about relationships, the worst person in an Arab Strap song is always me. I think that’s important. You could write about these things, as long as you’re not casting judgment.
6. “Tears On Tour”
There are a few moments on the album where the banal and the profound kind of meet. This song starts talking about familial deaths and tragedies, and then you proceed to talking about crying at children’s movies. Which I understand; in itself that’s kind of moving. But the way you list the titles out, “Frozen… Frozen 2” kinda cracked me up the first time I heard it.
MOFFAT: Again, I was reading a book about crying, which wasn’t a very good book to be honest, but I started to think about the things that have made me cry. Ever since being a dad, I cry much more. There’s something about having children that makes you a nervous wreck. [Laughs] The children’s movie part is true. My son is 13 this year and I’ve got a daughter who’s seven so I watch these things and I just can’t cope with them sometimes. You know the Pixar film Up? The first 10 minutes of that are fucking brutal.
I started to think about important points in my life. When I talk about blubbering on the bus, that was actually an American tour in, I think, 2003, where we were doing an acoustic set supporting Bright Eyes. I think it was six weeks of tour and on the third day my mum phoned to tell me my grandmother had died. I didn’t go back, she told me to stay where I was.
That bit in the middle is true as well, fantasizing about being an anti-comedian. When I was teenager, there was a big thing over here in the ’80s with comedy that became very political. I always thought wouldn’t it be great to have a show where everyone can just sit down and cry as well. There was a line I cut out of that because it was just a bit too silly. One of the first drafts of the lyrics ended with me saying, “In a sense, that came true.” [Laughs] We thought that was just a bit too wink-wink, you know? So I took that out. But I might drop that in live sometime.
At the end you then say you don’t know why you can’t cry now. Does that revolve around another moment in your life?
MOFFAT: That’s about mental health issues. I’ve been through depression quite a few times, the numbness that comes with it. The absolute lack of joy or sadness. It’s not about being miserable, it’s about not feeling much at all. It’s a curious thing that sometimes at the absolute lowest point is when you can’t show emotion. But I wanted to keep it pretty obscure so people can apply what they want to it. It could be an event.
7. “Here Comes Comus!”
This song is a bit of a change of pace. There’s certain lines that just get stuck in my head, like the little “You fucked it up again” aside.
MOFFAT: That was a joke. I did that for a laugh in between takes, and Malcolm accidentally kept it so we said, “Ah, fuck it, we’re keeping that.”
At the same time this a more uptempo, catchier track, it seems like it could be another bordering-on-bleak depiction of nights out.
MOFFAT: Comus was the god of nocturnal excess. He seduces you. Again, it’s an idea I’m very drawn to, but I suppose it’s also like a get-out-free card to say someone else is controlling your behavior, which is ridiculous of course. Ultimately it’s a way of justifying your behavior through the conduit of a god. It was written to be kinda silly. Obviously Comus doesn’t exist but this is very much what I expect him to look like if he did.
I know sometimes the music starts with Malcolm and you add or build things up. Did your old working dynamic stay the same as before, or did it change in this era?
MOFFAT: It’s pretty much the same. I might be doing a wee bit more than I used to because I know how to do it now. Back when we started I did the drums and the words and Malcolm did the guitars and pretty much all the music. I’d maybe punch a keyboard or something but nothing particularly musical. The way we make them now is the same: It starts with a guitar part, I’ll add drums, but I do a bit more keyboards. And the strings, all done with modern technology.
I probably added more to this record than in the past. A lot of that gets thrown away as well. It’s very much a joint decision. I have the technology and the knowledge to do these things, where before I was completely useless. Well, not completely useless. There’s a method. I think a lot of people think years ago I just wandered in from the pub and started shouting over Malcolm’s beautiful music. [Laughs] It was never like that, and it’s even less like that now.
This song almost has this brooding, new wave-y pulse to me. You’ve also spoken about how you felt the album sounded fuller or bigger than the past work. How much of a process was it for the two of you to say you’re going to pick up the Arab Strap story but figure out exactly where you wanted to take it sonically?
MOFFAT: It wasn’t really planned. There’s 11 songs on the album but I think we demoed maybe 20. We just worked at it until we found there was a common theme and things were working. We were quite conscious of not sounding just like the old Arab Strap. That was quite important. I think what informed that was when we did the gigs in 2016, we did a compilation as well, and we chose our 10 favorite songs. We started to realize what we liked best about the sound, and what worked. Most of them are the more electronic ones. There’s more elements like that in the record.
But again, that wasn’t necessarily because we didn’t want to do it back then, we just didn’t have the technology. Synthesizers and drum machines and the programs were really expensive back then, but now everything is cheaper and easier to do so we have a bigger palette to play with. I think we were just both on the same wavelength, knowing we wanted to do something more electronic and also knowing we’ve got the band as well. We play as a six-piece. They don’t play on the record, because we don’t make records like that. But I think a lot of it was written knowing we had a great band that could play these things.
8. “Fable Of The Urban Fox”
This is an allegory about refugees and immigrants in the UK, right?
MOFFAT: Well, it started with actual foxes. There’s a wee family of foxes around my flat, and I love seeing them — I think foxes are gorgeous. I decided to learn more about them, because I didn’t know much about them besides that they looked cool. I was reading a book — I think it was called Foxes Unearthed — about the relationship with foxes in Britain. There’s a couple chapters about how when foxes started to come into the cities from the country because they were being hunted, they were immediately demonized and looked at as pests. They were just trying to survive.
It’s a very obvious metaphor. What really hit me was the way the newspapers controlled the story. The right-wing tabloid press wrote about foxes exactly the same way they write about migrants, the way they demonized them and the way they completely controlled public feeling about them. [The song is] about migrants, but it’s also about the press and who owns it and where these ideas come from.
That’s another circumstance that’s a bit different since the last Arab Strap album, this rise of a new right-wing fanaticism, the exact timbre of the xenophobia. And the idea of media in this song also dovetails with the social media world we discussed earlier. Is this another thing that’s been weighing on your mind?
MOFFAT: You could call it a political song, but it’s one about human decency, I think. I don’t think I would’ve written about it before. It’s impossible to not be somehow political. The way things have developed in the last 15 years — which, again, has been because of technology and social media and the way we communicate and how news is delivered to us — it’s impossible to avoid it.
It’s probably the first openly, if faintly, political song we’ve done. You’re supposed to chill out as you get older. I seem to be angrier every day. The constant lying, inadequacy, and idiocy, and racism… over here the conservatives being in charge of Britain has been a disaster, and they’ve been in charge for a long time. It’s been 10 years of this. Every day, their decisions appall me.
9. “I Was Once A Weak Man”
Like we’ve said, you had some new tools at your disposal. There’s something that’s almost a trap beat that comes in later in this song. I was wondering if you were looking towards inspirations this time around that hadn’t been on your radar before?
MOFFAT: As I was saying earlier, I’m a drummer at heart. I love to hear new sounds, I love that hi-hat in trap beats. It’s been about for a long time now and that’s why I wanted to use it even more, it’s so much part of pop music now and everything. I think it’s more just picking up sounds, not particular records that inspire it. I’ve always got my ear open for developments in the way drums sound. That’s kind of the only element like that on the song, though I suppose the strings are kinda retro. Who’s the guy, who did “Gangsta’s Paradise”? Coolio. The strings reminded me of Coolio, which I wasn’t sure about at first. [Laughs]
This has another one of my favorite lines on the album, which is the kicker: “Well, Mick Jagger does it. And he’s older than me.” Tell me about the scene here, why it was Mick Jagger specifically.
MOFFAT: Believe it or not, that’s the most autobiographical part of the song. Not because I know Mick Jagger, but because — my brother is 10 years younger than me, so he lived at home, we didn’t really grow up together. He told me when he was young once my dad went out to get thoroughly drunk and came in and had a blazing row with my mum, and his defense was, “Well, Mick Jagger does it.” [Laughs] I’ve always wanted to get it in a song in some way, it’s another one of these things that’s been on my mind for a while.
But also it’s about horrible men, as well. A behavior I would apply to many other Arab Strap songs, so it’s a way of talking about the past and trying to address that in a sense. But the Mick Jagger thing was a punchline I was waiting to use for a while, yeah. The song was actually going to be called “Mick Shagger.” But we changed our mind, we felt it was a bit too funny. I don’t know if we should have changed it, I quite like it.
Although I do really like the phrase “I was once a weak man.”
MOFFAT: Do you know the Carry On films that are very popular in the UK? It’s an old Carry On joke. It used to be this running thing. Hattie Jacques, she’s one of the regular actresses and she’s this sort of matronly woman who used to have this mad, rabid desire for Kenneth Williams. Now, Kenneth Williams was one of the campest men ever. The joke in the films was you weren’t allowed to say at the time he was gay, but everybody kind of knew. She’s trying to ensnare Kenneth Williams and he says, “No, no, I’m a changed man, I can’t do it anymore,” and she says, “Why?” and he says, “You know, I was once a weak man.” The punchline is: “Once a week’s enough for any man.”
It’s an old Carry On joke, and I couldn’t resist. It sums up the song well, too, I think, in that it references the past. I grew up with those films when I was young, they came out before I was born but they were always on the TV when I was young. They probably informed my attitude towards sex. Saucy wink-wink British postcard humor.
The Carry On films were the undercurrent of Arab Strap all along.
MOFFAT: That’s it, that’s it.
This is my favorite song on the album. There’s something about the guitar and the melody: It has this inevitable destination propulsion to it, but also this kind of drift. The music kind of sounds like the lonely nights spent in transit depicted by the lyrics.
MOFFAT: It’s more of an allegory than it is a story. The barman is the key. Again, it’s about things we turn to in times of need.
There’s this scene later where it’s dark and the narrator is noticing the lines on his face in the window. As you get older do you feel like mortality is creeping into your songs more?
MOFFAT: I would normally say no but having discussed it with you, it clearly is, you know? [Laughs] It does pop up. It’s not something I worry about. It’s not something I’m scared of. But as part of the conversation now… what happens when you go? I’ve got people I look after. You realize your time is limited when you get to a certain point. But I also don’t feel particularly old. I didn’t enjoy being young, to be honest.
I can relate to that, in a sense. But I guess maybe rather than heavy mortality, a song like this seems to mull over how time was spent, you know?
MOFFAT: Definitely. You can’t change what happened. But I do often think of the alternative paths that could’ve been taken. What’s that terrible Gwyneth Paltrow film? Sliding Doors. The film’s shit, but it’s a good idea. She sees herself on a train — you know what was good for that? Russian Doll. That seemed to be about the same thing, different realities and the different courses lives could take. You don’t dwell on it too much. But you do wonder who you could’ve been, the slightest different thing that could’ve happened.
Now that you tell me it’s an allegory, I think I like the song more, and I suppose I always heard it either way. But when I looked at it as a literal journey song, I wondered whether there was supposed to be a specific destination, or whether the destination is irrelevant. Knowing it’s allegorical, I suppose I still wonder that.
MOFFAT: There isn’t. There are different kind of destinations. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a literal journey. I’ve been alone drunk on trains many times in the past 25 years.
Well, I did mean in a more abstract way. But maybe within that more allegorical angle, if it doesn’t have a specific ending, it doesn’t.
MOFFAT: Maybe it does. You’ve got me thinking about that now. That destination wouldn’t necessarily be a place. Let’s put it that way.
11. “Just Enough”
This song has the album’s title in its lyrics, and then it leads to this passage: “And we bleed, we abide/ And we howl, and we hide/ We undress in only darkness/ Hide our bodies from the light/ And we drink, and we drug/ And we shake, and we shrug.” It kind of feels like this summation of all these coping mechanisms the record has talked about.
MOFFAT: Yeah. I always like a happy ending on a record. [Laughs] It wasn’t meant to be the ending, “Sleeper” was going to be the last song. We were really fond of “Just Enough,” and the only place it worked was at the end. Then it all came together, it gave the album its title. That is the one song that is about everything we’ve discussed, certainly. What do you turn to at night, in times of need. Coping mechanisms.
There must be 10 mixes of that song. At one point in the middle section it had so much more in it. It had a much bigger buildup. The first version had a big rock ending. It doesn’t end quietly at all, it was another two minutes of this bombastic outro. That didn’t work. I think because of the lyrics and their weight, it took a long time to get it right and balance it out.
Why did the phrase “as days get dark” hit you as the title?
MOFFAT: We were looking for something that was about nighttime. The more I listened to the words, the more I realized everyone in the songs seemed to be in some form of need. There’s a double meaning with things becoming dark. Someone asked me if it was about the general state of the world, and it wasn’t, at all. Because I genuinely thought by the time the album came out it would be all over. I was really optimistic when we decided that. I was like, “Ah, no, people won’t want to hear about the pandemic or politics, it’ll all be fine by the time the album comes out.” And, obviously, that hasn’t quite worked out.
It wasn’t intended that way at all, it was just to reference night and desperation. It’s funny, have you heard the new Mogwai album? Their album is called As The Love Continues. They didn’t know ours began with “As,” and it’s funny we both came out with these titles and theirs is this really positive, forward-looking title and ours is utterly bleak. Who would’ve had it any other way? [Laughs]
It’s interesting you mentioned “Sleeper” used to be the closer, because it has that feel to it. But then sometimes an album can be sequenced that way, the sort of climax or conclusion and then the actual final song. “Just Enough” does have that epilogue feel to me. It’s a resolution in terms of corralling all of this. But for you spending time in this world… You said you’re optimistic in real life. After going through all these songs, is there a happier ending for you on the other side?
MOFFAT: Yeah, I’m not a particularly bleak person. I write about these things because it’s a way to cope with them. The whole thing behind the record is I’m talking about coping mechanisms. The very nature of making music is one for me, even if it’s just making an instrumental record. The art of creation is wonderful for mental health. I like Legos as well, I design and build little Batmobiles. The act of making something is what keeps me happy and focused.
I have a friend that always used to say that everyone he’s met who made happy music was a miserable bastard. And the inverse is true. Whenever he’s met people who are supposedly making sad music, they are on top of it and perfectly happy and quite sensible. That clown thing, crying on the inside sort of thing. I think there’s some truth in that. It’s a way to deal with the shit you want to deal with. Thankfully, other people want to pay for it. [Laughs] I suppose you can tap your toes to some of it.
As Days Get Dark is out now on Rock Action.