“The distorted wall-of-sound that Fiend creates sounds somewhere between Sleigh Bells and Skinny Puppy. It is loud and abrasive but it still manages to be catchy which is no small feat” (Surviving The Golden Age)
“The uplifting electro-infused tonic that 2020 so desperately needs” (Northern Life)
“Sketch Of A Plan” is the new single from Popcorn Fiend, the third track to be lifted from the Scottish musician’s long-awaited debut album Distance, out September 18th 2020 (on Pure Moth).
Distance occupies a space somewhere between the industrial rock of Nine Inch Nails and the melodic synth pop of CHVRCHES, with the album co-produced by CHVRCHES collaborator & engineer David R Simpson.
Taking its title from a 2019 speech by European Council President Donald Tusk, musically “Sketch Of A Plan” references the dark, driving nature of 80s post-punk while lyrically it draws comparisons between the Thatcherite era and the Tory-led administrations of the past decade.
“Recent political decisions have seen us dragged back to that era when divisive bigotries were not just rife but reigned supreme,” comments Michael MacLennan aka Popcorn Fiend. “Then as now a privileged elite play at politicking while those millions deigned to be beneath them suffer. Without the right skills or experience – but usually having attended the right prestigious institution through family wealth and connections – they see fit to take decisions which will forever alter our collective way of life for the worse, but which allow them to cash in.”
The fittingly dystopian video for “Sketch Of A Plan” uses a mixture of drone and studio photography, with glitchy editing and quick cuts to capture the track’s energy. Hinting at the performers while never showing them in full view, the video reflects the dark and anonymous times that we are currently experiencing.
“I wanted to the video to particularly focus on the lower face as being able to see this has been so fundamental to communication,” comments MacLennan, who also shot and edited the promo. “One of the most disarming aspects of the pandemic has been losing this through mask-wearing. It’s absolutely the right choice to make, but it feels like a substantial adjustment trying to show your emotions in certain places without being able to convey your expressions as before. That in itself felt reflective of the track’s own themes of irreversible change.”
Also available is a remix of “Sketch Of A Plan” by Health Saws, formerly in cult Aberdeen band Electric Tibet.
“I was delighted to have one of my favourite musicians from my time in Aberdeen provide a remix for the track,” says MacLennan. “Health Saws removes the more propulsive post-punk nature of the music and replaces it with an eerie and stark underlying arrangement which brings out feelings of claustrophobia and places it in an almost David Lynch-esque interpretation of dub. It feels like the dark underbelly to the single, and it’s been really fun to hear the song taken in such a bold direction.”
“Sketch Of A Plan” follows previous singles “A Virtue” and “Bear On Bear”, all taken from Distance, Popcorn Fiend’s debut album which has been 17 years in the making. The journey began in Aberdeen in 2003 with ahead-of-its-time debut EP Subliminal Messages Will Mess With Your Mind, which delved into the sort of head-spinning eclecticism which music streaming would eventually bring into the mainstream.
A product of MacLennan’s relocation to Glasgow and eight years in the making, 2011’s PF/EP similarly stretched in several musical directions but veered into a starker, raw sound, reflecting the formation of a full band for live performance. Popcorn Fiend sprang into life just as CHVRCHES and The Twilight Sad began showing what Glasgow had to offer in terms of synth-laden anthemic indie pop, but their momentum was stalled by personal circumstances.
MacLennan left Glasgow for Manchester, then London, and then to Salzburg in Austria. All the while he continued to create music, sonically influenced by these differing locations: fist-pumping maximalist electroclash bangers, propulsive 80s-inflected anthemic post-punk, joyously stripped-down minimalistic electro anthems, and disquieting instrumentals which would jitter seamlessly into swelling crescendos.
Distance was built up over the course of 2019 with this narrative and thematic spine in place. MacLennan brought in CHVRCHES engineer David R Simpson, an old friend, to co-produce, mix, and master the album. MacLennan had previously worked on videos for CHVRCHES singer Lauren Mayberry’s previous band Blue Sky Archives, and their drummer Ross Rankin, who had also previously played with Popcorn Fiend, returned to perform on Distance.
A meditation on what is lost and gained through long periods of isolation from friends, family, and loved ones, no one involved in the recording could never have imagined how relevant the central themes of Distance would be to the events of 2020
Popcorn Fiend – ‘Distance’ album tracklisting;
01 Bear On Bear
02 You Don’t Know
03 Sketch of a Plan
04 This Ballroom’s For Dancing
05 A Virtue
06 The Fourth Wall
09 My Life. Your Life. Our Life
10 I Wish
11 Call For Aid