Photo Credit Michael MacLennan 2020
THE DEBUT ALBUM
OUT TODAY ON PURE MOTH RECORDS
INCLUDES THE SINGLES “BEAR ON BEAR”, “A VIRTUE”, “SKETCH OF A PLAN” & “THE FOURTH WALL”
“The uplifting electro-infused tonic that 2020 so desperately needs.” (Northern Life Magazine)
“The distorted wall-of-sound that Fiend creates sounds somewhere between Sleigh Bells and Skinny Puppy” (Surviving The Golden Age)
“An electro-rock instrumental somewhere between Modeselektor and Joy Division, with a nod to Josh Wink in the mid-section synths” (Last Day Deaf)
“From working with some of the gems of the indie music scene, Popcorn Fiend’s anthemic and new wavy grit of ‘Sketch Of A Plan’ vibes against the rails of nature – rioting and rebellious to the end.” (Come Here Floyd)
Distance is the long-awaited debut album from Scottish musician Popcorn Fiend, available today on Pure Moth Records. A meditation on what is lost and gained through long periods of isolation from friends, family, and loved ones, the Popcorn Fiend – the alias of Highlands-based musician-producer Michael MacLennan – couldn’t possibly have imagined how relevant the central themes of Distance would be to the events of 2020.
The album is the culmination of a journey that started in Aberdeen in 2003 with Popcorn Fiend’s 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, 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.
Throughout this period, the overarching theme of distance informed and transformed these new songs into something which would form a coherent whole: a theme presenting itself through “You Don’t Know”s bracing alt-indie interrogation of the sacrifices inherent to long-distance relationships, “Sketch of a Plan”s propulsive Factory Records-influenced post-punk rumination of living in Europe as Brexit ripped the UK away, with other lyrical and musical themes delving into the formation and fracturing of relationships during times of self-enforced isolation.
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.
Opening track “Bear On Bear” is the clanging and uplifting electro-infused tonic that 2020 so desperately needs, and features the powerhouse drumming of Ross Rankin (The Kills, Titus Gein, Blue Sky Archives).
“Bear on Bear was written specifically with Ross in mind, who is one of the best and most fearsomely entertaining drummers I have had the pleasure of playing with,” comments Michael aka Popcorn Fiend. “Ross plays with such ferocity I wanted to create a bank of electronics that he would effectively be playing against, setting up a musical clash of titans, a showdown finale between man and machine.”
Second single “A Virtue” was inspired by the incredible vista at the top of the iconic Schafberg mountain in Austria, and the track taps into synthwave and soundtrack influences as it sweeps over and above its own sonic scenery.
“A Virtue was the first track David mixed and it set the template for the album,” says Michael. “He was integral in shaping the galvanising and ultimately soaring instrumentation, which reflects the origin of the track. I was on Schafberg and living in Austria in the immediate wake of the Brexit vote, and being at a remove seemed both calming and discomforting. It felt impossible to remove the beautiful from the melancholic, yet it felt as though that was exactly how it should be.”
The propulsive electro-rock of current single “The Fourth Wall” falls sonically somewhere between Modeselektor and Joy Division, with a nod to Josh Wink in the mid-section synths.
“I wrote this track while staying and working in Salford and Manchester, and definitely felt inspired by the early minimal pulse of Factory Records but wanting to channel it through minimal but pumping modern dance music,” says Michael. “Something that feels underground and sparse, but which has a real energy and drive to it.”
This energy and drive is reflected in the accompanying video for “The Fourth Wall”, which MacLennan filmed on a 10k run from the Highland towns of Conon Bridge to Dingwall and back.
“These are towns which have specific resonance to where I was born and grew up, so the video features many landmarks which are pivotal to me,” he comments. “Once I recorded the run the hard work really began: I beat-synced the run to the sounds of the track, then used each phase – the ‘walls’ referred to by the title – to trigger different visual states. This provides some surreal visual imagery still incorporating local landmarks like the Conon Bridge Hotel, and even stores such as Boots and Spar on the way. I wanted to marry together the more psychedelic elements to the psychogeography of the places that I have called home and which have fundamentally shaped my identity.”
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