THE NEW SINGLE – OUT TODAY
FROM ‘DISTANCE’ – THE DEBUT ALBUM OUT SEPTEMBER 18th 2020 (ON PURE MOTH)
ALSO INCLUDES LEAD SINGLE “BEAR ON BEAR”
“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)
“A Virtue” is the new single from Popcorn Fiend out today (7th August 2020), the second 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 and engineer David R Simpson. “A Virtue” was inspired by the incredible vista photographed on the single cover, taken by the artist 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 Popcorn Fiend, aka Michael MacLennan. “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.”
Taking its cues from this, the video for “A Virtue” was also shot by MacLennan last month when he, his sister, and cousin climbed Beinn Alligin, one of the classic mountains of the Torridon region of the Scottish Highlands. Combining first-person footage with stunning drone camera footage, the filming was almost stopped in its tracks on one of the wettest days of an already ‘dreich’ summer in Scotland.
“The conditions were so poor that by the time we got to the top I almost wished I hadn’t bothered,” says MacLennan. “We were completely soaked through, and the entire trip felt like a complete washout. However, as we started making our way down the torrential rain finally stopped and the skies actually cleared – which meant we had some amazing views on the final stretch.
“I’m not sure I would ever have chosen to film on that day in retrospect, but the conditions actually mapped perfectly on to the track: dark (and extremely dank) conditions giving way to an epic and uplifting finale. The parallels between Schafberg and Beinn Alligin couldn’t have felt more fitting for the images I had in my head when I wrote A Virtue.”
“A Virtue” follows last month’s lead single “Bear On Bear”, which features the powerhouse drumming of Ross Rankin (The Kills, Titus Gein, Blue Sky Archives) and is accompanied by a Manga-style animated video.
Distance 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 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 – an album 17 years in the making – would be to the events of 2020.