Everything Behind ‘Everything Besides’

Larry and His Flask’s ‘B-Sides’ compilation Everything Besides (released 19 July 2019) reveals more of their creative process since the revitalising power of their 2018 album This Remedy

- 07/06/2019 -

Larry and His Flask came through five years of uncertainty in regards to the future of the band in 2018 with a return to the stage and a new album, completely revitalising their prospects, direction and commitment to their music.

It’s tough being considered one of the best live bands ever seen by people who bear witness, including one Frank Turner, as it ever-so-slightly overshadows what you do in the studio. This was countered emphatically by the band with This Remedy, released by Xtra Mile Recordings in October 2018. Their sixth full-length album, and the third released by Xtra Mile since they signed with us the first time in 2011, really showcased the depth, breadth and lengths their sound can reach. Melancholy, riotous, and apt to spin you around from track to track, This Remedy took the raw pace and multi-instrumental (post) Americana they’d been known for and melded it with restraint and subtlety, less punk-fueled and more emotionally packed. It was a glorious return, and we hope it’s just the start of a new phase for a band that has always been a favourite.

Feeling the need to further piece together recent history, Larry and His Flask have just announced a new collection of songs called Everything Besides. This will be out on digital download on 19 July 2019 and you can preorder it here. We have the first taste of the album below. Listen to this dark take on humanity’s collective frailty, ‘Long Way To Go’, and then read about it below. We’ll have more on the rest of the album right here on this page in the coming weeks!

Singed by the same melancholy that This Remedy embraces, ‘Long Way to Go’ proves Larry and His Flask’s exceptional grasp of meshing the long dark night of the soul with a rollicking pace and flurried guitars. But it certainly seems blacker in outlook than the majority of its intended album, and ultimately shows itself to be an isolated take on the trials the band personally went through the last five years. Ian: “Long Way To Go was a b-side from the This Remedy recording sessions. We felt it didn’t fit the theme of the record as much as some of the other songs.” Ian’s observation is right, it’s a tougher listen in lyrical terms – eschewing the more hopeful and uplifting feel that This Remedy encompasses – while the fiery pace and familiarity lends a hug, even as it unsettles with its all-too-relatable observations.

We asked lead guitarist Ian Cook about what it means to piece together a set of ‘non-album’ tracks like Everything Besides.

“I think during the compilation process of a batch of songs, we’re not thinking so much about what’s going to make it on the album or not. In our eyes we hope it all makes the cut. But as we reach completion of the recording process we start to see what sort of shape the songs are taking and we can access the structure of the tracks as a whole. How they sit against each other and compliment — or not — one another. It’s then that we make the call.”

For us there really isn’t anything you could call ‘non-album tracks’. We usually record with the intention of everything ending up on the album. Sometimes there are just songs that don’t fit the overall motif. As far as experimentation goes, we don’t really separate the songs that stray from the path from the more accessible tracks. It’s all part of the creative process that we feel is vital to an album on the whole. “

B-sides are a much different thing these days. I think of them more like what ends up on the cutting room floor, in a way. Kind of edits in a band’s history. To share them with your audience is just giving them a peek inside of a different angle of the band. A way to show your inner workings through the evolution of your craft.“

We even get to hear one of the best songs from This Remedy in a slightly different state - ‘The Pace That It Belongs’ is the demo version of ‘The Place That It Belongs’, and it sounds pretty much pitch perfect. It takes a real listener to find the differences, though the phased electric guitar solo is definitely a one-off flourish which only appears here, a different one used for the eventual album version. But this song, as snugly as it fits on both of their records, was not originally a Larry and His Flask song. Listen to ‘The Pace That It Belongs’ from Everything Besides below, then read Ian’s comments about its origins.

“‘The Pace That It Belongs’ was originally written for another project but found its place among the songs on This Remedy. This earlier demo version includes different instrumentation. Recorded at Ian’s home studio, ‘The Pace That It Belongs’ was a song that I’d demoed and had sat for quite sometime. I didn’t really know where to put it, as in what band to play it with, as when I wrote it the Flask weren’t really that active and a lot of my creative efforts were being poured into our other project, Woebegone. But the song had turned out pretty soft for what Woebegone were doing at the time so I let it sit for a while. When the first whispers among LAHF started about recording a new album, I knew I wanted to incorporate the song on it. It was a better fit for us I think and it turned out great.” As one of the highlights of the catalogue from the first flurry of guitar lines to the harmonious stream of rhythm and melody as the chorus reaches its apex, it’s hard to disagree and indeed we won’t. It’s indeed great too to hear how even small changes can make a song pop on an album proper, leaving previous versions to sound just as good in other places. Putting together a compilation seems to be a way of showing the journey a band goes on, and how divergences can be just as useful as following the correct path.

Another track from This Remedy also appears here, in a drastically altered state. “‘Dearly Departed’ started its life in another key as heard here on this demo version recorded at Ian’s home studio,” explains Ian. Like ‘The Pace/Place That It Belongs’, ‘Dearly Departed’ was a vital part of their last album, but this version is in another key and it sounds entirely different. From a non-songwriter point of view, but with a real fascination of the process, this is a gem to have out there for listening. You can hear the decisions a band has to make, the level of performance required to be able to switch between the different versions, and how much context matters when putting an album together. This version of the song sounds like it belongs on a record more concerned with ascension than one about roots, heart and hope. It’s a great decision to keep the song, but a wise one to change the key and therefore the tone of the song to fit the album well.

Back to earlier in the record, we have two songs that unlike most of the compilation, have been heard and released before. ‘Young Is the Night’ brings immediate joy, the melange of stringed instruments flurrying together. The song admonishes “a barroom boy” whose gambling and drinking is wasting his life away. I know if I was getting a telling off for my behaviour, this is certainly the most palatable way to have it delivered.

‘Breaking Even’ sticks with the bluegrass banjo at full pace but flows in some barbershop quartet-style harmonies, lifting the whole song. The band take aim at shadowy people who “want(s) all control” and are “pulling strings and killing things”. The song is general enough to not be targeting any particular people or groups, but it’s still appropriate that this song appeared on an EP with proceeds going to ACLU (the American Civil Liberties Union) from just a cursory listen.

‘Young Is The Night’ and ‘Breaking Even’ were both recorded at the same studio as This Remedy – The Firing Room in Bend, Oregon by Dayne Wood – as a one-off EP that we exclusively released on Bandcamp with the profits going to charity. The two tracks were never formerly released until now. The Young is the Night/Breaking Even EP never really had a name. 100% of the proceeds went to ACLU National,” Ian tells us.

In the middle of this already varied and intriguing compilation, ‘We Are Everything’ sounds huge and a much more straightforward song musically, while still throwing in some gorgeous vocal note choices as a curveball during the chorus. They give the chorus a real jazz sound. In contrast, the chiming guitar and mandolin of the middle-8 gives an almost power ballad feel, before picking up into a typically brilliant Larry and His Flask break and run to the final chorus. You can hear why it doesn’t fit on This Remedy, but it’s perfect here and should definitely be heard.

‘We Are Everything’ and ‘Story Or A Song’ were both written and demoed during the recording of This Remedy (and were), recorded at Ian’s home studio.”

‘Story Or A Song’ comes a track or two later and sounds particularly epic too - switching from widescreen to scratchy super 8 like a testing cinematic masterpiece. There’s a lot of arpeggios which could be played on a piano, while the fragments holding the song together between passages are simple guitars or a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ blend of vocals. Imagine Larry and His Flask in classic rock mode, as with the song that lands before it on Everything Besides, ‘Full Time Job’, and you can hear why this wasn’t ultimately destined for This Remedy either.

‘Full Time Job (Do What You Want)’ really sounds like it belonged elsewhere, with an unexpected organ vamp and more direct lyrics than Larry often employ. There are elements we haven’t heard in a Larry song to this point, little riffs and palm-muted chugging into an explosion of airy chords. It’s definitely Larry but its roots in Ian’s other band, Woebegone, also helps it make sense in context.

“‘Full Time Job (Do What You Want)’ started its life originally as a song for another project of mine, Andrew Dayne (owner and operator of The Firing Room) and Kirk’s but was rearranged and demoed as a Flask song sometime during the recording of This Remedy as well. Recorded at my home studio. ‘Full Time Job (Do What You Want)’ started as a mid-tempo rock song for the band Woebegone. It had a definite classic rock kind of vibe with harmony guitar parts and everything. But it was part of a large batch of songs that I’d written over the course of two years or so and I thought I’d try reimagining it for LAHF and it actually turned out better suited for us.“

The final two songs on Everything Besides is where we get archaeological with two early songs from 2009. From pure interest, these unreleased songs actually have a lot of the band’s key elements in place from instrumentation, their twist of melancholy and dark introspection, urgent strumming and that irresistible pounding rhythm.

‘Goodbye Ghost’ and ‘Amanda Lynn’ were recorded in the summer of 2009 in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee by Zach Wilson. They were very much early reflections of where the band was heading. Though the two songs never saw the light of day, we thought we’d give you a couple of deep cuts that no one has ever really heard.”

Overall, Everything Besides makes for fascinating and electric listening, just like Larry and His Flask’s albums proper. After their high-point of This Remedy released last year, this gives the band time to breathe and reflect, and for listeners to hear how they got there. With alternate tracks from that album sitting alongside songs that never made it, we’re listening to a version through the walls of a parallel dimension. At the same time, we’re hearing sounds and ideas that have been salvaged for our pleasure. Like any document of history, it puts context around what we already know. For that alone, it’s worth a listen, quite apart from the fact that ‘Long Way To Go’, ‘Story Or A Song’ and ‘We Are Everything’ are among the best songs they’ve released so far.

Full tracklisting and a breakdown of each song, its origins and a couple more to listen to before release will appear right here in coming weeks ahead of 19 July, so come back for more!

Larry and His Flask / Image: Ben Morse

Larry and His Flask / Image: Ben Morse