New Long Leg

Dry Cleaning

New Long Leg

“Straight away,” Dry Cleaning drummer Nick Buxton tells Apple Music. “Immediately. Within the first sentence, literally.” That is precisely how long it took for Buxton and the rest of his London post-punk outfit to realise that Florence Shaw should be their frontwoman, as she joined in with them during a casual Sunday night jam in 2018, reading aloud into the mic instead of singing. Though Buxton, guitarist Tom Dowse and bassist Lewis Maynard had been playing together in various forms for years, Shaw—a friend and colleague who’s also a visual artist and university lecturer—had no musical background or experience. No matter. “I remember making eye contact with everyone and being like, ‘Whoa,’” Buxton says. “It was a big moment.”
After a pair of 2019 EPs comes the foursome’s full-length debut, New Long Leg, an hypnotic tangle of shape-shifting guitars, mercurial rhythms and Shaw’s deadpan (and often devastating) spoken-word delivery. Recorded with long-time PJ Harvey producer John Parish at the historic Rockfield Studios in Wales, it’s a study in chemistry, each song eventually blooming from jams as electric as their very first. Read on as Shaw, Buxton and Dowse guide us through the album track by track.
“Scratchcard Lanyard” Nick Buxton: “I was quite attracted to the motorik-pedestrian-ness of the verse riffs. I liked how workmanlike that sounded, almost in a stupid way. It felt almost like the obvious choice to open the album, and then for a while we swayed away from that thinking, because we didn't want to do this cliché thing—we were going to be different. And then it becomes very clear to you that maybe it's the best thing to do for that very reason.”
“Unsmart Lady” Florence Shaw: “The chorus is a found piece of text, but it suited what I needed it for, and that's what I was grasping at. The rest is really thinking about the years where I did lots and lots of jobs all at the same time—often quite knackering work. It’s about the female experience, and I wanted to use language that's usually supposed to be insulting, commenting on the grooming or the intelligence of women. I wanted to use it in a song, and, by doing that, slightly reclaim that kind of language. It’s maybe an attempt at making it prideful rather than something that is supposed to make you feel shame.”
“Strong Feelings” FS: “It was written as a romantic song, and I always thought of it as something that you'd hear at a high school dance—the slow one where people have to dance together in a scary way.”
“Leafy” NB: “All of the songs start as jams that we play all together in the rehearsal room to see what happens. We record it on the phone, and 99 percent of the time you take that away and if it's something that you feel is good, you'll listen to it and then chop it up into bits, make changes and try loads of other stuff out. Most of the jams we do are like 10 minutes long, but ‘Leafy’ was like this perfect little three-minute segment where we were like, ‘Well, we don't need to do anything with that. That's it.’”
“Her Hippo” FS: “I'm a big believer in not waiting for inspiration and just writing what you've got, even if that means you're writing about a sense of nothingness. I think it probably comes from there, that sort of feeling.”
“New Long Leg” NB: “I'm really proud of the work on the album that's not necessarily the stuff that would jump out of your speakers straight away. ‘New Long Leg’ is a really interesting track because it's not a single, yet I think it's the strongest song on the album. There's something about the quality of what's happening there: Four people are all bringing something, in quite an unusual way, all the way around. Often, when you hear music like that, it sounds mental. But when you break it down, there's a lot of detail there that I really love getting stuck into.”
“John Wick” FS: “I’m going to quote Lewis, our bass player: The title ‘John Wick’ refers to the film of the same name, but the song has nothing to do with it.” Tom Dowse: “Giving a song a working title is quite an interesting process, because what you're trying to do is very quickly have some kind of onomatopoeia to describe what the song is. ‘Leafy’ just sounded leafy. And ‘John Wick’ sounded like some kind of action cop show. Just that riff—it sounded like crime was happening and it painted a picture straight away. I thought it was difficult to divorce it from that name.”
“More Big Birds” TD: “One of the things you get good at when you're a band and you're lucky enough to get enough time to be together is, when someone writes a drum part like that, you sit back. It didn't need a complicated guitar part, and sometimes it’s nice to have the opportunity to just hit a chord. I love that—I’ll add some texture and let the drums be. They’re almost melodic.”
“A.L.C” FS: “It's the only track where I wrote all the lyrics in lockdown—all the others were written over a much longer period of time. But that's definitely the quickest I've ever written. It's daydreaming about being in public and I suppose touches on a weird change of priorities that happened when your world just gets really shrunk down to your little patch. I think there's a bit of nostalgia in there, just going a bit loopy and turning into a bit of a monster.”
“Every Day Carry” FS: “It was one of the last ones we recorded and I was feeling exhausted from trying so fucking hard the whole recording session to get everything I wanted down. I had sheets of paper with different chunks that had already been in the song or were from other songs, and I just pieced it together during the take as a bit of a reward. It can be really fun to do that when you don't know what you're going to do next, if it's going to be crap or if it's going to be good. That's a fun thing—I felt kind of burnt out, so it was nice to just entertain myself a bit by doing a surprise one.”

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