Although Dry Cleaning began work on their second album before the London quartet had even released their 2021 debut, New Long Leg, there was little creative overlap between the two. “I definitely think of it as a different chapter,” drummer Nick Buxton tells Apple Music. “I think one of the nicest things was just knowing what we were in for a bit more,” adds singer Florence Shaw. “It was less about, ‘What are we doing?’ and more thinking about what we were playing.” Recorded in the same studio (Wales’ famous Rockfield Studios) with the same producer (PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish) as New Long Leg, Stumpwork sees Shaw, Buxton, bassist Lewis Maynard, and guitarist Tom Dowse hone the wiry post-punk and rhythmical bursts of their debut. The jangly guitar lines are melodically sharper and the grooves more locked in as Shaw’s observational, spoken-word vocals pull at the threads of life’s big topics, even when she’s singing about a missing tortoise. “When we finished New Long Leg, I always felt a bit like, ‘Ah, I’d like another chance at that.’ With this one, it definitely felt like, ‘Really happy with that,’” says Buxton. The quartet take us on a tour of Stumpwork, track by track. “Anna Calls From the Arctic” Nick Buxton: “It was a very late decision to start the album with this. I think it’s quite unusual because it’s very different from a lot of the other songs on the album.” Florence Shaw: “I quite liked that the album opened with a question: ‘Should I propose friendship?’ In the outro, we were thinking about the John Barry song ‘Capsule in Space,’ from You Only Live Twice. There’s quite a bit of that in the outro. At least, it was on the mood board.” “Kwenchy Kups” NB: “It’s named after those little plastic pots you get when you’re a kid—pots full of some luminous liquid, and you pierce the film on the lid with a straw.” FS: “We were at a studio in Easton in Bristol, and I wrote a lot of the lyrics on walks around the area. It’s a really nice little area, and there’s lots of interesting shops. We wanted to write a few more joyful songs, at least in tone, and the song is so cheerful-sounding. So, some of the lyrics came out of that, too, wanting to write something that was optimistic, the idea of watching animals or insects being just a simple, joyful thing to do.” “Gary Ashby” NB: “This is about a real tortoise.” FS: “On a walk in lockdown, I saw a ‘lost’ poster for ‘Gary Ashby.’ The rest of the story came out of imagining the circumstances of him disappearing and the idea that it’s obviously a family tortoise because he’s got this surname. It’s thinking about family and things getting lost in chaos, when things are a bit chaotic in the home and pets escape. We don’t know what happened to him. We don’t know if he’s alive or dead, which is a little bit disturbing, but hopefully we’ll find out one day.” “Driver’s Story” NB: “We were rehearsing at a little studio in the basement at our record label [4AD]. It was just me, Tom, and Lewis, and we weren’t there very long, but quite a few ideas for songs came out of that. The main bit of ‘Driver’s Story’ was one. It felt different to anything we’d done on New Long Leg. It’s just got such a nice, oozy feel to it. FS: “There’s a bit in the song about a jelly shoe and the idea of it being buried in your guts. A photographer called Maisie Cousins does photos of lots of bodily stuff and liquids, but with flowers and beautiful things as well. I was looking at a lot of those at the time. The jelly-shoe thing is about that—something pretty, plastic-y, mixed with guts.” Tom Dowse: “It’s got my dog barking on the end of it as well. He’s called Buckley. He is credited on the record.” “Hot Penny Day” TD: “I’d been listening to a lot of Rolling Stones, so this is an attempt at that. We were jamming it through, and it started to take on a bit more of a stoner-rock vibe. ‘Driver’s Story’ was also meant to be a bit more stoner-rock until John Parish got his hands in it and took the drugs out of it.” Lewis Maynard: “I found a bass wah pedal in my sister’s garage. I just plugged it in and started playing, and I was like, ‘This is fun.’ I’ve unfortunately not stopped playing bass wah.” NB: “It conjures up quite a lot of imagery. I was listening to some of Jonny Greenwood’s music for the film Inherent Vice, and it’s got a washed-out, desert-y feel. This sounds like Dry Cleaning in an alternate, parallel universe somewhere.” “Stumpwork” FS: “Quite a lot of the lyrics were gleaned from this archive of newspaper clippings that I went to in Woolwich Arsenal. It’s millions and millions of newspaper clippings on different subjects. There’s a bit [in ‘Stumpwork’] about toads crossing roads from this little article I found about a special tunnel being built, so that toads could traverse the street without being run over.” NB: “When we were trying to figure out a name for the record, it felt like the best option. We loved it, and it was really succinct. We liked that the word ‘work’ was in the title.” “No Decent Shoes for Rain” TD: “This was two of those jams from the basement of 4AD. We were quite unsure about this song. We took it to show John at the pre-production rehearsals, and he really liked it, and he didn’t really have anything to say about it, which is quite unusual. A lot of people ask, ‘Why did you record with John again?’ And it’s things like that—because he notices things that are good about you that you don’t notice. I was really self-conscious that the end section sounded too trad, classic rock. It sounded like the safest bit of guitar I’ve ever written. But once he said he was into it, I started to look at it from a different way, and it grew from that.” “Don’t Press Me” FS: “This has some recorder on it, which I had to play at half-time because it was really fast. I was like, ‘Oh, this would be nice if it had this little bit of a recorder on.’ I tried to play it, and I was completely incapable. I’d thought, ‘Oh, I’ll be able to do this. Kids play the recorder all the time. It’s easy.’ Even at half-time, I had to have loads of goes at it. So, it’s me playing the recorder, sped up, because I have no skills.” “Conservative Hell” NB: “I think this song’s really important because through the course of the record there’s two different types of song. There’s these upbeat, jangle, poppy ones and then there’s slightly slower, more groovy ones. This song has two very distinct elements that we’re really happy with. It’s nice as well to be so overtly political, which is not usually our scene.” FS: “The reason it ended up being such an on-the-nose phrase is I was thinking it would be really nice to write a song that was something like ‘Conservative Hell.’ And then, after a while, I was like, ‘That’s pretty good.’ I think it almost sounds like a silly headline, but accurate too.” “Liberty Log” FS: “The title comes from thinking about spring rolls. They’re like little logs, aren’t they? Then, later, I was thinking about a stupid monument, something that would be a really dumb statue in a town—just a big log and it’s called the Liberty Log.” LM: “This is one of the ones we took to the studio expecting it to be a shit-ton of editing, structuring, and that John would really fuck with it. We jammed it, and it just stayed the same. This one was first-take vibes, playing it in that way, expecting it to be changed.” “Icebergs” NB: “I think this is quite a bleak moment for us. Definitely the most icy-sounding track on the album. It feels like a really good end to the record to suddenly have this explosion of brass come in, and then it just peters out very slowly. I like that the album ends on quite an icy tone, even though that doesn’t necessarily represent us in how we feel about things. It’s a slightly more poignant ending rather than a nice, lovely outro.”

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