Once Upon a Dead Man, there were three Simpson brothers and their dear friend Simon. The four had led very different musical careers, getting up to all sorts of mischief in various bands including Busted, Brigade, Fightstar and Union Sound Set. Now just as it emerges that one Simpson is going back to the Year 3000, Simpson and co have created a rather special project called Once Upon a Dead Man.
Joking aside, the story does seem like some kind of fairytale. Born out of “Simon’s loft and Charlie’s kitchen”, the band came to attention after Charlie Simpson released the statement:
“Excited to announce a new side project I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, with my two brothers Edd and Will and friend Simon Britcliffe.”
Once Upon a Dead Man have recently released a debut EP, ‘Concepts and Phenomena’. Instead of the six track EP being “death metal” like their name implies; it is an alluring array of synths, sounding not too distant from Phoenix’s Bankrupt! Perhaps unsurprising as they boast The Postal Service and The National as influences.
Anyway, I had a quick chat with Edd from the band, who lives in York, and found out about Simpson and co’s latest offerings….
I was curious to know how individuals with such diverging musical pathways and busy schedules would decide to make music together. Particularly with Charlie’s return to pop-rock troupe Busted, and it’s mandatory arena tour commitments.
“Initially it was a conversation to whether we could do it, how it would sound and what it would sound like. It was a case of meeting up where we could, we would write a song, and then not see each other for a little while. It only became more formalised when we found the direction we wanted to go in”.
The roles were far from defined during the process, with Edd suggesting that “everyone did everything.” He added, “it was a very different process of how we are used to recording our projects, as normally we have very defined roles. It was written in Simon’s kitchen or Charlie’s loft. One of us would turn up with an idea for a verse or song. Everything was equally split from effort”.
Edd seemed reflective when asked on how Once Upon a Dead Man eventually decided on their direction, suggesting, “it was a process of trial and error. he only criteria was that was different to what any of bands had done before.” This certainly reflective of Once Upon a Dead Man’s debut EP, which bears little resemblance to the guitar projects of Brigade, Fightstar or Union Sound set.
‘Rush’ is the stand out track on the EP. Don’t be fooled by it’s name, it track is a lesson in gradually building songs – starting with an isolated harmony yet slowly but surely adding repetitive synth layers. It’s complexity is startling.
So I was rather impressed to find out that Once Upon a Dead Man had “done all the pre production themselves”. Well not Edd, as he claims he is the only one not useful on logic. He explains “we made the record with Jessie Quinn, who has been a friend of ours. He was the bass player in Keane for four or five years. He’s got a studio on an old air base, it’s a wicked place. Simon did some work there, then decided we wanted him to do the record.”
The Once Upon a Dead Man member spoke particularly highlight of Jessie, described as a “real asset to the recording process”.
Our chat turns towards what it’s like working with family and a close friend, I envision Gallagher-esqe disputes, bickering relentlessly at every opportunity. However, my thoughts were misplaced, as though it became apparent that there was creative tension, it didn’t seem to the extent of throwing fruit at each other.
“I’ve never been in a band with no tension. You’re pouring your heart and should into something, people are giving ideas that you don’t necessarily agree with. So there was some creative differences”
Edd remained certain that brotherly love remained, “what’s great about doing a project with your brothers and Simon, is that you felt really absolutely at ease to do this. With relationships not as close it would be difficult. Most of the time we laughing and joking, so really knowing each other helped”.
Furthermore, Simpson and co would be willing to put their creative differences aside to tour. Don’t get your hopes up, but their have been thoughts flying round of a London show next year. With such a beautiful EP on display, this would be a pleasing prospect.
Given Edd has recently moved to York, it felt rude not to ask what his favourite bar is. It’s the Fossgate Social, because they do “some brilliant IPA’s”. You’re welcome.
Concepts and Phenomena is available to stream on spotify now.