Although I call myself “Eclectic Music Lover”, frequent readers of my blog know I’m particularly fond of alternative and hard rock. That being said, I truly appreciate great music in any genre or form, and every now and then an artist or band comes along whose music deeply touches me. Such is the feeling I get when listening to The Puss Puss Band. Their jazz and folk-infused pop rock sound envelops me like a warm blanket, transporting me to a place where all is good with the world – and wouldn’t that be a nice place to land! As I stated in a review of their self-titled EP last November on this blog (which you can read here), “their easy-going instrumentals and smooth vocals make for an incredibly pleasing listening experience – sort of a Style Council meets England Dan & John Ford Coley with just a touch of Dan Fogelberg.”
Hailing from Wales, The Puss Puss Band consists of multi instrumentalists Asa Galeozzie and Lee Pugh. Both have worked with numerous artists and bands in the UK and the Welsh music industry over the last ten years as writers & session musicians. They perform every aspect of their music: songwriting, instrumentals, vocals, arranging, engineering, producing and mixing. Asa plays guitar, bass, percussion, piano and melodica, while Lee plays lead guitar, bass and piano, as well as sings lead vocals. Now, with significant contribution from seasoned musician John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, the guys have produced their first full-length album Echoes Across the Cruel Sea, which dropped on April 10. It’s a collection of 12 gorgeous tracks that range from dreamy ballads to catchy, upbeat songs.
Before launching into my review of the Echoes Across the Cruel Sea, I asked the band some questions about how they came to be, as well as their inspiration for the album. Lee graciously provided these responses:
1. First off, how and when did you both meet and decide to collaborate?
We met studying sound engineering & production about thirteen years ago, and have worked together ever since with our own bands and as session musicians.
2. What’s the origin of your name “The Puss Puss Band”?
When we first started planning this album it was purely intended as a studio project. We’d meet a few times a week at Asa’s to run through ideas and songs, and his cat would sit on a stool and just watch us play. It dawned on us after a few months of this that we were essentially a ‘house band’….for an audience of one cat. Her nickname was Puss Puss.
3. Do you both share songwriting duties on both lyrics and music?
Yes. We share lyric/song duties and bounce them between us. Sometimes the lyrics come from one of us fully formed, but often we’ll fettle those a little between us, then trial a quick scratch demo to work through the arrangement, and once we’re happy we fire up the mic’s and amps and start passing instruments back and forth. We’ll often capture an essentially live stripped down performance, then we build up from there. “Thinking Of You” is a good example of that. We recorded the acoustic guitar, piano and vocal live in one or two takes, and then the rest of the track was completed with a few over dubbed guitars.
4. Is there a back story regarding the album title Echoes Across the Cruel Sea? It’s a lovely album, and most of the songs on the album are really pleasing, Are they meant to stand in contrast with the word “cruel” in the album title, almost like an antidote to cruelty in the world?
The album is intended as an upfront honest journal of the last ten years of our personal lives. There’s no artistic license being used in the lyrics…we set out to be fearless and honest in that regard. It’s essentially a sneaky concept album although we resisted the urge to make the songs flow too obviously from one to the next. The “cruel sea” represents life, love and all it’s uncertainty and the songs themselves are the echoes of our thoughts, feelings and reflections over that period of our lives.
We set out to be as transparent and laid bare as we could make it, lyrically, musically and production wise….no studio trickery, no bullshit, no ego talk, just an honest account of our lives which we hope we’ve managed to present in a somewhat universal manner which anyone hopefully can relate to in some capacity?
5. How did John Rabbit Bundrick come to collaborate with you on the album? Were you specifically looking for someone else to provide music input?
Asa is a massive The Who fan and heard that Rabbit was back doing session work after finishing with The Who a few years ago. We sent “Feline Fine” over to see if he’d be interested. Rabbit said he loved the track and was more than happy to play in it…and without fee which was incredibly generous given his insanely huge CV and standing in the industry. We mixed it and sent it over to him, and he asked to hear some other tracks from the album. He said he was really digging what we were doing so his joining us for the rest of the album just took off from there.
We were adamant after years of working with others and all the creative compromise that comes with that, that this album was only going to be the two of us so we could maintain and hopefully achieve our shared vision of what this album would be. But the chance to work with a session musician of Rabbit’s calibre made it a no-brainer obviously. His piano work is beautiful and his mastery of the Hammond organ is pretty much unparalleled by anyone else. Rabbit contributed something very special that we couldn’t provide ourselves and is so humble, professional and generous that it wasn’t just a thrill but a pleasure and privilege throughout.
6. Do you guys have plans to do more live performances or even tour a bit?
Yes, hopefully we’ll start putting together a hand-picked session backline later this year from our contacts, and look at taking the album out. This was intended purely as a studio album, but the response we’ve had the last few months kind of makes it inevitable that we will once again take to the road in the very near future.
7. If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
Lee: David Bowie/Burt Bacharach
Asa: Brian Wilson/Roger Waters
Rabbit has already played with almost everyone already! If you haven’t seen his discography you should check it out…it is mind blowing how much he has contributed to music in the last 40 odd years!!
8. Perhaps a bit premature to ask, given you’ve just released a new album, but any plans for more music in the future?
Not premature at all 🙂 We’ve already started writing the second album and Rabbit is on board to join us again. Don’t want to give too much away too soon but the theme for that album and it’s content are already taking shape. All we’ll say is the first album was more introverted and personal. In the next one we’d like to reach out a bit more to touch on the state of the world we all find ourselves in right now, and the growing distance between us all as we try to make sense of the world we are struggling to maintain our roles in it, and try to hold a mirror up to that rather than just preach about it.
9. Anything additional you’d like people to know about Puss Puss Band. or things I neglected to touch on?
We are just two fiercely and proudly independent musicians. We’ve pretty much now achieved our goal of becoming creatively self sufficient. We write, arrange, perform, engineer, produce, mix, master everything ourselves from our very very modest and basic studio. We’ve thrown the rule book out production-wise, and harked back to the old fashioned recording approach to create ‘our sound.’ I guess we just hope that people respond to that and hopefully hear something in it that you don’t get from modern production, with all it’s close, dry, sterile mic’ing, separation and heavy compression throughout. But above all else I guess we just hope that people find something in our music they can relate to and enjoy because that means more to us than anything else.
OK, so let’s dig into the album. First off, as I alluded to earlier, Echoes Across the Sea is gorgeous, overflowing with lush soundscapes of multi-textured instrumentation and smooth harmonizing vocals. The songs deal mostly with the vagaries of love and relationships. The terrific “Bucko’s Lullaby” kicks things off, setting the tone for the entire album. We’re greeted by gentle xylophone before layers of guitar, percussion, organ and beautiful strings enter the proceedings. With a hint of sadness in his seductive voice, Lee sings to a loved one who’s slipping away emotionally: “Something in that smile says you’ve changed. Those big brown eyes look further away. What happens when love goes lame? You screw it all up and start over again. You box it all up and you throw it away.”
Next up is “Alone,” an upbeat track which was originally featured on their previous EP, but gets revisited on this album. As I’d mentioned on the EP review, this song has a discernible Style Council vibe. It’s a great song, with some really fine guitar and piano. Things turn mellow on the lovely “Fall Back Down.” Lee’s vocals are so seductive on this track (and many others) they could lure a turtle out of its shell! The guys rock out a bit on “Cliff Song,” which features some tasty guitar riffage.
The remainder of the album stays on the mellower side, starting with the moving track “Inwake.” To a gentle guitar riff, Lee sings: “Can we help it, this changing season, or are you just like me? The things that we feel seem less than real, like faded memories. The twilight hours keep you safe and warm as I creep out of the room. In the blink of an eye to you and to I, every wave between you and me, the change we feel, just echoes across the cruel sea.”
The beguiling “Beeswax” is a standout track, with marvelous instrumentals featuring chiming synths, Rabbit’s lovely piano and organ, and the guys’ deft guitar work. Lee’s vocals are utterly sublime, as they also are on the enchanting tracks “Say it First,” “Thinking of You” and “Feline Fine” – the latter of which is probably my favorite of all their songs. It was also included on their debut EP, but this new version features beautiful piano work by Rabbit, which makes the already great tune sound even better. And no pun intended – well, just a little – Lee purrs “You got me working double time, you got me clocking overtime, you got me feline fine. And I know I can’t show you the things that I see, but sometimes I wish I could. Because you got something that makes me feel glad at night. And you got everything because you know you’re right.”
The tracks “End of June” and “Perfect World” have a pleasant folk-rock feel with lovely strummed guitar, set to a languid beat, though “End of June” has the added bonus of some spiffy electric guitar. The album ends on a bittersweet note with “Not Just You,” a compelling ballad that speaks to the despair of living in a depressed industrial town, with little hope of things getting better. “No one talks, your mom’s depressed, your dad went empty in his chest. There’s nothing left. And everybody wants to be anywhere else it seems. Not just you.”
Echoes Across the Cruel Sea is a well-crafted album, with outstanding production values. The Puss Puss Band’s lyrics, music and vocals are all stellar, making this an album I can listen to on repeat – which I have done!