Cursor Major | Full Interview
I was told to mime by my primary school music teacher.
Cursor Major’s refreshing, dada-esque approach has impressed us all. Garnering many accolades off the back of their tangential debut EP, ‘Interloper’, it’s my pleasure to talk to frontman Andy Norton about daydreaming your way to success.
So ‘Interloper’ just came out, how have you found the reaction?
Call me difficult, but I wanted this release to work from the ground up; no favours, no sweeteners, no highly paid executives in the background. This is a debut DIY release on a DIY label so any reactions should come from the heart. The result is that we’ve seen genuine support from people who’ve gone out of their way to champion the band. Social networkers started sharing and local press like Bristol Live Magazine, Live Music Scene, The Flux, Bristol Beats Club and BBC Introducing stuck their necks out early on, culminating in nationals like The Guardian and BBC 6 picking it up. To cap it off Artscare pulled off a great EP launch night. We had much to celebrate and all hailed the domino effect.
There are loads of well-crafted sounds on the EP. How d’you go about finding them?
I wrote and recorded a bunch of songs on my laptop using a couple of budget mics, guitars, pedals and really cheap secondhand keyboards. I just set up in little spaces as I went along; one of these was the Bristol Backpackers on St Stephens Street. Between the basement dive bar and the launderette there was a room with a wonky piano and a cheap guitar, other than the occasional drunk or laundry user passing by, no-one hung around there so I naturally took a shine to the place.
Pretty much everyday I would call up a fellow songwriting friend named John Morrisey to play ideas down the phone to him. It was a terrible method, but if he whistled the idea back down the phone then it passed. Another mate, Kieron Pepper [Ex-Dead Kids, Radiophonic Workshop], joined me in the basement for some jam sessions and it transformed into this place of energy; the dust danced and the wonky piano notes sounded playfully discordant. Kieron stubbornly refused to play anything conventional which meant we stumbled upon some wonderfully random sounds.
I think sounds can stimulate microclip films in the mind’s eye. Textures and colours emerge, a scene may unfold, probably formulated from various pockets of sensory memory. I chase that picture, decipher the subconscious, uncover themes, then match them to present life issues that might be rumbling away in the background. Building up parts until the they interlock like a jigsaw puzzle, the challenge is finding the right pieces and sometimes you have to throw some duds in order to find them. It’s impossible not to become sidetracked, but it’s when the plot is lost that things can get really interesting. It’s complex, but if it sounds complicated to play then you’ve failed. I got hooked on retro pop ditties that create the seemingly bleeding obvious from thousands of inspirational moments, and many more thousands of uninspired ones.
So is Cursor Major a band or a project?
It’s really evolving into a lifeform of its own and becoming bigger than the sum of its parts. Rehearsals are no longer just rehearsals with Ben, Charlie & Scott now in the band; they’re epic jam sessions. Then Rataplan Films and Loose Rabbit are integral to the visual journey. It’s early days but I’m imagining us all heading towards some kind of audio-visual fuelled oblivion, some place where true inner peace is found.
You were of course also the guitarist in John Peel-championed four-piece The Crimea, how’s the transition to frontman been?
It’s telling that that I was told to mime by my primary school music teacher. I must have been tone deaf, and as a result I didn’t sing at all until I was in my late teens. Luckily or perhaps by design my ear tends to favour character driven songwriter singers; Howard Devoto, Strummer and Jones, Byrne, Eno, Ferry, Frank Black, Gruff Rhys, Bolan, Ray Davies etc. As a guitarist in previous bands I was regularly trying out little vocal ideas. In fact I would often sing along with the arrangement parts I was writing on guitar, I think this helped to lead the arrangement down a melodic direction. The Cursor Major writing and recording processes were so intertwined that it just made sense to sing it myself. Though sometimes frustrating, it’s a creative challenge to work with technically limited vocals. So far I have had no trouble whatsoever fulfilling the roles involved in being the cliché front person, I am ambitious in this department. I’m currently working on perfecting my tantrums.
Bands these days can just crack on, put stuff out and let the rest of the industry catch up. No more crossing their fingers and balls that the A&R guy who smiled at them in the toilets will give them their dream deal.
Considering you were on a major label before you seem to have dived headlong into DIY. D’you think the industry has changed?
From the time you could pick up a four-track cassette portastudio from Tandy’s, to now picking up hi-tech software for your laptop, there has always been DIY music. The difference is that back in those days lo-fi happened because your home studio equipment was genuinely limited. A lot of current lo-fi music is recorded on hi-tech software and then deliberately processed to sound like a cassette recording from 1989, contrived or what? Bands these days can just crack on, put stuff out and let the rest of the industry catch up. No more crossing their fingers and balls that the A&R guy who smiled at them in the toilets will give them their dream deal. It’s brilliant that these days you can pretty much ‘put a record out’ on an incredibly low budget, a fraction of what it used to cost, so why wait and shop it around? Do it with intent and people will eventually be there to help if they genuinely like what you’re doing.
And your intent seems somewhat dark and zany, is that fair to say?
Well, the songs are often reactions to experiences. ‘Positively Negative’ is one such example. On one level it’s about being a negative cynical moody pessimist, secretly hell bent on destructive hedonism, then on the other hand it’s about an experience I had whilst visiting a sexual health clinic, high-fiving out the front door with the all clear after waves of anxiety. A negative result, a positively negative result. There’s joy, there’s also darkness; does this mean I can do it all again? These experiences often find their way into songs by virtue of them playing on my mind, so the songwriting process becomes a way of alleviating baggage. Calling the release ‘Interloper’ highlights a sense of not belonging; psychological issues are addressed across the EP. It also helps that I’m prone to being a daydreamer. One of my earliest school reports said ‘Andrew has potential but daydreams too much’. I’d like that to be engraved on my tombstone.
Cursor Major play Dot-To-Dot Festival on 24th May, with ‘Interloper’ out now on Bellicose Records.
You can also check out the video for ‘Positively Negative’ right here: