Studio Life – Guise

‘The Fun Part’ is the brand new EP from Guise, the folk-pop group led by the delicate voice and songwriting talents of Jessica Guise.  She is accompanied by Titas Halder on bass, co-vocalist Laura Hanna and drummer Keith Barry.  Together, they have produced a set of confessional, intimate songs that take in life, love and loss.  Just before Guise headed out on tour to support Frank Turner, AUK caught up with Jessica Guise to find out about ‘Brother in Arms’, the group’s latest single, which is a deeply personal song about her relationship with her brother after the loss of their father when Guise was just 18.  The lyrics and video are incredibly emotive and affecting.  Take a look; it’s hard not to be moved.

‘Brother in Arms’ is such a personal song. Can you tell us the ‘story’ behind it?

Anyone who knows Dire Straits will immediately recognise the allusion in the title; it’s not supposed to be subtle! The song is partly about my Dad, who was a massive Dire Straits fan, a trait he passed on (forcibly or otherwise) to his two children, my brother and I. Dad was a massive music enthusiast and taught me to play the guitar and sing; in fact I always play his guitar live. He died very suddenly of a heart attack when I was 18 and my big brother was 22. Dad was a lodestar in our lives, and for the two of us, our wonderful stepmum and the rest of our family, the loss was brutal. It’s still brutal now, to be honest. Someone kind and insightful told me at the time that it would never get better; oddly that was the only comforting thing anyone said. It doesn’t get better and you wouldn’t want it to, but it does, hopefully, get easier to live with. Writing songs about him is a part of that process, I suppose, and it feels like the kind of tribute he would like.

The song itself began life as the fingerpicking riff it opens with – it’s played in a weird tuning I made up when I was 15 and trying to work out how to play a Goo Goo Dolls song (which it later turned out was played in DADGAD). The tuning is EADF#AE; everyone else thinks it’s ridiculous, but I love it, and as far as I’m aware it’s not a tuning anyone else uses so it feels distinctive! Some of the lyrics just kind of appeared when I found the riff, but filling in the gaps was a much longer process; it was really important to me to tell the story succinctly, and to try to do justice to the man my Dad was and the man my brother is. It was a labour of love and I remember it being difficult in lots of ways, but the first time I sang the words “brother in arms” whilst working on it I burst into tears, which is always a good sign!

My band and I laid down the drums and bass at Reservoir Studios in north London, but it then took me well over a year to complete the track. That was mainly due to other commitments in my life, or because my producer – my lovely husband Frank Turner – was off on tour, as he often is! We did everything else in our study at home. It was a hard song to record because it means so much to me; I was never happy with anything, the arrangement was never right, no takes were ever good enough. But with a great deal of patience and recording smarts Frank guided me through that process, with help from my band and my bassist Titas in particular, who’s also a producer and is very good at translating my inarticulate ramblings about sound into technical notes. I’m really pleased with the result, although I suspect it’s a song I will revisit many times in my life.

I love playing the song live and it’s often the one people comment on most after a show. Quite often people with similar experiences will find it quite close to the bone, and several people have told me that it’s affected them or even that it’s made them cry; perhaps it’s perverse of me to like being told that (!), but it feels like a wonderful thing, to be able to connect that much with someone without knowing anything about them. Music is there to connect and comfort, and I feel very glad that this song can do that sometimes.

‘Brother In Arms’ is being released on our first proper EP, ‘The Fun Part’, which officially came out on 6th March! I have loved hearing people’s reactions to the songs that we’ve put out and it’s just wonderful to finally share them. It’s my great hope and aspiration for the year ahead that we’ll be able to make a full album, at long last! I’ve been very slow to get around to all this, having been focusing on an acting career for the last decade, so there are two or three album’s worth of songs accruing dust. Hopefully this time we can work a bit faster!

Lyrics:

BROTHER IN ARMS

He was born in different days
Before Bob or Dire Straits
Or the songs that he taught us
A life of usual complaints
Little losses little gains
Eldest son, youngest daughter
But a heart can grow old like that
Yes a heart can grow old like that

We were never much the same
You were wise and I was vain
I was words, you were numbers
Little sister big brother
Little need of each other
Till the ground came from under us
But don’t we all grow up like that
Yes don’t we all grow up like that

He was one of the wonderfuls
He was an old dying breed
And I stood on his shoulders
When I was too small to see
And the burden we felt since then
The burden that you share with me
To be born of the best of men
To be an old dying breed

Packed your bags and took your pain
To the north into the rain
Fewer strains, fewer people
And with your hatches battened down
You defend your fading town
From the waves
With a sea wall
Oh just don’t grow old like that
Oh just don’t grow old like that

You are one of the wonderfuls
You are an old dying breed
And I stand on your shoulders
When I feel too small to see
And the burden we felt since then
The burden that you share with me
To be born of the best of men
To be an old dying breed
To be an old dying breed

It’s not a race
But we are against time
I know you think that you’re short of that so have some of mine
‘Cus I don’t want it all just to keep to myself
What’s the point of a love you don’t give someone else
And we don’t want children
‘Cus we both were a child
And we know all too well how our childhood died
And we don’t want the world
And we don’t want to whine
But what is it you do want brother of mine

‘Cus I don’t care what you decide
It only matters that we try
Throw the fight if you want to
I’ve got you I’m on your side
And we can always start again
Pick up the pieces just like him
Sink or swim
We can’t disappoint him my,
My brother in arms
We won’t grow old like that
My brother in arms
We won’t grow old like that

Author: Andrew Frolish

From up north but now hiding in rural Suffolk. An insomniac music-lover. Love discovering new music to get lost in - country, singer-songwriters, Americana, rock...whatever. Currently enjoying Lukas Nelson, Midland, Jarrod Dickenson.

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