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Public Service Broadcasting Digs A Little Deeper On 'Every Valley'

The British rock band, famous for using archival audio to build complex history-themed concept albums, tackles the rise and decline of the Welsh coal industry.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting

Dan Kendall/Courtesy of the artist

When we last spoke to Public Service Broadcasting back in 2015, the group had just released their excellent sophomore album, “The Race For Space.” That album, as the title suggests, was a largely instrumental space-themed concept piece that told the story of the golden age of space exploration with the help of samples taken from historic films and archival recordings.

That’s kind of their thing.

During their short but supremely interesting career, PSB has given this treatment to an assortment of important events in modern human history. The first successful climb of Mount Everest, the invention of color TV, the Battle of Britain and Yuri Gagarin’s famous space flight have all been the subjects of their songs.

This time around, the band tackles the rise and fall of the Welsh coal mining industry on their third full-length record, “Every Valley.” According to the group’s lead songwriter J Willgoose, Esq., it’s a topic that serves as a useful allegory for the “abandoned and neglected communities across the western world” that in recent years have been ground zero for the spread of a “malignant, cynical and calculating brand of politics.”

J Willgoose, Esq. sat down with opbmusic’s Matthew Casebeer before a recent show at Wonder Ballroom in Portland, Oregon, to chat about the new album.

On Choosing The Topic Of Coal Mining After The Space Race:

[We thought] where do go after this? You can’t get much bigger in terms of the scope or the subject [of space travel] so maybe the thing to do would be to flip it around and put something under the microscope a bit more and focus on something with a more immediately identifiable human angle.

Because you know, space travel and the characters who took part in those early days seem like another breed of people really. They’re just incredibly brave and/or potentially careless with their personal safety and its something that I can admire from afar but I don’t ever feel that close to it in terms of seeing myself in that position. But I think when you start talking about community, when you start talking about losing something that defined you, I think you can start to put yourself in that story a bit more and it can become something a bit more personal.

On Their Increased Use Of Guest Singers In Addition To Historic Audio Samples:

I think it enables you where it’s harder to find archived footage or where you aren’t going to find archival footage that packs the same emotional punch as getting somebody to sing something. It just allows you to be a bit more adaptable and flexible and actually kind of shape the story a bit more actively yourself. We’re trying to find new ways of working with archived material and telling these stories so that we’re not wholly reliant on working the same way every time.

On Singing On A PSB Record For The First Time On The Song “You + Me”:

I had originally asked somebody else to sing that and they had said yes, or they made some positive noises. So, it was kind far enough along that I thought it might happen and then we just started to run out of road, really, and I couldn’t think of anybody else to do it.

And because the song was actually, I’d say by far, the most personal of the ones that we’ve done because not only was it supposed to be about the atmosphere within [a coal mine] strike, within a community and within a household, that was kind of the perspective I was trying to write from. But it was also reflective of a lot of stuff in my life with my wife being quite ill [at the time]. It felt like if I was ever going to do it, then just get on with it. It wasn’t very pleasant, but I think it turned out alright.

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