A stunning album, dissected and discussed.
Press To MECO have just released their new album 'Transmute' via Marshall Records, and it is an absolute beauty.
Dense, destructive and dark in all of the right ways, the trio have created an album that in another universe could have been their last. But any frustration and confusion that may have been felt has been injected into making this batch of songs as striking and savage as possible. The result is a modern and meticulous take on the raucous British math-rock sound mixed in with stadium-sized intentions.
Basically, it is fucking brilliant.
To get to the bottom of how the band brought it to life, we sat down with drummer and lyricist Lewis Williams to pick apart their intentions and intricacies. Here we go...
“I ended up looking a lot of references to change within this record, and I had the word transmute in my notes for absolutely years. I’ve always thought it was such a cool word, and it gets used a lot in alchemy. It refers to the process of trying to transmute layers into gold, which was an alchemist’s pipedream despite never being a viable thing to do. I always liked it as a metaphor for your own personal change and how sometimes change in a positive way feels like trying to turn lead into gold. There are also many references we have made to being in a mine of sorts as well.
"We wanted to start the album in this ominous way where it sounds like you’re bogged under and somewhat claustrophobic. We considered having the sound of miner’s feet shuffling along as well, but that was getting a bit too musical theatre in the end. But having the sound of the pickaxes working away and it sets the tone for being in the dark and stuck.”
“We really liked the idea of kicking the album off in a dark place. That was the feeling, especially when we first went in to start writing the album. We were almost done as a band. There were some personal things and us having some self-doubt towards what we were doing. In a way, that’s a running metaphor throughout the record, not knowing when to call time on something when you’ve already sunk so many years of your time into it.
“But this song centres around that feeling of how difficult it is to make positive change and the apathy you can feel towards doing that. The chorus talks about fixing it all another day, and the opening line fixing your friendships with a safety pin, it’s all about having on by a thread as things could fall apart at any moment. I really like the ‘It feels like I'm punching the gas on an already steady decline’ line as well, which I got from a Muhammed Ali documentary. He ended up fighting way too long into his career, and his manager was still backing him and getting him out there when he should have stopped. It felt like a good metaphor for us still pushing through this despite things getting worse. The band was going that way, to begin with, but now we’re on our way out of that.”
“The whole writing part that comes with this band is one of the biggest parts and mine and the other guy’s lives. We have been drawn to this band and want to put our best into it, despite the mental stress outweighing the positive outcomes. Yet, we are still doing it and still going.
“It’s something that people don’t talk about a lot when it comes to being in a band because it’s a feeling that not a lot of people can relate to. That’s why I try and make the feeling relatable in other ways, through metaphor. The first verse in this song focuses on not staying away due to lingering thought patterns that you keep on returning to. Then the second verse is about it being a toxic relationship that you keep on coming back to. The final verse links into the idea of drink and drugs. It all feels more relatable to people. I also like the idea of using the word café in a rock song as well.”
'A TEST OF OUR RESOLVE'
“I think that when focused on themes that are a little bit more trodden, such as in this song, I will go the opposite way and get as esoteric as I can. I ended up writing the verses pretty quickly, in like half an hour, late at night at one time. Even then, I was looking and going, ‘This is some whacky shit, man’. I had been so indulgent that nobody would have any idea what I’m talking about. Then I left it and went to bed, and then when I came back to it the following day looked and thought it was pretty good. I feel like it gets the point across.
“I feel strongly about the subject matter of this track, but sometimes it feels hard to put into words just because it’s already been done before by other people. The idea isn’t even me saying, ‘The way things are is bad’. It’s more the idea of change and how wild it is to look at how far we have come as a society. It’s all about thinking where all of this leads to, even if it leads to us not even being alive on this planet anymore. Still, the AI technology we have created goes on and populates the universe and does amazing things. Isn’t that kind of a cool thing too?”
“The dark and light style, when it concerns music and lyrics, is something we like and have played around with a lot. On some of our most happy sounding songs, we have had some of our darkest lyrics. That’s always a fun thing to mess around with. This song is about the difficulties that we all have communicating and working on the significant issues that we are facing together as a race. It focuses on the inevitable fate that we will face if we can’t learn to work together better than we are right now.
“We’re all in this room together, and we all have different opinions that are so polarised right now. Everybody is shouting at each other, and it is so loud that we can’t hear what’s approaching and knocking on the door. In the chorus, we say, ‘All that we are fighting for, outlined in chalk on the floor,’ which says that everybody feels strongly about these things. There’s a reason we are making so much noise. But if we don’t find a way to listen and work as one, those individual things we’re working towards will go to pot anyway."
"The big loud section at the end of this song is something we kept on coming back to. We knew that we had these huge riffs, but initially, I had written down the idea of this big stupid gang vocal chant where we chant out our name. in a lot of ways, this album was a real, ‘Fuck it’ moment, and we almost kept that in because we did start to like it. The thing is that this album is full of those down moments, but there are those glimmers of hope that sneak throughout. I’m still very much in the mindset that we can overcome these things that we face, which is why that moment feels the way it does.
"In general, this song is about how we can self-sabotage things as a society and repeat the same patterns repeatedly. This is also a track that stems back to how the cover art looks, in terms of the spiral representing a passage of time, and we are just going in circles again and again. But this song also tries to show some positivity in there, even if it feels like there isn’t sometimes."
"There’s the line in the chorus that goes, ‘I’m getting there, there’s only one way though’. We recognise that this is hard, and we might not be happy with how things are now, but it’s either give up or push through and make things we love better. There’s the big gang vocal moment before the second chorus, which is one of our favourite seconds on the album, which we made whilst everyone, including our videographer, was in the room singing together. It’s when making those moments give you the most chills. A reminder of the community you can build and that it’s something that didn’t exist before and now does.
"Lyrically, this came out of me visiting my childhood hometown and seeing how some of my childhood friends had grown up. Some had ended up wasting their lives, and some had got in trouble. It served as a reminder that it could have been how things ended up for me if I had stayed and continued doing the things I was doing. But I’m here now, and I can use that as a lesson to continue further down this path."
"Around the time that we were writing ‘Gold’, I wanted to have this big esoteric chorus, and there were two that we were choosing from. Around the same time, we ended up writing ‘Lead’, which is this little acoustic number compared to' Gold'. The chorus of ‘Lead’ ended up working the same way as the ‘Gold’ chorus, so I ended up solidifying both choruses to be similar but still a variation. We knew that we needed to have some peaks and troughs within these songs too, and I liked the idea of ‘Lead’ being the quieter side. We wanted the full juxtaposition, even in the lyrics. So, ‘Lead’ is basically about the progression of humanity and us bulldozing through everything and not wanted to play a part in any of it despite having to."
"Sometimes it’s hard to speak personally because you don’t know who around you you’re going to hurt. Sometimes you have to write with half-truth and half fiction and concoct these scenarios where it doesn’t always feel like you’re speaking about yourself to the people around you.
"On an everyday daily basis, there are things that we all still have to figure out, and that’s okay. The chorus says, ‘We should try to fix ourselves before fixing anything else. It comes from that place where on this record we are talking about these grand-scale issues but also talking about how some of the biggest changes you can make are on the local scale and in your community. Small things that make where you live and your life as good as possible, as well as rallying for change from big corporations and governments."
"We’ve been trying to make changes within our songwriting a lot, which is hard for us. So from the outset, we said that we wanted ‘Gold’ to be old school Press To MECO. We’re not going to care about anything and just do exactly what we want with it. That’s freeing in a certain way because we’re good at that, but we don’t necessarily want to deliver it all the time anymore. It was good fun to go down the rabbit hole in such away. It’s also nice to write things in our old style with the things that we know now."
"With ‘Gold’ ending in such an intense way, we simply needed something to level things out and bring it back down. We wanted to end the album without it becoming an overwhelming listen. We wrote this piece in a 16th-century hunting lodge tower that had been renovated into a home. We were at the bottom of the tower, and it had this big storey reverb sound to it. It never became a whole song, but we felt that our music deserved a place on the album. It’s a sorbet of sorts."
'WAY TO KNOW'
"There are all these heavy themes on this album, but at the end of the day, there’s something nice about lifting your legs up and floating downstream. No one knows what will happen in life, so you may as well try and enjoy what you’ve got here. ‘Lift your legs and float downstream’ was very much my motto whilst writing ‘Here’s To The Fatigue', because it was about giving up on control and realising that life is much easier if you just do what you do and don’t sweat all of the other stuff. It’s nice to return to that."
"We intended to leave it to finish right when the big band section kicks in at the start of writing. It was such a downer note to leave it at, but that’s where we were as a band at the time. It was the natural place to end because we didn’t know what we wanted to do. I loved it, though, because if the band were going to break up, it would have been the artistic way to end it.
"But then, when we were in pre-production with [Producer] Machine, he said to us, ‘Dudes, is that really how you’re going to end the album? This is not where you guys are now. This is not how you feel any more’. He was right. Having all of these themes at play but having the positives lingering there as glimmers of hope, too, that’s how we ended up with this end section. We’ve got a lot of stuff to tackle here, but if we’re going to do anything, we need to do it now and make sure we know what path we will take. We’ve still got this; we just have some stuff to figure out.”