Featured image: Yaël Temminck
A band now bidding adieu to their time together to ride a new wave of success in their individual projects, The Ninth Wave has always been something of an enigma. At the forefront of Glasgow’s flourishing music scene, their latest album Heavy Like A Headache only serves as another reason to prove their mysterious talents. Never shying from self-reflection and explicit vulnerability, their lyrics appear as candid diary entries.
Creating their whimsical world out of shimmering synth and grittier alt-indie elements, you’d struggle to pin their music down to a single genre. Consisting of Haydn Park-Patterson (vocals/guitar), Millie Kidd (vocals/bass), Kyalo Searle-nbullu (keyboards/synths), and Calum Stewart (drums/synth), they’ve always been fuelled by mixing together the unexpected.
Strikingly, they have an uncanny ability to make music to match your mood before you’ve even realised what you’re feeling. It began with their gothic post-punk debut album, Infancy (2019), which saw them take their first steps and received a nomination for Best Independent Album at the AIM Independent Music Awards.
Quickly running, judging by their EP, Happy Days! (2020), saw them self-produced two songs for the first time – ‘And The Weight’ and ‘Abattoir’. It’s deliciously dark and saw them honing their skills, before releasing their eagerly anticipated sophomore album, Heavy Like A Headache.
Each release sounds completely different whilst being coherent and complementary to each other. What will certainly catch your attention is the power of Kidd’s and Park-Patterson’s vocals. They manage to appear vying for control while balancing each other out in flawless harmony.
There must be something in the water as far as the Scottish music scene is concerned. It appears invitingly well-connected and collaborative, from Park-Patterson joining Lucia & The Best Boys on tour to helping Walt Disco get to the airport. The Ninth Wave also take their connection with their fans seriously, you need only look to their Human Behaviours series on their website to realise this.
Some may be believers in quitting while you’re ahead but that’s certainly not the thought behind the hiatus, as Haydn Park-Patterson explains. aAh! caught up with him over Zoom to find out more about their legacy, tips for staying healthy on tour, and his unreleased next project.
The first track which introduced me to The Ninth Wave was ‘Imitation’ from your debut album. Is there a story behind it?
To be honest, that’s literally one of the least favourite songs I’ve ever written. I hate it. I know it’s quite upbeat and a lot of people like it when we play it live. I don’t know what it is about that song but there’s something about it.
Do you ever feel like you’ve become overly self-critical about some of the songs because you’ve written so many to compare them to?
No, I’m not normally that self-deprecating. There’s a refreshing element to it. It sounds good but the songwriting is not very strong. I know you grow as a songwriter the more and more songs you write. I’m not normally that self-deprecating. It’s just that song.
I was wondering why you included a reprise of ‘These Depopulate Hours’ on Heavy Like A Headache, as an interlude?
I think it’s called a whole tone version of it or something. I can’t remember what the name of it is. But it’s basically this weird scale, where you can play songs in this scale. It’s a version of ‘These Depopulate Hours’, in that sort of scale Millie [Kidd] just played it one day, and we were like, ‘That sounds very spooky, so let’s put that on the album’. Just because we liked it.
Which is your favourite song on your latest album?
I think it’s got to be ‘Some’, just because it’s the first time that I’ve used my spoken words with music and because of the meaning. I guess it’s just one of my favourite songs I’ve written.
It appears to be a clear development from Happy Days, and Infancy because Heavy Like A Headache, is fully self-produced?
On Happy Days we self-produced two of the tracks, and that gave us the confidence to go ahead with a whole album. We’re happy with it.
It almost appears like newfound confidence in approaching this album, especially with the songwriting looking inward even more than before. Do you have a favourite lyric on the album?
I do. It’s not even my lyric. It’s one of my dad’s lyrics. It’s at the end of ‘Some’, It’s the lyrics, ‘But life flies by, in the twinkle of an eye.’ It’s from one of my dad’s songs, and I sort of stole for this song. The full lyric is, ‘But life flies by, in the twinkle of an eye / The deal is quite plain, you live, you die’. I just think that’s a really cool, matter of fact, way of looking at your own existence. Your own mortality. That’s probably my favourite. It’s not mine or anyone else’s in the band.
It’s a liminal moment because you’re releasing a new album, but you’re also going on a hiatus. Do you have a favourite memory of creating the album?
To be honest, the recording of this album is sort of hazy because we did it in three separate one-week blocks. It was all during the pandemic. It was quite a weird time to be making music. It was an intense process, actually making it. I loved making the album. The process we did was amazing but it was quite weird at the same time.
What would you like the legacy of The Ninth Wave to be?
To be honest, if people still listen to us after our hiatus, I’ll be happy with that.
Would you have done anything differently if given the chance?
I wouldn’t do anything differently, it’s happened the way it has happened.
Where is the strangest place that a song has come together for you?
It definitely isn’t a very strange place but I was out running a couple of years ago. I basically wrote ‘Everything Will Be Fine’, maybe three years ago now. I wrote it like it was a demo, but it was very, very different from the way it is now. I kind of discussed it, like were we confident rewriting it or using it as a song. I was out running one day and the lyric came into my head. I don’t know if it was because I was on a long run and I was trying to tell myself this, ‘Everything’s gonna be fine, just keep going.’ Just started piecing together the basis of what the song is now, in my head. When I got home from that run, I don’t even think I got out of my shorts and trainers. I just got my laptop and wrote down the bare bones of what would become that song. Not very strange.
Have there been any unexpected fans that have surprised you?
To be honest, anyone. There were so many people that expressed how sad they were, that in itself was quite unexpected. Not unexpected, as I know people like our band but to actually reach how much people cared about our music. I was like, ‘Fuck, people believe in whatever we’re trying to do’. It was quite nice.
There appears to be a very trusting relationship between you and your fans, as shown from the submissions on your Human Behaviours blog on your website too.
Yeah. A nice little community of people.
You’ve also got an Instagram account dedicated to showing people how they can stay healthy on tour. What is your main tip?
I don’t know but there’s not one main thing. It’s more lots of little things that add up. Some of the best things are just trying to stay active. Another big one, it’s funny playing gigs and stuff, as you’re working. I guess you could say you’re at work but it’s the only profession where you’re encouraged to drink alcohol because you’re surrounded by it. Tips that I’ve learned myself is that you don’t always have to drink at gigs. It’s good to just decide, ‘I’m not drinking today.’ You can wake up the day after. You’re in the gym and just feel much better for it. The whole past week I’ve been away with Lucia, I only drank one night on that tour. It just makes it more of a nicer thing.
I read an interview that Millie Kidd did with Wonderland. She said that during the creation of the album, you’d put on an AC/DC t-shirt that you’ve had since you were young. What prompted you to do that?
I just fucking love them. They were the first band that I ever remember listening to when I was 6 or 7 years old. I know that they’re not the most interesting band in the world but just because I’ve loved them since I was a really young boy.
It’s hard to pigeonhole The Ninth Wave, perhaps that’s because of the AC/DC influence and others bleeding in?
I think so, yeah.
You’re also gearing up for your new project, Last boy. What can we expect from it?
I’m just getting everything together to press the launch button of it. I’m so excited. The songs are a lot more upfront. I’ve always been very honest in my songwriting. But the songs that I’ve been writing for Last Boy are my favourite songs I’ve written. I listen back and then think this is exactly what I wanted to say in that song. That’s a nice feeling. I’m just looking forward to having fun with it. There’s going to be some traditional elements in it, like a fiddle while also including traditional Scottish and Irish music. It’s gonna be fun. There’s gonna be a bunch of hits this year. Just keep your eyes out.
Why did you choose to go on hiatus now?
After we finished recording the album, I think we all just got to that point of wanting to do something different. I’ve been doing The Ninth Wave since I was 7 years old. It’s been a long, long time. I’ve been giving it everything for a long time and just feel like I want to do some different stuff. The rest of the band thought that too. It feels like a very natural thing and I know people are saying that they’re sad about it. But we’re quite on the same page with it. It’s sad that it’s ending but we all have some stuff that we want to do, so it’s not really sad.
The Ninth Wave’s latest album Heavy Like A Headache is available to stream on Spotify.