Today sees the release of James Yuill's fourth album A Change In State. It is the first written after James had considered leaving music behind, but in the wake of the birth of his first child, he found he just had too much that he needed to express. A Change In State has plenty of references to his new fatherhood, but also further explores Yuill as a man and a father in modern day Britain. Combined with his further honed recording and production skills, it is arguably Yuill's most complete record to date.

We had the chance to ask James a few questions about the process behind A Change In State. Read our Q&A with the musician below.


You became a father around the time of starting the process for this album, are there any direct lyrics or ticks on the album that came from that experience?

There are definitely a few references to it. Although mainly to those early months when you're in a perpetual night time. You're so jacked on adrenaline and oxytocin you're kind of in a bizarre survival dream state. ‘Back to the Sun’ has a few nods to coming out of that aforementioned 'bubble'.

I also think indirectly there's a lot about becoming a father in there. Most of the songs are about re-evaluating life. Where I am and what it is I'm trying to do. You seem to do that a lot when you've got someone else to worry about.

Do you play music - either your own or others' - to your newborn?

Yes, loads, mainly other people's music though. I was into Manuel Tur's Es Cub album at the time, so that was a staple. Also Leif's album Dinas Oleu. In fact that one is pretty reliable for long car journeys. Babies find repetitive music calming, and these albums certainly had a soporific effect. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing for later life. I don't want my kid to be conditioned to fall asleep when out clubbing.

My favourite song on the album is probably 'Sorted', especially after the multi-tracked vocals come in to usher in the second half. Can you tell us more about the inspiration and creation of that song?

Well that was an interesting one, because I was really just trying to figure out some of the percussion placement on a Burial track. I love that swung vibe and so was trying to create a 'pushing the beat' style loop. Really just for experimentation purposes. I picked up the guitar and recorded the chords and lyrics live. All I did was re-record them properly, but for all intents and purposes they were completely ad-libbed. That's why the song feels like it's finishing hallway through. I'd stopped recording after only about a minute and a half.

The ending came about because I knew I wanted the beats to come back with a synth, so I sent some midi out to my microkorg and just messed around for a bit. I then layered up the vocal choir over the top.

It's quite different to how I usually write, so I'm glad you like it.

On the final track, 'Primal Yell', you definitely give off that primal feeling of releasing tension after frustration (which is quite acutely felt on the preceding songs) - did you always know you would have a cathartic ending like this? Did it feel good to write and record?

Yes. I always try to end on a big or emotional number. Turning Down Water For Air has ‘Somehow’, Movement In A Storm has ‘Taller Son’, These Spirits has ‘Space Race’ and now we have ‘Primal Yell’.

It feels like you can really let loose with the final track. I try and go for a sense of closure or epiphany.

‘Fire Breathing’ sits at the centre of your upcoming album, A Change In State, and now you’ve decided to release it as a single. Is this song the best summation of all the styles and influences you’re incorporating on the album?

I'd say it sums up the album and my sound pretty well. It's the classic combination of acoustic guitar with beats. When you break it down, it's a very simple track. That was entirely the thinking behind this album. Trying to recapture the naivety of my early albums, but with the production and mixing knowledge I've acquired since. This new album keeps the experimentation, but in a way that never clouds the main purpose, which is to convey the songwriting.

In terms of influence, these days I usually listen to minimal techno, glitch-hop or anything described as future beat. It's where all the interesting production is happening. I got quite into sampling my drum sounds from particularly resonant parts of my floor, a door or the desk that I work on. You get a load of weird ambient incidental noises that can really shape the groove of a track. I guess that was learned from Burial. It sounds like that’s how he creates his beats. Just bangs the floor or a door and pitch it down with a bit of eq. I'm guessing…he might not do that, but that's what it sounds like.

Tell me about the video for ‘Fire Breathing’, whose vision was it and how did you go about making it?

The video was a culmination of circumstance. I'd been making the visuals for my live show using a programme called modul8. Because of the way modul8 is set out, I knew I couldn't edit unless it was controlled via Ableton or triggered live by me. This was the basis for the video. To make an essentially realtime video. I set about planning a video that would play to modul8's strengths and odd quirks. I loved the idea of filming a projection and making people question what the hell was going on. Were they watching a projection? What was live? etc.

In the end, due to my computer not being able to cope with multiple 1080p files, I had to hand over things at the last stage to an editor. The majority of what you see is either live feed going through modul8 or a clip heavily treated by me live.

The dichotomy between being the party-starting music maker and the dejected lonely versions of yourself in the video ring true to the overall themes of the album; are they the two sides of your true self?

That's an interesting point, and one that I hadn't intentionally set out to make. My music either sits right in the middle of those two or can obsolete to the extremes. I guess it reflects the type of music I like listening to. Heavy bass drums…and I mean HEAVY…and well, I guess the term is ballads. To me, an expertly crafted pop song can stimulate the same emotions as, for example, a perfectly mixed and rounded bass drum.

Where did the fire breathing analogy come from?

It came from a conversation I'd had on a night out with a friend. He was just coming out of a tricky relationship and certain sentences stuck in my mind. I already had the guitar loop idea, so the next day, when I got back to writing, his words just came back to me. I added the "fire breathing like an overlord" bit, because he came across quite defensive when we tried to placate him.

Do you see ‘Fire Breathing’ (and the rest of the album) as more of an opportunity for listeners to dance or get introspective?

I guess the latter. I never feel like my music will be listened to in a club. Even the more overtly dance ones. In an ideal world, everyone would have access to an amazing set of active speakers in an acoustically treated room where they would listen to music.

That sentence is quite indicative of how I listen to music by the way. Almost forensically.

There’s a lot of mentions of fire and heat on the new album (song titles including ‘Back To The Sun’, ‘Hot Damn’, ‘Fire Breathing’, ‘When In Flames’, ‘Warm Embrace’), what inspired these, and is there a connection?

There is no connection, save for my lack of vocabulary.

’Hot Damn’, was originally going to be ‘Roxanne’ after the famous drinking game…oh, and I guess the song. ‘In Flames’ was written just after I'd written a song about climate change (that didn't make the album). It must have still been on my mind. ‘Back To The Sun’ is about returning to daylight after the perpetual night time of looking after a newborn. And ‘Warm Embrace’ is just about a warm embrace.

So you see, no real connection.

The titles ‘Fire Breathing’ and the album title A Change In State echo previous release titles like Turning Down Water For Air and Earth/Fire EP - what is it about these elemental forces that appeals to you?

I've never really thought about it before, but I seem to like the idea of pairing emotions, imbued or otherwise, with the intrinsically unemotional.

Have you envisioned these songs in the live setting, what can we expect from your upcoming tour?

I tried not to think about performing these live when I wrote them. I think I may have focused on that aspect too much on the last record. This record is all about the acoustic and the songs. That was the most important element.

It's been about 4 years since I last played live, so I'm quite nervous. Hopefully my more streamlined setup and new visuals will make me relax onstage a bit more.

Do you get nervous about releasing a new album?

Not really. Of course I want people to like it, but it's something that I've been working on obsessively for a while and you get to a point where you're just desperate for people other than you to hear it.

What makes you most excited about releasing a new album? What are you excited for people to hear on A Change Of State?

It is extremely exciting to release new music into the world. It's the culmination of a lot of time and effort. I'm very proud of the whole album, but ‘Primal Yell’ and ‘Cashews’ are my favourites. Both took a surprisingly short amount of time to write and record. Isn't that always the way!

It's a big ask, but I'd like people to sit down with a cup of tea and listen to the album from start to finish. I'm looking forward to hearing how people feel when they get round to the last song, ‘Primal Yell’. I always try and make the last song on my albums a defining moment.

It always gives me shivers and I wrote the thing! My point being, I should be incredibly hardy to its emotional charms by now, having listened to it about 1000 times.


Get that brew on the go and get ready to listen to A Change In State as it's out today, and you can stream it in full below.