Released just a few weeks ago, Cupid In Error is one of those records that just instantly captures the imagination. Blending influences from '80s new wave, with a raw, almost live aesthetic it bristles with energy and an innate relatable quality. This is in part due to the instrumentation which, but it's also thanks to Alex Painter's songwriting. Melancholic and full of longing, it's impossible to not be drawn in.

We caught up with Great Pagans following their album launch in London to find out how the record came about and their work with label Anti-Ghost Moon Ray.


You've just released your debut record, Cupid in Error - what's it felt like, finally releasing that into the wild?

It's probably a cliché but it's a real mix of relief and apprehension. I'm really excited that this long hard process has come to fruition but it's easy to feel quite naked now and open to criticism or, worse, indifference.

The record was recorded in some less than usual spaces, churches, basements and so on. Do you think these spaces influenced the music you were writing and recording?

We did our best to make the most of our lack of funds and find spaces that suited the aesthetics of the sound but we were definitely restricted. Using a church especially impacted the sound but mostly necessity forced us to make impulsive choices. Hopefully that kept the recordings from sounding overworked or stale.

The record itself has an almost nostalgic tone to it despite also feeling very contemporary, is this something you strived for?

I think a small dose of nostalgia can be a nice tool to conjure comforting emotions. It's easy to overuse it though and I think some bands do. I feel like if you focus too hard on one era, even the zeitgeist, it's very restrictive and can sound dated pretty quickly.

I think it's safe to say you have a DIY ethos as a band, was this a driver behind the formation of the Anti-Ghost Moon Ray label (which you co-founded with Gazelle Twin, Acquaintance and Bernholz)?

Yeah, definitely. The idea was to pool our resources as a collective so we could make a bigger impact than we could individually. When Gazelle Twin was looking to release material it was a natural progression to become a label. It also means we have total control over what we release, which is ideal because we're all control freaks. The flipside is we don't have the budget that bigger labels have but we're all really proud of what we've managed to do with it so far. We've got some exciting plans for what's next.

The band came together back in 2012, what was it that drew the four of you together to start making music?

I'd love to tell you some bizarre origin story but it's really just that we'd all been playing together in different projects and we're good friends. And like used to be in a weird cult or something.

You're based in Brighton, where you mixed some of the record, but you also did some work in Vancouver, any particular reason as to why?

Another big factor in the recording was that our drummer Dave, who was also recording the album, was moving to Vancouver so we had this looming deadline to record everything before he left. I remember we finished the last vocal take as his dad came to pick him up in the removal van. We then had to Skype back and forth a lot as Dave mixed the album in Canada.

With Cupid in Error you've tried to capture the energy present in your live shows, how did this change the way you approached recording?

Because of all the constraints, this was the first recording we've done where we weren't all playing live in one room. It can be hard to recreate that live energy if you're all just layering up parts onto drum tracks so we had to fight to invoke that spirit and avoid dropping in and overdubbing parts as much as possible. In fact we just recorded a Daytrotter session yesterday and that was the total opposite. All live straight onto tape. That was a lot of fun.

I get the sense, from the way that the music is recorded and the fact that your name is taken from Dante's Inferno, that the words you use are very important, is that correct?

With the lyrics I was trying to be completely honest but also fuzz the edges a little. I wanted to convey very personal sensations but also mystify them slightly. I'd never want to contrive to fit as many people's situations as possible but there's definitely a beauty in hearing a song and being able to take ownership of it and apply it your own life.

How did the songs on the record come about, what's your process for writing music and lyrics?

I tend to write big chunks of songs and make pretty complete demos. Because Dave was moving away we had to write more on the fly with some of the songs and stuff came together as the record was being recorded. It was exciting because it meant we hadn't heard it until it was finished either.

Throughout the record there's this interplay between Alex's seemingly melancholic vocals and the more upbeat instrumentation - it makes for some moments where the meaning of a song can be interpreted many ways. Was this intentional throughout writing, or more a result of the way it all came together during recording?

I'm a big fan of melancholy in music but it needs warmth to put a glaze on what could be quite a bleak subject matter. Like a safe almost comforting sadness after the fact, seen through hindsight. I guess that's one beauty about art, being able to manipulate memories to suit your own vision. I also like to leave a bit of ambiguity and double meaning in my lyrics.

In many ways it's reminiscent of acts like The Smiths and, to a lesser extent, Jesus and the Mary Chain, would you say these bands influenced you?

We're definitely influenced by a lot of 80s indie music and I do really like The Smiths and the understated swampiness of JAMC. But also a lot of stuff like Flying Nun bands, the Paisley Underground, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. We tried to filter that through the present and avoid pastiche though. I feel the more disparate music you absorb the less likely you are to pump out something generic. There are also elements of stuff like the Beach Boys, Glenn Branca, and Charles Mingus in there.