New label, new perspective - it's all new for Glaswegian trio Sparrow and the Workshop, who release their new album next week. We had an enlightening interview with band leader Jill O'Sullivan about Murderopolis itself: what went into making it, what it was like to work with one of the guys from Aerogramme, and how the intensity of the sessions led to the mass consumption of donuts. Makes me wonder why they didn't call it Donutocalypse instead.

What has it been like to road-test the new material? You played three launch shows last week - how were they?

Really good, thanks. We've been dying to play the new stuff and since we haven't done that many gigs in the past year there have been limited opportunities. The launch shows were (for me) surprisingly amazing. I suffer from massive nerves but the outpouring of encouragement from everyone who came down really floored me and made for some happy sparrows overall.

What's it been like trying to make the new songs fit in with your older material?

The shift has only ever been in album production, from our perspective. Our live sound hasn't really changed much as a band for live performances and we've always chosen certain songs in our set over others and the new stuff seems to suit those older songs just fine.

Murderopolis is a noticeably darker album than your previous two, at least on a musical level; what prompted the shift in sound?

I really don't feel that there's a massive change but it depends on what you are referencing. If you listen to our earliest EP maybe five years ago, then the music was gentler and more stripped-back. But musically I don't think we've changed since [debut album] Crystals Fall came out. Anybody who's been to see us live can testify, we've always been loud and raucous since the first album. I really don't feel that there's been a shift in sound though, I just write songs and ideas and then I take them to the guys and we work on them together.

When we put out our first album the whole folk thing was exploding around us and it was convenient for people to place us amongst it but I don't think we ever related to that very much. We were listening to punk and country more than anything else. The shift maybe has been in production. It's always been an aim of ours to capture our live performances on record and I think this is the closest we've come to that. That first album, Crystals Fall, was probably the darkest in terms of lyrical content. I think I've mellowed over the years and have less angst on this album (I think).

What was the best thing about being able to write an album like that? I'd imagine it was a rewarding experience.

Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I think the best thing about it was the fact that we were under no obligation to write it (we were not on any label or anything) and yet we did. It was for the pure joy of playing together. At a certain point we had a ton of songs and suddenly realized, 'hey, we should make an album while these songs are still fresh in our heads.'

What were the recording sessions for the album like?

We had a good time recording the album. We did a couple songs to start with Iain Cook and Paul Savage happened to be free the week we were recording so he agreed to engineer them...but then Iain had to leave because Chvrches were blowing up and we did the rest of the album with Paul Savage, which was the best worst case scenario we could have imagined. We'd worked with Paul on Crystals Fall so we had a good relationship with him and he knows how we sound and understood that we wanted to sound as live as possible. We also consumed about 150 Greggs donuts in two weeks. That was intense.

Are there any songs that didn't make the cut for the album that you're planning to do something with?

Yeah, there were a couple that we couldn't fit on the album. It was difficult to leave them out but maybe we'll put them out shortly after the album comes out or make an EP or something. Haven't thought too much about it yet but I suppose we should probably do something with them.

Tell us a little about your favourite song on Murderopolis.

My favorite song on the album is 'Odessa'. I love the intro with the piano and then sound of the tape on strings (we recorded tape slowly pulling over the strings of Gregor's [Donaldson] bass synth). I love the swell when the drums kick in and Nick's [Packer] bassline does that incessant arpeggio. It really feels to me like waves crashing against rocks and captures the feeling I had when I first struck the chords and began singing the melody.

How did you come to be picked up by Song, By Toad Records?

We've known Matthew [Young, label founder] for years. He invited us to one of his first Toad sessions and since then we'd kept in touch. We've watched him grow from a wee blogger into a label and I'm really happy to be working with him. When he asked if we'd be interested in being on his label it was a bit of a no-brainer for us.

Have you been listening to any new music lately?

I just bought the new Unknown Mortal Orchestra album, II, and the new Thee Oh Sees album, Floating Coffin. I can't stop listening to either album. They're very different but equally good in their own ways.

Finally, what are your favourite Scottish song and album of the year so far?

I can't stop listening to Rick Redbeard's new album No Selfish Heart and really can't get enough of the song 'Any Way I Can', but they're all pretty good. It's a solid album from start to finish.


Murderopolis is out now on Song, by Toad Records. Head here for more information on the band.