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The Gift Studio Report

Catching up with the British prog rockers as they record album number three...

The Gift’s founder member Mike Morton gives us a sneak preview of the follow-up to 2014’s Land Of Shadows. “We want to surprise people..."

“Anthony Phillips is so funny that we couldn’t record anything for the first half hour because he kept cracking all these jokes!” The Gift’s Mike Morton laughs as he reveals what it’s been like recording with the influential musician. Both Phillips and his Genesis successor Steve Hackett make guest appearances on the band’s forthcoming new album Why The Sea Is Salt which is due out through Bad Elephant Music this October.

The Gift, who were also behind 2014’s Resonance Festival in London, have recently expanded their line-up from a three-piece to an impressive six-piece. Joining Morton, guitarist David Lloyd and bassist Stefan Dickers are original guitarist Leroy James, keyboard player Gabriele Baldocci and drummer Neil Hayman. These additions have influenced the group’s sound and sent it in new sonic directions.

“We feel like a proper band now instead of just a studio project,” says Morton in-between cups of tea at David Lloyd’s Facility Studios, where they’re currently recording. “The first two albums were written by duos but this time it’s a full band so it’s heavier. It’s going to be as much hard rock as prog and we just want to go for it. We want to surprise people.”

According to him, their musical aim is “to not sound vintage. It’s very easy to sound like a Yes, Genesis or King Crimson-alike; we could have used lots of Hammonds, Mellotrons and made the album sound like it had been done in 1973 but we didn’t want to. David has two big whiteboards in the control room which are charting the mood and texture of each song, and what he’s trying to achieve through them is to create a sound that’s like The Gift. This album will be drier than a lot of prog albums that have come out recently, with less reverb and less massive drums. It’s not a live album but we want that attack that you get with a live band.”

Their recently re-released 2006 debut, Awake And Dreaming, was an hour-long album with an anti-war concept, but Why The Sea Is Salt stays away from anything too contrived. Instead, it’s based around the notion of “how suffering and pride muck up the world. If there’s a theme it’s that we’ve been cut off from our natural selves and how we can get back to that.”

The finished album is expected to clock in at around an hour. Although most of the tracks are between five and seven minutes, there is one 20-minute epic called All These Things, which features seven separate parts. “That song is about consumerism and Black Friday,” says Morton. “It’s about how we’ve lost our souls and we’ve got all these addictions like buying and consuming.”

So far, The Gift have finished recording drums, vocals and their guest musicians’ parts. They’ll be spending the rest of this month at The Facility and will begin mixing the final seven tracks in early August.

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