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Arcane Roots: "Our music is going to keep evolving"

Ten years into their career, Arcane Roots are preparing to release their proggiest album to date, inspired by frontman Andrew Groves’ eclectic listening habits. Prog finds out more...

When Andrew Groves was 14, he went on a family holiday to the Greek island of Zaente. He used this time to devour huge textbooks on modular synths, re-reading each page.

“I would sordidly read about the theory,” admits the Arcane Roots singer. “I really loved them and I wanted one, and it just never happened, so it was a dirty little secret.”

In September 2015, he bought himself a Doepfer A-100 analogue synthesiser for his 28th birthday, opening up a whole new world for his guitar-driven band. The result is second album Melancholia Hymns, an electronically tinged, melodic rock record than shuns the shouty bombast of their debut, 2013’s Blood & Chemistry, as well as their four EPs. It’s a bold reinvention of their sound: a layered, experimental journey addressing some of life’s heaviest themes.

“This is definitely our proggiest statement by far!” Groves exclaims.

The need for this change of direction was bubbling under the surface around the time of their last EP, 2015’s Heaven & Earth, their first release for Easy Life, a Sony offshoot. They wrote 250 songs for it, but only used five. They would turn up to venues to play, not caring whether the sound was good, because they were confident they could ace the show regardless. After a decade as a band, being in Arcane Roots felt easy. Comfortable.

“We were thinking, ‘What do we do to challenge ourselves again?’” says Groves. “We hit 10 years, and it feels like there’s more to do. There’s more than just black and white…”

The synth reignited Groves’ interest in electronic music, colouring his world. As a teenager, he had listened to The Cinematic Orchestra and Trentemøller, and now he was checking out BT, Venetian Snares, Aphex Twin, Thom Yorke’s electronic stuff and Björk, following recommendations friends had been making for years. He then had to convince his bandmates, bassist Adam Burton and new drummer Jack Wrench, to make a left turn with their music. “We leapt in head first!” Burton laughs.

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