“The first record was kind of an accident. It was a bit of a surprise that people liked it so much. I think it made us feel like we can just try and do a similar thing and maybe people would like it."
On UK duo Sacred Paws’ debut album, 2017’s Strike a Match, guitarist Rachel Aggs and drummer Eilidh Rodgers often sing at the same time, but not necessarily in unison. Sometimes the two sing entirely different words simultaneously, yet the overall effect is never awkward or antagonistic.
“It’s not traditional in terms of songwriting, but to me it felt very normal — two people having a conversation,” Aggs said recently by phone from the road. “When you’re with someone, you’re thinking different things — like inner monologues — and I think it’s nice to express that in a song. It’s not as neat as the traditional way, but it felt really immediate and exciting to me.”
“Anything goes, really: ‘I like what you’re singing, and I like what I’m singing, too, so let’s sing over top of each other,’” Rodgers said. “We’re too polite. We both just end up doing whatever we want.”
While similar conversational overlaps happen on new album Run Around the Sun (Merge Records), the two vocalists are more likely to harmonize with each other this time around, though the band wisely left Sacred Paws’ signature sound intact, with crystalline, post-punk guitar riffs, dance-worthy beats and blasts of brass — a sonic touch that the band’s producer, Tony Doogan, encouraged them to pursue during the Strike a Match recording sessions.
“We’d say, ‘Oh, imagine if it had brass,’ and he’d say, ‘Well, let’s get brass,’” Rodgers said. “I don’t know if we would ever have had the confidence to say, ‘Let’s get a brass section,’ without him.”
“I’ve always loved saxophone, in particular, on guitar music — like [1970s English punk-rock act] X-Ray Spex, things like that. But I think the horns on our records are more inspired by African party bands and street brass bands,” Aggs said. “I think it’s a really joyous, uplifting sound and really soulful when you arrange three-part harmonies with horns. It’s got a quality to it that gets to me. Even if I hear a brass band playing a song I really hate, I find it really moving.”
The duo’s contentment with Strike a Match (“We finally felt like we recorded something that sounded similarly exciting to how it feels to play the songs,” Aggs said) and the positive response to it gave Sacred Paws more confidence going into the writing and recording of Run Around the Sun. “The first record was kind of an accident. It was a bit of a surprise that people liked it so much,” Rodgers said. “I think it made us feel like we can just try and do a similar thing and maybe people would like it."
Run Around the Sun opens with a burst of guitar feedback, but most of the addictive melodies played by Aggs, who previously hailed from London and then moved to Rodgers’ home base of Glasgow, come courtesy of a clean, unadulterated guitar.
“I could never afford effects pedals when I was younger, and also my general style of playing live is quite chaotic and I move around a lot, so the thought of having extra technological things that could be switched off or malfunction in some way has always been really overwhelming to me,” Aggs said, chuckling. “I like melodies and rhythms — that’s the thing that gets me most excited. Once you start talking about the sonic side of things I get a bit overwhelmed. It’s like there’s no space for it in my brain.”