I quite like writing concept albums. I tend to write my albums more like I’m writing a book, so the whole album will be about one thing ,with each song being a chapter. – Danny Sorrell
Band photos – Will Ireland
One of the more intriguing albums from 2018 was the debut album from The Paradox Twin, The Importance Of Mr Bedlam, a very atmospheric album with delightful sonic textures and evocative mood pieces. The inspiration for the songs on the album came from band mainman Danny Sorrell’s fascination with the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, with the whole premise behind Mr Bedlam being based on a couple being visited by aliens. He stated on its release, ‘I’m inspired and influenced by conspiracy theories and the idea about humans on earth being controlled by extra-terrestrial beings.’
Their 2021 sophomore album, though, Signals From Silence, starts from a different perspective, one far more personal to Danny Sorrell. This album is based on his learning, around the same time as the band’s debut album was released, that his eldest son was autistic, which made Danny wonder why different things occur to different people and the effects it has on their lives – and the feelings such news evoked, positive and negative, contributed to his experiencing a series of thoughts and emotions which became a story told through music. Signals is a tale of two twin siblings (neurotic sister and neurodivergent brother) and the trials and tribulations they go through trying to navigate the brother’s struggles through life. Of the twins, the brother’s disabled but the sister isn’t, and growing up he struggles to understand why he’s different. He’s abused by his father, becomes an outcast because he’s different and ultimately drowns himself.
Danny said, ‘I wanted to do something a bit different in the album, making people aware of something they’ve probably heard of but don’t know much about, by creating some powerful music and lyrics which will hopefully move people emotionally.’ So The Paradox Twin are clearly not a band given to writing and singing about life’s inconsequentia. No sweetly cloying ‘lovey dovey’ sentiments for them. Signals is a challenging album with lyrics which demand the full attention of the listener. It’s also an album with ‘edge’ but one which doesn’t overwhelm the listener. Shortly before the release of Signals, the Paradox Twin played their first post-pandemic gig, at the New Day festival, opening the Saturday show by coming on at midday. How good did it feel to be playing ‘live’ again? ‘Yeah,’ he laughed, ‘it was a bit odd going on so early, but I think it went all right, actually. It was our first gig post-covid, there was a bit of pre-gig nerves but otherwise the reception was quite good.’
What were the initial thoughts behind forming a band like The Paradox Twin, I wondered? How did the band come into being? ‘Lee (Leland Graham, guitarist) and I have known each other about nine years. We were in a previous band but it wasn’t really anything. It didn’t work out, the bass guitarist moved away and the drummer left for one reason or another, so it all fell apart. Around this time I had my first child so didn’t have too much time, but when he was a bit older, I started writing music again, which became the songs on the first album, Mr Bedlam, and I decided I wanted to get another band together. So I got back together again with Lee and we added Diane (Fox, bass). We had a drummer, Rob (McGregor), on the Mr Bedlam album but things didn’t work out with him so, on Signals, we have Graham (Brown, drums). We also have Nicole (Johnson, vocals) on the album, who came in about six months after our first album and has been quite involved in this new one, so I suppose this new line up is my second main band’ The adding of a second vocalist to Paradox Twin has made a significant difference to the sound of the band. Her vocals, particularly when singing the parts of the sister on tracks like Wake Vortex and Haptic Feedback, are amongst the standout features of the album. ‘Yeah, adding Nicole’s been massively important to the band,’ Danny agreed. ‘It was after Kim (Seviour, ex-Touchstone) sang her pieces on the first album when I realised I wanted to have more female vocals on the record. I wish I’d done more female vocals on the first record, but then Nicole came in and started doing some shows with us. But I didn’t want her just standing around while I sang, so I let her sing some of my verses onstage so she had a bit more to do, and she’s had a massive influence on the second album because, as I was writing the songs, I had her in mind, so she’s played a major role in the new album. It’s wonderful to be able to sing with Nicole on songs like Wake Vortex as she’s brought the emotion to it I was looking for.’
There are definite touches of bands like Anathema, who also use male and female vocals to good emotive effect, and also Porcupine Tree in the music of the Paradox Twin, though they are subtle rather than wholly derivative. How influential were bands like these when the Paradox Twin was being put together? ‘I’m a massive fan of Steven Wilson and a fan of Porcupine Tree. I used to listen to a lot of their really early stuff, and yeah, they’re a big influence. I’ve been told there’s some Porcupine Tree influences in our albums, but I like all their stuff, all the early stuff and the later stuff, when they went a bit darker and heavier. I like their transitional stuff and their more spacey stuff. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of Steven Wilson, and even of his solo stuff as well. I’ve seen Wilson on stage a couple of times but, unfortunately, I never managed to see Porcupine Tree live, they’d retired from doing gigs before I could get to see them. Actually, I don’t tend to listen to much music outside of the band, because I’m always writing and I don’t want what I listen to influencing my writing style, or if I do listen, it won’t be to anything like the stuff I write, bit more miserable stuff,’ he laughed.
Given the theme of the album, how difficult did he find writing the appropriate lyrics for the second album, especially writing about his own son? How hard was it to come up with the right words for the message the songs were attempting to communicate? ‘The album isn’t solely about my son, it’s more about the idea of the experiences it gave me for the story. But, in terms of writing, before I start an album, I usually have an idea so I know where I’m gonna go and, when I’m writing the music. Quite a lot of the time, the words just kind of flow. So I write a piece on the guitar, and in my mind there’s an idea of the melody, and then I find the words that kind of fit. The music might take a little bit more working but after a bit of tweaking, the whole thing just flows. After a while, the words just tend to fall from the sky. It’s odd, I don’t know why it happens,” he added with a laugh. I mentioned Keith Richards’ comment about how, when writing a song, it just grabs you by the nose and leads you along until it’s finished. Danny was in agreement. ‘Yeah, that’s what basically happens. Sometimes I might have to down tools and go back to finish something, but stuff just comes and I keep niggling away at it. I keep chugging away at something until it works.’ He explained how he approaches his work: ‘I take the approach, if I like something, I’ll go back to it. If I still like it after a second time, I’ll keep it, but if I don’t like it after a couple of listens, I won’t use it. You can get caught up in the moment writing something, and you think, ‘it’s great’, but then next day you listen again and discover it isn’t,’ he laughed again, ‘and if I still don’t like it, I get rid of it. If I think something’s got legs, I might keep it for a while but, if not …” he tails off here but the point’s made. ‘Sometimes you need a bit of inspiration to get something finished.’
Signals From Silence has been described as being, using that dreaded phrase, ‘a concept album’. Did Danny think this was the case? ‘Yeah’, he immediately came back with. ‘I think it is a concept album. I quite like writing concept albums. I tend to write my albums more like I’m writing a book, so the whole album will be about one thing ,with each song being a chapter. I kind of like to take you on a journey, with a chapter being a scene setter, so Signals From Silence is taking you through the journey of the child, with some songs darker than others, so, yeah, I would say it’s a concept album. Yeah, you’re right, it is, I like them and I wish more bands made concept albums. It’s probably the old school in me. With stuff like streaming, we’ve lost a little bit of this. Years ago, you used to buy an album and get the whole experience. You’d see the cover, open the gatefold, etc. It’s not like this now.’ Concept album or not, one of the compelling things about the Signals album is any track can be picked out and listened to, and it stands up on its own away from all the other tracks. ‘Yeah, I’ve tried to do that on this album as well as on Mr Bedlam. You can either listen to the whole album or you can dip in and out of it, which is what I’ve tried to achieve on both albums.’
The subject matter on Signals is intensely personal, so are there any songs which have particular significance or are they all as meaningful, given the context? ‘I Think I Am Me, I Am Free is probably my favourite track on the album, just because the whole thing is a very up-and-down rollercoaster, and Specular as well, which I feel is a very emotional song. I suppose it’s these two songs. Lyrically, Specular is kind-of sad, the boy’s just sitting there sort-of contemplating. It’s a very lonely kind of track, then there’s the break where the guitar comes in. Yeah, I think Specular is probably the pick-out for me. I like Sea Of Tranquillity as well. This is an album I’m extremely proud of, one where I’ve literally ripped my soul out and converted it into words.’
The themes the Paradox Twin tackle are quite intense. The Importance Of Mr Bedlam looked at the issue of aliens and life elsewhere in the universe, and Signals From Silence deals with how people deal with being different. Are there any themes in mind for the third album yet? ‘Not yet, no,’ Danny laughed. ‘I’m just kind of twiddling at the moment, doing some stuff, but we are planning to release an EP which is gonna be a side story to Signals From Silence and it’s going to be a more mellowly acoustic thing, and we’re hoping it can be released early next year. This is the priority at the moment. One of the tracks was left over from the album, I didn’t feel like it linked in at the time, and then I had the idea to write two more tracks, so it’s all gonna be quite mellow. Well, not actually that mellow,’ he corrected himself, ‘it’ll be in the vein of Sea Of Tranquillity. I felt the Signals album ended at a point where it was quite dark, so this is a side story about the nicer side of the twins. It’s in the demo stage at present but it’s pretty much ready to go. We’ll do some shows next year and then I’ll start thinking about the next album.’ Mentioning gigs, one show on the horizon which looks intriguing sees Paradox Twin being joined by label mates Quantum Pig and also the added bonus of a solo acoustic set from the mighty John Mitchell. ‘Yeah, this is at the beginning of February 2022, in Reading,’ he confirmed, ‘and we’re gonna do the whole album and then, at the end, do a few tracks from Mr Bedlam as well.’
Paradox Twin are signed to White Star records, whom I suggest deserve credit for being as supportive as they’ve been in allowing bands like Paradox Twin to develop as they have. ‘Yeah, White Star have been great,’ Danny concurred. ‘The strength of the band we have now, and the mixing talent of John Mitchell and the video skills of Miles Skarin, have all hopefully come together to produce something fans old and new will find special. I speak to Chris (Hillman, studio co-owner along with John Mitchell) every other day and he’s really supportive. He believes we just need to continue doing what we’re doing. I mean, there’s never an end goal when you’re a musician because you’re always striving for more, but I just wanna start playing some more shows in larger venues. We’re a year behind at present, but releasing a new album’s racked things up a gear, which is good.’
After the album Mr Bedlam, Danny was described as being a ‘Conspiracy Theorist’. What did he feel about this? ‘I wouldn’t say I’m a conspiracy theorist,’ he said through laughs. ‘I’m just very open to ideas about aliens and other stuff. I went off on this weird tangent when I was writing the Mr Bedlam album, researching lots of stuff about UFOs, which gave me ideas for the album, though the internet’s not always the best place for this as there’s lots of disinformation on it. I think the general consensus is there has to be other forms of life out there somewhere. But, no, I’m not a conspiracy theorist!’
There’s clearly no second album syndrome with The Paradox Twin. Signals From Silence is an intriguing album with some very imaginative writing, and it deserves to do well.