Andrew Wasylyk is the alias for Andrew Mitchell, a Scottish musician with a diverse track record who has decided to try a solo project for size.
The result is Soroky, an album title that, like the Wasylyk name, is influenced by his grandfather’s Ukrainian heritage (Wasylyk was his surname and Soroky the town he grew up in).
Despite these other commitments, he’s found the time to make an album of seasoned, dramatic songs that benefit from an expansive, full-band backing.
‘Gravestones in the Summer Son’ is a perfect encapsulation of his range as a songwriter, starting on a plaintive acoustic note, shifting gear into a Manics-style guitar riff before sun beam harmonies break out from behind a storm cloud of distortion and drums.
Ahead of the release of Soroky this week, Andrew talks to Nick Mitchell (no relation) about how it’s a “privilege” to be part of Idlewild, how he survived an “apocalyptic” Winter’s recording on the Isle of Mull, and how his cultural heritage has affected his solo work.
You have an extensive musical CV, but at what point did you know this was what you wanted to focus on?
“I didn’t, particularly. The idea of making a record on my own partly came about because I’m not a fan of January and its stagnant nature. Everything seems to stop. I tried to counter that by finishing some songs I had, writing some new ones and and booking the studio for the very start of the year.
“If you mean music generally, when I started playing guitar at 16 it felt like someone had given me permission to enter this Other World. Little has compared to that.”
After six albums with The Hazey Janes, is that project on hiatus for now?
“No. We’ve currently been writing for a collaborative record we’re starting in December, which, going by the material we have, is going to be a lot of fun. Also, by the time this goes to ‘print’, we’ll have just supported Belle & Sebastian.”
You joined Idlewild last year. What’s that experience like, and what have you picked up from working with Roddy and the band?
“Amongst other things, writing with the band has been exciting and also different to my own methods. Scary as it might seem at first, it’s very healthy to be asked out of your comfort area. The history they have as a group and the amazing fan base is very humbling to play a small part in. On the whole, it’s been a privilege.”
Why did you decide to try a solo album?
“I’ve been involved in quite a few records now and have always been curious about what would from doing something on my own. Also, I guess I’d say that, at the time, I had written enough material to warrant another record, basically.”
What was it like recording on Mull? Was it as idyllic as it sounds?
“Well, for five days the weather was pretty apocalyptic. To the point that we thought we weren’t going to be able to get off the island, which is common in Winter there. I’ve recorded at An Tobar in Tobermory with Gordon Maclean a number of times, it’s one of my favourite places to work and he’s one of my favourite human men. The live room, an old converted school hall, has an amazing charm. Martin Bennett and Michael Marra both worked there a lot, specifically Martin. You can feel their presence in the walls.”
Who else was involved in the recording and production of the album?
“The record was produced by myself and Gordon Maclean and I mixed it. Thomas White (Electric Soft Parade / Brakes / The Fiction Aisle) played drums and Sorren Maclean (Singer-songwriter / Roddy Woomble / Mull Historical Society) played bass. Two great musicians and writers. Check them out.”
Your heritage is obviously something that’s important to you, given your alias and the album title. Did your grandfather tell you much about his homeland? How did this affect your music, if at all?
“He never went out his way to say much about it, really. I’d search and ask my parents. Like many war veterans, I imagine he knew the weight and significance of the history he carried with him and didn’t want to burden others with that load. You have to respect that, even if you are hungry for information, like I am. He did go back to the Ukraine after the war and would often send parcels of clothing back to the few relatives he had left there.
“My understanding is that Soroky is/was very much a farming community. Certainly, that’s what the family photos depict. One day I’ll visit. Writing the album from a character point of view began to appeal to me. In that sense, I think the ‘Wasylyk’ alias facilitated certain aspects of the record, definitely.”
Are there any other singer-songwriters, Scottish or not, who you aspire to?
“Billy Mackenzie, Robert Pollard, Nina Simone, Scott Walker, Nelson Riddle, Michael Marra, Warren Zevon, the list goes…”
What’s your take on the health of the independent music scene at the moment?
“Well, ‘bedroom recordings’ no longer exist. In as much that, due to the way music’s consumed now, they’re demanding the same attention as a given major label release and, more often than not, exceeding them. Artistically, anyway. That’s an obvious plus. The ambition to to play and write music as a sustainable occupation is a universal concern. As in all the arts. So long as musicians continue to be resourceful we can’t be stopped!”
The tour with Ricky Ross is planned for next month. Are you looking forward to it, and what can we expect?
“Performing these arrangements live on my own may cause a few headaches, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m hoping to play some full-band shows early next year.”
Look out for an exclusive playlist from Andrew Wasylyk on WOW247 later this week.
Andrew Wasylyk plays the following tour dates:
3 Nov – Clark’s – Dundee – Album Preview Show
8 Nov – Queen’s Hall – Edinburgh *
9 Nov – Lemon Tree – Aberdeen *
11 Nov – Gardyne Theatre – Dundee *
12 Nov – Cottier Theatre – Glasgow *
13 Nov – Cottier Theatre – Glasgow *
15 Nov – Floral Pavilion – New Brighton *
16 Nov – RNCM – Manchester *
17 Nov – St. George’s – Bristol *
18 Nov – King’s Place – London *
22 Nov – Town Hall – Birmingham *
23 Nov – The Sage – Newcastle *
* with Ricky Ross