Memorial’s Jack Watts and Oliver Spalding open up about their beautifully tender and achingly intimate debut album: A record of raw connection and humanity brimming with wondrous folk warmth, gut-wrenching depth, and unadulterated, heart-on-sleeve vulnerability.
for fans of Aquilo, Oh Wonder, Flyte
Stream: “Dialtone” – Memorial
Here it is again, that fateful blue moon, dancing around in your hotel room. There’s something we want, and we know we’re not allowed: Fireworks hidden in the clouds…
– “Love Is a Kind of Sadness,” Memorial
Beautifully tender and achingly intimate, Memorial’s debut album is a stirring soundtrack to life’s stillness and motion: A record of raw connection and humanity brimming with wondrous folk warmth, gut-wrenching depth, and unadulterated, heart-on-sleeve vulnerability. A gentle giant of an introduction, Memorial reminds us to be present for every step of our journeys: To soak up the seconds, and make every last one count.
If you need someone to call
I’ll be around
I know things haven’t gone
your way for a while
Move to the red bricks
To find a new version of yourself
Let it surface, let it bloom
Miss your old friends
And all the shit you’d get up to
Ain’t it a shame that what you love
you get used to
– “Dialtone,” Memorial
Life isn’t a highlight reel: It’s a collection of little things, like shared laughs and stolen glances, car rides and long walks, candid hellos and tearful goodbyes. Released April 29, 2022 via Lucy Rose’s Real Kind Records, Memorial’s self-titled debut embodies all this and more: Ripped from the diaries of Brighton-based singer/songwriters Jack Watts and Oliver Spalding, the twelve-track Memorial catalogs those kind of heartwarming memories that make each day worth living. It’s a tranquil, softly sung reverie of real life: A celebration of the easily passed by minutiae, packed with care and delivered in a dazzling indie/alt-folk package replete with richly hypnotic vocal harmonies, sweetly serene guitars, and more. Comparable to, yet distinct from fellow indie folk contemporaries like Aquilo, Flyte and TOLEDO, Memorial have quickly emerged over the past year as a group worth paying extra special attention to.
“This album was our way of not going to therapy,” the longtime friends tell Atwood Magazine.
“We experienced some of the most turbulent years of our lives in each other’s company. One of the most important things for us was focusing on the minutiae of what we were going through. We created a non-judgmental space for each other to talk and made songs out of what we shared, witnessed or experienced together. We encountered a lot of change and there’s a sadness from that that is infused in a lot of songs, but as a body of work it’s largely about friendship and the hopefulness that having someone to confide in brings. We wanted to exist with a little less emotional weight and this album has relieved us of that, into something we can be immensely proud of.”
“Originally the vision for the album was going to be about the many ways love can be a kind of sadness; it felt like a theme that could tie all the songs together. And before the first lockdown we were pretty close to finishing what we thought was our album, but once we wrote and recorded ‘Moth To A Flame’ and lockdown 1 hit, we had a massive period of reflection. It felt like moth to a flame was a pillar of what the album should be and that a lot of the songs didn’t reach that bar, so we scrapped half the album and started writing again. When the album was finished we noticed, it wasn’t just a heartbreak album anymore, there’s so much hope and yearning for fulfillment, but one of the main things we realized is how much our friendship was the backbone for everything and how we navigated situations and spoke about absolutely everything, shaped what the album became.”
For Spalding and Watts, this album is their truth: A full-bodied look at their artistic identity and their individual humanities. It’s the product of a friendship – really, a brotherhood – so deep that there are no secrets withheld, few generalities or glossed-over details, and certainly no stones unturned; they gave their all to every moment of these songs, imbuing this album with both the beauty, wonder, pain, and hardship of lived experience. As such, they could think of no better way to introduce themselves than through a self-titled first record.
What’s that song playing in the car
It reminds me of a time I forgot
Is it those guys you toured with years ago
But never made it to America
Look outside, it’s your favourite type of morning
The drive to work you’re used too seems like a different way
Don’t know why, when I try to speak my mind
It echos like a joke I’ve told far too many times
Can you feel the waves
Drawing in and out again
I don’t need those empty promises
Leaving doesn’t have to be
This complicated game
Before we say goodbye
A part of me is holding on
To each and every line
“We settled on Memorial as this album feels the truest and most authentically ourselves that we’ve ever been through music,” the pair explain. “The process itself; scrapping half the album and having to write and record in the moment, condensing almost 3 years of experience into 11 songs, felt like a Memorial in itself, but in a really nice full circle way, as the reason we settled on the name for the band was that we felt like songs preserved the memories of people and events just as much as any other commemorative thing. This record is a record in time and a preserving of such a crazy period in our lives, having it self titled felt like tying the perfect ribbon of the whole thing.”
“We feel really proud of its minimalism,” they add. “It took a lot of effort to attempt to say a lot with very little. It felt like everything we have on there needed to be there. There were so many examples where we thought songs needed to be bigger, but we’d add and take away until what was left was essential. It’s a great introduction to our style of writing. Lyrically, we’re massively inspired by classic story tellers like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Gene Clark. We think that their influence is infused in a big way. We always really liked the idea of the album having a classic feel to it and think we got as close as we possibly could. Overall it feels like we’ve put so much of ourselves into this, it scarily seems like an introduction to us as people rather than a band, but that is essentially all we are and all we can offer.”
Highlights abound from end to end throughout Memorial‘s run. The journey starts off strong with an inviting blanket of sound, courtesy of album opener “Moth to a Flame” which just so happens to have also been the band’s debut single back in January 2021. “I dreamt I saw you in the morning as bright as the day shines. The warmth kissed your face and a smile cuts through,” Memorial sing together over lilting guitars and alluring, muted trumpet blasts. “I wonder how you’re doing and whose arms are around you, and if whatever you’re searching for has found you.” It’s a stunningly poetic, intimate, and unflinching portrayal of longing, love, and lingering affection – not to mention a delicate. invigorating soundscape that beckons listeners to journey further inward, into this world of rich harmony and raw melody.
“This song really lends itself to the saying,” the duo note. “Being drawn to something you know is destructive, ignoring the reality of the situation because your heart is telling you otherwise. Around the time of writing, Oliver had strong feelings for someone where a relationship would have been totally unviable. Negotiating your feelings with reality can kick up some challenging ultimatums. This song is about choosing to live with the pain of not being able to be with someone romantically, rather than not having them your life at all.”
Memorial only intensifies from there, with songs like “Honest” and “Dialtone,” “Latchkey” and “Midtpoint,” “Old Oaks” and even the self-titled instrumental “Memorial” breaking us down only to build us back up again, stronger than we were before. “If you need someone to call, I’ll be around,” the duo sing on the beautifully tender “Dialtone.” “I know things haven’t gone your way for a while.” It’s a heartfelt message of connection and understanding, presence and trust; warm and atmospheric, lightly ethereal, and deeply, undeniably human. Here, as they do throughout the album, they present our naked humanity through stunningly bittersweet folk-pop balladry.
In your eyes
I see the words
Written in the breath
Against the glass
When you’re here
And I mean truly here
Everything but time
I don’t need saving
From these games we’re playing
I don’t need your lips
To satisfy these cravings
I don’t need anything
“‘Honest’ is definitely a big one for us,” Memorial say on the topic of favorites. “It’s the oldest song on the record, one of the most driven and has always been a favourite. When ‘Moth to a Flame’ was finished we almost shed tears – it felt so emotional for us. It was a goodbye to a pretty turbulent thing and a welcome to what we considered to be “us,” songwriting wise and sonically. We were and are still super proud of it. Also the instrumental section on ‘Midpoint’ is one of our favourite bits on the whole thing!”
As lyrically forward artists, Spalding and Watts also share their top three favorite lyrics from the album:
Miss your old friends
And all the shit you’d get up to
Ain’t it a shame
That what you love you get used to
I love just like my mother
And she loves recklessly
Oh so faithful, but unlucky
– “Old Oaks“
To the man at the bar
With his wedding ring removed
You’re chasing a thrill
But the guilt will come soon
You wear your ex lovers
Like regretful tattoos
And I wonder which one turned him into you
– “Love Is a Kind of Sadness“
Memorial has more than its fair share of memorable moments. The album’s penultimate song “Love Is a Kind of Sadness” is perhaps the pair’s most breathtaking ballad, though in truth every song stands out in a “bittersweet beauty” kind of way. A slow, soft tearjerker that rises and falls in waves of graceful, gutting passion, “Love Is a Kind of Sadness” feels like the ultimate unveiling of the soul: “Here I am alone in room number eleven, wondering if I’ll ever find the one,” Memorial sing at the song’s conclusion, after spending about three minutes soul-searching through others’ stories. “Who will look into my eyes like it’s the last piece of the sky, and not be blinded by the sun?” It’s a plea for love; for understanding; for finding meaning through connection in an often cold and unforgiving world.
Memorial give to listeners a little piece of what they themselves are looking for in these songs: A space of connection, recognition, reckoning, and understanding.
“Hopefully (without sounding cheesy), [our listeners take away] a sense of connection and feeling less alone,” Memorial share. “We went through challenging times and created a nonjudgmental space where we could talk about how we felt and be listened to, all of these songs were born out of that. What we’ve taken from it is how important it is to have that space, as people and for our mental health rather than fuel for songs. Overall we hope it really means something to people, like it means everything to us.”
“We’ve been friends for almost 10 years and making that decision to give writing together a go a few years back has changed our lives, our friendship, and has enabled us to meet so many amazing, lovely, supportive and incredibly talented people!” the pair wrote in a recent social media post. “There’s a whole community of beautiful souls that just want to make good music and have good times, and it’s been a massive privilege to meet you all, especially through doing what we love.”
This really is a record of raw humanity: The product of blood, sweat, and tears, heartfelt confessionals and little memories forever immortalized in sweet, stirring song. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Memorial’s self-titled debut album with Atwood Magazine as Ollie Spalding and Jack Watts go track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their first album!
Stream: ‘Memorial’ – Memorial
:: Inside Memorial ::
Moth To A Flame
This song really lends itself to the saying. Being drawn to something you know is destructive, ignoring the reality of the situation because your heart is telling you otherwise. Around the time of writing, Oliver had strong feelings for someone where a relationship would have been totally unviable. Negotiating your feelings with reality can kick up some challenging ultimatums. This song is about choosing to live with the pain of not being able to be with someone romantically, rather than not having them your life at all.
One of our friends was in a relationship that was often emotionally challenging. It was genuinely horrible to witness someone so vibrant, full of life and wonder to be reduced to feelings of inadequacy. We had so much appreciation for this person in our life, that we wanted to write a song just to show them they deserve so much more. You offer yourself as a conduit for positive change, rather than a self proclaimed solution. You want nothing in return other than to know that person has found happiness.
Ah Dialtone, the cheesy ode to our friendship. I (jack) had moved to Manchester for a year, just after we’d started writing together (silly, but eventually fruitful) we met at uni, and lived together or round the corner, so it was stepping into completely unknown territory, unaware whether distance would affect our friendship and closeness. But it turns out we thrived on it. We established that we could rely on each other, be there when it mattered most and even when it didn’t matter, just when we needed to laugh and talk about all the crazy shit we were missing. We were always a phone call away, hence Dialtone.
Fake Moon is an unassuming heartwrencher. Oliver wrote it at his lowest ebb. It’s about the pressure you face in your mid-twenties, all societal norms point towards the property ladder, marriage and babies and confirmations of success. If you’re not ready or caught behind the blur of your future, it can be an isolating and depressing place to be. Almost indicative of that nature, Oliver put a snippet of this song on his socials, but left it to disappear into the ether because he thought it would amount to nothing and it wasn’t any good, but Lucy (Rose) extracted it and showed some faith in it. We recorded it as it always was and it’s resonated so many people who have heard it.
Latchkey was a dreamy process start to finish. We had scrapped half the album (because some of the older songs didn’t meet moth to a flames standards) post lockdown 1, we were writing new material and “Latchkey” genuinely felt like it arrived. Sometimes Oliver and I would sing jokily to one and other and sometimes something comes of that. This time literally the entire first verse just happened and we loved it. It was a dreamy subconscious scribbling of a car journey, battling with internal monologues and small talk. The song was born out of melodic small talk. Because of the nature of how it was written Oliver and I both have different opinions on what we think the song is about, which I think is actually really nice.
Amy is about leaving relationship where you question your contribution to its falling apart. Sometimes in the turmoil tornado of a break up, many hurtful things and opinions can be attributed to you that are false, however amidst all the sadness, you may just believe anything and feel sorry for yourself. Amy is about reclaiming some self respect, acknowledging that maybe you were not the sole reason for this failing relationship and that it’s time to let go of these feelings that have been ascribed to you.
Midpoint is a baby of covid. As we were completing the second half of the album I (Jack) had to live with Oliver and my girlfriends job was in Scotland so she had to live there. We were used to being apart for a few weeks on end, but not 7 months (remember we when it was illegal to travel to Scotland!)
This song is a homage to how we started, how difficult it was dealing with the distance and the questions we faced amidst that hardship. It’s strange when a relationship doesn’t have any problems other than an external wedge driven between you. But we survived it and it was a powerful test to endure and overcome.
We wrote this when Oliver came up to Manchester to visit. The whole 2 weeks (we also wrote honest in those two weeks) consisted of strenuous writing and prolific trips to all the pubs around northern quarter. On this particular day we were close to giving up, this song just sprawled out because Oliver had said what later became the first line “everything I’ve ever owned, doesn’t feel like mine”. It’s about feeling like you’re destined to fulfil a loop of numbness, self sabotaging and loneliness. Feeling apologetic for the people you might have hurt, whilst living in that state of mind. Like a broken record.
Old Oaks was written after my (Jack) parents split up. I’d written a few songs in the immediate aftermath that were filled with anger, sadness and confusion. By the time we were writing songs for the second half of the album almost 2 years later I was still feeling the effects, however at this time I had come to terms with a lot and just wanted to move on and feel better. Oliver had experienced the same thing, earlier in his life and we spoke so much about the vulnerability of our parents and how it feels to find your own ground after your previous foundations feel like they’ve collapsed. The song really centres around that.
Love Is A Kind Of Sadness
Love Is A Kind Of Sadness is actually one of the only conceptual songs we’ve written. The first verse is based on a true encounter in a hotel room. The timing was not right for romance, but the emotions in the room were tangible. That verse inspired the thought of wondering what else could be going on in this hotel?
We used things we’d witnessed in our friends and family and made characters out them. 2nd verse is someone who’s holding on to the remnants of their relationship, holding out for a miracle that something might change that will fix everything. 3rd verse is someone chasing a thrill rather than facing the challenges that arise in marriage, struggling to find out what has made them change so drastically. And 4th is the hopeful romantic, who knows what they want it just hasn’t found them yet.
Half Light was written by a rainy window in Manchester. Oliver and I had just spoken about his break up over the phone and it was one of those strange moments where it was on the cards, but still hard to unravel and recover from. As soon as he hung up, I felt like I was in his position and really felt what he was going through and this little song came out. It’s about waiting so long for someone to arrive only for them to feel distant when they do. Realising that in the end, the whole relationship felt like that. And that you can’t keep the idea of who you needed that person to be alive anymore.
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📸 © Sequoia Ziff
:: Stream Memorial ::