Manchester indie rockers City Reign have released the second single from their upcoming debut full-length, Another Step. It's called "Retaliate," and it might be the most poignant, vulnerable song in the band's young career. Guitarist and co-songwriter Mike Grice took some time out of his busy pre-release schedule to speak with Given and Taken in Ink about the new single.
"It's just a song about youthful vulnerability and not always realising that the blame is usually your own," Grice explained.
Still, there's something immediately different about "Retaliate." City Reign's music has often explored themes of loneliness and uncertainty, but like the artist from whose song they took their band name (Ryan Adams' "City Rain, City Streets"), they often wrapped these sad tales in the guise of a catchy rocker. But for "Retaliate," the band pushed Bull's vocals forward, only supported by gentle acoustic guitars and strings.
"The strings came about in collaboration with Duncan [Bolton]'s flat mate Maya who he knows from Royal Northern College of Music," said Grice. "I did a demo of some strings on a keyboard and sent it to her. She turned up at the studio having scored 4 separate parts. They were recorded in two pairs, and as the layers were added we were all just listening in awe. It was just beautiful."
The band was less deliberate in the process of writing the song's lyrics, as well. "Chris [Bull] normally warbles any old crap with a melody and then spends 6 months re-writing it, but I loved the lyrics that came out on that first demo. I told him to leave it, and it's almost unchanged from there. I think it's got that stream of conscience feel which is different from the other lyrics he's written."
The band is offering a free MP3 download of "Retaliate":
Like many of City Reign's earlier singles, the band put together a video using old film scenes. They've been remarkably good at finding scenes that fit well with the music. (Watch the "Daybreak" video for another good example of this).
"From the opening lyric I had an idea of a couple dancing," Grice recalled. "I wanted it to be tasteful so searched for ballroom dancing on my reliable source, Internet Archive. That provided the footage of Fred [Astaire] and the dance floor moving around was too funny not to use. As for the woman with the balloon, I got lucky in finding that from a different film. It just seemed to fit to the music perfectly."
Finally, I asked Grice if he could give fans a preview of what to expect from the rest of Another Step, due for release in earl 2013:
"The album is the culmination of our development as musicians and people. We were conscious of making an album, not just a collection of songs. The recording process gave it a unity of sound that hasn't always been evident in our earlier EPs and demos. We just can't wait to get it out..."