The Soft Cavalry‘s eponymous debut album is out this summer. A work of intense cinematic drama, the album speaks of midlife crisis, fear, hope and an ache for resolution.
But the duo have been around awhile. Rachel Goswell, with Neil Halstead, co-founded Slowdive who, following an extended hiatus, released a new album in 2017, as well as its successor group Mojave 3. She’s also part of the supergroup of sorts Minor Victories, alongside Mogwai‘s Stuart Braithwaite and others.
Steve Clarke met Goswell while working as tour manager during Slowdive’s lauded comeback, and is now her husband. He’s played with assorted bands and on many records down the years, but The Soft Cavalry marks his first time as the mastermind in complete creative control of a project from start to finish. “I’d always had ideas but never felt that anything I had to say was worthy of anyone’s attention, let alone my own,” he says. “I wish that I could have done this 15 years ago but, in reality, I simply couldn’t have. But I’m not one to overly wallow. I’d rather plough the various levels of confusion into songs.”
Ahead of the album’s release, here Goswell and Clarke mine their record collections and music memories for the tracks and albums which have influenced them most, for The Soft Cavalry’s This Music Made Me…
Rachel Goswell’s selections:
The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Blessed with a brother two years older than me, he played a huge part in influencing my musical tastes at a young age. Some of which I loved – The Cure, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Smiths.
So I was 13 when I first heard The Smiths and got dutifully sucked in by their sound, lyrics and charm.
The back catalogue is obviously vast, and it’s a task to choose just one, but this song for me just gets me every time.
Siouxsie And The Banshees – 92 Degrees
Following on from The Smiths I morphed into a full fledged goth with my initial introductions to this genre being Siouxsie and The Cure. Tinderbox was the first Banshees album that I heard (thanks, brother!) and I fell in love with this album wholeheartedly.
Siouxsie is iconic and was a huge inspiration for me. A strong and striking frontwoman was something my 15 year old, not-fitting-in self, really needed, growing up where I felt extremely out of sync with my peers at school.
I couldn’t count the amount of times I played this record and sang this song in my bedroom dreaming of being in a band and that being my life.
Cocteau Twins – Persephone
Back in the ’80s having pen pals was a hugely popular thing. And I had quite a few! I loved writing and receiving letters and swapping tapes with likeminded people (there wasn’t anyone in my school that I related to until Neil and I accidentally started a band).
I can’t remember who introduced me to the Cocteau Twins but someone sent me a copy of Treasure.
I still remember the first time I pressed play on that tape. Headphones on and in bed I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. Liz Fraser is otherworldly and I just adored all of their records. I used to practise my singing to this song. Frequently.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Straight To You
By the time I (very briefly) went to college in 1987 I finally found a few likeminded goths to hang out with. One of whom was Ashley Bates (who went on to be the drummer in Chapterhouse and now plays in Tunng). We hung out at his house (not to mention his local graveyard) A LOT, listening to records and playing guitars. Ashley introduced me to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, thereby starting my love affair with them which endures to the present day.
When Nick released the book King Ink in 1988, we headed to London to a tiny bookshop in Camden to meet him and were in awe and I was pretty nervous. Our other friend Mike had a 7” of Uncle Tupelo and gave it to Nick to sign. He proceeded to scratch his name in biro across the vinyl and my mouth dropped in shock. I had spent ALL my money on the train fare just to get up to London so I couldn’t actually afford to buy the book or get anything signed; something which I have always wished had been different to this day.
Later when money permitted I bought that book. And have pretty much bought everything that has been released ever since. I’ve chosen Straight To You as my favourite that I keep going back to. Just beautiful.
Joni Mitchell – River
I adore Joni. She is simply a master.
I’ve poured over so many of her records since first discovering her properly in the mid ’90s. River is one of my favourite songs.
Neil and I did discuss recording a cover of this fairly recently. I worry about even attempting a Joni song. Maybe one day will be do it. Maybe not!
Steve Clarke’s selections:
Counting Crows – Colourblind
I adore the first three Counting Crows records. Adam Duritz is one of the best lyricists still around in my humble opinion. I rate him up there with the likes of Elvis Costello and Elliott Smith. Proper wordsmiths (something I can only dream of aspiring to!).
I often find myself feeling relatively uncomfortable with metaphors when writing. You can easily overdo them.
Colourblind strikes the perfect balance.
Elvis Costello – Man Out Of Time
I’ve been a fan of Elvis Costello since I was about 19 years old. I remember first hearing Oliver’s Army and just thinking, how on earth does this guy come up with this amount of poetry in one song!!?
My brother Michael first alerted me to Man Out Of Time and I’ve been in love with this track ever since. Lyrically and melodically genius. It doesn’t get much better.
“To murder my love is a crime… but will you still love a man out of time?”
Low – Plastic Cup
Slowdive and Low toured the US together in 2014 – I was the tour manager at the time. It’s a pretty stressful job so usually I wouldn’t get time to watch the first band on (often attempting to eat before I collapse!) but I watched Low nearly every night. What a band.
Alan and Mimi have the most incredible unity as singers. They traditionally opened the set with Plastic Cup most nights. I loved the simplicity of the song but the thing that really got me (again) was the lyric. They manage to tell an epic story that crosses cultures, lifetimes and generations within three minutes… which is just incredible.
I’d also like to give a nod to Mimi’s insanely good vocal performance on the track Some Holy Ghost off of the same album (The Invisible Way). She’s the modern day Carole King.
Mansun – The Chad Who Loved Me
Rachel isn’t a fan of Mansun! I’m a HUGE one. I think Attack Of The Grey Lantern and Six are masterpieces. Paul Draper went to a catholic boy’s school as a kid… I didn’t… but I did grow up in a Christian family and went to church regularly and a lot of that upbringing has clung onto me into adulthood.
When Rachel and I got married we used the intro to this song as our exit music down the aisle.
I think it’s the perfect start to a record and love the fact that it comes back as a reprise right at the end.
Rufus Wainwright – I Don’t Know What It Is
I first saw Rufus Wainwright in the late ’90s when my friend Imogen Heap was supporting him. He was great that night but it was the album Want One that came out a few years later that really got me.
Incredibly well crafted songs and, for me, this track is the absolute icing on the cake. I get goose bumps every time I hear it. It lyrically resonates with me on so many levels and the music and vocal melody seamlessly build to an amazing crescendo before dropping back down at the end… almost returning to where the track started. So well rounded.
I’ve always been one for structure and this ticks every box.
The Walkmen – The Rat
For me this is the modern day version of Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan. Incredible guitar sound… incredible drumming…. incredible vocal delivery.
I saw them play in Birmingham in 2008 and this song lifted the roof off.
One of my fondest memories of any show I’ve been to.
The Soft Cavalry’s debut album is out on 5 July 2019 through Bella Union. They play London’s Lexington on 3 July. Tour dates and further information can be found here.