Undercover Soundtrack

The Undercover Soundtrack – Andy Harrod

for logo‘Love is the key to these stories’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to open a secret channel to understand a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s guest is Andy Harrod @decodingstatic

Soundtrack by Ólafur Arnalds, HATR Project, Smoke Fairies, Joy Division, Soap & Skin, Lanterns on the Lake, Eels, Polly Scattergood, The National, Sigur Ros

I constantly surround myself with music and that is where my words come from. Music allows me to connect with and un-censor myself, to release and to be. Which is exactly how Living Room Stories and tearing at thoughts came to be.

AndyHarrodLiving Room Stories was an experiment, to write to music, namely Ólafur Arnalds’s Living Room Songs. I plugged into the sparse piano of Frysta and sketched a moment of waiting. From then on I danced with Ólafur’s music, which I feel is very emotive; there is a beautiful simplicity to it. Love is key to these stories; without love I fear we are nothing. Ólafur’s songs connect to my heart and on this occasion I decided to dive in, listening to each song for a few hours and with this immersion a life in seven moments was formed. One of the reasons I buy music on vinyl is that I see the packaging, the art, as an extension of the music. Living Room Stories is housed in a 7inch record sleeve, each story on its own card with accompanying image, with a transparent print for the cover. It invites the reader to play with these moments, to invent their own story.


I think of tearing at thoughts as an album. Each piece works separately, but together they layer and resonate the unspoken and the lost. This collection leaves me feeling exposed, in part due to how it was written as separate pieces. Each piece came about from entering a space, where I would immerse myself in my thoughts and feelings, whilst accompanied by music. In that space I was still, and the pieces came out uncensored and are a particular truth. Drawing together the pieces are a set of sentences, the first two were inspired by Coda by HATR Project from Heartbeat Against The Reason. A dark and gorgeous instrumental album that draws me into a place that hisses with noise.

That place of noise is lonely, where fear circles and strangles. Living with Ghosts by Smoke Fairies sums up this place (Strangled by Fear, Twilight), the echoing of slide guitar and plucked strings, the rich haunting voices of youth. Then there is the waking at four-fifty in the morning, sweating as the visuals fades, but the images plague. Dreamscapes interspace (I dreamt, Repeat till Fade) and develop through tearing at thoughts and their reconstruction occurs whilst listening to bands such as Joy Division, the hypnotism of 24 hours seals together scattered images and feelings.

There are pieces where I placed the needle on vinyl and kept repeating. Truth was formed by listening to Soap & Skin’s Lovetune for Vacuum over and over, especially Thanatos, a circling in on words to describe what is lost inside. Mist and Trees required less repeating of the music, it was instead the repeating of a lyric from I’ve Been Unkind by Lanterns on the Lake. When this lyric met a scene of trees in mist, the image of a frightened women was conjured.

EPSON scanner ImageEmpty Embrace and Rust I are those moments on an album, where I delve deep through screaming guitars, battered dreams and vibrating piano strings echoing, echoing, echoing, until I’ve spat out my disgust at the betrayals. The words at first muffled, trapped behind layers of educational, political and social shadows, till the chorus scream, and we are left alone in a pub cradling our empty drinks, the last to go home as there is still something to say. Think Eels, Polly Scattergood and The National’s High Violet and my favourite Bloodbuzz Ohio as sound-tracking that scene.

tearing at thoughts is infused with the places we tend not to explore and lingers with sadness, in the hope that by entering we may come to change ways of relating, become more authentic and less fearful; and the ending is one of hope and happiness. Where ágætis byrjun by Sigur Rós is the only song that can capture the joy of choices available in a loving relationship, but even there our choices may not be fulfilled and as such the ending is also a call to not forget myself, ourselves in our lives.

Andy Harrod is a writer, not out of a desire to tell stories, but a need to understand, to find meaning and connect with self and life. Outside of writing Andy is a trainee person-centred therapist and runs the streets of Lancaster, one day soon the fells of the Lake District. Living Room Stories was Andy’s first release; handmade and Kindle editions are available. tearing at thoughts, a collection of writing, art and photography, is to be published by 79 rat press as part of its NOTHING TO SAY exhibition, available from June 2013. Andy posts stories, photos, art and thoughts at Decoding Static. Say hello to him on Twitter @DecodingStatic.

GIVEAWAY Andy is giving away 1 handmade copy of Living Room Stories and a print of two from tearing at thoughts. To enter leave a comment or tweet the song that represents love for you. Andy will pick his favourite. If you take the tweet option, include the link to the post and the hashtag #undersound. Good luck!

26 thoughts on “The Undercover Soundtrack – Andy Harrod

  1. “That place of noise is lonely, where fear circles and strangles.” Wow, that line you wrote in your piece conjures up so many images for me. A person can be in a crowded room, full of smiles and laughter and still feel the pang of loss. The loudest voice in the room is the sound of the broken hearted even though no one else can hear it but the owner of that sadness. The relentless drumming of the mind and emotions can never be unknown by that lonely soul. My favorite song in your piece is “Living With Ghosts”. I love the driving 6/8 time and the haunting sound of the slide guitar. Thank you Andy for sharing your beautiful piece on writing and music with us.

    1. Thank you Beth for your comment. I agree with your thoughts on the lonely and broken hearted and how it fills that person’s head but is unheard by the rest of the crowded room. Living With Ghosts is a beautiful song and I think the best song Smoke Fairies have ever recorded.

      1. Thank you Andy for sharing music that resonates for you in your writing. As a musician and singer-songwriter, it is wonderful to be invited into the world of authors where music plays such an important part in their lives and their work.

        1. Thanks Beth, I don’t think I am alone when I say I am a frustrated musician playing a writer, the use of images in my work is to me the music. Music I feel is essential to life so It is always a pleasure to met a musician.

  2. Andy is one of the most thougtful and quietly brilliant writers I have “met”. His unique ability is finding a perefct phrase that distils layers of emotion into their essence. This is a fascinating insight.

        1. Andy, I’m going to attempt to rise to your challenge. So: a song that represents love.
          It changes all the time, and I can only think of the song that is my current obsession. When I’m writing I usually have a piece of music that speaks for love in the novel’s world. If I haven’t found that, I haven’t found my attachment to the story.
          With my second novel, Life Form Three, I was in thrall to Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending. It contains awakenings and eternities, landscapes and people who suddenly become significant and necessary. It also contains fragility; this all might disappear, which is one of the things I wanted to explore. But it wasn’t just a soundtrack to the book, it worked because it was a soundtrack to me. The book was what I made from it.
          I finished the novel months ago, but by chance I heard Lark again the other day. Now it’s my place of wonder again.
          Looking for the next one. It might be your Olafur.

  3. Oddly enough, the song that best represents love to me is not a modern song, but rather the piece attributed to St Francis, known as Make me a channel of your peace, which has been set to music in several places. It encompasses all the facets of love, not just the narrow romantic type.
    Lovely to read this. xx

    1. Thanks for your comment, pleased to hear you enjoyed it. I am aware of that song, though anything religious I tend to avoid from being ‘dragged’ to church and going to religious schools… But I do like your take on how it encompasses all aspects of love. I think romantic love is enhanced by the other facets of love.

      1. I know what you mean, Andy. But there’s something about music that requires respect all of its own. I was talking to a friend who plays organ in his local church. He’s not remotely religious, but he still feels a compulsion to honour the music as well as he can.

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