Vox Liminis' Distant Voices project is a fascinating musical and artistic offering

Vox Liminis' Distant Voices project is a fascinating musical and artistic offering

Admiral Fallow's front man Louis Abbott talks about the new project that collates Scotland's lesser heard stories and gives them a platform

The cogs are turning in Louis Abbott's head, as the Admiral Fallow frontman considers the dozens of sessions he's been involved in with the charity Vox Liminis. 'They're all in my head quite vividly', he says. 'If I thought about it, I'm pretty sure I could reel off all of the songs I've co-written. The characters and people just stick in your mind.'

Abbott is here to talk Not Known At This Address, the first full-length album released through Vox Liminis' Distant Voices project, a series of songwriting workshops that, as the name suggests, tap into lesser heard stories from society's fringes: the album's ten tracks are comprised of collaborations between some of Scotland's most renowned songwriters and people with first hand experience of the criminal justice system. With contributions taken from sessions dating back 18 months, the end result is fascinating, a unique musical and artistic offering. 'It's a record not just full of sad songs,' Abbott says, 'but hopeful songs.'

Having been involved with Vox Liminis since around 2016, Abbott was keen to explore the collaborative side of the project more for Not Known At This Address after the initial success of the Silent Seconds, Seen and Heardand Things Left Unsaid EPs. 'We had an idea of making a full length,' he adds,' but trying to make the cowrite aspect a bit more balanced. The first EP was songs that we took out and worked up ourselves, played on them. This one's been a lot more about identifying songs and then going back to the co-writers to strike up a conversation about developing it.'

Featuring the considerable talents of Kris Drever, C Duncan and Emma Pollock – as well as tracks by Abbott and Admiral Fallow – the record broadly explores the theme of homecoming, a conclusion that Abbott arrived at organically. 'We always go into a session jumping off from a theme, but we try and be quite abstract,' he says, pointing out a broad canvas allows for more individuality to come through. There are direct, hard hitting moments: Kris Drever's lament 'The Man I Used To Be' discusses fatherhood, Donna Maciocia's 'Never Got To Say Goodbye' is a haunting song about experiencing loss within prison walls, and Admiral Fallow's 'An Open Door' documents the positives – and negatives – of time spent in Polmont Young Offenders Institute.

'Frank's Song', performed by Rachel Sermanni, tells a different story, one of learning how to play an instrument for the first time in prison. Pronto Mama's contribution, written by the band's frontman Marc Rooney and Castle Huntly inmate Frewsie in January 2017, is one of the album's obvious highlights, a song ostensibly about the closure and and eventual demolition of the Magnum Leisure Centre in Ayrshire, but more broadly about adolescence, the loss of innocence and the paths we're led down. 'It's where he [Frewsie] hung out with all his pals when he was a young guy growing up, learning how to be an adult,' says Abbott. 'Getting up to no good, drinking, meeting girls, it's where he did all that stuff. It was a chance to go back there and revisit it.'

It's an album that explores not only the complexities of existing within the criminal justice system, but the circumstances that can lead to prison, and the difficulties of reintegrating with society afterwards. Abbott says: 'The hope is that people will hear these songs and treat them as what they are, which is quality bits of art written by people who aren't generally given a voice.'

'If you hear someone's been to prison, the chances are – whether you want to think it or not – in your head you're going to have an instant reaction of something negative, as opposed to asking "how did that happen, how are they now". We're hoping it strikes up a conversation with people who've thought of the criminal justice system in black and white terms, and not plumbed the depths of the grey areas.'

Distant Voices: Not Known At This Address will be performed at Glasgow's Saint Lukes on Fri 25 May, and at Leith Theatre as part of Hidden Door Festival on Tue 29 May.

Not Known At This Address is released on Fri 25 May.

Distant Voices: Not Known At This Address Launch

The Distant Voices project presents the launch of the album Not Known at this Address which brings together some of Scotland’s most celebrated songwriters with people who have first-hand experience of the criminal justice system.

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