Tunng Presents…DEAD CLUB
Death was a subject that had long fascinated Tunng’s Sam Genders; a preoccupation not born out of the macabre so much as a curiosity about the fundamental purpose of existence — but also a hesitancy he had noticed around others’ grief; a wish to be supportive in the right way, to say the right thing in the face of loss.
He read a great deal on the subject: Brandy Schillace’s Death’s Summer Coat, Megan Devine’s It’s OK That You’re Not OK, the American surgeon Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Around the time of Tunng’s sixth album, 2018’s Songs You Make at Night, Genders found Max Porter’s novel Grief is a Thing with Feathers, and was struck by its power. Its viscerality and rawness and rage. Its beauty and love and connection. He passed Porter’s book around his band members.
“And somehow we ended up talking about it, and it became an idea,” he says. “We thought maybe we could make this into a project.” “And it is a project,” says the band’s Mike Lindsay. “It’s not even just a record, it’s a discussion, it’s a podcast series, it’s poetry, it’s short stories, it’s an examination.”
For months the six band members — Genders, Lindsay, Jacobs, Ashley Bates, Phil Winter, Martin Smith — discussed the subject at length. That they are a such a sizeable band, diverse in opinion and perspective, proved helpful: “When all those things come together that’s what makes it Tunng,” says Genders. “And because the subject of death is so powerful for people in different ways, we talked about the kinds of issues it might bring up, that we might need to be sensitive about.” When it then came to actually writing and recording, the process proved startlingly easy. “Because we’d engaged with the subject for so long that it kind of came effortlessly,” he says.
It is an extraordinary record. Contemplative, intimate, celebratory. It includes collaborations with Max Porter, who wrote two new pieces for the album. It draws on the research the band conducted — nods to the Wari people of Brazil who eat their dead, discussions of consciousness and memory, Genders’s visit to a death cafe in Sheffield, and the Swedish art of Death Cleaning. It touches on personal loss, and fear, and humour and sorrow and love.