“I suddenly thought, ‘What’s happened in my life that I’m in a room in Liverpool with a Beatle!'" The making of Exploring Birdsong's Dancing In The Face Of Danger

Exploring Birdsong
(Image credit: Will Norbury)

Back in 2023 Exploring Birdsong vocalist Lynsey Ward and drummer Matt Harrison brought Prog up to speed with their new EP Dancing In The Face Of Danger and revealed what it was really like working with Sir Paul McCartney on one of the tracks.

Exploring Birdsong are about to release their much-anticipated second EP, Dancing In The Face Of Danger, when Prog catches up with them. It follows on from 2019’s acclaimed The Thing With Feathers, building on old foundations with new sounds. Though reminiscent of the young trio’s first extended player, the latest collection demonstrates clear progression.

“Our first record was very true to the line-up but this one has a lot more meat on the bone,” says singer Lynsey Ward. “If you look at the record as a whole, it’s pop prog, but we’ve also included our heaviest song to date.” 

The blend of alt-pop and experimental sound on Dancing… places a strong focus on melody, something the band always try to do, as drummer Matt Harrison explains: “If the melodies aren’t strong enough, we won’t go ahead with an idea. However, each song has a different starting point, whether it’s the melody, a riff, or a keys part. This gives them their own little flavour.”

The record’s unique sound is drawn from a great melting pot. For both Harrison and Ward, these inspirations have ties in childhood. 

“My mum and my dad were into music but never took it beyond passive interest,” Harrison states. “Nickelback were the first band I saw live, they were a huge gateway band for me. From there it was AC/DC, Metallica and Iron Maiden but also 2000s’ American hip hop.”

Ward’s own influences span a 40- to 50-year period. 

“My taste comes from a lot of disparate angles,” she explains. “R&B, [Paramore’s] Hayley Williams – I don’t think there’s any female vocalist in rock of my generation not influenced by Williams. I’ve always been around music. My parents bonded over a mutual love of prog rock, so I’m very much a child of that.” 

Exploring Birdsong

(Image credit: Long Branch Records)

Harrison and Ward met at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts while studying songwriting and soon established themselves as a duo. Birdsong’s third bandmember, classical composer Jonny Knight, joined the fold later on. 

“Jonny plays about every instrument in the world and is excellent at classical composition,” Harrison praises. 

Dancing In The Face Of Danger was very much a collaboration between all three bandmembers, in contrast to The Thing With Feathers

“With the first EP, most of the songs were written by me and Lyns at uni,” says Harrison. “With this record, Jonny had a big chunk of our last track already written. It’s changed since the early demo but most of the ideas were Jonny’s.” 

In contrast the EP’s first single, Ever The Optimist, was concocted while Harrison and Ward were still at university. In their third year, the duo were selected to attend a one-to-one songwriting session with Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, LIPA’s founder. 

“I was totally beside myself because I’m a massive Beatles fan,” Ward admits. “I could never have anticipated it happening because I didn’t go to university as a songwriter. It was weird having an opportunity like that only three years after taking songwriting seriously.”

Harrison agrees. Although not really being a Beatles fan himself, the reality of the situation didn’t immediately hit him. 

“I suddenly thought, ‘What’s happened in my life that I’m in a room in Liverpool with a Beatle and my best mate?’ I thought he might be different because he’s a megastar, turn up in a gold suit, but he was there in normal clothes.”

It wasn’t so much a co-write, but the chance for Sir Paul to listen to the duo’s music and make suggestions. But finding the right song wasn’t easy. 

“For our songwriting module, we wrote pop music,” says Ward. “We didn’t submit any Birdsong material until our final year. We thought about taking in a pop song but in the end we chose a song we knew was going to be for Birdsong. Sir Paul listened and sang our music back to us. It was a weird, fever dream scenario.” 

In the space of just a few years, Exploring Birdsong have established themselves as a band to watch out for in the prog sphere. It’s been four years since their debut EP, but the trio have proved their mettle despite the challenges faced along the way. 

“The pandemic really put the brakes on,” says Ward. “It was a blessing in disguise in terms of how the record is now versus what it might have been had we not had the time to sit with the music. We ended up carving out a fresh take of what we wanted the sound to be.”

Colourful, layered and experimental, the new tracks seek to share a message. Closer No Longer We Lie is about climate change and global warming, in a metaphorical sense at least. The messages evident in each song are tied together in the EP’s title, Dancing In The Face Of Danger

“For me, there are two meanings,” Harrison considers. “Someone could be dancing in the face of danger, being ignorant and blasé, when the consequences of their actions could be catastrophic. Someone could also be dancing in the face of danger in a very bleak, dark time, but they are trying to be a beacon of hope.” 

 “We haven’t done a concept record this time,” Ward joins, “so there’s the opportunity to see the title in every song. I don’t think that’s ever crossed my mind. I’ll now listen to the record differently and hope our listeners also take the opportunity to do that.”

Exploring Birdsong

(Image credit: Will Norbury)

With its experimental sounds, Dancing In The Face Of Danger tells a compelling tale. 

“Ultimately, you can take from it what you will,” says Ward. “There’s nothing imposed on you by us. I want people to feel a sense of progression and to think of one record leading onto the next.”

Harrison agrees.: “I don’t think we’ll ever reach a point where we’ve found our defining sound. It’s important that when people listen to our music, they find whatever they want to. Music is unifying but also completely individual. What fascinates me is that the melody, harmony and framework of a song will give you a feeling regardless of the words.”

Music can express joy and suffering (and also heal the latter), as well as help listeners escape what it means to be human. As Ward observes: “Everybody finds themselves in what they listen to. It sounds morbid, but what really unites people, no matter who you are, is suffering. The power in music that I find so compelling is unification.”

She continues thoughtfully, “Throughout history, as far back as you can go with music, people used it to tell stories. We can immortalise moments that we never imagined being part of through music and stories from thousands of years ago.”

For Exploring Birdsong, who’ve been booked to play at Manchester’s Radar Festival in July, their story is really only just beginning. 

“I’m really excited for people to react to the campaign for this record,” says Ward. “I’m proud of our work and if people liked what they heard before they will really like what they’re about to hear.”

“It’s important,” Harrison adds, “to lose a little bit of the clinical, strategically minded thinking. It’s been a turbulent few years and for us to be able to enjoy putting this out means a lot. The next stage is underway, we’re already writing, but it’s important this time round to enjoy the process.” 

Francesca Tyer

Francesca Tyer is a young adult fantasy author and founder of the Untold Stories Academy which offers creative writing workshops for children/adults and mentoring/editorial advice

for new and established writers. She also works as a freelance editor, content writer and English tutor. Francesca attended Royal Holloway University where she earned a BA in

English Literature. She began freelancing shortly after graduating and her debut novel was published six months later. Francesca lives in Wiltshire and when she isn’t working, enjoys

reading, walking, baking, playing violin and listening to a variety of music.