Lydia Jenkin talks to Dave Baxter about the struggles behind the new Avalanche City album.

The Avalanche City Instagram page paints an enviable picture - cute pets, interesting instruments, domestic delights, and attractive vistas. Visiting Dave Baxter's home and studio, it's evident that good taste carries through beyond the digital world.

It's by no means grandiose, just a neat and tidy home reflecting two artfully talented people who enjoy the crafts of bygone eras.

Even his home studio - which is dubbed The Treehouse, as the wee nook sits up some stairs and has a window looking into a tree - is pretty, despite being stripped-back and small. It contains a few curiosities: a hammered dulcimer, a couple of vintage amps, a suitcase kick drum, and a small selection of guitars.

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"I'm a bit of a hoarder I guess," he says with a laugh. "I like collecting, and I have family members looking out for them at garage sales and auctions. It's just a nice way to add extra textures to songs. And I like playing with all the variants you have with a physical instrument - where you put it, and where you put the mic."

But despite this seemingly rather ideal set-up, the second Avalanche City album did not come easy. The beautifully tasteful Instagram page unsurprisingly doesn't point to the many creative frustrations and doubts of the last four years.

"It's more about the mind game this time round. I think with the first album, I wasn't on a label, I didn't have any fans, it was just 'this is a project I'm going to do for me', and it was fun. But now, I'm thinking, 'okay, people are going to listen to this album', and that's the mind game right there, because if you're trying to write songs with those thoughts running round in your brain, that's the worst place to write from."

His main issue was harnessing that original openness once more.

"I think the tendency when you know that people are going to listen to your music, is to de-personalise it. And as soon as you start to do that, things can sound a bit false. I remember a year or so back, I was on the couch listening to my proposed new album, and it just didn't sound quite right, and I ended scrapping pretty much all of the songs."

Dave Baxter aka Avalanche City.
Dave Baxter aka Avalanche City.

Baxter became an expert in "killing his darlings", with some songs re-recorded two or three times, and others axed completely.

"I can be quite brutal," he laughs, "but that's why it was great to have my own space, and to work on my own. Because if you have an engineer or producer or whole bunch of other people involved, it would be really hard to keep asking them to re-record things, after three times."

He did get a few friends to come and play drums or horns or piano, but Baxter's key collaborator this time was Chris Walla - best known as the former guitarist and songwriter for beloved American indie band Death Cab For Cutie.

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"I was a massive Death Cab fan when I was a kid, and when I asked, 'If I could get anyone in the world to mix my stuff, who would that be?' it was him.

"I just love the way he approaches music. Plenty of people can clean things up and make them sound beautiful, but he just gets inside the music, and he's got no ego. So when he agreed it was a no-brainer really."

The result is an album that will be familiar and welcome to any fans of Our New Life Above Ground, but with more space and texture, a more cinematic feel, and a touch more melancholy. The first single, Inside Out (which has jumped into the top 20 singles chart), was actually written last, and is about a friend's wrestle with heartbreak.

"I definitely don't think I could put a song that intense about my own relationship out there," he laughs (Baxter is happily married).

"But it still wasn't an easy song to write, it was pretty raw."

"I feel like I'm the spitting image of a tortured artist sometimes," he chuckles. "Every aspect of a song gets agonised over until it's released to the world. I'm forever adjusting lyrics and second-guessing myself."

But he loves it. Whether or not any of the songs on this album emulate the success of Love Love Love, which won him the 2011 Silver Scroll Award, and garnered international interest and various ad syncs, Baxter will be happy to just keep writing.

"Doing music full-time has been my only dream, basically. I don't want superstardom. I'm not complaining but I don't actively enjoy people whispering about me in the next aisle at the supermarket, so that's never an aim.

"Really I just want to be able to write music and play shows, and hope that people like my music."


Who: Dave Baxter aka Avalanche City
What: Second album We Are For The Wild Places, out Friday.
Where and when: Tour dates to be announced soon

- TimeOut