The Fiction Aisle

Green Door Store, Trafalgar Arches, Brighton, Saturday, February 6

THE lush orchestration of Thomas White’s latest project belies its small beginnings on the Electric Soft Parade co-founder and Brakes guitarist’s laptop.

The Fiction Aisle grew from songs White penned while touring with Levellers in 2012 –developing through a regular Sunday afternoon social, a Frank Sinatra record and the discovery of a new guitar chord.

The result is the album Heart Map Rubric, released in November, which reveals the orchestral songwriter White always hinted at in his Electric Soft Parade albums created with his brother Alex, but made flesh with a ten-piece band.

Building from simply strummed guitar chords and White’s distinctive vocals, the songs frequently swirl into a whole new beast on mini-epics like The Colour Of Morning and Sleep Tight, replete with strings, trumpets, clarinet, jazz piano and synth chords.

“There are little signifiers where you can hear it’s us,” says White. “But I don’t like to be able to second guess a song – sometime when you’ve just heard the first verse and chorus of a song you can sing along with the second chorus.

“I don’t want it to be weird for the sake of weird – I just want to go deeper.”

Part of that exploration came early on, when White was played Sinatra’s London By Night [from the rare album Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain] by Alex, who also drums on the Fiction Aisle album.

“It was one of those situations where I realised I had written myself into a corner with how I write,” says White.

“Writing on a laptop makes it so easy to map out arrangements. If you’re using a four-track or analogue equipment it’s much easier to end up with something a little bit more serpentine.”

The major inspiration was White deciding to de-tune the high e string on his guitar.

“I discovered this odd jazzy chord I had never used before and started experimenting with going to it from other chords,” he says. “It’s all over the record – on [album opener] Blue and The Sea Rolls On Forever.

“It was one of those breakthrough things – I’ve been playing guitar for 15 years and I’ve found a new chord.”

White soon realised he would need extra musicians to create his songs. He hosted long Sunday afternoon get-togethers with the musicians around tea and vegetable curry in his Fiveways attic flat.

“It wasn’t a deliberately adroit move – the songs decided it,” he says.

“Our guitarist Louis Macgillivray was one of the first people I played the songs to. He immediately wanted to get involved.”

Other key members of the band were bassist Jordan Duggie, and pianist Alan Grice.

“Alan put down some beautiful piano on the record,” says White. “I said ‘There’s no sheet music so do whatever you want’. He has jazz chops which I don’t have.

“It’s really heartening to see people in the band who have never really played in a group before. They started really nervous, but they are now really taking ownership of the songs as their baby.”

As for the future White hopes to keep exploring – releasing more albums rather than heading out on long expensive tours.

“I’m resolutely old school,” he says. “I want to keep making music like it used to be made. The album came out and the tracks are now on the radio. As the band starts to get known we will get out on tour – but you have got to get to a certain level to make money. If you’re bubbling under it can be prohibitively expensive. We’re still at a stage where we take gigs as and when they come.”

He is already working on The Fiction Aisle album number two.

“Some of the songs are very different,” he says. “There’s a lot more repetition and simple chord changes. It’s quite minimalist and heavier in places. It’s quite electronic too, which is a left turn.

“This band has got to reflect how all over the shop I am in terms of what I listen to and what I want to play. I would like the group to evolve on each record quite radically.

“It’s really exciting – when I started this I thought it would just be me sat in my bedroom as usual, but it has turned into something completely different.”

*The Fiction Aisle play Brighton Noise Day Three alongside Clowwns, Soft Walls, Lutine, Inwards, Mind Reading Space Lazers, The Mooncups, Brain Queen, Kosmos 954 and Drill Folly.

Doors 2pm, tickets £5.50. Visit