Back in 2014, Ross Gordon slyly convinced guitarist Finlay Urquhart and drummer Fraser Allan to show up to a jam session. Both parties were separately convinced that the other was already on board to be in the band. “I managed to trick everybody to join the band,” quips Gordon of his band-assembling trickery. “They showed up and were like ‘none of us agreed to this,’ and I was like ‘well, here we go.’”
By 2015, Cold Years was complete with Gordon, along with Urquhart, Allan, and bassist Louis Craighead, and moving fast, releasing their 2015 debut Mile Marker, followed by 2016’s Death Chasers and Northern Blue in 2018. Another album was already in the works in 2018, when they decided to scrap it and rewrite Paradise (Inside Job/eOne).
To call the band’s hometown of Aberdeen, Scotland paradise would be a misnomer, so calling the album Paradise was a somewhat blatant sarcastic move, admits Gordon.
“It’s an isolated bubble of a place and it’s grey and its cold, and its got this gigantic oil monster of an industry that backs it up,” says Gordon. “At the time I wrote it there were bad things going on in my life, so a lot of the songs talk about breaking out of something. Paradise is not being in a job that took my life away, not having poisonous relationships and bad friendships, or being stuck somewhere you can’t get out of.”
He adds, “That’s why it’s such a play on words because this place is still my home, but I don’t have to love it, and I don’t want to stay here anymore.”
Introspectively, Paradise explores life changes—including Gordon’s own divorce—as well as death and the impervious need to leave Granite City behind, yet it cuts deeper into narratives on the socio-political issues in the UK and the rest of the world, and the challenges facing this generation.
Bursting open on What are we here for? Maybe we got lost along the way, “31” steers straight into Gordon’s world, written when he turned 31 and was going through a divorce while his sister was starting her new life in marriage. “The first verse talks about my sister getting married and how she’s always been there for me, and then it goes into this big electric thing where it’s just me going out getting drunk all the time,” says Gordon. “That song is the only song on the album that really gets me, not upset, but punches me in the stomach every time—like holy shit my life was a total mess.”
Since then, life has improved drastically, Gordon says, but Paradise is still reflective of this period, and of current times, addressing Brexit, immigration, and even the effects of the pandemic. “There’s a feeling of isolation in some of these songs,” says Gordon. “I feel like it’s more applicable now than ever.”
Recorded at The Ranch in Southhampton with producer Neil Kennedy, Paradise was predominantly written between 2018 and 2019. “It’s a time frame from when I got divorced a few years ago all the way up through 2019,” says Gordon. “We were still writing up until a month before we recorded, so a lot of it covers 2019 as a whole.”
Brought up on punk, Gordon wanted to infuse more into Paradise, maneuvering through simplistic power chords with some reflections of the band’s earlier sound, pressing into the album’s anthemic chapters, from “Life with a View,” exploring some of the current generational tolls with Gordon growling Slam on the breaks / Take the pills that you wanna take / Burn the candle, burn both ends / See the stars, make new friends, through “Northern Blues” and the world they want to someday leave behind.
“I was finally admitting that I don’t want to be in this part of the world anymore,” says Gordon of the track and its Aberdeen references. “It’s always going to be home, I have friends and family here, but it’s time to move on.”
Mile Marker ballad “The Waits” is given a proper fleshing out with piano and a more expansive swell before the 1-2-3-4 power punk fuse of “Burn the House Down”—what Gordon calls the “screw you” song—while “Too Far Gone” addresses some of the uncertainty of the future and holds this momentum through the punchier “62 (My Generation’s Falling Apart),” a track based on the percentage of individuals in Scotland who voted to be in the EU.
”We called it that because that song is a direct attach at our government and a direct attack at all the people who voted for Brexit and put our country in this situation,” says Gordon of the album’s second numerical track. “To me, a lot of that campaign was built on racism and backward thinking. I don’t want to know anyone who shares that opinion.”
Although Scotland doesn’t have the same gun or police issues as the U.S., Gordon still sees some similitude with the Black Lives Matters protests and the recent campaigning within the UK. “All these white guys are getting angry at Dolly Parton, because she supports BLM,” he says, adding that there’s also a certain level a hatred surrounding campaigns in the UK. “Everything they did around Brexit just bred through hatred and lies around immigration, so for me anybody that voted for that I have no respect for,” says Gordon. “And I don’t care how many people that pisses off.”
Paradise closes on a softer, acoustic-led “Hunter,” written about Gordon’s dog, which he had to put to sleep three years ago. “That song is about losing your best friend and what happened to me in that situation,” says Gordon. ”When I was recording the song live, everyone in the control room was crying. The thing is, people always talk about losing people but never about dogs. To me, he was a person. They’re people and most of the time they’re better than people.”
Genuinely rooted in a sound they were always meant to create, Paradise reveals a different band from six years earlier. “I learned not to be scared about what I was writing about,” he says. “When you first start out with a band you want to sound like everybody you grew up with or listened to, or your contemporaries. It took us three records to find out sound and think with this one I think we found it.”
Gordon adds, “I had nothing to lose. I already lost all the things I thought I could lose, so this record was the first time where I wasn’t scared to say anything I wanted to say. I also wasn’t scared to push the boundary and get the band to sound how we felt we should sound instead of a repeat of anything we did before.”
Cold Years will always have Paradise, but they’ve already moved ahead and are already piecing together another album. In all its perplexities and personal woes Paradise isn’t solely centered around lost hope. It’s more a rallying cry for change, resistance, and pursuance of something better.
“I hope they accept the vulnerability with open arms,” says Gordon of the album’s resonance. “As an artist you have to release everything inside of you and it doesn’t matter if it hurts people or makes them feel bad.”