From the depths of a bedroom in Rushden, Northamptonshire, George Hammond creates catchy, avant-garde art rap, influenced heavily by the likes of early 2000’s power electronics. We sat down with him not long after the release of his second EP Pain.
Who are you and what’s Nailbreaker’s deal?
I’m George, I’m a 21 year old musician. I’ve been making music under the name Nailbreaker since late 2018, mostly a mix of punk, rap, industrial and noise with some other influences thrown in. So far I’ve put out two EPs, a few singles and a megamix, done a few remixes and was gigging a lot until COVID happened. Since then I’ve been sat in my bedroom with a broken laptop trying to make disgusting noise rap.
Describe what it’s like living in Rushden/Northamptonshire in general.
Rushden isn’t that interesting. It’s a bit rough and got rougher during COVID. I live just off the high street and it’s been a bit run-down after the shopping centre by the lakes opened up. The lakes are nice and there are a few good parks but the town’s so small you get used to it quick. Other than that there’s not a lot going on other than crime and a couple of pubs. Northampton is a bigger town so there’s a lot more to it. It’s cleaner, little more upmarket, still generally working class. It’s got a good DIY music scene with a lot of great bands and rappers and the town centre has a lot more stuff to do than Rushden does. Rushden’s where I feel most comfortable though, I know it better than anywhere else.
What was the first ever concert you went to?
I think it was Jack White at O2 Academy Birmingham in 2012. Always been a really big White Stripes fan and Jack White was an early influence for how I approach music. It was a fucking sick gig and blew my mind as a 12 year old. The support act was this guy called Willy Moon and he was dogshit, but everything else was great.
How did you get involved in producing electronic music yourself?
I got into producing myself purely out of necessity. My old band Acolytes had gotten a bit inactive and a couple of the members were off to uni so I needed a way to still gig and make music without other people. Our bassist, Bewlay, had been making his own music under the name Dylon Dean and was making the beats for it on Garageband on his phone, so I took inspiration from what he was doing and figured out how to record my own stuff on Garageband myself. I had no experience of production or beat-making or mixing or anything before then which is why the first two NLBRKR singles sound so lo-fi, so you can hear me gradually figuring out how to produce if you go through my discography chronologically. I eventually started making beats on my laptop but still with a pretty minimal setup, and sometimes I do still make some of my beats on my phone. It doesn’t really matter to me how I make the tunes, as long as I have some way of making them.
You were recently featured on an Anthony Fantano live stream, what was going through your head as he listened to it & gave you advice?
It was a bit surreal, I’ve been watching Fantano’s reviews since 2015 and whether I always agree with him or not I respect his opinions because they’re generally quite well thought-out and nuanced. I knew as soon as it came up there would be a lot of “Bri’ish Death Grips” comments in the livestream. But it didn’t bother me considering Fantano’s fan we base will call anything from Show Me The Body to JPEGMAFIA “Death Grips”. I like Death Grips anyway so I don’t care. I was glad that Anthony seemed to like the track overall and he was very constructive in his feedback, and I had a lot of people reach out after to say they’d discovered my music through the stream and they really liked what I was doing. It’s always good when someone with that big a following gives small artists a platform and I’m happy that loads of people who would’ve never heard of me found out what I was doing because of Anthony giving it his thoughts.
Describe a typical Nailbreaker live show.
Very physical. Confrontational. Probably not very COVID-friendly. Personally I use playing live as a way to get out any negative emotions I’ve got that I otherwise don’t know how to express. It’s not really a performance “for” other people if that makes sense, it’s something I do for my own peace of mind. That’s why I play with the same level of intensity whether the venue is packed or completely empty. I can be quite violent with myself and tend to take up most of the room instead of playing just onstage but that’s not something I put any thought into, I just lose myself in the music and let my primal instincts take over. Not being able to play live admittedly hasn’t been great for me mentally because a lot of feelings I would purge in my gigs which I haven’t been able so when shows come back I’ll definitely be more at peace.
What are some of your favourite power electronics artists?
Deathpile, Prurient, Genocide Organ, Dreamcrusher, Pharmakon, Knifedoutofexistence, Whitehouse and Hunting Lodge. This is also the first time I’ve been asked about my taste in power electronics in an interview and I hope it’s not the last.
Often, artists from the P.E genre tend to tackle transgressive and taboo subjects, often far more to the extreme than say metal or punk sub genres. What inspires you to write about the themes in your songs?
I guess similar to my approach to live shows it’s really just purging the feelings I have that I don’t know how else to express. The reason the themes of depression, suicide, anti-capitalist politics or just taking the piss out of stuff come up is because those are whatever I’m feeling or thinking about at the time of writing. It’s not always doom n’ gloom, sometimes I’ll have lyrics that I write just to make myself laugh. Whatever I write though is always authentic to whatever I’m going through at the time.
When the pandemic becomes more manageable/comes to an end, what do you hope to achieve musically and personally?
Musically I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing pandemic or not. A lot of people say shit like “music’s the only thing I know how to do” and it always comes off cheesy but music is for real the only thing I know how to do. While I can’t gig right now, the pandemic isn’t stopping me from recording so I’ve got EP3 and a full-length mixtape on the go at the minute, as well as demoing new material for Sharkteeth Grinder (the mathcore band I play guitar in).
Personally, I’m trying to improve my health – physical and mental – and I’m gonna keep working on that. My knees are fucked from throwing myself around at gigs all 2019, the kneecaps float and pop out of place constantly, so I’ve been working on getting some strength and stability back and hopefully they’ll be in much better shape before gigs are back how they used to be.
Do you still believe that Nailbreaker was a mistake?
It depends. When it comes to my knees, head, hearing, back and bank account then yes, a terrible mistake. It gives me something to do though.
Tell us the story behind the closing track Nailbreaker Vs Nailbreaker.
I made the beat in late 2019 intending to use it for a different release which I never finished. I ended up coming to not like it as much so it got put on the shelf for a while. I listened to it again as I was recording Pain and I remembered what I liked about it in the first place so I decided to stick it on the EP. Lyrically, it’s about allowing self-destructive tendencies to get in the way of your own progression, how we sometimes use pain as a motivator and source of inspiration yet have to constantly navigate how we deal with pain so it doesn’t consume our existence. The vocal sample at the track comes from an Instagram story Lewis from the band BLOOD-VISIONS uploaded a couple of Halloweens ago where he was walking home drunk in corpse paint upset about how nobody in Northampton would accept him for what he truly is, a black metal guy in 2019. The video’s since become legendary and I’ve had the audio saved on my laptop for a while looking for an excuse to honour it, I’m glad I finally got to shoehorn it in. Lewis was happy to be included too.
What’s the response been like to Pain so far?
Actually better than I expected. I didn’t expect it to be universally hated obviously but I’ve had a lot of people tell me how much they love it and that it’s my best work yet so the support has been sick. I’m always surprised when BBC Introducing plays my shit anyway so it was cool to see them get behind it too. I am really grateful to everyone who’s given any of my music my time – as I’ve said I make music solely for myself so the fact that anyone else gets anything out of it is humbling. Because the music comes from a very dark place it seems like it’s resonated with a lot of people. Obviously we all had a shit 2020 and I think most peoples’ mental health had gone to shit by the end of the year, and I’ve had a number of people tell me the EP reflected the state of mind they were in or reflects what living in 2021 feels like or whatever. This music exists to help me cope, anyone else getting anything out of it is a bonus.
John Myrtle creates the kind of music that is infectiously catchy. Through home recordings he’s developed a style that both draws from the past whilst being simultaneously fresh, warm and welcoming. Upon the first listen of his music you soon realise that the melody is each songs core, and these melodies are sure to be swimming around your head for days. He released his debut EP Here’s John Myrtle in 2019 and now has returned with his latest singles “How Can You Tell If You Love Her?” and “Get Her Off My Mind”, both cuts from upcoming debut album Myrtle Soup. Exploring themes of longing and loneliness, the album is packaged like a tin of soup to bring some home comfort. We spoke to John to learn about the new album, his songwriting process and what he’s looking forward to in the days to come.
Over where and what time was this album written and recorded?
Part of it was written in London and the other part of it was written in Birmingham where i’m from originally. I feel like some of the songs which were written back at home are more reflective. I mean the ones in London are more just pop songs haha.
You used the album to document the last year or so within isolation. What were some of the themes you were trying to explore within that?
I think I wanted to have an album that would document it more so in the process and ways in which it didn’t talk about the pandemic. So there’s a song on there called “Spider On The Wall” in which I assume the identity of a spider. So I talk about being at home with this spider, seeing everything you do and the spiders just as repulsed by humans as humans are by spiders. So I guess it was more looking at observations from home in that way rather than just being sad about being locked in. Although there’s one called “Ballad Of The Rain” which is essentially about someone who’s isolated in their house and all they can do is look outside, and they think of a tune which the rain has created haha. There are a few instrumentals which have quite weird noises like bubble sounds which is supposed to be someone making a bowl of soup. It’s all home spun and the home spun nature of it has been amplified by the fact that everyone including myself has just been indoors.
Is that why you chose the name ‘Myrtle Soup’ for the album?
I guess so, I thought it fit quite nicely! And I thought it was quite funny to call it Myrtle Soup. It’s homely, everyone likes soup. I think.
What made you sing within these characters rather than have them be from a personal perspective?
Even the love songs are me assuming a character in a way. I try and be personal but I always end up imaging different situations. Writing as someone else or thinking of different situations which you might not have experienced yourself gives you creative freedom to do whatever you want. If you’re just writing from your own experiences then there comes a point where you go “Yeah but that didn’t happen to me” or “That place doesn’t really exist so I feel like a fraud, I can’t actually write this” so you stop. So pushing yourself out there to try different identities just helps you write songs.
A theme that appears in some of your songwriting, especially older tracks is love and feeling uncertain about it. Why is that something you tend to write about?
I love pop music, older pop music mainly. And I like love songs, I think that’s what i’ve always been drawn to the most because I like trying to relate my own experiences to those songs. But I always feel that songs that are so sure about love aren’t reflective of how people actually feel. Everyone likes to write their own film for themselves with their own feelings and their own story and I feel it’s good to question that or at least acknowledge that in some songs. There’s a song on the album actually on the album that talks about actors playing parts within love.
What were some of those songs that inspired this sound?
I like a lot of 80’s and 90’s indie bands. I really like The La’s, with “There She Goes”, but I guess they’re not normally like that focused on love. The Servants, Shack, I just like all that British rubbish. I like the Kinks and The Beatles. When I was just starting out to record my own music I went to do “How Can You Tell If You Love Her?” and I had the song and I thought “Well everyone goes into a studio right?”. So I booked to record at a studio and it just sounded awful and I just felt like theres a better way of doing it. So I realised that with Ween, a band I really like, a lot of their early albums are just recorded on tape and as stupid as it sounds I never really knew you could record things on tape on your own. So I started researching different recording methods you could do at home. So now i’m described as “a 60’s guy” but its just tape! Sometimes I do want to sound like 60’s people but not all the time.
Do you think discovering that ability to record at home unlocked more freedom within your songwriting?
Yeah with going to a studio there’s usually other people there, and I always behave differently with other people and I feel the way you interact with them is gonna have an impact on what you’re recording. Whether it’s your performance and you feel a bit self-conscious about singing. Whereas if you’re on your own you can just do stupid stuff. You can probably sound really bad to eventually get really good, just let your hair down. In the long run it’s also probably cheaper. I think as well everyone does record from home to a certain extent but it’s the use of tape that people are put off with. Especially some label people they just think it sounded so old. You either sound like a computer or you sound like tape. I’m just ranting now haha, but it’s like if you’re a painter and everyone’s saying “Everyone’s using MS Paint now, why are you using paintbrushes?”.
Another part of your sound is having a juxtaposition between the upbeat feel of a song and the downbeat mood of the lyrics. Do you sometimes try and hide the lyrics behind this sound?
Yeah usually I will get the tune first and the lyrics come next. I struggle to write lyrics so the tune and sound of a song will come first a lot of the time.
The video for “How Can You Tell If You Love Her?” has you singing back in your hometown, what was your reason for going back there to film it?
Lockdown haha! But also recently i’ve also embraced things other than boring London. It’s nice that i’m from a different place and I thought people haven’t seen Bourneville in a music video!
Without shows at the moment what’s it been like releasing this music not having them to back it up?
It’s sad. It’s a lot of just having plans for the future. Thinking “Maybe in a few months we’ll book a tour” but it until it actually happens it feels very much like pipe dreams. Which is the same as doing music anyway, having people listen to it is a bit of a pipe dream anyway so it’s just that amplified.
What do you think that first show back will be like?
I hope it sounds good! I think everyone’s gonna be going crazy, glasses thrown everywhere!
What’s something else you’re looking forward to doing once everything’s a bit freer?
There’s a pool club that I play pool in with my girlfriend and we’re obsessed with playing pool! I’m awful but this place is cheap and quite lowkey so we thought we’d get a members card, which just means you don’t pay for entry when you go in. It’s not some sort of exclusive club though haha. It’s really fun and i’ve really missed it. I’ve also really gotten into snooker during lockdown and there’s something comforting about having it on the screen with all the colours. So playing it will be next.
What are your hopes for the album and beyond?
Well I hope it puts smiles on faces! It’s only supposed to sooth and please. I just want to keep making good happy music with maybe a bit of sadness and a bit of weirdness thrown in. I just want to keep writing songs, I just enjoy the craft of songwriting and it’s really fun to learn more about it and to keep going and hopefully other people will come on the journey with me.
Myrtle Soup is released digitally on June 18th and on vinyl on September 17th via Sad Club Records, pre-order here.
Like soaking your head in a warm bath of water, the Belgian group are well crafted in the art of abrasive immersion. Formed from the ashes of various hardcore projects, Slow Crush formed in 2017. Since then, they have toured with well admired scenes across the world such as Gouge Away, Torche, Tennis System and had their first EP Ease distributed by US based label Deathswish Records. We caught up with vocalist and guitarist Isa Holiday about their ventures at home during the start of the COVID 19 Pandemic.
You had so much planned 12 months ago, what have you been up to in the meantime?
Slept! Haha, we had such a big schedule for 2020. We had just gotten back from a US tour, when we sort of heard the news creeping in about the pandemic potentially ruining plans to tour Italy, which was the next stop. So we were watching the news, and seeing all of the countries slowly on our tour schedule just sort of disappear. It was like, “Okay, maybe it’s best to just stay home”. Plans for recording also needed to be rescheduled because wherever we wanted to go initially, that just wouldn’t have been able to happen. Eventually we found that the perfect fit and finally, we were able to do that in January. So yeah, we were just using our time productively to work on that while being stuck at home.
Logistically, how did you manage to come up with ideas for recording whilst everyone was initially apart from each other?
With the whole introduction of zoom as well as WhatsApp message groups and everything like that it gave us the opportunity to share ideas over the internet. I think the pandemic did cause people to get a lot more creative or, or just think about how you can go about things differently, because stuff still needs to be done. You can’t just sit at home, although the government would want you to.
Are there any ideas that you’ve sat on for a while?
We have tonnes of ideas that don’t all come into fruition to make it onto an album. It just depends on the creativity flow, right. Being stuck at home can work in both ways in that respect, because it could spur a lot of inspiration, but then it can also be very restricting if you’re only seeing the same four walls over and over.
What was your favourite tour of your career thus far?
They’re all so much fun and they’re all very different! I think all of the tours have had something memorable about all of them. Just because crazy shit goes on all the time that you can’t predict. But I think that one tour that I really enjoyed a lot was the Soft Kill tour. That was towards the end of last year as well. The whole tour crew were really fun. Their merch guy like he and I, we would just be dancing every night and we promised ourselves before heading out on tour that we would do cartwheels every night, but we never got around to it. They got me on stage to play bass on one of their songs for half of the tour. So it was just really fun. But like I said, every tour is fun. Especially now you look back when you can’t do it. And yeah, it’s just amazing to get to know all of these people, like all of people from from the other bands that you’re talking with, and then just being in different places and learning or seeing things that you wouldn’t see on this side of the world.
It’s interesting that you bring up Soft Kill as they are essentially a group of hardcore kids that ended up making heavy dreampop. Do you feel like there are similarities with how you started Slow Crush?
The style that we’re playing is sort of a kind of lighter version of what we sort of grew up listening to and what we grew up playing. But then again, we do incorporate some little hints to hardcore now and then.
What was the first shoegaze band you ever saw live?
I saw Nothing and Newmoon together in 2016. Hardcore and shoegaze go well together because its all organised chaos! I think Nothing actually ended up renting our van at some point as well. Around that time we had just kind of quit our doom metal band and we were considering continuing in that style, but with me on vocals. So then, I started like listening to a lot of Pity Sex. And like bands like Mumrunner, and Jaguar. I got the inspiration for my vocal sound and range sort of fits well with their style of singing. They all have that shoegazey sound although Pity Sex were a little bit more punky or raw I suppose. That’s that is the inspiration that led to the beginning of Slow Crush.
What other music do you listen to besides shoegaze?
I haven’t personally sort of looked out for new music for a while, just because I’ve just been so busy with with, like, the day to day work and everything else. So I suck. But, um, but something that that I have discovered recently is Cassandra Jenkins. It’s very kind of soft, easy going stuff. I’ve also been going back to old hardcore like In My Eyes whenever I go for a run, which hasn’t been for a while. I know that when I used to drive into work, I would put on Carry On. And that would get me pumped to like, start the day and this is something relatively new, I suppose. But the Curse These Metal Hands song “High Spirits” is very motivational song.
Tell me about the recent indoor live stream show you performed earlier this year?
The Ancienne Belgique is one of the most renowned venues in Belgium. I have been to numerous concerts there. I think even my first concert that I went to without parents was there, which I think was Green Day. It’s like a huge hall with balconies as well, which is quite intimidating if you’re standing there to an empty room. I imagine it’s more intimidating when there are 1000s of people there! I’m kind of glad that that was my first experience on that stage to an empty hall. It’s a dream to be able to play there. It was also the same venue that we played the last show of the Soft Kill tour in but we played a smaller room. I haven’t seen any images yet, but they are prepping everything right now and just editing everything together.
What is the most personal song you have ever written?
From Aurora the title track is quite meaningful to me. It was written about a friend who was having a hard time with a breakup and everything like that, so it’s kind of my tribute to her. That’s pretty close to my heart. “Tremble” is another good one. It is our protest song, being a voice for the voiceless. Whether it’s animal rights or any other injustice that the government throws at us.
If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?
It would be great if all venues shared the same hospitality as one another. I’m not being a dick, but you should at least offer a drink to a touring band regardless of how big they are. After the pandemic ends it would also be great to see more government support for the music industry and the arts in general. Don’t get me started on Brexit either. It’s made it so much more difficult for touring bands to come to the UK and vice versa unless you’re huge. In Belgium we just received the news yesterday that the biggest festival in the country is not going to take place this year. Everything is just postponed to next year. They’re still debating whether the late summer festivals can take place. If any festival booked, the bill is going to be local bands, because travelling is just going to be almost impossible until the vaccinations spread like wildfire.
Slow Crush’s AB Session will be streaming on April 24th, tickets available here.
Juan Wauters is a man of the people. He travelled the length and breadth of South America in search of sounds for his 2019 album La Onda De Juan Pablo, incorporating street musicians he passed by. And on his new album, Real Life Situations, he’s enlisted a plethora of musical friends to create his most vibrant album to date, with the sound ranging from the hip-hop tinged “Unity” with Cola Boyy to the electronic infused “Monsoon” with Homeshake. Intertwined throughout it all is Wauters joyous personality, weaving every shifting moment together into a storybook of life, or as he likes to call it, “the JPW sound system”.
It seems even more important these days that he’s releasing an album that celebrates these friendships when most of our connections to friends have been impeded. Although Real Life Situations was completed during 2020 it’s very much not a lockdown album, but rather a reminder of those sunny days with good company. We spoke to Juan to learn how this album came about, the influences behind these newfound sounds and what, for him, a real life situation is.
Over what time and whereabouts was the album recorded?
I started making the album when I finished touring in December 2019. The idea was to work on the album up until March 2020, which is when I had been scheduled to continue touring. The first idea of this album was to include my friends in the songwriting process. I had an album before in which I included instrumentalists from different countries around the world, so this time I said “Let’s bring in people to do the songwriting with me”. And because of the nature of the idea of the album it was going to include some travelling to go and meet these people. I recorded in London, Toronto, LA, Oxnard in California, one in Mexico City and then in Europe.
When March came around and travelling stopped for most people, did that shape some of the album as well?
Yes definitely! Everything came to a stall and in late February and early March which is when we were in the middle of the process of making the album. We had planned to continue recording with more friends but it was right when the pandemic happened. For me I felt like it was such an impact for people, I lost ambition in a way. We had been so used to be able to project things for the future that seemed stable. You know you could project a year ahead and it seemed fine, everything was gonna be the same. Whereas when this happened I was like “Oh shit, what’s gonna happen?”. So I put everything aside for March, April and into the beginning of May, I didn’t touch anything to do with music. I was feeling very disconnected from my source of inspiration.
In New York as well the civil rights movement was happening and it felt in a way that this is not a time to do something personal, this is a time to be connected to the world in other ways. So I put everything aside and when I came back to the project everything had a new meaning, things had changed so drastically from before so I had to find a way for them to work within a concept. Then I started recording new things at home because I couldn’t go to the studios. I rearranged everything with new material and although a lot of the things in the album were conceived pre-covid, the album as a whole was conceived with a different mindset. The process was a very particular one as I had to deal with life at the time as well.
You can hear that with some of the samples that intertwine that nicely.
I wanted to bring that onto the album as well. Some voices to paint some kind of landscape to describe a feeling.
Yeah you can definitely hear that. I wanted to ask about some of the collaborations. One of which being “Real” with Mac DeMarco, when did you first meet him and how did the collaboration come together?
Mac and I met in 2013 in New York. At the time he was living there and we were both working under the same record label (Captured Tracks) and we had been scheduled by them to get together and work on a song back then. We got together and started working on music at his place but the machine we used for recording broke so that material got lost. But then our friendship became about something else, we hit it off that day and we became friendly. We went on a lot of tours together and we had a lot of time that we would just hang out. A lot of times there would be music intertwined in the hang out, but a lot of times it would be just a straight up hang out. So when it came time to do this album I wanted to include mostly friends because I have a history with them. It’s not just two people that know each other getting together. And so I definitely thought it would be a good idea to invite Mac who I really like as a person, but also as a songwriter.
So I asked him and right away he said “Yeah let’s do it!”. I really like the song that we made because as much as myself as much my music and my persona shows through the song, his also comes across equally as well. It’s definitely not a Mac DeMarco heavily influenced song let’s say. Just as much as all the other collaborations I did, they’re very well balanced.
Is that balance something you were aiming for when working with these other artists?
Yeah definitely, I think that’s the point of them. I didn’t wanna have a Mac DeMarco song on my album haha. That would have been a completely different approach. But if he invites me to sing a song on his album and he says “Hey I have this song written already, do you want to sing on this verse? But this song is already finished”. I would say “Yeah of course let’s do it” but that’s a different experience, we started from zero. We got together and went from zero to one hundred and there wasn’t anything pre-made.
As well you mentioned your other collaboration album, La Onda De Juan Pablo. Did making that album open up your willingness to collaborate with other people?
Yes definitely, that was the first time that I had other musicians play on my album really. Up to that point i’m the kind of person that developed through home recordings. I have a studio at my house and I would record my albums by myself, playing and arranging everything all by myself. At some point I grew up and I saw the world and I saw people. Like “Oh shit, look at this person right here, they play really well!”. Then I imagined what a song of mine would sound like with that person, I started thinking about those things. Then I started saying “Okay let’s see how it sounds with these street musicians playing my songs on my albums”. I was definitely very happy with the final product then, and it opened up so much that I thought “You know what, It’s cool to have people play my songs, but why don’t I write songs together with other people?”.
It has to do with how in other genres or music styles singers come on each others songs all the time, on rap for example. So I was thinking “Wow it would be really cool if we did that amongst ourselves, why don’t we do it?”. I’m a big Queen fan and I really liked it when they brought David Bowie on for “Under Pressure”. I always thought that’s a great song and within that, as much as the song we made with Mac, David Bowie comes off really like David Bowie and Queen come off as Queen. They both preserve their element within the song. So I thought it would be a good idea to test that and see what happens when we do that. Then as I said Covid hit and I had to reimagine the album, but the initial idea behind this album was to do an album with all these singers and songwriters that I know.
Within all the collaborations there’s a lot of different styles going on. Were there any particular influences you had for these as it varies from electronic to hip-hop?
I grew up in New York and the most popular music there is hip-hop, so we’ve always had it very present in our lives. You go to a party and that’s what you listen to. You go around in a car and somebody puts the radio on, that’s what you listen to. We are all very much aware of what happens in that world. I happened to gravitate towards the guitar as a kid, but that had always been present in my life. So what happened is that when I got together with these other people it gave me the freedom to think “You know what, this isn’t a Juan Wauters song. This is a song we’re making together and in this space I can do whatever I want, I’m gonna let loose”. We let loose and this type of thing came of, but nothing was really planned like that. Like we didn’t plan to make a hip-hop song lets say, we didn’t go with that mentality. But from letting go and exploring and trying to see what would happen, then that came about.
The song “Unity” with Cola Boyy, i’ve known Matthew for more than 10 years, and we’re both hip-hop heads, we both like that style and we both know that we like to fuck around with that style. Like if we go to a party and somebody starts freestyling, then we start freestyling too. He laughs. So naturally when we both got together we gravitated towards that, because we both love that and neither of us had done anything like that on our own music space and we found a safe space to do it in. By finding that middle ground, he was not in his safe environment, I was not in my safe environment. So from just starting to mess around with things then these songs came about, but it was not planned prior.
From listening to the album it just sounds like a very fun album, was it a fun album to make?
Yeah definitely, we definitely had a kick haha.
One thing I wanted to ask about your songwriting, some songs are in Spanish and some are in English, is there a pre- determined feeling of what language they should be going into the song, or does it just come naturally?
It comes to me naturally, Spanish is my native tongue but i’m familiarised with English to a point in which it comes to me naturally. In my songwriting i’m very much affected by the environment. If i’m writing songs in England surrounded by English people then I will sing in English because I would want to communicate with my surroundings. For example with the song with Cola Boyy, we express our ideas to each other in English so naturally we would write a song in English. There are other songs on the album that are in Spanish, but for those particular songs I happened to be writing songs with Spanish speaking friends of mine. Or I was in a Spanish speaking time of my life. We switch back and forth between the languages but our brain doesn’t pick up on that, it’s just natural to me. But the surroundings and the moment affect the language that I use.
The album title “Real Life Situations”, what does this mean or represent to you?
I was listening to a lot of the Outkast’s early discography during the lockdown. I knew the songs but I reconnected with it a lot then and there’s a song on their Aquemini album that has a really long title, “Spottieottiedopaliscious”. And there’s a part of that song when Big Boy talks and he says “Funny how shit come together sometimes (ya dig), One moment you frequent the booty clubs and the next four years, You and somebody’s daughter rising y’all own young’n” meaning you had a baby with the person you met at the booty club. And then he says “Now that’s a beautiful thang, that’s if you’re on top of your game, And man enough to handle real life situations (that is)”. And I don’t know why but that phrase really caught up with me and it made a mark on me. I really like how he explained that moment, from just goofing around at a booty club, just saying hello to people you could end up having sex with someone and then having a baby. Then all of a sudden this babies in your life and how do you take care of that? I really like how he used that “Real Life Situations” phrase.
At the beginning I wanted to have the whole quote on the cover of the album and make the “Real Life Situations” bold. Maybe it had to do with the life we were living at the same time. Also real life situations, when I met with all these people to make the songs with, those were definitely real life situations. You know we would get together and say “Let’s make a song together now out of nowhere, let’s go!”. And that moment was definitely stamped on the album. And all the songs were like different moments, they were different situations and that collection of all those different situations made the album. So I wanted to tint the album with some sense of reality. Like this is real, this is not make believe, this is actually real life happening in front of your eyes. You know I think everybody’s music is like that in a way, but as I keep going in my music career I put down the guard more and more so i’m closer to the listener and i’m closer to the core of myself.
Do you think it’s about having those interactions with people as well?
Yes in many different ways.
Going onto an interaction we can’t have at the moment, what’s it like at the moment without being able to play shows around it?
It’s quite strange. In a way it’s a new experience, as you said in this album I go into genres that I hadn’t gone into before and when I was making the album I was wondering “How the fuck am I gonna play this live?” he laughs. What am I gonna do this show live? Up to that point I had mainly just made my shows me and a guitar. So in a way it’s a relief because if I make a new album now I can think of music in a way separately from a live show, whereas before I hadn’t been able to conceive that. I do miss the live show, I miss going around and being in contact with people. That’s something I really like about a show, the back and forth between the audience and the performer. But at the same time it gives me the opportunity to think of music in a different way from the live show and the way that I had conceived it up until then. It feels strange, but I try and think of it as a different moment only, neither worse nor better, just different.
Just adapting to the situation.
Yeah I mean we definitely don’t have control over it, you know, us personally.
Do you have an livestreams planned instead?
Not really yet, we might plan something later but I haven’t yet thought of that. Maybe what I could do when the album comes out now that you ask me, we could have a live listen. So I go live and we listen the album together with everyone, singing along. I could bring in the other people from the album and sing along with me just for fun. But I haven’t thought about doing concerts really, it seems quite strange to me to do a concert in a room on my own with a phone. I don’t connect with it. But as you said we’re adapting to this whole new thing so maybe I will do it. I haven’t really played together with the other musicians since we made it. I haven’t played my songs with a bass player or a drummer but that I would really like for the fun of it. Just get together and work on some songs and see how they sound, see what happens.
Yeah that would be really nice.
Real Life Situations is out May 31st via Captured Tracks. Pre-order here.
Joy Guerilla is the musical brainchild of LA based duo Adam Grab and Magna Daniec. They released their sophomore album The Park Is Closed last Friday, an album that takes simple melodies and phrases and turns them into sonic landscapes that are bursting with life. It’s the follow up and almost sister album to 2018’s Skyline and takes a look at the darker side of the West Coast of America that they mapped out on their debut in both tone and inspiration. One of the immediate reactions you get to listening to their music, beside the instinctive feeling to groove to it, is just how tightly composed and structured every moment is without losing that free-flowing nature that makes jazz so beautiful. We caught up with the duo to learn a bit more about their process, inspirations and what makes their sound so vibrant.
How did the group form? What’s your story?
We met up in the Bay Area of CA. Mags was actually Adam’s piano teacher for a short time, but we soon realised that we had a lot of musical interests and goals in common, especially 70’s fusion, Euro prog rock, and vintage analog keyboards. We soon started playing music and writing together, and it’s been constant since then.
How would you describe your sound?
We’re sure we could come up with something esoteric and lofty here, but at heart we both know it could best be described as jazz fusion, with influences from anything that grooves, really. One of our fans from Japan describes it as “a blend of the city and the country,” and we suppose we’re happy with that.
What do you draw inspiration from for the sound and movements within the songs?
The music we most admire (both stylistically and recording-quality-wise) would be the “high-fi” era of the mid/late-70s, when analog recording was really at its peak. As such, a lot of our sound choices most often come from that era, plus the collection of analog instruments we’ve slowly acquired over the years. In terms of direct sonic influences – probably Dexter Wansel and Larry Carlton for arrangement sensibility; Michael Boddicker, George Duke, and Cecil & Margouleff for synth sound design; Herbie for phrasing and tone. The movements within our songs are ultimately because we fully understand the limitations of instrumental music, especially in the current rapid consumption streaming environment. We personally are not fans of indulgent, overly “jammy” music, and instrumental music with solos can trend in that direction at times. We like tight arrangements and transitions that keep you engaged in the musical narrative. It keeps us interested in creating it, and hopefully the listener in listening.
What was the story that you are trying to tell within the album?
When we were writing and recording our last album “Skyline,” we were trying to put together an album that portrayed life on the West coast as best we could. We ended up, more so by happenstance, deciding on a tracklist with a brighter, more “daylight” feel. However, we still had a body of songs we knew had potential, yet tonally just didn’t fit. Inadvertently we had essentially left out the songs that evoked the darker side of the picture, both literally and emotionally. We knew that we couldn’t leave that half of the story unaccounted for, and decided this time to focus on that.
We always have a picture of the songs development and sequencing, so we start with recording the bass and drums directly to tape. This helps them sound really locked-in, and also makes sure that it still retains the human feel of being played live in as few takes as possible. We then do a lot of tinkering with the guitar, percussion and keyboard overdubbing, and we’ve learned to be okay with simply losing stuff that doesn’t fit. Since we use a lot of analog synths, we sometimes spend hours tweaking patches until we feel it fits the song. Overall, the process is somewhat pre-determined, but it also will evolve and take form as elements are added. It may not be the most time-efficient method, but we’ve gotten our work-flow pretty dialled in now.
Over what time period was this album created?
As mentioned above, many of these songs were started at the same time as “Skyline” was being written and recorded, and others were much more recent (“Sowa” and “The Park Is Closed” specifically). It would be safe to say that between writing, recording, overdubbing, editing and mixing, it took us about 2 years to really get it to where we felt it could be called finished.
You worked with a lot of musicians to bring this album together. What did they all bring to the project?
Tim Aristil on drums and Elijah Zhang on guitar have been invaluable and they are in no small part responsible for the sound of the group. They are willing to listen to our suggestions but aren’t afraid to assert their own musical tastes to the songs. They both think like producers and musicians, which is really the best kind of person to work with. Les Lovitt, John Grab (Adam’s dad), and Doug Webb have been doing session work in Los Angeles since the 70’s, and it’s hard to replicate the sound of a horn section that has really grown together and knows how to self-balance. Doug Webb’s sax solos truly blew us away when we were recording, and he had nearly no heads up on the song or the changes. We were really excited to have Mike Maher from Snarky Puppy on “Earthsuit,” and his melodic ear and placement really helped bring the middle section of the song to life. We also owe a lot to our compatriot Julian Nicholson, who not only helped us mix this, but brought his own creative ear to the sound design and balance of the songs. A multi-talented technician.
Who are some of your biggest influences for the sound of this album?
Herbie for the sound of this album and really all the music we do. Roger Nichols sense of space and clarity not only with the mixing but also the arrangement and instrumentation itself. It’s hard to top the staying power of P-Funk horn lines, they always fit so perfectly and stick in your head. We always use that as our high-water mark when writing melodies.
If you could be a support act for any artist who would it be and why?
Probably Drake or Taylor Swift or something, just to see how the audience would react. Sounds like fun.
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
When we lived in Brooklyn, we managed to see D’Angelo twice in one year, right after Black Messiah came out. Possibly the tightest band ever. It’s a sobering experience when a concert is insanely good yet also slaps you in the face by showing you how much work you have to do.
Favourite show you’ve played?
We actually own an old short bus that we outfitted with solar panels, which charge batteries and allow us to power a full band set-up anywhere we can set up and park. The idea was to have a mobile busking machine, since when we started we did a lot of busking and have always had a love for it. In 2016 we went on a little DIY tour out to TX during SXSW, and we would use the bus busking to fund our gas and food expenses along the way. One night, we were out in Austin and were set up on the sidewalk, busking from the bus power, when a group of cops started flashing their sirens and pulling up to shut us down (something we had become pretty used to). All of the sudden, seemingly if sent by some birthday-party-guardian-angel, a procession of 10 or so costumed characters marched up and started vigorously dancing to our music. Sonic the Hedgehog, Ninja Turtles, Sponge Bob, Super Mario, Bugs Bunny – the whole gang was there. Fairly certain Sponge Bob even did the worm, a difficult feat with that boxy frame. Not only was this hilarious, but it did buy us another 10 minutes of playing time, as the cops seemed unwilling to break up this dance party of cultural heroes. Don’t think that will be topped for awhile.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
Reave are the new synth-pop trio you need on your radar. With influences ranging from some of the contemporary greats to classic artists, they hone in their sound with familiarity whilst simultaneously being immediately captivating. Made up of Brandon Darby, Rory Ward & Enya Philips, based in Manchester and London, together they join to make the type of music that just makes you want to get up and boogie as soon as it comes on, whilst concurrently being heartbreaking at their core. Backed by glistening beats and swaying synths, lead singer Enya’s dreamy vocals wash through and shine out of every mix, evoking similar stylings to that of Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser. They released “One More Night” back in January, the band’s fifth single and are already planning for what’s next. We spoke to the band to get the lowdown on what they’re all about.
What drew each you to music and how did you get into it?
Brandon – I grew up in a very music loving family, my parents had been going to gigs all their lives and were also into the early 90s house/rave scene, going to the hacienda etc. So I think that has had probably brought me towards music. Apart from that it’s just a type of creating that attracted me.
Rory – I listened to the Smiths a lot when I was younger and I was fascinated by the melodies of Johnny Marr, since then I had to learn every Smiths song.
Enya – I grew up in a very musical family, I watched all my siblings perform and make music growing up. They taught me everything I know and I’ve got them to thank for being able to do anything music related. My parents were in a band together and threw us into pretty much every musical class when we were younger! So I think the familiarity drew me into it, it’s all I’ve ever known and is kind of a safe space for me.
How did the band form?
It started out as a project to create synth music and we eventually saw the potential of having a female vocalist over the music. Once we met Enya and we tried a few ideas, REAVE was formed.
How would you describe your sound?
We try invoke a certain danceable and evocative energy into our music and nostalgic sounds, if that’s even possible. Electric but soft and moody. A Concoction of multiple influences but rooted in the synth-pop music and soundtracks of the 1980’s (without being too cliche 80’s) but with quirky and modern sounding lyrics/vocals. Make of that what you will, haha.
What’s the creative process behind a song?
When we’ve developed an instrumental, Enya has a go at the melody and lyrics from the feelings/vibe she gets from the track. When we’ve decided on something, the vocals are recorded and anything else that fits the track with the new vocal (like new guitar parts) are added before mixing. We spend a lot of time perfecting the sounds but the idea for the track can come really quickly and after that it’s sort of a blur how each song comes to fruition.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Enya – There are way too many to list but to name a few: Tame impala, Euthrymics, Grimes, Talking Heads, Happy Monday, The human league, New order, Yazoo, Modern talking, GL, Sylvan Esso, Methyl ethyl, Porches, Harvey Causon, Robyn, Jack Garratt, James Blake, Franc Moody, Duo Mundi
Rory – The Smiths, Gorillaz, Pixies
Brandon – Its ever changing and there’s always new ones im picking up on but to name a few: Bowie, Beach House, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, Johnny Jewel, Vangelis, Julee Cruise, Pure X, Michel Berger, Sharon Van Etten, Pink Floyd, Future Islands, Austra, Brian Wilson, Arthur Russell, P. Cowley, John Maus, Moroder, MBV, Ride, Erik Satie, Tamaryn, Wire, Black Marble etc. Mostly dark, melancholic music with gothic undertones
If you could be support act for any artists who would it be and why?
Brandon – Beach House would be insane because I feel like the vibes could compliment each other nicely, even though we are different. The lights and effects at their gigs are so cool too, would love to play while being engulfed in blue mist.
Rory – MGMT because it’ll be a good show.
Enya – Tame impala because they are such an inspiration. Almost wouldn’t feel worthy to support them hahaha.
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
Brandon – Hard to choose one – my top three are Beach House, John Maus & Tamaryn
Rory – The Cure
Enya – James Blake but Jack Garratt / Franc moody are a close second.
Favourite show you’ve played?
We unfortunately haven’t had the privilege yet, although individually we have all played live as solo or with bands before.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
Well it’ll be our first gig as REAVE so it’ll be a great experience we reckon.
Any future musical plans after the new single?
Release more singles, an album & play shows eventually. We can’t wait to get together and have a jam in person.
Where would you like to be in a years time musically?
Brandon – Be in the middle of nowhere in a studio recording new tracks
Rory – I would like to own a grand piano!
Enya – Playing and making music together!! In the flesh!!
If people want to find out more about you where should they go?
Hailing from South London, a part of the Windmill Brixton generation, a venue that has been the catalyst for so many big names of modern indie such as Shame, Sorry and Tiña. Goat Girl have spent the last few years establishing themselves as one of the most talked about and exciting post-punk, indie and every other label they can be put under bands. Their debut album Goat Girl was nominated for the Mercury Prize back in 2018, a sign of true artistic brilliance in itself.
This Friday they release their long anticipated sophomore album On All Fours. An album that focuses on the tribulations of the modern day, from climate change to racism in the media to entitled men. But whilst the album takes on the world, the band gives you an insight to their own world through an unbridled amount of intimacy of personal stories of struggles with mental health and the emotive weight that isolation can have on someone. Without knowing it Goat Girl created one of the most 2020 albums possible before the year had really began.
Their sound has also evolved to take on a more smooth, jazzy and vibrantly expansive feel. Synthesisers at their helm, there’s a new found collaborative and groove fuelled tint to the bands sound, whilst still retaining that signature flair of moodiness. Thanks in part to new bassist Holly Hole who introduced the band to her Minilogue synth and to Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey, the synth wizard himself, who let the band take residence inside his lair of bubbling and explosive synthesisers. We spoke to the band to give us the lowdown on the ingredients that they brewed together to make their mystifying second album.
What does the title ‘On All Fours’ mean or represent? L.E.D: It means a lot of things…and it can mean anything you like. But to me, there’s a strong connotation of animalism. It explores the way in which we’re humans, and therefore disparate from the natural world, and on the other hand, we are also so undeniably a part of the natural world – for all of its beauty, glory and gore.
Opener “Pest” is about the casual racism that is used within the media as well as the “powers that be” controlling our lives on a daily basis. Were there any particular moments that inspired this song?
L.E.D: Lottie wrote that song when she read a headline that labelled a storm the ‘beast from the east’. It’s about the propaganda that we in the west are fed, in order for us to believe that environmental issues are a ‘foriegn’ thing, with foreign roots, rather than addressing the fact that the west has a lot to answer for in terms of the climate crisis, as well as humanitarian struggles.
One theme that is consistent throughout the album is self worth and finding ways to deal with issues of mental health and anxieties. What’s the importance to you about talking openly about your mental health in songs?
L.E.D: For ‘tough’ topics like mental health to be buried, sensored and avoided only makes things worse. Everyone struggles, because we are human, but if only we shared our struggles, rather than burying it, and never asking for help, we might be able to heal a bit better from trauma, stress, depression, you name it. I think one of the best things that we can do for others and ourselves is to talk openly about how we feel because through communication comes understanding, empathy, and love. People love helping each other, and you’re never alone, but we have to be reminded of this!
In the writing process for “Jazz ( In The Supermarket” you all switched instruments and for “A-Men” the theme is about coming out of your comfort zone. In doing this do you feel it unlocked part of your creativity as a band and songwriters that you wouldn’t have otherwise?
L.E.D: Definitely. I think we all became a bit complacent with our usual instruments – feeling like we didn’t know how to play anything that sounded fresh and exciting, so having a break from the usual instruments and switching round definitely helped get that fresh feeling, as well as get excited again about our original instruments.
What was it like working with Dan Carey as producer? And what did he help bring to the album?
L.E.D: He bought so much! We worked closely with him doing pre-production; using his MPC drum machine which was programmed in time, and included some time changes within some songs. This made it feel more natural for rosy to drum along to (rather than a metronome), and therefore made the album sit in a more electronic world than our first album, without too much sonic rigidity. Dan’s studio is like a dream come true – a world of tangled wires, synths, drum machines, amazing vintage guitars and boutique amps just waiting for you to mess around with and find stuff you like. There’s very much a sense of exploration rather than domination with Dan’s production style. He’s happy to suggest things (and he’s usually right), but he allows everyone to make their own choices with moulding the live sound they want to capture.
The album features a lot more synthesisers than your debut, what was it about these sounds that drew you towards them?
L.E.D: When Holly joined the band, she introduced us to the minilogue synth (Kylie). This was like an exciting new toy to us guitar heads that were used to having our heads in our pedal boards, amps, and midi keyboards. Rosy is a hidden gem when it comes to keys as well. The interludes on the first album were based around piano songs that Rosy wrote. We all love electronic music, and our home demos often sit more in the electronic world because we’re using Logic to record them, so it was natural for this to shine through in the album. Lottie uses synths loads in her own music too. I (Ellie) got a Yamaha CS Reface which is a really great first synth for a guitarist because there’s no presets, so it’s more like using a pedal board in a way, and experimenting with the knobs til you find something you like. I used to think you have to have this in-depth technical electronic knowledge to play synth, but that’s just not the case.
The vocals in “Jazz ( In The Supermarket)” were inspired by Bulgarian folk choir, what other inspirations did you have for the sound of this album?
I (ellie) was particularly inspired by the current UK jazz scene in my guitar playing. I got bored of the standard indie guitar chords. There’s so much great stuff out there at the moment – from Alfa Mist, Demae, Ego Ella May, Yazmin Lacey, to name a few. There’s also a big cross over of jazz in india right now, which is one of my favourite sounds – that kind of loungey/ psych soul, with bands like Crumb, Sault, Holy Hive, and Alice Pheobe-Lou, and KerenDun. Then there’s a load of electronic stuff that I was influenced by like Steve Spacek, Shigeto, Sneaks, keyah/blu and Channel Tres; I see these artists as exerting a kind of dark euphoria, with a gothic undertones, which I relate to and seek to craft myself.
How as a band do you draw together to get each others unique influence to create such a vibrant sound?
We just jam it out. Jam sandwich
The Windmill in Brixton has played an important part in becoming who you are as a band today. What does this venue mean to you and as part of the independent scene as a whole?
L.E.D: I’d say it’s our musical home, for sure. We were kind of born there (as a band) if you like, and spent our formative years there. There’s a certain atmosphere with The Windmill that makes you feel welcome and able to be yourself and express yourself freely. This is something that I’ve seldom found elsewhere in London venues.
In the modern technological age the ability to create music within the comfort of your own bedroom has never been easier. Anika Ostendorf aka Hachiku could be rightly crowned as the ultimate bedroom music maker. Venturing from continent to continent, recording when and wherever she could, her resources may have been limited but the craftsmanship she puts into her music has always been enticing and vibrant. Releasing her self-titled debut EP as the bandleader of Hachiku in 2017, she has gone on to tour with the likes of Kevin Morby, Snail Mail & Courtney Barnett as well as numerous headline shows throughout the world. Now she has blessed us all with debut album I’ll Probably Be Asleep. Packed full of intoxicating melodies, swaying guitar riffs and groove filled beats, it’s not only a testament to Ostendorf’s musical ability but also a showcase for what can be done within the boundaries of a bedroom. We sat down with Anika to learn all about how the album came to be.
Your Bandcamp bio says that you “record in whatever bedroom you are currently occupying”. Where and over what time was this album recorded?
It was the last 3 and a half years. I started recording in mid 2016, then finished recording mid 2019. I’m not usually someone that has the money or resources to book out a studio, so everything’s just home recorded wherever I could set up my laptop and plug in some instruments. So it was made in quite broken up sections, here or there. I was doing some farm work in Queensland for my Australian visa when I started with the first demos and I only had a tiny midi keyboard on me. Then I did some in my bedroom here in Melbourne. Some recordings were done in Germany at my parents house. It was just a lot of broken up sessions, like at friends house recording bass, or my other friends uni studio where she was able to record drums for free, or cheap, it was more out of necessity.
Do you think having those limited resources made you to be more creative with what you had?
Yeah I think so, either it would go one way or the other. You either get frustrated and discouraged, which seems to happen to a lot of people before they start recording because they think you need to have a lot of money to go into a studio or buy expensive equipment. Whereas all the equipment that I used on my album combined was probably worth the same as going into the studio for one day, but obviously computers are a bit expensive though. On my microphone set up that i’ve got here I used the best budget condenser microphone, best budget drum microphones where if a purist audio engineer listened to it then they would probably be able to tell that it’s not top of the range. But you end up improvising a lot, for example I only have two input channels on my computer interface, so because of that I can’t record a drum kit with more than two microphones. So rather than recording a whole drum kit in one go I have to record the snare, then the hi-hat, then the kick drum and afterwards pile it all together. Which I think is what kept me from recording full band set ups for a while, it was just recording everything on top of everything else. I think as well moving around quite a bit, and always being in share houses, where for most of the time that I was making the album I didn’t really have a studio space, it was just my bedroom that I’m sharing with my girlfriend. I wouldn’t have space to really buy fancy big stuff, I didn’t even have a guitar amp so I had to borrow that. I only have some Casio keyboards as it’s not worth buying some expensive synths as I don’t have anywhere to put them. You rely a lot on people just lending you a hand with equipment or space.
Because you have to construct these songs from the ground up, where do you usually start? Will it be a melody first or a beat?
I think it really depends on each song. I’m not one who writes a song first and then records and produces it. The production side and the sounds that I want to go for all that comes first and then I slowly piece together; What do I want the song to be about? How do I want it to be structured? I think the starting point is just something that sticks, whether it’s a beat, or a guitar melody or even just a certain sound that I’ve found on the keyboard and put through some pedals. Something that sticks enough in my mind that I think it’s worth building a song idea around.
Saying that you managed to record with the band, is it just the title track that they appear on?
I think we actually ended up doing two songs, but “I’ll Probably Be Asleep” is the one that you can probably tell as there’s a proper drum kit. It was all recorded in separate locations as well. Georgia came to my house to do her guitar parts, I went to Jessie’s to do her bass parts. For Sam’s drum parts we went to my friends uni studio where we could use microphones to record that. I think it was probably done that way as that song and “You’ll Probably Think This Song Is About You” were the only ones that we had played together as a band before on stage. So I was missing the energy that they brought to the title track in particular. Once we’d played it as a band everything was lifted and it’s really hard to go back to hearing it without. I think in hindsight if we had played all 8 songs on the album as a band together then it would probably have given everything a bit more of a lift. But it is what is.
Yeah definitely, I think just having you play the songs can sometimes keep them true to what they would have been as your song
I wanted to ask about some of the themes of the album. One that I picked up in particular was the idea of stability, is that something you feel you have now?
Yeah definitely, I think stability in the sense of going from quite a restless mindset and always being on the hunt for new experiences and wanting to move around a lot too. Settling down maybe a bit, both mentally and physically to sticking in one place for a while and not always needing to change my surroundings and environment so much. I think for me one main theme was the mindset that comes with moving around a lot is always hectic and you’re always on edge. The world needs to be explored compared to the reality of it, which is sticking to one dream. Which might be your music career and just concentrate on that, not getting too distracted with other things.
The song “Bridging Visa B” is about the Australian visa process if i’m correct?
Yeah i’m now on permanent visa, but at the time of writing those songs I had just applied for a partner visa. And as a part of that, whilst you’re waiting for a permanent visa you get put onto a Bridging Visa. The Bridging Visa A is the default one and B is the one you need to apply for every time you leave the country. So if you leave on a Bridging Visa A you won’t be able to come back. So the songs about the whole baeacuracy of what that visa process and how it’s all over the place. In the end I paid about $9000 just to do every single one of those steps. A lot of the frustration that comes with visa authorities asking quite intrusive questions of “What’s your relationship?”, “How valid is it?”, “How will we judge it?”. And in a broader picture just how Australia as a place I feel don’t really want too many foreigners on their shores, and in particular not too many people that don’t fit their boxes of who they think is suitable. Their refugee policies are just outrageous and non-existent, and if i’m already struggling as a white person from Germany that probably ticks many of their boxes, it’s outrageous to think if you’re not part of that demographic how hard it must be to get a visa or even asylum.
Your frustration with that certainly comes across in the song. One of the other things I picked up the album and I saw it in another interview, somebody said you sound quite angry on the album. Is that something you felt when you were writing the songs?
Yeah when I first played my friend some songs she said “Why are you so angry? Why do you hate all your friends?”, I said “What do you mean?”. To me you get a lot of that retrospective analysis very much after you’ve written it all. I’m glad I finished the whole songwriting process a year and a half ago because from then to now, actually talking about these songs and figuring out what they’re about you get a bit more of a clearer perspective. When you write songs you process certain emotions and some of them would have been quite angry and frustrated with others like the Visa people or climate change deniers or friends that you’re asking “Why are you living your life like that?” but you’d never talk to them like that. You’d just be like here’s what I want to say about it, but i’m not a very confrontational person and I think a lot of that fake confrontation can be done via a song so you don’t have to address it in person too much. It’s definitely in it.
With the anger of the lyrics they’re almost contrasted with the dreaminess of the sound. Is that almost dream-pop sound something you strive for, or is that just what your sound goes to?
Yeah I think that’s almost related to me creating the music side first and then coming to the lyrics. I think the sound does come across that way though sometimes as the title track does have quite aggressive guitars and the lyrics are quite aggressive. But musically i’m always drawn to very atmospheric, ethereal ambient sounds. Whereas lyrically sticking in that sort of dreamy world would make everything a bit wishy-washy, but when it comes to songwriting my mind wants to be a bit more direct, saying it how it is. But in music terms I really like things to be quite ambiguous and floaty.
And do you have any inspiration from other artists for that sound?
I really love Beach House and how they’ve been able to create their own world with the drum machines and multiplied sound layers that altogether create this massive world, where it’s really high-quality. But as well the quantity of sounds is just so vast where in one song there might like 40 different instruments come in. I really liked the last few Perfume Genius albums as well. I think anyone that’s just able to create their own sonic world where you could just hear an instrumental version of the songs and you’d straight away be able to tell who that is. Often bands are defined by the singers voice but I quite like the idea of the music speaking for itself.
Yeah I definitely heard the Beach House influence especially with some of the drum sounds you used as well. Were you trying to strive for that sound?
I feel that in my dream world that Beach House is the perfect music but then you never want to end up replicating them and sound exactly like them, because then there’d be nothing novel about it. Even when i’m heavily inspired by something or someone I try not to replicate it too much, as I would just end up getting frustrated trying to replicate it too much as it just wouldn’t be possible for me. But i’m like “Oh this will do” because it’s just my own style, like this drum beat inspired by this or that and I wouldn’t want anyone to be like “oh you’re just ripping off this other band”. Whereas I like to take elements from different inspirations here and there and combine them so that in the end you can’t say that i’m just copying someone. I might be heavily inspired from copying 5 different artists with no association that then mixed together create something different.
Yeah I could hear that definitely, your sound has a lot more grunge elements within it as well. You can hear the influence but it makes your sound stand out.
Yeah and I think i’m not serious or mysterious enough. I like quite a lot of humorous elements in music where there might be fake birds whistling or some trains blowing their horns. I do think “Is this a bit childish to do?” but then I just think “Ah whatever it’s my music I can do what I want” haha.
I think having that aspect to it makes it more pure then sometimes.
Releasing an album normally you’d have shows to back it up, obviously this year hasn’t been able to bring those, have you played any shows yet for the album?
No not at all, not yet! Melbourne compared to the UK and Europe have been quite lucky. We had a very intense 4 month lockdown where you could only leave the house for essentials for most of it and you couldn’t have anyone in your house at all. But after the 4 months we’ve now managed to get 0 cases in Melbourne for around 45 days so life’s gone back to a bit more of a normality, so we’re planning an Australian release tour for March, hoping that it will happen. Sydney in the last few days has gotten a lot more cases again and so I’m not sure yet. Our first show as a band (was) on the 3rd of January, just a regional small show. It’s been weird but also quite relaxing as most of the time after you finish the recordings you stress about how will the rehearsals go, how will we translate it to a live setting, so I haven’t had to stress about that yet. I was hoping to come back to Europe, maybe Germany in May, but I’m not sure how quickly the borders and everything will re-open again.
Yeah I hope you can come back and play some shows! How have you found doing the live-streamed performances rather than actual shows?
It’s kind of a weird scenario, we’ve done a few and I was talking to my drummer about it and he said “I’ve realised I actually hate everything about music apart from playing shows”. It’s a lot of setting up for very little in return, other than there’s someone out there that you can’t see that’s enjoying it. But you don’t get to read the miniscreen of comments floating in as it’s happening, and then it finishes and you’re left wondering “Okay what just happened?” We’re still in the same room, almost like nothing happened. It’s a bit of a love/ hate relationship. It’s great that in this digital age you can still connect your fans and friends and family and whoever wants to see it. My parents in Germany, anytime there’s a stream on YouTube or Instagram they say “Oh it’s so nice that we can be there with you!”. And really distant family friends in the US or anywhere. It’s really nice to be able to have that footage to share to them, it connects them to you. Even sometimes if i play a show somewhere they might not be able to make as they’re a bit older and haven’t been to a show in ages, so having that content is really nice. But I also have to create the content which means setting up in my bedroom and pretend that it’s fun playing to myself like one really long extended rehearsal. But I can’t complain, it’s all part of it.
One thing i’ve seen from lots of artists, given how weird the world is, everyone’s had to have been a bit more creative. The “Bridging Visa B” was made withe greenscreens, do you think this time has allowed you to become more creative with the way you approach that side of things?
It’s kind of funny as that music video we filmed last November, 13 Months ago. I was talking to Mickey who directed it a few days ago and he said “It’s the perfect socially distanced lockdown video” because it looks like we’re all in a different room and he’s just cut it together. But actually that was already the idea pre any covid happening. And how it kind of predicted it, parts of the video are quite apocalyptic in a way and the end of the world is near. All of that was pre-bush fires in Australia, pre-covid and then suddenly everyones doing it! But it helps to have a very technologically based mindset of realising what’s possible in this current day and age, rather than just thinking “I can’t play any shows so I just won’t do anything”. I guess it’s important to just keep busy.
There’s also a couple of songs on the album that have almost taking on a separate meaning from what was originally intended. The title track and “Busy Being Boring” seems to be the feeling for most people. Is it interesting looking back on them now given how things have turned out?
Yeah lots of people were messaging me saying “Oh it’s so good you were so productive in lockdown!” with the themes in it being so relevant. And i’ve wondered, did I write a lockdown album pre-lockdown? Or is that just my life haha. Whereas I think it would have made more sense if it had come out the year it was inspired by. It’s kind of weird haha. Maybe the album just predicted it all. But I think as well it’s just people’s interpretations, what they see in it. I’ve heard someone say “Oh this song is so anti Trump! I just love how you are criticising Trump so openly” and i just thought, okay cool, why not!
Lastly I wanted to ask about with your involvement with Milk! Records. How did you start with them? And do you feel working with the label helped push you to start making music more?
Yeah definitely. It’s kind of hard to tell what came first. I think I started working at Milk! because I wanted to start taking music a bit more seriously and get into their world world of a very DIY indie community spirit. I just really liked and still really like what Milk! are doing with just friends releasing the music of their friends, and in that way that’s what drew me to it. I had already played music here and there as a hobby at that stage, but started slowly realising that it was my passion and what I really wanted to focus on. I started as an intern just helping with mail outs, stamping boxes, packing t-shirts, doing the online shop. Over time they had also realised that I was doing music and it just so happened that they were doing this collaborative project with another label where they were putting out split 7″s of artists that they hadn’t signed but they really liked. One thing lead to another and my first EP got released on the label. I still work there and it’s nice to be able to see how both sides function, I’m running us as a band but i’m also involved a bit with the label so it’s almost running parallel. But I think I much prefer being involved rather than just giving it to someone, and saying “Here. You do whatever you want with it”. I’m probably a bit of a control freak.
There’s a lot of big artist coming from the label i’ve seen, do you feel that Milk! as a label has helped the global indie scene become more prevelant?
Courtney and Jen founded the label and it started from scratch with them. The label obviously grew with Courtney and Jen’s fame and people associate Milk! with it being started in their living room and being a label that was made by artists for other artists. I think just straight from the start that just pushed everyone into more of a global fanbase. And with every band on the label’s success, the label will grow as it feels like a family. It’s not just any other label that distributes your music, everyone is quite attached to it and likes to represent it.
Too often does music become oversaturated with huge levels of production and plastic sounding instrumentation that the core element of a song becomes lost. Maeve Aickin does everything but that. With just a guitar, piano and some vocals Aickin has graciously crafted a collection personal stories of trying to gain control over change as she became alienated from her body following a diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrom. The result is her intimately rich debut album Waiting Rooms, released via Corkscrew Records yesterday. Written between 2018 – 2020 and recorded at the start of lockdown with a bunch of borrowed equipment, Aickin has created an album that is both influenced and fresh. With a sound that reminds of the early Angel Olsen Strange Cacti/ Halfway Home era, it’s a duality of hazy and vibrant movements. Sparkling and distant guitars glide around the soundscape as Aickin sings with both passion and restrain, letting out just enough for you to hear the deep emotions buried beneath. We spoke to Maeve ahead of the release of her debut album to learn a bit more about the Minneapolis based singer, and what she’s all about.
What drew you to music and how did you get into it?
The way that songwriters are able to tell stories in multiple dimensions is probably what first drew me into music. I loved country as a kid, and Bonnie Raitt was (and is) one of my favorite performers. “Too Long at the Fair” is a forever song for me; those first couple of lines, “Jesus Christ, wept and died / I guess he went off to heaven” are indelible in my mind. That melancholy yet simultaneously comforting story is told through pristine lyricism coupled with such precise instrumentation and production. At the end of the day, I just love storytelling, so I think it makes sense that “Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens is what got me into more independent music. I heard “Chicago” for the first time in sixth grade and I felt like I was listening to something I had never quite heard before. I saved up to buy the album on iTunes, and the rendering of those quintessential American stories in full color, intimated with such an exacting brush, forced me to pay attention to everything. For the first time I was researching individual lyrics and poring over artist interviews to try to find significance within every syllable. And of course, sometimes you just write a line because it’s a good rhyme. But that wasp in “Palisades” was a symbol I obsessed over for years. I wouldn’t be surprised if I wrote a dissertation about that song.
What’s the creative process behind a song?
I don’t think that I’ve ever written a guitar part or melody before writing lyrics. I have great respect for folks who are able to do that, but it’s just not how my brain works yet. Usually I accumulate phrases and through the serendipity of tracing experiences together they start to become songs. Sometimes it’s sort of a sneeze that I write in one go then refine and sharpen once I’ve had some time away from the experience; that’s what happened with “Harriet” and “Elsewhere.” With “Temple,” it took me a much longer time to figure out what those words meant to me, to position myself within the ethos of the song. The first verse was a joke that I wrote after finishing my Psych homework. Most of the song was nonsense for a while, just hung lopsidedly around the chorus idea, which I stole from my middle school journal, and then I passed this place of worship that was literally dug out of the ground in the middle of a field. The image was so resonant for me in a sort of ineffable way. I realize that part of songwriting is self-mythologizing, and projecting yourself onto your surroundings. That temple does not mean anything in and of itself, but in the song, it means what I externalize onto it and then present as a given through narration. Even as I recorded “Temple” for the album I knew that it was true to my experiences but I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. And then, a couple weeks after finishing tracking, I was diagnosed with OCD. It was sort of a funny and reassuring moment because I thought “oh, that’s what the song is about!”
Your songs tend to focus on a more simplistic sound, just vocals and guitar/ piano. Is there any particular reason for this?
The boring but true answer is that those are what I had access to. My family moved countries near the beginning of the pandemic, so I didn’t have access to my acoustic guitar or any kind of percussion. Since I wrote most of the songs on an electric guitar it made sense to record them on that instrument, but I definitely think there is space within Waiting Rooms to expand. Someday I hope to have access to a synth and mess around with its capabilities, and on the second LP I definitely want a more spacious sound. But for this project, I hope that the writing is strong enough to transcend the simplicity of the instrumentation. It might not be, and that’s okay, but at the very least it’s a good capsule of where I was at while writing and recording it.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Aaron Weiss, Lianne La Havas, Pianos Become the Teeth, and Adrianne Lenker are big influences in terms of songwriting. I remember listening to Big Thief for the first time and hearing “Real Love.” I thought, like, “I didn’t know that you could say that!” Lenker is just so crushingly honest in her writing. It’s brutal, but comforting at the same time to hear someone giving voice to the thoughts that consume you. Phoebe Bridgers does something similar where she articulates these incredibly dark, impressionistic thoughts and then is able to joke about them. There are a bunch of really dumb jokes with myself on the record, and even if I’m the only one who ends up enjoying them, I like lightening the heaviness of the subject matter with humor. Anjimile is another artist who I’ve become obsessed with in the last year. They have such a singular voice as a writer, and their skill with the guitar is virtuosic; they can articulate these deep and urgent ideas just across the fretboard.
You said you wanted to start playing music after you saw Julien Baker live, what does this moment mean to you?
I worry that I talk about this moment too much, but it really is the reason why I taught myself guitar. Seeing someone so full of conviction, someone with such magnitude and poise launch her voice out to us transformed me. She gave such a generous and graceful performance. And to witness her do this while wearing a rainbow flag guitar strap, maybe it’s cheesy, but I saw myself. I felt boundless. I thought, “I could do that too.” Maybe not as well, maybe not to the same effect, but I could try. My loftiest aspiration is to write something that makes someone else feel the way that “Rejoice” makes me feel.
If you could be a support act for any artists who would it be and why?
Maybe Moses Sumney just so that I could watch him perform. His recent Afropunk gig was so captivating and thoughtful. He obviously writes stunning music, but his understanding of performance as a discipline, his creativity and ingenuity, it blows my mind. I guess in that respect it would be terrifying to open for him because I can’t do anything close to what he accomplishes as a performer. I’d also selfishly love to open for Soul Glo; I’ve been blasting their new EP all weekend and want to see it played live so bad. I’m realizing this is less a list of artists I want to open for and more a list of artists I want to see in concert.
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
I saw Charly Bliss at 7th Street Entry when they were on the Young Enough tour and it went so hard. Eva Hendricks is a riveting, lightning in a bottle performer. Boiling it down to just her energy might be minimizing the amount of work she puts into performing live, but I felt like there was nowhere in the world she wanted to be more than on that stage singing with us.
Favourite show you’ve played?
I had a dream that I was a member of boygenius, so that completely imagined concert probably takes the cake.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
I think just being around other people who love the same thing I do will be wild. While I have a deep appreciation for artists who are putting on virtual shows, the energy of being in a room, whether you’re playing or watching, where everyone just loves music is preternatural. It feels kind of like the best church services; everyone is on the same page and they just want to celebrate a common love.
Any future musical plans?
I’m writing the second LP right now. I have no idea when it will be done or when it will be recorded or even how it will be recorded, but I’m stoked because this is the first time I am consciously writing a record. In its infancy, Waiting Rooms was just songs I was writing because I didn’t know what else to do with that weight. Eventually I became aware of the reoccurring themes and started writing with the intent of creating a body of work, but I’m taking the opposite approach with this project. It’s kind of forest instead of trees. I know what the overarching concept is, and now I’m starting to home in on sub-ideas within that concept and trying to define my relationships to them. This is much more immediate, but I also have a virtual gig on November 29th through an organization called High Plateau Productions, and I’m launching a music blog in January.
Where would you like to be in a year’s time?
I graduate high school this year, so I’m hoping to go to college next year. I really don’t know what I want to be doing otherwise; hopefully playing shows, organizing, reading. However trite it may be, I take a pretty one-day-at-a-time approach to my life. It’s that Eliot line that I realize has been quoted to death, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” While I think for Prufrock it’s a reflection of his discontentment, his neuroses, for me it’s a positive thing. Predictability is an unsung quality.
If people want to find out more about you, where should they go?
My music is on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Apple Music. You can find me @maeveaickin on Twitter and Instagram. Links to my music and gigs can all be found there.
Molly Taylor aka Aphra Taylor has that raw talent that draws you in immediately and leaves you wondering where she came from, and how you haven’t heard of her already. She takes influence from some of the biggest names in indie, folk and pop, yet remains distinctive and true to her own sound. To describe it she’s got that crunchy, yet immersive sound the early Soccer Mommy tapes and the vocal stylings of Brooke Bentham. Taylor is at the dawn of her career, releasing her debut EP The Night Dances back in March but has already made a significant name for herself in the Oxford music scene, headlining at Truck Record Store for her EP release and playing alongside the areas biggest names. We spoke to Molly to get to know a bit more about the person behind the music.
What drew you to music and how did you get into it?
My family always played music around the house and when I was about 4 I would sing and dance a lot to whatever was playing. My parents bought me a microphone around that time so that me and my little brother could sing along to tracks and I still occasionally use the same microphone now to rehearse for gigs because it’s a pretty decent quality one. When I was 11, i started teaching myself to play guitar through youtube until my parents saw that I was serious about learning and they bought me my own guitar and lessons. Then I just had to work up the same courage that I had when I was little and sing in front of other people again!
How would you describe your sound?
Probably folky pop. I’m very lyrically focussed as I guess I feel I have to get stuff out through songwriting. I also have a heavier sound sometimes, a grungy indie type of feel.
What’s the creative process behind a song?
I write on guitar. I think about things that are troubling me and that I need to get out of my system. I then usually find a chord progression I like and mumble sing lots of weird things over the top of it until I find a line that I like. I most definitely look strange doing this from an outside perspective but it usually works quite well.
Sometimes I write lyrics before I write the music and I have to try and put them to music which is a lot harder.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
I like so much music so this is probably gonna be a long list… Elena Tonra (Daughter, Ex:Re) is one of my all time faves because I really love the rawness of her lyrics and vocals.
Courtney Barnett I’ve loved for a while as I saw her play Glastonbury in 2015 and she really inspired me to start playing shows and showing people what I had been writing.
Anohni (and the Johnsons) really inspires me lyrically as I feel like she just has this enhanced ability to pick apart the human condition and the subconscious. Also, Patti Smith in terms of lyrics and just the fact that she’s a strong female musician.
Folky stuff such as First Aid Kit, Natalie merchant, Aldous Harding. They’re all melodically strong and again, raw and experimental lyrically.
The The because they’re a really artsy 80s band and ‘Soul Mining’ is one of my fave albums.
I also like lots of alternative pop such as Lorde, Lana del rey, Billie Eilish etc. not that my music sounds like theirs at all but I guess it influences how I write as I listen to that sort of music a lot.
If you could be a support act for any artists who would it be and why?
I’ve been listening to georgia’s recent album a lot and I watched some of her interviews and she seems super fun/interesting so I feel like that would be cool.
Meeting Patti Smith, let alone playing a show with her is my dream. Joan Jett is also an icon.
Daughter I’ve never seen live and I would love to meet Elena Tonra as she has inspired me so much as an artist.
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
I’ve been to too many to choose from but I’ll tell ya my 2019 faves.
I went to Glastonbury last year and some of my highlights were Kate Tempest and Billie Eilish. I saw Kate Tempest again at the O2 in Oxford but I think that Glastonbury was definitely the best time I’ve seen her. Cassels were probably my favourite Oxford gig of last year, just the lyricism and dynamic between both of them made the show so personal. Aannnd seeing Lizzo at Brixton academy was definitely a self love turning point for me.
Favourite show you’ve played?
Oooh I played one at Christmas last year for Freak scene/snuggle dice (two Oxford promoters) that was super fun. I thought it went really well and I had a rare burst of confidence.
Another one is when I supported Richard Walters at New college chapel which was AMAZING because of the beautiful venue, acoustics, and it was also really busy.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
I find gigs nerve wracking most of the time but before lockdown I had started to get into the swing of things and felt more comfortable playing in front of others. I think lockdown has made even socialising a bit of an odd, unnatural experience but I hope gigs are still enjoyable to play when things get back to normal. I really miss that whole atmosphere of soundchecking and meeting new people as well as the rush you get when finishing the set.
Any future musical plans?
I want to release new music sometime of course. I got lots of new equipment for my birthday so I’ve been slowly working on recording demos of the new songs I have written. I have a lot to learn but I guess I’ve improved writing/recording-wise. Depends on how many songs I get done but I’m definitely working towards getting new stuff out there.
Where would you like to be in a year’s time?
Musically, moving up line-ups and playing bigger shows. I hope to have released new music too and have a bigger following on social media/streaming platforms.
In life I want to be moving out and possibly going to university. I also want to be improving my writing and art.
If people want to find out more about you, where should they go?
In terms of my music Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple music etc. Just type in ‘Aphra Taylor’.
I’m mostly active on instagram (@aphrataylormusic) I also have an art/personal instagram (@mollyaphra).
My website is aphrataylor.com (which I really need to update haha) and my twitter is @aphra_taylor !!
The Night Dances is available to buy here on CD with a limited zine and available to stream everywhere.