Ruby Fields has certainly been doing it for a while. Her first taste of viral fame came in 2018 after the release of her debut EP Your Dad’s Opinion for Dinner. Gaining attention from Australian Indie radio heavyweights Triple J, Fields then found acclaim amongst the ever expansive Australian independent scene which landed her support tours with the likes of Ball Park Music and San Cisco. And then in late 2018 she released “Dinosaurs”, the lead single from her second EP Permanent Hermit. The single reached #9 on the Triple J hottest 100 for that year and became ARIA Platinum certified. Everything seemed to be falling into place for Fields, landing slots at Laneway Festival and Splendour In The Grass in 2019, and 2020 was set to be more of the same.
Recording for her debut album as well as touring was brought to a halt at the start of 2020 for obvious reasons and Fields went on a forced hiatus. She then spent the time alone fleshing out the ideas she already had and found a new self confidence to create an album that focuses on toxicity in relationships, alcohol and drug abuse, and battles with mental health. The result is Been Doin’ It For A Bit, an album that takes Fields songwriting notoriety to the next level, being heartbreaking and heartwarming in the same moment. She still has a knack for bangers, through the likes of “Song About A Boy”, but there’s a level of maturity on this album that has been found through time. “If the reaper comes to claim me and all I’ve gone and done / Is write some shitty music and take some shitty drugs” she sings on “Clothes Line”, revelling in her success and wondering what it’s all for. But reversing that she’s now found reverence in the simplicities of life. “I woke up and you were in the kitchen / Talking with my mum and she was bitching / You couldn’t care less, you sat there unblinking / Those orange curtains sure bring out the blush in your cheeks” she recalls on “Kitchen”, revelling in the beauty of everyday situations.
Been Doin’ It For A Bit feels like a collection of diary entries from Fields, both the highs and lows of everyday life and under the spotlight, soundtracked by grungy guitars and melancholic moods. To find out more we asked Ruby a few question about the new album and her journey up to this point.
How long have you been doin’ it for?
If this was a reference to the album title, love it. In reality.. not too long. I’m 23 now.. I started busking when I was 13, playing in pubs since 14, and wrote the songs in our discography from when I was 16. So depends on where you think it counts, but officially I’ve been playing those songs as Ruby Fields in the band since I was 18. I’m not good at maths.
Over what time was this album written and recorded?
The album was written over about 2 years and recorded a year and a half ago at the beginning of COVID in New Zealand and finished in Byron.
What is the main theme you’re exploring on the album?
I think the theme to the songs is always whatever I’m going through at the time, I’ve always liked to imagine you could hear a bit of a journey of me growing up through the zones around Cronulla (where I was born) to moving out of home and entering my twenties. Maybe nostalgia?
Did the last year change the album at all? And do you feel you’ve changed over the last year as a person?
I reckon any musician changes from the conception of a song or album to the release.. I will say it feels like not much has changed during COVID but a year ago I was living south of Sydney in a big share house with my bandmates and now I live on a farm in the Northern Rivers where I’m building a little home studio.. so maybe my commitment has amped up a bit. The album itself hasn’t changed too much though I don’t reckon, it’s kind of given me the time to appreciate all the songs.
What allowed you to overcome your initial hesitancy on releasing “Song About A Boy”?
I wrote Song About A Boy when I was 20 and I probably just feel so far removed from the idea of the song by now that it didn’t bother me anymore, and I let myself feel really proud of the lyrics and the song that the boys and I created.
Who are some of the biggest influences your sound?
My earlier stuff was definitely influenced by Violent Soho and Goons of Doom, both of whom I adore, but more recently I’d say Phoebe Bridgers and Tegan & Sara.. I love their lyrics and the ways they build up their songs.
And what influences your songwriting? Is it diaristic or therapeutic?
I’d say it’s both. I was talking to a mate about this the other night but I’d say a good percentage of music is written in times of sadness or distress, mine is anyway haha. I’ve definitely written when I’m feeling super happy or inspired too though. Most of it is directly about my experiences, I have a real hard time trying to tell a story.
On “Clothes Line” you ponder what you’d say to the grim reaper when he comes, is this something you think about a lot?
I actually found the first lyric of the chorus in “Clothes Line” in an old English book from school and structured the song around it when I was about 21. I must have been playing heaps of Sims at the time.
Have you been able to play any shows this year? If so how have you found getting back on stage?
We were pretty fortunate to play a fair few shows during COVID, with restrictions of course, which was odd. Our shows have always been a bit loose and without the option to have a dance floor or mosh I think it pushed me over time to try and create a better atmosphere and pick up my weight as a performer.
Your band seems very tight in terms of sound and as people, where did you all meet and what do they bring to your music?
They’re my favourite people in the world. I met Pat (drummer) in high school, he was band captain and a really good skater I remember, and when I saw him years later at my work at a bar I asked if he’d be keen to demo some drums and then just straight up asked if he wanted to join the band. I met Adam (guitarist) when I was about 15, he was in another band in the Shire that I loved and we had some coffees and did some demos and eventually started working, writing and living together. Tas (bassist), I met last when I was about 16 through a mate at a party and we instantly got along and lived together a while later and when he said he was keen to quit his job I asked if he’d join as well. I really believe we were always meant to be in a band together and I’ve never found a bunch of more forward thinking, kind, hilarious and creative people. They saved my life and bring so much to the music, from recordings to performances to deep chats about life to laughing into early hours of the morning.
What has been the biggest achievement of your career so far? And what is something you hope to achieve?
I think I should say our Splendour in the Grass performance in 2019. It was our biggest crowd to date and full of friends and we were all on cloud nine. Really though, it might sound clacky but I think my biggest achievement is having a group of people around me where we all believe in each other and love working together. The boys and I obviously, but also every other person that contributes. That’s the whole point, to me.
If anything, what would you change about the music industry?
There’s levels of competitiveness in every industry but I think in music we’ve all been pretty fuckin’ good at banding together as a community especially lately in terms of the Me Too movement, through climate disasters, COVID etc. We’ll always need more representation for female-identifying and indigenous artists, which is a slow progress but something that’s shifted positively in the last few years.. which shouldn’t lead to complacency but more inspired change.
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.
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.
It’s been quite a ride for Dom Simper aka bambi to get to this point. 10 years deep into his musical career and a life time of playing music, he’s finally graced the world with his first solo release. Many will recognise him as the guitar and synthesiser maestro extraordinaire of Tame Impala. He’s toured the world many times over with a headline slot at Coachella thrown in, but now he’s here to make his full statement as an artist in the shape of unfolding, his debut EP released via Spinning Top Music.
This EP is an expression of not only Simper’s talents as a musician but his ability to capture feelings and moments within time and perfectly represent them with a wide sonic palette. The sound of unfolding takes influence from cinematic soundtracks, Japanese new age music and 20th century classical minimalism. But the ideas fused to the songs relate to the ever shifting and changing motion of life; that everything is in constant flux. Throughout the songs the melodies twirl and dance around each other, never becoming dormant; a representation of many aspects of life.
We spoke to Dom about the EP, why now was the time to release it and his love of geometry.
So I wanted to ask about the name bambi, is there any special meaning behind it or is there any particular reason you chose to release under that name?
I didn’t really want to use my real name, but it’s kind of redundant becuase everyone knows its me, but I don’t like the idea of having my actual name printed around the world. And then I just find the idea of a name kind of arbitrary, you need one so you have one. And it’s just a nickname that I had from more than 10 years ago. I like the childish naivety behind the name bambi, it sort of represents nature and innocence.
How long has this music been in the works?
I recorded it all in the second half of 2018. I’ve loved the music of Eric Satie, for 15 years or so and I’ve always kind of enjoyed Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works and more minimal ambient music. And then in that period I got kind of obsessed with the idea of environmental music and music that works perfectly with a physical space. Like a moment in nature or the synergy that a perfect environment can have with music.
Was there a particular environment that influenced this work? Or was it all different places?
There was no single particular environment, but lots of kind of individual moments. Whether its architecture, the forest or the ocean. I find both nature and architecture, a human design space can also work with music just as well. It wasn’t this singular moment where everything coalesced. It was a long process of working with these ideas.
Has this style of music been a style you’ve been playing for a while then?
It’s something i’ve been playing around with for quite some time.
So is this what you wanted your music to sound like?
Yeah but at the same time I don’t like to impose a narrow boundary for the future, or anything that boxes you in. You want to have the ability to go wherever you are. Whether you call it your muse or whatever interests you at the time. I like the idea that you’re always exploring an element of the unknown or something thats no so familiar with you. So I don’t really like the idea of going down a singular path.
Yeah definitely and this is what felt right for this particular project
Yeah exactly 100%.
What does the title ‘unfolding’ mean to you?
I just think it works on multiple levels. It’s almost a metaphor for life, everything’s just constantly unfolding around us. Our relationships with people, our dreams and it kind of applies to the music as well. I like the way that the melodic fragments unfold throughout the songs. I really like geometry, almost like origami, I find there’s something elegant about angles.
I heard quite a lot of that in ‘weber-fechner’, which I’ve researched quickly and it’s related to human perception if i’m correct?
Yeah its like a minimalist manifesto. The less stimulus there is, the less sensitive we are to a change in that stimulus. And you can’t really grow your perception if there’s less going on. I feel we’re often just bombarded with sensory input which kind of dumbs down our perceptive apparatus, if that makes any sense?
Yeah definitely. Was the concept what you had in mind when you were creating the track or was a title that fit with it after you’d made it?
I was thinking about that metaphysical stuff in parallel to when I was making the music, but not when I was making the music. But the ideas are constantly jumping around your subconscious and so it comes out in the music. But it’s never an intentional thing of I’m going to write a song about this idea. It just comes together at a certain point.
With the song ‘first snow of winter’ it feels as though it captures a certain moment in time. Is there a particular moment that you relate that song to?
Yeah definitely. It was the feeling you get, as an Australian, I was living over in the Netherlands during that period and as the title says it was the first snow fall of winter. Just staring out the window feeling completely mesmerised, it was the most magical moment of stillness and beauty. I don’t know if it translates if you’re from there and you’re used to it but it was kind of like the same way we see rain, it was just magical.
Do you feel being originally from Australia and then living there changed your perception of how you’d see it?
I think so, it took me to almost this kind of childhood, being lost in the moment and not having concept for everything where you just give it a name and that’s it. Rather you just get lost within the senses of it all.
Listening to the EP as well, there’s also quite a cinematic sound to it like a soundtrack almost. Is that something you’d ever want to create?
I think so yeah, I like the idea of having something to work with visually to create the music to. And also the fact that you can kind of do it behind the scenes. Having the visual there already is almost like a starting point, it can trigger ideas or a path to go down instead of just a blank canvas.
Do you feel creating these instrumental cinematic sounding tracks gives you more freedom as an artist to express yourself?
Yeah but at the same time I feel like if you’re an artist and you don’t have that sense of freedom then it’s almost like you’re doing it wrong. I don’t like the idea of, whether they’re internal or external having borders placed on what you can do. Obviously if there’s lyrics attached then there’s a new level of meaning to them with interpretation. But you could also keep them quite ambiguous. It’s really up to the artist how much of a defined narrative they want to give to their work. But I always think there’s beauty to ambiguity more so than a strict narrative.
Have there been any soundtracks in particular that have influenced you?
Definitely, a few movies from Europe in the 60’s. Some (Jean-Luc) Godard movies. Le Mépris that’s got Brigitte Bardot in it, that soundtrack was done by Georges de Beauregard, which is a very beautiful sweeping string soundtrack. I love how it’s almost a super saturated emotional feeling that transcends the mundane. If that makes any sense?
Have you seen the movie Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders?
I haven’t actually no!
That’s also got a beautiful soundtrack, yeah definitely those kinds of films. Also the soundtracks of Francis Lai, he does a lot or orchestral sounds mixed with synthesisers which I really like.
Do you feel soundtracks have more of an influence on your sound? Or as you mentioned artists like Aphex Twin? Or does it all come together?
It’s hard to prescribe a certain percentage of how a particular artist or genre has influenced my sound. I also really like a lot of the electronic old Japanese new age composers. Suzanne Ciani and Pauline Anna Strom have these really warm synthesiser records.
Listening to ‘garden’ I heard some elements of Haroumi Hosono in there.
Yeah potentially, I do love Hosono. It’s funny the references people say when they’ve heard it. They’re some of my favourite artists but I wouldn’t necessarily draw those links either but it’s almost complimentary to hear that.
Most of the EP was created on synthesisers, what draws you to this instrument over say the guitar?
I like the idea of making an electronic instrument sound organic, I feel that does something with your brain that you’ve got this thing that’s almost not real and you’re almost trying to bring it to life and make it breathe. I like the feeling that that gives you, more so than just acoustic instruments I guess. I think synthesisers have this amazing ability to always sound modern, almost nostalgic and futuristic at the same time.
I think working with synthesisers gives you a lot of freedomif that makes sense?
Well definitely you kind of just design your own sound. You work with sound the same way you work with clay in that you can shape it. Whereas you’re kind of stuck with the palette you’re given with other instruments. I mean that’s not necessarily true with guitars, but a lot of instruments really restrain how much you can shape them in terms of their envelopes or timbre.
And was designing those an important part of the process for you?
Yes and no. I’m not like a super nerd in that sense but you’re kind of just experimenting until you find something that gives you the feeling you’re chasing. I’d love to be more trained in that element, I think i’m getting better at it but it’s just experimentation and exploration until you find the right note.
The EP was mixed by James Ireland, who’s someone you’ve known for quite a while. Do you feel having someone you’ve known for a long time helped complete your vision rather than just going to an engineer you haven’t met before?
I think you’re starting from a position of trust and understanding rather than someone from the outside. You can trust what you ask of them and what you communicate will translate and it’s very natural. And it makes the process just that much more easier I think.
With this project being finished in 2018, why did you feel now was the right time to release it?
I decided to release it early to mid last year, but then last year was pretty busy touring with Tame Impala. And then I moved back to Australia. Also working with the artist for the artwork, working with the label to bring it out takes its own time frame. There’s all these bottlenecks that you’re waiting to be ticked off, like the vinyl production. So it’s relatively arbitrary to the face that it came out last week. It takes longer than you’d think, it’s not just like you finish it and then it’s out in the world as I discovered.
I wanted to ask about the artwork actually, who designed it and why did you choose that image in particular?
I just asked my friend in the Netherlands, she’d already done a few of these abstract cubic geometric paintings. And the palette in particular is supposed to capture a warm European sunrise, almost like a winters sunrise, very soft and hazy. And I just like that stained glass window effect, like I said i like shapes and angles. And then I worked with an artist over here in Perth to clean it up get it so the whole package was how I wanted it.
I think it really fits well with the whole atheistic over the EP.
Yeah cool thank you.
As you said before you usually spend most of the year touring the world, has this time of an extended break allowed you to do anything you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to?
Yeah just in terms of having months at a time to focus on something, like i’m trying to get better at playing the piano, so i’ve been playing that everyday. And I’ve never had such an intense period of being able to focus on something without being whisked off on a plane. So in that sense it has, and just being home for so long. I haven’t really been in one place for more than a few months since 2010. It’s been interesting.
With live shows as well, obviously at the moment no one knows when they’ll happen again but have you thought about what that could look like for your music?
Yeah i’ve been wrestling with the idea. I think it’s hard at this point because I’m trying to reconcile that as music the EP is quite passive. The intention was that it’s not necessarily background music in that sense, but the idea of having a guy on stage performing it doesn’t quite seem to feel right at this point, so wether I try to make it a bit more engaging. I would also be interested in creating an instillation or bringing some sort of visual element in to it to make it more of an immersive experience rather than just the traditional set up of some guy with some gear on stage.
Yeah of course, something in a gallery could work really well.
Have you got any visual pieces to go with the songs?
Not really, i’ve never really worked myself with the visual medium. I’m definitely open to the idea of collaborating with someone, but at the same time I’d want to happen rather organically.
Yeah definitely rather than just looking for someone to create a piece. I believe that’s everything from me, thank you so much for your time!
No problem, thanks very much for the interview!
unfolding is available to stream now and available on vinyl here.
When it comes to using the phrase ‘One To Watch’ it can certainly be thrown about for almost anyone these days. That’s not the case for Fifi Dewey however. Over the past ten years or so she’s slowly been growing her presence in the underground and mainstream music scenes, touring and playing with some of the biggest names in indie folk. She’s worked with some of the most prolific and exciting musicians and producers in the London underground scene, releasing a couple of singles along the way. Returning recently after a couple of years break with new single ‘Savannah’ that dances between the hypnotic and the surreal. It’s been quite the wild ride, with a long trip across the United States thrown into the mix. But now she’s ready to shine her own ethereal light onto the world and gift us all with the music that’s been years in the making.
The new single Savannah is mainly about a trip you took to America?
So in 2013 I went on a trip inspired by my favourite music scenes. There’s an amazing music scene in Minneapolis amongst other places and I just really wanted to go to all these cities and see why that is. I went to Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle and New York. And then in between that I farmed on some organic farms. And that was more of the inspiration for this body of work that I’m releasing, with the first song being Savannah.
And you’ve got more music to come?
Yeah so it’s essentially an album, but I’ve split it into two parts with 10 tracks, and hopefully that’ll all come out this year.
Are the other songs on the album similar themes to Savannah?
They definitely have similar themes about obsession and fantasy. Essentially it’s that land in the mind where you’re fantasising about a place out of reach, beyond your reality. It’s a queer heartbreak album more importantly!
With it being a couple of years since your last release, why did it feel like now was the right time to release new music?
I wrote most of them between the age of 24 – 26, I’m now 30 so it’s taken such a long time to get it all together! I had the songs and I demoed them up to the point that I was very happy with, but needed help engineering the sound. I then started playing in my friends band, Nick Mulvey, and then he introduced me to the producer Dan Carey. I took the songs to Dan and said do you think you could help me re-amp and re-engineer some of this record. I felt like the atmosphere was there but the quality wasn’t. And he’s totally amazing and he got the vision 100%. Flash forward two more years, with the record complete, I was ready to release it in 2019 after making the music video for Savannah. The day after I made that music video I went into hospital and was diagnosed with cancer.
Oh really? I’m so sorry to hear that!
Yeah it’s mad! I have to tell this story, because I feel if i don’t then i’m not being authentic. It’s maybe a lot for people to hear but it’s real. So I went into hospital and had chemo for 4 months and surgery and have spent this last year getting better. And i’m healthy and happy now!
I’m very glad to hear that!
So that’s why I’m releasing it a year later. It’s weird because in that video I had this long blonde hair and now it’s come back and its brown and its curly, it’s crazy. So cool! So then I was like do I release that video, because it’s sort of strange but you know, it tells that story so I think it’s important. So that’s the long version!
Working with Dan Carey, I know he’s worked with so many big names, Fontaines D.C. , Black Midi, Tame Impala, what was it like working with him? I’ve heard it’s quite an intense process where you get a day to record in and thats it?
We recorded the single ‘Loch Linne’ which Dan put out on his Speedy Wunderground label back in 2018. The rule is you record everything in a day, Dan and Alexis mix it and then it gets released. So that was super fun! We’ve re-done that song so it will be on the album but it’ll sound slightly different. But yeah me and Dan have like a telepathic way of playing together, it’s really fucking cool! We’ve only just started actually playing more music together, which i’m fucking excited about. And he’s amazing, he doesn’t really have any limitations in his mind, it’s completely expansive. So if you’re like “Dan I want this synth to sound like thunder!” and then it’ll be like “Oh my god this is it” and we’ll sit with these thunder sounds! He’s the best.
Listening back over some of your songs, they’ve got quite an ethereal psychedelic sound to them. Is that something that when you’re writing the songs you think I want this to sound this way, or is that something that gets thrown in whilst in the studio and you think it would be a good idea to have in it?
I’ll have an idea of a place before I know what the songs are about sometimes, so it’s inherently cinematic and visual.Then I’ll try and create an unrestful eruption of thunder and lightning for instance. Sometimes a song will build around that like Savannah for example. I had this fantasy about those southern live oak trees in Savannah, Georgia that are all creepy and verdant, bending around the air. The second half of the song takes place in the desert at night time, which is why there’s kind of two personalities in that song. I definitely do that first, I’ll have an idea for the feeling and then I’ll put the song on top of it. Sometimes it’s more simplistic as i may just write the song on guitar, or I’ll do a vocal stack first, with loads of harmonies and then add the song over the top.
And with the songs on the rest of the album do they follow similarly with the sound of Savannah? Or are they different in any way?
I think the whole thing fits atmospherically together, It definitely has a specific vibe.I wanted to try and make it cohesive because I think it’s quite easy as a solo musician to put a record out and change the sound with every song. Whereas I was aiming to make a confluence throughout, which ended up being the vocal stacks next to the poppy vocals off -set with creepy ambient sounds.
And what’s it been like releasing this music through Speedy Wunderground? Is it just Dan who runs that?
Yeah so it’s Dan and Alexis, who’s Dan’s engineer. They’re wizards. They’re amazing in the studio as they just know exactly how to get the right sound. So it was the three of us and our friend Liam who came in to drum for a track.
I feel that if you say to someone that something’s been released on Speedy Wunderground then immediately you would know it’s going to be of good quality, how has releasing with that pretence helped you?
The music is definitely connected and there’s some really cool people in that music scene who I’ve become friends with. And of course just having the honour to work with someone like Dan, that in itself is conformation of something good.
You mentioned touring with Nick Mulvey, how did you get to meet him? And what were some of the best experiences from touring with him?
I met him about 12 years ago through his now wife, Isadora, who is one of my closest friends. Me, her and her sister used to be in a folk band together in Brighton when we were like 18. I used to drum, we all used to sing these 3 point harmonies. We’d go and watch Nick play in his old band Portico Quartet. We stayed in touch and then about 7 years later he asked me to be his backline technician on the campaign of his album ‘First Mind.’ I then recorded some backing vocals for his second album and subsequently joined the live show, playing guitar, percussion and singing! There’s been so many amazing things to come out of that. The best thing has been the people I’ve become friends with through the project. We also toured America which was amazing!
And you played on his latest album as well? What was that like working with him and then going into the album?
Brilliant! There were loads of people involved in that record. The recording took place in Box, outside of Bath which is Peter Gabriel’s studio.Ethan Jones produced it; such an incredibly beautiful space to record in. And then from that actually Nick finished the record with Dan (Carey) and that’s how I met Dan because we were at his studio finishing off some vocals. Everyone went outside for a cigarette and i was like “Dan is that the Swarmatron that everyone talks about?” and then we started playing and were like “Uh oh, shit!”.
Thats very cool, a very fun way to meet your producer
It was so good, I’ve been lucky!
I saw you played on Jools Holland with Nick, what was that experience like?
It was really crazy, and I’m sure like me you’ve probably grown up watching that show. Just being in that studio was very surreal, it was kind of a bit of a blur to be honest. I do remember looking over and I had St. Vincent to the left of me, Beck to the right and Robert Plant straight ahead. It was the weirdest most flawless line up, it was totally mad. We all just had loads of fun, obviously we were quite nervous but it was a real hoot.
With some of those great artists there, who would you say influences some of your sound, because I don’t know if you feel the same but I did hear a bit of St. Vincent in some of your songs as well?
Yeah I really loved her first couple of records; Strange Mercy, that album is amazing. John Congleton produced that and i love his work. It’s a really hard one that question because there’s definitely been people growing up that I’ve listened to obsessively but I don’t know how much it reflects on my influences directly now. Definitely bands like Polica, that Minneapolis scene, Gayngs and Ryan Olson the producer, I just love everything those guys do. I’ve been listening to Alex G a lot recently, but that didn’t influence the music.I love Arthur Russel and Joanna Newsom..PJ Harvey as well. I made a playlist on Spotify and if you have a look at that there’s like 20 hours of my favourite stuff. It goes from doom metal to classical! I’m really not elitist when it comes to music, I’ll listen to anything. I’m specific about what I like but I’ll listen to any genre.
I think that’s a really good mentality to have, because then when you’re creating your music, you feel you don’t have to have that limitation or it has to fit with this genre
That’s exactly what it is. That’s why I think there’s a big combination of sounds in there, electronic and organic sounds. I’m not thinking about the genre when I’m doing it at all.
I’ve heard you’re quite a big fan of the show Twin Peaks, and you visited the locations, what does that show mean to you?
I think with David Lynch, a lot of people feel he’s just so inspiring in so many ways. I think even just his approach to making something, he doesn’t have any boundaries and you can tell that. And he’s not doing it for anyone else but himself. So more than anything else his process is fucking cool. But his films are a massive influence. I’d say films are just as much of an influence to me as music. And his stuff is incredible, just the atmosphere, the darkness, the mystery, the obsession with the occult, I’m really into that stuff. There is a darkness in my music, but it’s not necessarily about tapping into it in a negative way. It’s almost like bringing it in, in a melancholic but beautiful way because that’s just life isn’t it? And I think it’s something we shy away from, but I love how he makes it beautiful. And there’s a tension through everything, an unrestful feeling. I’m pretty geeky about things like that and on that trip that I took to America I took a bus and I actually went to see the twin peaks filming locations. I want to show you something actually! It was my birthday on Friday and my friend painted this for me. (She then proceeds to grab a drawing of the RR Diner from the show) Which is pretty cool, if you recognise it?
Oh okay wow yeah that is really cool!
Yeah it’s so cool! I actually went there.
So that is a real diner is it?
Yeah! It’s so weird, it’s quite strange inside. I actually got stuck there and nearly missed the last bus. And then I would have had to stay in this horrible motel that Leland Palmer killed a prostitute in. I was just like no i can’t stay there! And luckily the bus appeared, otherwise that would have been my fate.
As well with the show it’s got quite an iconic soundtrack, does that have any influence in to your music at all?
100%. Even if it’s just those synths. A band I was thinking of which relates to this actually, somebody that really has influenced me is Cocteau Twins. And I think David Lynch actually asked Liz Fraser to sing the soundtrack first of all. But then he got Julie Cruise to do it, but i can imagine Liz Fraser singing that. It’s so beautiful, I love it so much.
You said your music is quite cinematic, would you at any point create a soundtrack for a film?
I’d love to! I think in a way that would take away that pressure to think about what the story is. You already have the story there and then you can just apply your own skills to making something vibey.
There’s an artist I’ve been listening to this year called I Break Horses and with her latest album she watched loads of old films and then reimagined the soundtrack to them and created her album around that.
That’s really cool!
I think it’s quite a fun way to approach it, where you just have it there and create music for it.
100%. I’ve got a music video out for the next single, which because of the lockdown I decided to make myself. But I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I didn’t want to make a cheesy “I’m in my room!” kinda thing. So I thought I’m just gonna get a drone, as one does. My friend lent me his drone, so then I had to learn how to fly it which was wild because you actually have to get a licence to do it. And I’ve ended up making a music video with this drone and I’m really excited about that coming out.
Is that the first music video you’ve done on your own?
Yeah, I didn’t know if I’d be able to pull it off but I think it’s quite cool. It’s obvious I’ve made it because I’m holding the controller in the shots.
And now you’ve done that, do you think you’d do more yourself? Or would you still look to work with other people?
I’m definitely gonna make more of them, it’s a really fun process. It’s quite different from music because you’re instantly in a place where you can’t really think of anything else. You know making music can be so emotional sometimes, whereas this is like “I’m here. That tree looks really cool. Okay. Hi Tree”. And then you’re just looking at a tree, and that’s lovely! So I’m definitely gonna do it even just as a hobby, see what happens. But also I’d love to work with other people of course.
With everything being in lockdown some great projects have come out of it, one of those being the Quarantine Series on Speedy Wunderground, you did yours with Savage Gary, how did that come about?
Oh that’s Dan! That was really fun, I was just like “I haven’t done one yet, please send me a track!”. Haha that was it basically that was the conversation. All of those tracks are so good. I think as well so many things are changing now with the music industry because people can’t gig, things are different aren’t they? And I think it’s pushed a lot of people to see, what we thought were our limitations, are not. Like making that music video for me was something of an experiment, but it’s proved that I can do more than I thought I could. And even just making that track with Dan quite quickly, and putting it on Soundcloud is sometimes just as good, if not actually better than putting things on Spotify. Because I think we get really caught up in trying to meet these expectations that sometimes are unrealistic. I think I’d like to get to a place where I’m just putting music out all the time, but how that’s possible within the industry structure I don’t know. You know I’ve ended up putting this music out independently because of some of those reasons. I think that’s what I love about Dan and Speedy Wunderground, they’re so prolific. And they’re so open to new things,taking risks. I’d love to see more of that happening within the music industry. I mean just dropping things on Soundcloud is kind of great! I miss the days of MySpace when you’d just put tracks up on there and if a few people liked them then they’d re-share them. That was cool and everything’s just got a bit too serious, which then makes you become precious and have expectations. I think it’s really good to just let go of all of that stuff and just do it because you love doing it.
I saw the other day that the CEO of Spotify said musicians need to put more out, they can’t just rely on an album every three or four years. Which kind of shows that they’re only viewing musicians as a commodity.
Totally and it’s just fucked up isn’t it? Maybe pay us first Spotify!
One last one, suggested to me by a friend of yours, if you could have one type of donut, what would it be and why?
I knew that was going to be a question! I’m just going to go really simple because I asked for some jam donuts for my birthday and didn’t get any did I? So just a jam donut with a coffee, or glazed, just a glazed krispy kreme. No extras, keep it simple, keep it classy.
That’s a very good answer
How about you?
Oh I don’t know!
Don’t say custard
No definitely not, probably just a nice sprinkled donut, maybe a bit of glazing
Producer, rapper, mixing and mastering engineer Tony Bontana hails from midlands metropolis, Birmingham. Bontana moves with eagerness, since the creation of his co-run label Everything Is Perfect just over a year ago, the label and Bontana have seen an explosion of releases featuring a diverse variety of sounds, messages and voices. The labels music and Bontana’s work comes at a point in Hip-Hop where the genre is evolving and these records are the forefront evidence of this case. Before his latest LP Eurotony, I was able to exchange words with Tony and talk all things Bontana and Perfect.
What’s your story? How did you come to producing music? Whatmade you start?
Born in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Birmingham) 3rd October on a Thursday evening. Moms said i came out rapid Word is the nurse had to catch me…. I was born moving. I Started playing with the guitar real early, like 6/7. I got my first guitar as a birthday present while i was in hospital (for asthma.) My relationship with music is perfectly summed up by those times because i was just recreating any sounds i like on my guitar or learning tabs to my favourite bands. I Joined my first band at 16 and it was my first time being part of something bigger than myself we had support all over the world I had never experienced that. We did a few tours around the UK / Europe over the next few years until the band split in 2018. Life was busy for all the members so we ended it before it got tired. After that i didn’t really have anyway of getting music out so i learned to produce for myself (thanks to my old flat mate dan he let me use his Mac OD to produce) and the rest is history.
Throughout your music, it’s clear to see that both lyricism and production are so clearly fulfilled with uniqueness and passion. When making a track how do your lyrics and samples find you?
As with everything in life its a feeling. I just know when somethings right for me.
Who or what inspires you as an artist?
My life and my loved ones inspire me thats where i draw inspiration for all my music. I really try to keep it as literal as i can.
What are three records or artists that have changed your life?
In response to your single I’ll Hold You (you know i would) and the sounds you use in general, you are pushing a new boundary for hip-hop. It seems as though the genre has potentially developed a new focus. How do you think the sound of the genre has arrived to the point where we are today?
I appreciate that. Thank you bro. I feel that as the world continues to change people are becoming more and more open to a “new” way of thinking. Emotional intelligence. Honesty & Love. You can hear it. The truth sounds so good no matter how it sounds. A lot of people speaking their truths right now.
Your latest LP Eurotony is out 1st August, how did this record come into fruition?
I became inspired by the artists around me / the label (Kristallo Stone / Myst1k / Venom22k / Hughie) To try a certain sound. They’ve been going crazy and pushing this new alternative futuristic trap sound and it’s really happening in Birmignham. The city don’t even know but it’s about to go crazy in the next few years! I digress lol. I hit up Hughie (Exec Producer) and pitched the idea and he was immediately down to work. We probably finished this project in two weeks…..we work similar, efficient. He really made this happen.
What music are you currently listening to on repeat? The Cure – Disintegration (Album) Husker Du – Don’t Wanna Know if you are lonely Hook (My favourite rapper no cap)
The label you run with Sink600& oghost, Everything is Perfect Records, has seen an enormous output since its creation just over a year ago. Collaboration seems like a key part of the label, especially on Hickupz last release. How do you meet like-minded producers and lyricists?
You get back what you put out….. We really love music and like minded people just gravitate. When you love music it’s a bond that transcends alot of A-typical relationships.
What are your favourite places in Birmingham? Selly Oak cus it’s the ends. Nice food spots too especially if you’re Veggie / Vegan. Moseley Just because it’s got a taste of everything and Digbeth but it’s gonna be gentrified soon so…. (I’m real cut about that. The government is literally destroying culture for a rahted slug & lettuce.)
Do you go to The Diskery at all? I can imagine that’s a gold mine for samples…
Yeah I love the diskery. My dad spent his first paycheck there! I only got a vinyl player a few days ago so only been digging a few days lol.
What can we expect to see from you and the label for the rest of the year?
Music and Growth. This is still the infant stages of the label so we’ve got a lot of learning to do but just know the output is gonna be special.
Thanks for having me.
(Tell your loved ones that you love them if you haven’t already today)
A big big big thank you to Tony for taking part in this interview. Tony’s latest LP Eurotony is available to listen to through Spotify. Some of his works can also be found through Soundcloud, Bandcamp along with Everything Is Perfect‘s discography. I hope everyone is able to get a little more Bontana in their life.
Joe Marsh and Louis Prince are the newest hip-hop duo setting ablaze the Birmingham scene, coming together to form The Worst Guys. After meeting at college and finding influence in each others sound they began forming demos and eventually creating fully formed bangers. They released their debut single ‘Round The Town’ last November and followed it up with ‘No Celebrations’ in February. They now return with their latest offering of Lo-fi beats, free-flowing bars and tasty melodies in the shape of ‘Platform’ which has just been released and available to stream below. We spoke to Joe and Louis to get to know what they’re all about, the process behind a song and what lies ahead in the tracks for this exciting new duo.
What drew each of you to music and how did you get into it? Joe: From a young age, my parents would play a range of music in the car from bands like New Order, The Smiths and The Stone Roses to dance artists like The Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Fatboy slim. My Dad would make holiday mix CDs and I always remember hearing Kanye West being followed by Led Zeppelin. No wonder my tastes vary! My entry into making music was when I was learning to play the guitar when I was 12/13 and would play in various rock bands throughout secondary school. It wasn’t until I studied Music Technology at College, where I met Louis, that I got into Hip Hop, Dance and Experimental music. I started producing at College and I then went on to study Music Technology at De Montfort University where I was exposed to Jazz, World Music, Avant-Garde and my love for Hip Hop grew even more.
Louis: What drew me to music was the universal but inexplicable feeling I get from hearing the right song in the right moment, and how it can make any moment take on extra significance and shape how I feel. Whether that was a song to help get me through grief, a song to turn up and get drunk to at uni or a bit of DMX to vent when I’m mad at the world or trying to get that last deadlift set in. Some of my earliest memories are blurry to me but I remember hearing particular songs like Bob Marley, Morgan Heritage, Beres Hammond, and other Jamaican family function mainstays when I was in my dad’s car or at my grandparents on Sundays and I’ll never forget the feeling of just feeling in sync with the vibe around me with youthful ignorance. I was pretty much always involved in music in some capacity, I was writing lyrics to be rapped in classes and assemblies from the age of 7 and got progressively more into it as I got older. I was never not into it really.
Where did you meet and how did the group form? Louis: It was the first week of college, I wasn’t from the area and I didn’t know anyone but wanted to meet as many people as I could so I could pick my friends properly and just be stuck with people. I was lucky as hell that in my Music Tech class I ended up sat with two guys who would go on to be two of my closest friends, Joe and our mate Ewan. We all clicked pretty quickly and we ended up hanging out together most days with the rest of our crew. We all had similar interests and music tastes and wanted more from life than was expected of us. I think from then we knew we would end up making music together in some capacity but it wasn’t until 2019 as university was coming to an end that we actually came together and said we were gonna do this, and by November “Round The Town” was out everywhere.
Joe: I’ll never forget when I brought the original Round The Town beat to Louis at his house! We connected my sampler up to his speakers and I played the beat back live triggering the drums and everything…I remember looking up and Louis couldn’t stop smiling. Within an afternoon we had the foundation for the song and it was from then we decided to pursue The Worst Guys properly.
How would you describe your sound? Louis: Dope! Different and varied. Unique but familiar, and full of contrasts and dichotomies like life is. Our initial two singles have been good indicators of some of the music to come in the sense of vibey ambient music with introspective questioning. There’s a lot of headphone listens and head nodding when I imagine people listening to us. We typically have a clean polished blend of Alternate (for want of a better word) hip- hop, R&B, and indie elements . I don’t think we don’t consciously aim to sound different to anything you’ve ever heard but we just try and make stuff that sounds cool to us and we draw on so many different influences when we make our music.
Joe: Our sound is forever growing and each track we make differs from the last. All of our favourite artists all experiment and develop over time, so naturally, we embody the same creative ideology. We don’t like to trap ourselves under one sound. There are so many songs in our hard drives that we haven’t released yet and they almost sound like different groups have made them! But that’s what makes TWG work, we try ideas and we aren’t afraid to push ourselves each track.
Who are some of your biggest influences? Louis: I’ve been a huge fan of Donald Glover/ Childish Gambino, Mac Miller, Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick, and Chance The Rapper over the last decade. Gambino especially for his range of creativity and talent, the name ‘The Worst Guys’ was partially inspired by a song of his of the same name featuring Chance The Rapper. I guess I have a thing for moody existential rappers and genre bending music. Growing up in the early 2000s it was impossible not to be inspired by an endless list of rappers from 2pac, Biggie, Jay Z, Nas, Eminem, Kanye West etc. it would be easier to list who didn’t inspire me which would just be a list beginning at Soulja Boy and ending at 6ix9ine.
Joe: Flying Lotus, J Dilla, Pete Rock are my all-time influences when it comes to making beats because I love to fuse sub-genres or unique sounds together in my tracks. As a group, I would say we are influenced by A Tribe Called Quest, Brockhampton and Injury reserve for our sound and concepts. There isn’t a set sound for us in my opinion and we pick and choose ideas wherever we see fit. I like to explore atmosphere with my production so I’m heavily inspired by Burial and Ross from Friends for their unique approach to sound design. Creating my own sounds and resampling with effects is a major technique I use to layer my beats and its a process I’m still developing now.
If you could be support act for any artists who would it be and why? Louis: Well I‘d be a support act for Joe and he’d be a support act for me, what else is there? Nah on a real, I’d love to support Gambino and learn more about his creative process and artistry. A few other honourable mentions are Kendrick Lamar, Mick Jenkins, JID, and Slowthai, all dope artists in their own ways and at different stages of their careers. An outside shout would be getting to do a tour with our brothers over at Major Noise at some point.
Joe: That’s a difficult question to answer but would have to be Tyler, the Creator. He’s an incredible artist; the way he approaches music, visuals and marketing are beyond inspiring. I’d also say Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Gorillaz and Thundercat as honourable mentions because of how unique each artist/group is with their approach to music and their live shows respectively.
We’ve just entered into a new decade, what have been some of your favourite albums of the last decade? Louis: So many great projects came out this decade and these were my teen to early adult years so they’ll probably stick with me the rest of my life. These are just the few that I listened to almost religiously this decade. I’m gonna keep this to a list of 11 in no particular order or else I’d be here all week, there are a lot of honourable mentions though. Top 11 Acid Rap – Chance The Rapper (not technically an album but as good as any I’ve heard) All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ – Joey Bada$$ Because The Internet – Childish Gambino Flower Boy – Tyler The Creator good kid, m.A.A.d city – Kendrick Lamar I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside – Earl Sweatshirt Malibu – Anderson .Paak RTJ 2 – Run The Jewels The Never Story -J.I.D To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar Swimming – Mac Miller
Joe: This is a really difficult question to answer as I listen to, on average, an album a day, but here are some of the top albums that I loved throughout the 2010s. Cosmogramma – Flying Lotus Igor – Tyler, the Creator Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator Some Rap Songs – Earl Sweatshirt To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar The Epic – Kamasi Washington Lonerism – Tame Impala A Quiet Farewell – Slauson Malone Family Portrait – Ross From Friends 2 – Mac Demarco The Grey Area – Little Simz
Favourite concert you’ve been to? Louis: Ahh that’s a tough one, there was the time I rapped on stage with Hopsin back in 2014 which was awesome, and Joey Bada$$’s tour for AAB was epic but I’d have to give it to J Cole’s 2014 Forest Hill Drive show in Birmingham, it was an incredible experience, he killed it on stage and had Jhene Aiko, Pusha T, Bas, Cozz, and Omen supporting him so it was a hell of a lineup.
Joe: I’m struggling to pick a top concert as I have been lucky to see some of my favourite artists like Bjork, The Chemical Brothers, Gorillaz and even Kraftwerk. But if I had to pick then I’d have to say the first time I saw Flying Lotus at All Points East 2018. He played a mix of his big tunes with some unreleased tracks including a Wesleys Theory Remix. The bass shook your bones and he used 3-D visuals which just put you in a trance throughout the set. It was an experience so important to me that it became my main inspiration behind a final year project at University where I performed both music and live visuals. Oh, and he brought on Denzel Curry who had an incredible freestyle and then just ran off before anyone realised what had happened…
Favourite show you’ve played? Louis: Because the Covid climate put a big middle finger up to the live music industry, The Worst Guys are yet to do a show together but it’s definitely coming so come back to me a year from now and I’ll tell you.
Joe: We have big plans for our live show, thats all we’re saying.
What’s the creative process behind a song? Do you put music to Louis’ lyrics or do you create lyrics for the music Joe creates or any other method? Louis: We’re still figuring it out to be honest! Our songs come together organically and uniquely each time. We realised pretty early that any song we had to force to become something didn’t turn out how we wanted it to. So we let the song and situation lead. Typically Joe will produce a demo beat, I’ll end up writing a few loose concepts or one of us comes up with a hook and we build from there. Sometimes I’ll have a verse that I either wrote in the moment or ages ago that I’ll re-find and refine and that inspires a song. There isn’t a set formula as long as we like a sound and see a vision.
Joe: I think there are a few paths we take with our songs and there isn’t a set route either. Throughout lockdown, we have tried to write more together through phone calls and focusing on a specific theme or concepts. There’s never a clear cut formula for our songwriting process but there is always a moment where we both realise we like how a track is sounding and that usually motivates us to finish it. Sometimes we will just talk to each other about a topic or a particular experience and that will act as an inspiration to create a track. If Louis has a verse depicting a life experience my main aim is to create a suitable foundation for his lyrics, so most of the time the final track is a lot different from the original beat demo I made.
Any future musical plans after the new single? Louis: We’ve actually got a lot to come, we’ve been working all year and have a bunch of projects we want to release moving forward as a group and as individuals. Our main priority is the debut EP and getting shows to perform it and we’ll take it from there. We have big plans but I don’t want to give away too much yet.
Where would you like to be in a years time? Joe: Although our plans for 2020 have been full of obstacles, I’m still excited to see where we go as a group. I’m looking forward to playing shows and I’d like to think in a year we will have released more music and possibly be selling merch but I’m open to seeing how it plays out. As a producer, I’d love to collaborate with different artists from Birmingham, there are so many talented people releasing music. The scene here is growing and we feel honoured to be a part of it.
Louis: I’m really not thinking that far ahead in concrete terms, this year has shown that life doesn’t care about our plans and that we have to be ready to adapt. I believe that great things are coming for us but as long as we’re happy, financially stable and able to continue doing what we’re doing, and hopefully people continue to join our journey and enjoy the music then I really can’t ask for more.
If people want to find out more about you where should they go? Louis: Hit us up on our IG or FB @TheWorstGuysOfficial and drop us a like and a follow, we’re regularly posting content on our pages and giving updates about future releases. For now my personal account is @Louis_D_Prince but that might change so follow our band page and drop us a message if you want. Stay blessed y’all.
Joe: Our music is available on all platforms including Spotify,Apple Music and Bandcamp! Follow my personal account: @joecmarsh and drop me a dm about an album I forgot to mention. Peace and love.
Eva Davenport is the Boston based R&B singer making a big name for herself in the Massachusetts scene, thanks to her prolific high energy shows and deeply soulful music. She released her debut EP ‘Letters To Self’ in August of 2019 and has since been busy gaining a loyal fanbase that spans different continents. She’s now returned with her newest musical offering in the form of single ‘Trill’ which fuses elements of R&B, hip-hop and soul. We spoke to Eva about the release of the new single and what music means to her.
What drew you to music and how did you get into it?
My mom and dad love music and my mother sang all through out her pregnancy with me. My dad always says I was born singing and my mom tells the story of 3-year-old me jumping on stage to dance with the horn section at the reggae festival so often I feel like that little girl to this day. My family has always supported my passions! Music became serious for me at a young age. I started singing in elementary school chorus and asked for voice lessons for my birthday in 4th grade with the RI philharmonic. For years I did music summer camps, talent shows, competitions and voice lessons. In high school I joined a girl group that wrote and recorded original R&B/ pop/ gospel music and toured from the East to West coast. We performed mainly all over RI for non-profit and community events, even at prestigious events like the Jeffrey Osborne Celebrity Golf Tournament 2012 & 2013. In 2014 I was accepted to Berklee with a talent scholarship and attended for 2 years making connections which led to working as a professional vocalist singing for over 15 different bands in Boston from 70’s funk & disco to rock n roll to top hits 50s – today to 90’s/ 200s R&B and more! I’ve truly enjoyed learning and performing so many different types of music and can appreciate and admire something in every genre.
In 2017 I started a band and began booking gigs; branching off in 2018 to manage and book myself as a solo artist. Now I’m living that dream, working as a performing/ recording artist under Eva Davenport Music. It’s a happy challenge because although I’m wearing many hats I love every step of the journey and feel fulfilled to know the steps it took to get to inner-success. Every show and release is better than the last. And every year is more successful.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound is soulful in every essence. Heavily R&B influenced and lyrically influential. I am inspired by the consciousness of India Arie, the honesty of Stevie Wonder, the rawness of Alicia Keys and the power and versatility of Beyonce.
I love R&B, soul, funk, hip-hop, jazz, pop, blues, neo-soul, blues, musical theatre, classical, gospel and more!
What’s the creative process behind a song? Do you look for inspiration or do they just come to you?
My songwriting creative process is always initially writing to a beat, recording a melodic idea with lyrics OR writing down a simple idea to write about later. Inspiration comes by thinking positively and manifesting what I want! Attending events, supporting artists, watching new music videos and listening to conscious songs truly inspires me to create. Also being around amazing people. Healthy mind, soul and spirit.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
My mom and dad! My auntie and gramma and entire family! My teachers in life and friends and guardians who have truly cared; Mrs. Chabot, Eleanor and Thawn, Papi Xampeux, Pauline, Sassy & Borderline, Mrs. Melchar, Amanda Shea, Mrs. Vince, and more. Local artists and groups who’ve truly inspired me, Red Shaydez, Oompa, Feel it Speak it, DJ WhySham X Brandie Blaze, Ava Sophia, Sam & DAP, The Jungle, Aaron King & BridgeSide Cypher, The LABS, and more! And global artists who inspire me; India Arie, Kehlani, Tamia, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Wicked, Jojo, Lauryn Hill, SZA, HER, Summer Walker, Mary J Blidge, Erykah Badu, to name a few.
If you could be support act for any artists who would it be and why?
Beyonce, because if I could be supporting act for ANY artist I’m taking advantage of the biggest opportunity possible and she is one of my idols.
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
Oompa’s sold out release show at the Sinclair in Boston last year was my favorite! 1. Because it was INCREDIBLE. 2. Seeing an artist I knew do something THAT amazing as an independent artist confirmed possibilities are limitless. And 3. I had the honor of preforming a debut song on stage with Red Shaydez off her newest album ‘Feeling the Aura”
Favourite show you’ve played?
This is very hard but my favorite show has to be my self-produced EP Release Show at the Mad Music Mill in Dorchester on my birthday last summer. But singing ‘God Bless America’ at Fenway Park for the Red Sox vs. Yankee’s game in front of thousands of people last year definitely comes in close second!!
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
Magical! I was onstage 2-4 times a week before the pandemic so I will feel at home again and blessed!
Thankfully I was able to sing live last month for the first historical Juneteenth Celebration in Salem, MA. And have participated and curated online events i.e. (ARtz Online, Activating Artivism, Good Music Showcase, Mindful Women’s Tribe Block Party) during this time to raise money and awareness for supporting the arts, people of color and self-care.
Any future musical plans after the new single?
Absolutely! My year anniversary for the ‘Letter’s to Self’ EP is coming up next month so definitely be on the lookout for some dope visual releases by myself and my partner Papi Xampeux. ALSO new music off the soon to be announced project featuring ‘Trill’ is coming soon! Follow my SoundCloud and mailing list for information on special releases!
Where would you like to be in a years time?
A year from today I’d like to be traveling and performing worldwide. I’d like to know people from all over and share music with them! I’d love to travel to my fans in Saint Lucia and Belgium and put on shows with them! I want to have continued releasing music and products and collaborating with amazing people and artists and I will make all of this happen!
If people want to find out more about you where should they go?
Cloud Factory are the brand new post-punk/ garage band based in Toulouse, France, lead be lead singer Alice Cyprine. With Ben on bass, Bruno on drums, and Robin and Romain on guitar duties. Forming out of members of various other Toulouse based bands such as Cathedrale and Noir City they’ve created a sound that reminisces in old school lo-fi punk whilst keeping a modern feel with their fusion of electronic instrumentation. They’ve just released their debut EP ‘Cloud Factory #1′ on Howlin’ Banana Records, the Paris based label that hosts other France based garage/ indie big hitters such as Fontanarosa, eGg’s, Pop Crimes and Th Da Freak. We spoke to Alice, Robin and Romain about where the group began and whats to come in the world of Cloud Factory.
What drew each of you to music and how did you get into it?
Robin : I’ve always been into music, playing guitar alone until I had my first real band Cathedrale. Then I used to play with Alice at home, and we decided to start our band.
Alice : I started learning guitar on my own when I was in high school, and began to sing a bit later… For years, I just played folk music alone in my room. I had my first band really late and I still am kind of shitty when it comes to play with others. It’s really hard for me to stick to the song structures !
Romain : I have an older brother who used to listen to grunge and brit-pop bands when I was a kid, so it is safe to say I was drawn by this kind of sound pretty young. I started playing guitar and bass guitar in high school too, and joined my first band Maelstrom when I was in university.
Where did you meet and how did the group form?
Robin : We all knew each other because there is a prolific music scene in Toulouse, every member has or had another bands in the city. We are friends because of these, going at the same gigs and pubs.
Where does the band’s name come from?
Robin : It’s what’s inside your head after partying
Alice : It made me think of the big fire there was in the chemical plant of Lubrizol near Rouen.
How would you describe your sound?
Robin : It’s something between indie pop and something rawer like post punk music
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Alice : Broadcast, Protomartyr, Amyl & the sniffers, Automatic, Amber Arcades…
Robin : American, UK and Australian former and actual punk scene, bigger bands like Velvet Underground or Parquet Courts, many different things !
Romain : I would say 60’s psychedelic scene, some proto punk band like the Stooges and Television and 90’s alternative band like Sonic Youth and Radiohead.
If you could be support act for any artists who would it be and why?
Alice : Fontaines D.C because Grian Chatten is hot haha, or Kevin Morby for the same reason !
Robin : I don’t really know, there are so many possibilities’ haha !!! Le Villejuif Underground because I love their last songs and I’ve never seen them live ! Also, I’d like to play with The Stroppies or White Fence !
Romain : Idles, they seem cool and a bit crazy too and I really liked their gig at Lyon last year with Interpol.
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
Alice : I really couldn’t tell, there’s so many… But lately I would say Big Thief at the TINALS festival last year
Romain : The Hives at the Bikini, in Toulouse in 2013. It was absolutely nuts !
Robin : I remember the show of Cult Of Youth a few years ago. Since I saw a lot of bands playing live and performing great show such as Uranium Club for example.
Favourite show you’ve played?
Alice : We’ve only done one show so far… but it was fantastic, opening for Lumer at Le Ravelin in Toulouse
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
Robin : Probably it will be for the release party in Toulouse or Paris where our labels are. So I think it will be very exciting to play our music to the people that have already discovered it, and a big challenge to take up. That promises a great night !
Romain : I think there is so much frustration from playing our songs only in rehearsal for so long that the first show is gonna be a huge party.
Alice : I cannot predict how it will be but I can’t wait.
What’s the creative process behind a song?
Alice : It usually (maybe always when I think about it) starts with Robin’s guitar, and then we all kind of build something from it… It really depends now that we’re all creating together : at first I was singing and writing the lyrics just after Robin made the guitar, but now the others pick up really fast, and I usually get my ideas last !
Any future musical plans after the new EP?
Alice : We are planning to go back in studio as soon as we can to record some more songs, and would love to release something new. Also touring would be cool !
Robin : I’d like recording five or six new songs with Lo Spider and maybe release a compil gathering this first EP and the new ones in a vinyl.
Where would you like to be in a years time?
Robin : I know where I don’t want to be, like in quarantine because of a virus, or somewhere even more unequal than today. I hope that in a years time people will be less jerk and more tolerant.
Alice : on tour !
If people want to find out more about you where should they go?
Robin : Come to Toulouse or come to see us playing and talk with us before or after the show !
Cloud Factory #1 EP is available now on all streaming services and limited cassettes are available to buy here.
Big thank you to Tom from Howlin’ Banana Records for help setting up the interview!