by Jack Reid
The video for Our Eyes came out not long ago, what’s it all about? I guess at the beginning it was a bit about meeting and connecting and stuff, and the bit with the animals is about how you know you should never look an animal in the eye, and if you do you’re looking for a fight? That sort of turned into me being covered in the food that animals want. We were going to try and do it so that the animals would be looking me in the eye, but it was just too difficult on the day to actually get the dogs to do anything we wanted. They were like, totally untrained and out of control, so we were like, right I’m just going to have to hold them, that’s the only way we’re going to get them in shot.
I guess it was about doing something that was a bit different, something that’s memorable, and hasn’t been done before. I guess a lot of the ideas you can come up with for music videos, even if you just think about it for then minutes can feel a bit like they’ve been done before, especially if you want them to have any relation to a song. So it was a nice in between of having a kind of connection to the song, but also doing something that’s completely wacky and out there, and wasn’t at all related to how I looked or what I was wearing. It was sort of putting that all out the window.
Those suits, who made those? Two different costume designers, I went round to their houses. They were both young girls who were really, really talented. When I spoke to one of them, she’d stopped doing music videos all together because she hated that whole “can you make this outfit for this girl to make her look really amazing?” thing. She said sometimes it felt really soulless and conventional. She said then she saw this idea, and was like, right I’m definitely doing this music video, just because it’s mental and I can’t wait to see it. So she was really cool, and super talented. Then the poor girl who made the chips, that was just like, it took so long to make them. I think there was one point where the chip outfit was being made and my label were a bit scared, like “she’s just going to look like a bauble”.
The new album is forthcoming, where did you write most of it? On the road, touring the first record. The song I put up today, Into The Wild, was written when I was recording my last album. It’s literally been non-stop writing since forever. I don’t really go off writing, I guess. I don’t really suddenly go, “Oh right I should be releasing an album soon. I should start writing.” It’s not really how I work. I guess it’s just whenever I feel like I want to. So it’s just all over the place, on the road, at home. It’s a collection of like three years of material, which came up to about fifty songs. Then it was choosing the best of those for the album. It’s not even that many for three years if you think about it.
How would you say the album’s going to be different from the debut? I mean musically, it’s totally different. Our Eyes, I think, is pretty different from any of the other stuff. A lot of my stuff from the first album was acoustic-written songs with nice, delicate arrangements around them. Whereas, this album - like with Our Eyes and that guitar riff at the beginning, and it’s very drums and bass oriented, with a big synth-y sound in the chorus. I guess I’ve just broadened what I’m writing. There’s not just acoustic guitar, there’s also lots of piano stuff as well.
It’s been said a lot that Our Eyes has some Bombay Bicycle Club influence. Have you worked with them recently, and how was working with them? I first worked with them like four years ago, now. It’s been good. It’s been really good, I’ve toured with them a lot and they’re like, my closest friends. It’s weird that so many people are saying that, because I guess it’s just music that’s come quite naturally. It’s not like I’ve thought about writing a song like someone else or like I’ve taken influences like that. But I have toured with them for three years, and I love their music so I’m sure there’s inspiration in there from them.
When I first started working with them, I was just a fan, and I went to one of their gigs. It was very early on, they played an acoustic gig at the Old Queen’s Head in Islington & Angel and I lived there so I just went along and spoke to Jack afterwards and told him about my music and became friends.
I read somewhere that you had an offer at UCL, and you left it do music. Is that right? What were you going to be doing? Geography. That was definitely a risky choice, I think. I was like the only girl at my school who didn’t go to university, and I feel like in today’s society, university’s very much like where you should be going and the pressure’s very much put on for you to go to uni. Are you guys at uni? So you know how it feels. When you leave you’re A-levels it’s like, “Well obviously I’m going to apply to university and go,” so making that decision even when you look back at it, definitely wasn’t easy. I guess it was one of the braver decisions I’ve made because I could have most likely have had it turn out that I wouldn’t have made it. The chances of this happening to me are one in a million, for me to actually be able to make music, and do it as a living. So, I guess I’m just super lucky.
Was that something you had to convince your family and your friends of, that decision? Yeah, I guess with my family, I had worked really hard at school. I had done my A-levels and got a place at UCL to do geography so I guess it was already in a really fortunate position in my life, to be able to have than as an option, to go to university and study. So to turn it down. I think I did it by saying I’ll just have a year off of uni and get a job. I got a job at a Karen Millen shop, which was horrific. Worked there, and then went to open mics every single evening, and that’s how we started.
So it was bizarre, because all my friends were at university and feeling great and I was in a Karen Millen shop in Central London, doing open mic every night. Even though it was everything that I loved and I was so happy, definitely when I visited my friends at uni I was in a different place. I’m sure that for my parents, watching me go from school and getting three As and stuff in my A-levels, to working in a Karen Millen shop, they might have been worried. Not that working in a Karen Millen shop’s bad but it was just doing open mics and stuff… I don’t know, you know what I mean? There was convincing, I just kept going “If it doesn’t work out, I promise I’ll go. I’ll go to uni if it doesn’t work out.” I just kept deferring it. I think I deferred it a third year, and they were like you can’t do it any more.
Have you got any side projects or collaborations going on? Um, well I like to write for people as well. I guess that’s a side project. I’ve got friends who are starting out who I think are really great, I’m helping them. I don’t know if I should say who because not everybody talks about co-writing. I’ve never done it on my records because I didn’t like it the other way round, but I really like writing for other peoples’ music. So, I guess that’s a side project. I guess I just do the odd collaboration every now and again like with Ghost Poet on his last record, that’s just come out.
This is first time I’ve co-written, it’s just friends. This is first time I’ve had time off in so long, you know what I mean? I’ve been on the road for literally like five years, with Bombay, constantly. Whenever their tour finished, I’d go on my own the next day. We did three trips to America last year, I mean I’m a really heavy touring person. So I guess foremost it was like writing my album which was number one priority. So since my album’s been finished, which was only a few months ago, I guess that’s when I started going into writing for other people.
You’re trapped on a desert island and you get one album. What do you choose? I think I’d choose Nick Drake, Pink Moon. If I was stuck on a desert island, I’d be quite panicky. So I think I’d need something to calm me and down, and that’s, if I’m feeling at all anxious, I just put that on.
Have you played Thekla before? No, I’m quite a travel sick person so I’m a little bit scared. Are we moving? The wind on the motorway, honestly our van was literally getting blown off the road. Mental.
Do you have a favourite gig of all time that sticks in your mind? I’ve got so many really fond memories of, even gigs on this tour that have been really great, that stick out. I think the biggest moment for me, gig-wise, when I felt insanely lucky, was Glastonbury last summer. I was at this stage where nothing was really happening. It had been two and a half years since my last record was released and there was no signs of a new one on the horizon at that moment. So it was like, who was going to some and see me play? Old news, and there’s all these cool new bands playing at the same time, nobody’s going to come and see me. But, to walk out and to see that kind of crowd at like 1 o’ clock on a Sunday morning to see me was just awesome.
Luckily I didn’t freak out, which I could have, easily. My booking agent took me to one side just before I went on stage and was like, “Think about all those hundreds and hundreds of open mic you’ve done, and you’ve played to nobody. Everything that you’ve been doing for the last six years is adding up and you’ve got to just enjoy the moment. You deserve it, this is why you’re here.” So I sort of had that person telling me that this wasn’t something like oh, I’ve got to sell myself and I hope everyone likes it. You just have to enjoy this moment, and that’s like super important. I’m really glad she said that, cause it kind of put me in the right mindset to go on stage.
What’s the furthest place you’ve toured to? Manilla, I think, in the Philippines. You just get like an offer from the promoter. If there’s anybody that’s like, why aren’t you coming to here or here or here, it’s literally because I haven’t had an offer from a promoter that’ll pay for me to come over there. So, when we did have lots of time off there were a lot of chances just to pick up all those promoters. We went to Singapore, did three shows in Singapore, one show in Kuala Lumpur. The show in Manilla in the Philippines was amazing, at a festival, and it was like a sixteen hour flight there, direct. We decided like, we can’t go all the way there so we went on like a band holiday. Got another little plane, and a boat, which was like £20. It was cheaper than like, a bus ticket. We went to a tiny, tiny island called Boracay for just like a week’s holiday in paradise pretty much. Played a gig very drunk one night. Loads of Rastafarians lent us their bongos. There was like a Rastafarian band there, with bongos and six-string bass and all this mental gear. It was our tour manager’s birthday, and he was like, “It’s my birthday and I just want to you to play a gig!” It was three in the morning in this empty bar. He was tour managing on a little island, he was like, “I’ve spoken to the owner, if you play some songs he’ll give everyone a free… Sex On The Beach.” So it was like, alright, go on then.
So do you always tour together with the same band then? Have you been together since the start? It’s always friends. If there’s anyone missing there’s always a few people asking. I’ve had three bass players in the last five years but they’ve all just been friends. I’ve got a lot of friends who are great musicians. My first bass player, he was a great musician, but he also had a life. He had a wife and wanted to go and have a baby, and the life on the road’s not suitable really for that, sometimes. I had another bass player who’s a friend, Simba. My first bass player said “I can’t do it,” so I was like, oh I need somebody but it can’t just be a stranger that we audition or whatever. It’s got to be someone close so when my oldest, oldest friend, who booked me for my first open mic, did my sound when I was eighteen. He came and played bass with us for a year and half, but he has other plans with his life. He wants to be a manager and stuff.
If it ever changes, it’s because people have other things that they wanna do. They’re all like the closest, closest friends of mine. So, same with where I had a guitar player called Björn who’s been with me right from the start, but he wants to start producing but he was getting to that stage in his life where he wants to take that new chapter. I’ve got two new friends who are just wicked, who went to school with each other.
Do you think it’s important to play with your friends on stage? I think it’s just important to be comfortable on stage. I think for me, a lot of the comfort comes from a combination of the people I’m on stage with and the crowd. To have that enjoyment on tour, you have to have family, you know what I mean, when you’re away from home a lot? So it’s a lot easier when you’ve got really close friends with you.
Do you recommend the support act tonight? Yeah, they are incredible. They are actually our tour manager Will’s cousin. So we knew about him and Will manages him as well so it was just keeping it in the family again, bringing someone else on tour. That’s always good, because again, you know them and I kind of like giving supports to people where they wouldn’t normally get the opportunity otherwise. There are a lot of people doing really well and trying to get a support slot on a tour, but I kind of know that’s gonna happen. It’s kind of good to help people early, when it’s the hardest I guess, to get going.
It’s great when you have good people on the road with you, because supporting’s really tough. It is a really tough thing to go on stage when no one’s there to see you, it can be really tough so you can’t really… but at the same time you’ve got to appreciate the fact that you’re on tour and stuff, so it’s the right balance I guess. They’re great, I mean they help me sell merch. It’s keeping it in the family again.