A simple Q&A with forward-thinking Liverpudlian trio, Ninetails.
If you’re into bands such as Tall Ships or Foals then allow us to introduce you to Ninetails.
We’re not talking vengeful Pokemon, we’re shouting about the Liverpool trio that are as mythical and visual as they are clamorous. The boys brand new EP ‘Quiet Confidence’ is officially released today (the first since the widely praised ‘Slept And Did Not Sleep’ EP back in 2012). In addition, their first live show in over a year has been confirmed – they’ll support Jon Hopkins at Liverpool’s Sound City 2014 on May 1st 2014. We had a chat with Vocalist/Guitarist Jordan Balaber.
How did you boys get into carving a career in music full time?
We all met at university in our first year. When we started playing together everything was very casual and loose; I don’t think any of us had plans to commit the majority of our time to the project. Eventually there came a point when we were gigging together all the time, and eventually our chemistry as a unit became really strong, and our writing style, process and dynamic settled into place. This shift allowed us to peruse a more singular and uncompromising sound.
You’ve recently undergone some lineup changes. Why the decision to carry on as a trio?
Before Ed left, him and I were writing together. He would sometimes have a melody or riff which I would help him develop, or a chord progression that I would write a melody for, or vice versa. The songs would develop like that, mostly; piece by piece, with most sections sharing contributions from each of us. When Ed left, I still had a lot of material that I thought would suit the Ninetails’ aesthetic. I’ve been writing songs since I was about 8 or 9 so I felt comfortable taking on the role as primary writer. Me, Phil and Ling were still eager to work together and had the time and drive to do so, so we moved in together.
How have the dynamics of the band changed since the loss of a member?
I think the sound has naturally become more singular, simply because there are less members, and therefore less voices in each track. There are some obvious shifts in our sound since Ed’s left; I’m doing all of the vocals, there’s a wider instrumental pallet (vibraphones, trumpets, synths, MIDI organ, acoustic guitars, field recordings, UK-style electronic percussive elements, etc.), and we indulge more in some of the more free-form vibes and sonic areas we hinted at in our recordings prior, like the incorporation of field recordings, ambient zones, sharp edits/juxtapositions, things like that.
Who has been the main musical inspirations when you sit down and create a track?
The tracks on Quiet Confidence drew inspiration from really shamelessly cinematic and cathartic music, and from various pop influences. Gabriel Faure’s “Requiem”, John Tavener, Liturgy, Fennesz, Prefab Sprout, Toumandi Diabete, Grouper, Steve Reich, Jason Lescalleet, Sean Mccann, D’Angelo, Talk Talk, Krallice. The movie “The Tree of Life” was a big influence as well.
How would you describe the signature Ninetails sound?
There are certain reoccurring elements in our music; reversed/manipulated guitars is a common one. I would say the music has some fundamentally pop elements, but it aims to tap into a zone that is more surreal and meditative. I think there’s a sort of ebb-and-flow feel to the music as well; it feels like it pulsates, undulates, breathes in and out.
What song do you wish you had written?
There are so many. A song I’ve heard recently that I wish I’d written is “Mine” off Beyonce’s new album. I think it’s gorgeous.
If you could be in any other band what band would that be and who would you like to replace?
I would be in The Beach Boys and I would replace Mike Love because he’s a prick and every contribution he’s ever made to their music has been destructive.
Tell us more about the new EP ‘Quiet Confidence’?
I think it’s an incredibly visual release. It’s intended to be epic and grandiose, heavily-detailed and textured. I had a visual in my head of a faceless character, hunched over, surrounded by massive walls of undulating, iridescent light, like massive shards of glass. I wanted the music to depict someone in the midst of a revelation, in a sort of holy, protective cocoon, but they’re constantly ‘snapping out of it’, forgetting where they are, getting caught up in various trivialities. That’s where the “shell of light” imagery comes from, and the repeated mantras and that sort of ‘desperation’ vibe. I hope people listen to this music and it makes them feel empowered.
Is there a particular track on the EP that you favour?
There are moments in each track that I’m proud of. My favorite element to the release is the trumpets, though; there was something deeply satisfying about hearing someone play back an idea I had in my head that I couldn’t actually create, because I can’t play the trumpet. The trumpets at the end of “O For Two”, throughout “Hopelessly Devoted” and at the end of “Sinn Djinn” all give me goosebumps still.
Is it quite harrowing singing such personal lyrics, aloud to rooms full of people?
Definitely, that’s why the live show is not about that “personal” vibe that the release has, it will be a lot more communal; a lot more about repetition, atmosphere. The lyrics aren’t particularly a focal-point when we play live.
Are you playing any festivals this summer?
We’re playing Sound City in May alongside Jon Hopkins. Very exciting.
Words: Shane Hawkins (Follow Shane on Twitter – @piccadilly_boy)