Interviews? Journalists? Nah. We asked three of the new year’s best bands to quiz amongst themselves.
If you been to any of their raucous, paint-stripping gigs in and around London, you’d be surpassed to know that Alex Glover, lead singer of shoegazing foursome Relics, spends half his time in hair and makeup. Take another look, and the AntiAgency-signed model is a sight for sore eyes. Equally hot is their debut single, sensitive dreampop rocker “Straight to Heart”. Though only two of the guys could make our shoot, they were more than happy to grill each other on their sound, and plans to release a debut EP later this year. Here’s how it played out.
Theo Alexander: So, the two of us met in the band…
Alex Glover: Well, James and I formed a band together when we were teenagers – but we just stopped because of other things going on, then James met you at university and came to me saying “I know this guy Theo, he’s half Chinese – we’d look good together”.
Theo: When we met I asked where you were from and you said “I’m Chinese actually…”
Alex: So you asked “what kind of Chinese”, and I said “Malaysian Chinese”, “no way! I’m Malaysian Chinese too, where’s your dad from?”
Theo: My dad’s from Kuching.
Alex: Oh shit my mum’s from Kuching, a tiny little town in Malaysia. That’s weird. Shit. You play guitar too?
Theo: The rest is history.
Alex: So, at the minute our music’s quite rhythmic.
Theo: Yeah it is. I think, before, ‘fuzzy, warm cloud’ was a good description – but now it’s getting more rhythmic and divided, our guitars are working in harmony and it’s sharper.
Alex: Over the course of the year we had a sort of wall of noise, now we’re stripping it back and it’s becoming dryer.
Theo: You dried out your guitar and I dried out my guitar, then we hung them up and took them back in, right?
Alex: Yeah hung them up to dry (laughing). We sing more with each other now as well; it used to be just basically me singing. One time we did a sound check, when it was just us doing our vocals, this photographer said “it’s quite gospel, that”. That was nice, I’d never heard that before.
Theo: I don’t think Relics have ever actually done a whole shoot together?
Alex: Yeah we’ve done shoots but not like a magazine shoot yet.
Theo: It was interesting to play the roles of different bands today.
Alex: Yeah living vicariously through the Pet Shop Boys (referring to the style of the shoot). Actually when I was 17, I was a waiter and I served one of the Pet Shop Boys, so this has kind of come full circle now – now I am a Pet Shop Boy (laughing).
Theo: You know what we were saying the other day, usually we dress quite smart, almost like we are going to work.
Alex: I’d say we naturally dress all very similarly. Neat hair cuts, shirts, trousers – apart from that one time James started wearing Franz Ferdinand T-shirts. He wore it to rehearsal and we all looked at him like death: “what the fuck is that”?
Alex: We’ve been playing a lot in London recently.
Theo: We’re all from London, so we’re trying to get a good base in our hometown.
Alex: We’re from different parts originally but we’ve all lived in East for about eight years. I feel like recently we’ve been a curse on the bars we’ve been playing – like Buffalo Bar just announced it’s closing down and Madame Jojos announced the same yesterday, we only played White Heat about two months ago!
Theo: The Lock Tavern is our favourite though.
Alex: We mutually agree on that – we’ve played there three or four times in the space of a year. It’s the worst sound ever, there are no sound checks, no monitors, nothing is mic’d up it’s all like a rehearsal room. You can’t buy that kind of vibe.
Theo: And the stage is ridiculously small so, yeah, we’ve fallen over a few times.
Alex: But it forces you to think a bit more as well, because nothing is right and nothing works as it should.
Theo: Usually casualties – but always worth it.
Alex: You smacked some poor girl in the front with your guitar. But she kept dancing!
These days, you only have to release a lilting synth-pop EP and you’re met with a barrage of boring XX and How To Dress Well comparisons. Just ask exciting new London duo Pale, who in September self-released their first EP The Comeback. Produced by Adam Jaffrey (former basis of enigmatic doom poppers Trailer Trash Tracys), standout track “Comeback” is anything but skeletal and cold, like the work of many of their contemporaries. Instead it’s heartbroken but wrapped in warm garms. Soft electronics support lead singer Adam Pownall’s opening pleas, “I can’t live up to your highs and lows…I don’t need to need to know you’re coming back.” The twosome go deeper here.
Alan: I’ve been answering quite a lot of questions via email, so I’m really interested to know how you would describe our sound?
Lee Canham: So you’ve already got answers set up for everything?
Alan: Not really because that’s a particular question that’s quite difficult to answer. Especially when you’re a new a band, still very much trying to carve out a sound.
Lee: I don’t think we really set a goal in what we were trying to achieve.
Alan: I guess what we were trying to do was not be too calculated in creating a sound saying: “this is what we want to sound like – let’s go sound like that.” We wanted to sound authentic and like ourselves. So, the inspiration that we drew from wasn’t conscious. We just sat down and put our skill set together and what came out was what came out. I kind of wanted our band to be a lot more classic post-punk, like imperfect pop songs for people with a slightly alternative taste. We were kind of limited by a number of things, plus there were only two of us so the synth electronic sound just came out of the fact we were writing on a laptop rather than a rehearsal space with guitars.
Lee: I think living in London has made everything more of a struggle, perhaps, to survive and make music at the same time?
Alan: That’s true. I think London is really suffocating, from a creative point of view. I would be anywhere but London. I think that is the city these days. Everything is expensive, just doing anything is difficult… I think a lot of people move to London because they want to be where it’s kind of ‘happening,’ but did you feel that coming to London?
Lee: I had to move to London to step up what I was doing and meet people. It’s much easier to meet people that are the next level of making music than in a small town.
Alan: I do think that, ironically, ‘the struggle’ as you put it, is sort of inspiring without meaning for it to be. I think you and I, I certainly am, quite angry with the environment which I choose to be creative in. I think that it’s something that is good for my creativity so to speak, maybe I’ll look back on it and think “oh no that was ideal, now that I’ve got all of the tools that I want in order to do what I want to do, now I’m complacent,” whereas before, I had this hunger that was driving me.
Lee: I do like cities, just not this city any more.
Alan: This city would be great, if money wasn’t an object. I think maybe people do care, but music, art, London is at a point where it’s so lost that something has to change, give or represent change that is necessary and hopefully we can add some colour to that because that really does matter.
Alan: When are you going to shave your ‘tasche off Lee?
Lee: When I get the guts! When are you going to shave your head?
Alan: (Looks to me) This is not retaliation, he does actually ask me this on a regular basis. I have no plans, Lee, no plans to shave my head.
Since forming at a Belgium boarding school as preteens, brothers Austin and Alex Puru – Vision Fortune, to you and me – have sought to upset and confuse. Their debut album, May 2013’s Mas Fiestas con el Grupo, married caterwauling psychedelia with low-end bass drone. Songs – more like dready, endless jams, really – would pound down for tens of minutes at a time. Then there’s there was follow-up mixtape, the hilariously titled Titanic Part II: The Legend Goes On… (2000). A shift in a completely different direction, think of it as Can or Faust doing a minimal midnight funk set for FabricLive. Now signed to ATP Recordings, the now Londonbased duo will release LP Country Music in February. Here, the brothers interview each other for Rollacoaster.
Austin Puru: We started the band in our boarding school in Belgium.
Alex Puru: When we were like 13?
Austin: Yeah, we were really influenced by The Beautiful South then, which is actually still quite an influence. Now our music is worse (both laugh) not as much like The Beautiful South! We should go back to The Beautiful South really.
Alex: Yeah exactly, what’s that film? 21 Jump Street? Yeah, we need to do something like that, but real life, go back to boarding school.
Austin: Other than that, I guess I was really in to Oasis and you were really in to Blur?
Alex: Yeah – and I really liked Pulp as a kid.
Austin: Nah, the Gallagher brothers… I think the argument still goes on.
Alex: Also, we do like Lil B.
Austin: Yeah, but more influenced by Beautiful South, Lil B is just something we like – but we’ve always been very similar. It’s quite weird, always listening to the same stuff even when not living together. It’s a brother thing.
Alex: So, we were in Tuscany recently for research…
Austin: Yeah, our former drummer – he got deported because his visa ran out, he’s Columbian. He’s got a house in Tuscany.
Alex: We still send post cards (laughs).
Austin: Visas man, it fucking sucks. But anyway, it was a grant from his family so we could go to Tuscany and do some sound research out there.
Alex: He’s really close to a lot of woodlands and we just went on a lot of walks, there were a lot of wild boars and creatures, long walks in the Tuscan sunshine.
Austin: Our music is really pastoral now, much sunnier. We were recording in this big Tuscan villa and there’s one track where we use the wine cellars quite a lot and we had the sound of the wine cellar, so you had lots of different vintage wines kind of rambling around the track. By using the sound of the space that we were recording in, I think that’s quite a big thing. When we get together [the music] just happens. It’s very quick to make a decision. Working with just two of you it’s just very easy, not joking, we don’t talk when we make music together, just like don’t need to.
Alex: How could we describe the sound?
Austin: Like Tuscan sunshine.
Alex: Rolling Tuscan hills.
Austin: Dramatic rolling Tuscan hills… Infused by vintage wine cellars and wild boars roaming in the distance (both laughing).
Austin: We played in Tenerife last weekend it was incredible.
Alex: We spent a lot of time in the Irish pubs there – I really liked those.
Austin: But, no, Tenerife is actually really incredible. It was so hot, like 25 degrees November and we get to sun ourselves! That’s the best thing. I don’t know if we actually went, it was a dream. We went for the weekend and it was pissing it down when we went and pissing it down when we came back. Were we actually there? We want more sunny islands! We’re playing Iceland, that won’t be very warm.
Alex: We don’t really like playing London
Austin: No, not at all, no one gets it. The crowds are always tame. We want them rowdy, like lads.
Alex: So, next…
Austin: We move away. I don’t know where though, maybe go back to Belgium.
Alex: Maybe, yeah. We’re playing America and Europe… Austin And Iceland!
(Manager cuts in) You’re going whilst it’s 24-hour sunshine.
Austin: Seriously? I’m going to fucking go nuts in Iceland.
Photographer: Hayley Louisa Brown
Fashion Editor: Isabella Brunner
Words: Maya Kellermann