New Noise: Syd Arthur

We get familiar with the Psychedelic Jazz quartet from our very own shores: Syd Arthur.

Where would you expect a Psychedelic Jazz group to be formed? A tricky question, but we’re guessing you wouldn’t have plumped for Canterbury. However, that’s exactly where brothers Joel and Liam Magill and violinist Raven Bush started their alternative outfit back in 2003. Since then, there have been three albums – including 2014’s critically celebrated Sound Mirror – a change around of members (the third Magill brother, Josh, has joined the fold as a drummer), and, most importantly, over ten years of top-class musicianship that’s fiercely experimental, pushing at the boundaries of what improvisation can achieve.

With Apricity, Syd Arthur’s upcoming album, the boys have, in their own words, distilled “everything we’ve been exploring in our music up until now…” That means plenty of new ground breaking sonically speaking, and a whole lot of technical brilliance: these guys are jazz aficionados, after all. The album was recorded between Echo Park in California and their humble home studio in Canterbury (an inspirational combination, apparently) and will be hitting shelves in October. Until then, you can catch the boys if you’re at Glastonbury right now or, if the mud isn’t your thing, they’ll be performing at Electrowerkz in London on 13th July. So, plug into their latest therma-cam style video for “Apricity” and read on for our exclusive chat with the boys themselves.

How did your band name come about?

The band name is a play on words referencing Hesse and Syd the Piper.

Break down your sound for us, what are you going for?

Our sound is a mix of old and new. Melodic and experimental with its root in song.

You recorded your album at Echo Park in LA with Jason Faulkner – why did you choose to go to LA and what was the experience like?

We chose LA because our label Harvest are based there and we wanted to include them in the process. Also we wanted to change up our environment and give the recording a fresh perspective. Our studio back in London where we self-produced the first two records has its limitations so we wanted to find somewhere that we could track live together in one room. The experience of recording in LA was great. We spent a bit of time with Jason honing the music then set up at Jonathan Wilson’s studio in Echo Park for 10 days of tracking to 2 inch.

We then took everything we’d captured to an infamous studio in Topanga Canyon that we were living in and worked there for two more months. We felt comfortable and at home up in Topanga right on the west of LA kind of cut off from the city where we could focus and not be distracted, which didn’t feel too different to our dynamic of London and Kent back home.

Raven – you can be honest with us, what’s it like working with three brothers?

Well, eh, I can’t really be honest can I? No, it’s a really good vibe, there is a great connection that translates through to the music. The banter is outrageous too.

Why did you go back to Canterbury to mix the record? Big switch from Cali to Canterbury, right?

We felt the final stage of mixing the record should be done by ourselves back in Canterbury. By that point we wanted to take everything back into our own hands and finish it the way we wanted to. We spent a week with Jas Shaw from Simian Mobile Disco who opened our ears to certain things but ultimately spending that time back in Kent mixing it ourselves gave us the results we wanted.

What do you think is the strongest theme on the upcoming album? Where and when is the best place and time to listen to it?

The strongest theme on the record is the title and that feeling of apricity one gets when feeling the warmth of the winter sun. The best time and place to listen to it is whilst on the move. Either walking, driving, dancing… It’s not a record to sit down and dwell on, it’s about movement.

You’ve toured with The Strokes and Pixies. We cried at Glastonbury when we saw Pixies, we’ll be honest. Does working alongside icons ever get overwhelming?

Working alongside icons can be daunting up until the point you are doing it when you realise they are just exceptional people and not something unattainable. It is always inspiring and adds a pressure that we as a band thrive on.

Where did the idea for the music video for “Apricity” come from?

The idea of the video came from our love of video mapped projection onto buildings. The location was important too, we’ve grown up seeing pillbox’s out in the fields around Kent. We liked the geometry of the structure and saw it as a sort of plinth/stage ready to be used. Taking an object with a dark history and making into something beautiful was appealing.

The video is part of a trilogy – give us a sneak preview of the other two parts?

The other two videos are not projection based, in a lot of our other videos we’ve hidden behind these lighting effects whereas in the videos that will follow we are revealing ourselves a lot more.

Talk us through your creative process. How do you go about writing music? Have you mastered the art of compromise yet?

Myself and Raven come up with most of the music, sometimes fully formed other times just a sketch of an idea/section. We then play this together as a band to hone our parts and figure out the arrangement. The song/lyric reveals itself throughout this process but we always try to keep it live and achievable to play as four people. There is always a bit of compromise within a band set up, but that’s what creates a collective sound like ours. It’s about respect for you band members and what they are bringing to the fore.

Are you ready for Glastonbury? Bought yourselves a head to toe glittery outfit yet? What can we expect from your performance?

You might think you’re ready for Glastonbury but until your there in the thick of it you’ll never know. All that you’ll need will be there so we’ll pick up some glitter along the way m sure. The performance will be mostly new material with

Anecdote time: what’s the weirdest event that’s happened to you while you guys have been a band?

Room 69 at the Chataue Marmont!

Who would your dream collaboration be with?

To collaborate with Miguel Atwood Ferguson and realise our music in conjunction with orchestration is something we’d love to do.

New Noise: Syd Arthur

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