What’s not to love about a band with a penchant for one of the world’s most endearingly miserable characters, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off‘s very own Cameron Frye? We think you’ll find the answer is nothing. London trio Wovoka Gentle have been selling out the capital’s venues as fast as they’ve been putting out hits, following up their first two EPs with fresh new single, “When Cameron Was In Egypt’s Land Let My Cameron Go”.
Opening with harmonies as lush as a summer camp crew sat around the campfire, “When Cameron Was In Egypt’s Land Let My Cameron Go” steps away from typical twee folk tones with a bubbling breakdown, laser beam pings and echoing vocals. Produced by Grizzly Bear-affiliated Gareth Jones, his touch is just the right amount of electronic weirdness to keep you hitting repeat and discovering new details every time. We got properly acquainted with the band ahead of their headline show at London’s Chat’s Palace next month.
First of all: great song title! How in the world did you come up with that name?
It’s nothing to do with Brexit. It’s a quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Cameron playing on an old American spiritual called “Go Down Moses” to allude to being a prisoner in his own home.
Describe your sound to us in 5 words?
Begins with songs, goes elsewhere.
How did you three meet? How did you decide to go into music together?
We were playing in separate bands; Imogen and Ellie’s band were booked to support William’s band in Edinburgh, maybe five years ago now. We were really into each other’s music so decided to record a couple of songs together, and after those projects started to wind down we gravitated together really naturally.
What is your music-creating process like? Does it begin with an idea or do you just start and see what happens organically?
We’re all songwriters, so generally any one of us will present an idea which we then twist and mould together… That could be quite a fully formed song or it could be just one sound or loop or arpeggio or sample that might spark something in our imagination and kind of snowball into something more substantial. We do like to jam ideas out and see what happens, and often that can lead to really interesting things, but from there the refinement process will be really long and ruthless: you can’t cling to an idea just because you had a lot of fun coming up with it.
If this single was in the soundtrack of a movie, which movie would it be? Or what kind of movie would you want it to be in?
William: It would be slowed down to last three hours and be totally unrecognisable and nightmarish – a bit like the way they use Edith Piaf in Inception. Maybe in a Kubrick film or a Von Trier film or something like that.
Imogen: I hate to say it but it could possibly be really effective as a sinister leitmotif – think Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip to be Square” in American Psycho.
Ellie: I would definitely love to see Molly Ringwald triumphantly dance to it at an 80s style high school prom – very in keeping with the John Hughes theme I suppose!
What was it like working with frequent Depeche Mode producer, Gareth Jones?
It was amazing – halfway between working with a contemporary and working with a kind of mentor. He has this incredible mind, the kind where when you’re listening to something together, you know he’s hearing things you’re not yet hearing. He was also really encouraging of us to follow our instincts though; under his guidance we ended up preserving a lot of ideas and sounds we had from the demo phase that we might otherwise have discarded. That’s a good feeling, considering he’s been making records since before we were born.
Are there any artist/s that you would love to work with in the future? Why?
William: We bumped into Kevin Shields during mastering at Abbey Road… it would be amazing to work with him. Loveless is one of the most amazing sounding records out there. David Byrne as well- whether in lyrics or music or performance, he’s just a genius.
Imogen: I would love to collaborate with Sufjan Stevens – he’s really inventive, both musically and in the way he performs live. He transitions between different phases of experimentalism, yet everything he does feels so coherent and authentic. The chance to make music with Yo La Tengo would be incredible also – I love their sound.
Ellie: If Daphne Oram was still around I’d want to live in her studio. Also I would love to work with Beck.
You’ve provided music for theatre productions in the past. Is there a huge difference in creating music for a production compared to for yourselves? Which one do you prefer?
Working to augment an existing vision is definitely different to creating music that doesn’t need to serve a specific purpose, but there are big grey areas. Quite often we’ll work particular ideas into a score that have been in existence for a while and just feel appropriate, but just as often there will be certain ideas created for a specific purpose that end up taking on identities of their own and becoming the basis for songs. It’s really about how well you’re able to work between certain boundaries, and for us that kind of limitation tends to catalyse creativity much more than it restricts it. More recently, we have been writing scores for other musicians to perform, which has been both a freeing and frustrating process, as the music will inevitably change depending on who is playing! Hearing your work played back to you in a live setting though, that’s always magical.
Speaking of productions, your live performances are essentially their own theatre production! Talk us through the artistic process of how you create your live shows.
We wanted from the outset to subvert the generic concert dynamic, and incorporating installation and performance art into the shows was a natural part of that – artists like Bill Viola and Abby Portner are definitely influences when it comes to the shows. Olivia Norris is almost the fourth member of the band in that respect; she’s behind our posters and videos and our artwork, and performs with us onstage too. We’ve worked alongside her since the beginning. With each show we try to create a kind of immersive experience for the audience, where they’re held in that state of suspended disbelief for the whole hour instead of just for each song, if that makes sense. We also work with an amazing projection artist called Emily Bailey who manipulates projections live and has a really unique style. We try to throw something new into each show to keep things surprising and interesting.
Your musical style has been compared to Grizzly Bear. Are you a fan of theirs or inspired by them in any way?
Grizzly Bear were actually how we first heard of Gareth: he mixed “Veckatimest” which is such a beautiful sounding record. It’s funny though, journalists often compare us to bands we don’t think of as immediate influences – we certainly love Grizzly Bear but couldn’t pinpoint where we’ve tried particularly to emulate that sound. Maybe it’s a subconscious influence! They do have a unique style though certainly – almost like a jazz band – and those spacious, minimal arrangements work really effectively.
Who is/are your favourite artist/s?
William: I could never answer that definitively, but right now I’m really into James Canty, Oliver Wilde and Forced Random. I’m also loving everything on the Erased Tapes label – acts like Rival Consoles, Douglas Dare and Dawn Of Midi.
Imogen: I’m currently working my way through Grouper’s music which I’m loving. This summer I’ve also been listening to Waxahatchee, Quilt and Dent May, and I’ve really enjoyed new stuff from Whistlejacket and Gina Leonard.
Eĺlie: Artists such as Floating Points, Kamasi Washington, BadBadNotGood and Szun Waves – lots of innovative improvisational nu jazz music coming out at the moment is really capturing my imagination.
What can we expect to see from Wovoka Gentle in the future? Got any exciting new projects that you’re currently working on?
We’re hopefully going to be exploring some more installation-based performances alongside our regular shows in the near future, and with any luck we’ll be back in the studio before long for another batch of recordings. We also have a lot of material from the sessions for this EP that didn’t make it onto the record… Maybe we’ll revisit some of that and see what we can do with it.
Wovoka Gentle headline their fourth show on the 29th September at East London’s Chat’s Palace.