The soul pioneer talks new single “Smoke Without Fire” and his ever-changing sound.
With the way things are going, self-care days are becoming vital in order to stay sane during this winter lockdown. Whether it be a face mask and chill or watching your favourite film, sitting back and taking time for yourself is just as important as everything else going on, and to soundtrack these relaxing moments with his neo-soul single is London-hailed artist VC Pines with “Smoke Without Fire”. Detailing the effects of the rumour mill, Pines channels a broad and enticing soul rhythm and adds elements of funk and romance for a silky smooth hit. Returning to his soulful ways after his previous project “Skully”, the singer is giving us a teaser of what is to come from his forthcoming EP “Concrete”.
“Smoke without fire is about hearing various rumours and not knowing whether or not to believe them, but being sure that rumours wouldn’t have started without some kind of spark.” Pines explains. “This song was written at the height of the first lockdown which made things more frustrating being locked down and not being able to tackle rumours and problems rising up around me. I think that’s why the lyrics are so jagged at points, ‘now I bleed where the cuts don’t show / another toothache that grinds the bone.’ This song was also a turning point for me, discovering a new sonic avenue to delve into.”
With his new EP set to offer his signature powerhouse vocals with a new cadence, we caught up with singer talking his ever-changing sound, dealing with Chromesthesia and how he is planning a new sustainable merch line.
Check out the interview below…
Hi Jack – how have you been during this uncertain time? How has it impacted your music and creativity?
I’ve been surprisingly alright you know, I’ve used this time to really delve into different sonic avenues and discover new sounds and ideas. I’ve written a ton of songs and learnt so much from sharing these ideas and working with loads of different people for this project. We’ve all had loads more time on our hands too so I’ve been watching old movies, reading books and finding new sources of inspiration.
Why the name VC Pines?
I have temporal lobe epilepsy and synaesthesia – which I think is a symptom of my epilepsy. My dad was working in North America a lot when I was a kid, and me and my mum would go out and see him for periods of time. TLE massively revolves around memory and there was one place we stayed called Wolfeboro which has these massive pine trees everywhere. I don’t remember much about it but when I first started having seizures, I would see all these trees in my head, not knowing where the memory was coming from. I thought I was losing my mind at 17 and then worked it out over time. On top of this, my favourite songs and sounds that I’ve written or come up with tend to be purple or violet in my head so the VC stands for Violet Coloured. So I came up with VC Pines as a pseudonym.
How has coming from West London influenced you sonically? Who were your musical heroes?
I don’t think I’ve been influenced much by my geographical location, I discovered music when I was around 7/8. I found all my dad’s CDs and got stuck into Iggy Pop, The Stranglers, Devo, Talking Heads, and then soul stuff like Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers and Bobby Womack. Then I found Outkast when I was 10 and it blew my mind. I do/did a lot of music discovery myself rather than listening to what my friends were listening to. They probably thought I was weird…
How would you describe your genre?
I tell people it’s Alternative Soul, but I think there’s a bit of Hip Hop in the grooves, especially the newer stuff. I’d like to think that the punk/post-punk creeps out here and there in my vocal delivery, I try not to make everything sound ‘perfect’. David Byrne once said ‘The better a singer’s voice, the harder it is to believe what they’re saying’. And that’s where the ‘Wabi Sabi’ concept creeps into the way I record things.
You’ve talked before about how writers of the Beat Generation and “love for madness” have influenced your music – what is it about this era that inspires you?
I think initially it made me not worry about my bank account…The fact that people like Kerouac could write and create like they did, not knowing when they were going to get their next meal proved to me that all of that wasn’t important. Being able to let go and immerse yourself in ideas without the noise of reality is the key to creativity and that’s what Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs etc all did so well.
Congratulations on your new track – “Smoke Without Fire” – what was it inspired by?
It’s about hearing various rumours and not knowing what to believe, but knowing that these rumours wouldn’t have started without some kind of fuel. It was written during the first lockdown which I think exacerbated the angst and need to feel like you need to solve everything, so some of the lyrics came out quite jagged ‘Now I bleed where the cuts don’t show, another toothache that grinds the bone’. And then sonically I want to fit in a space that makes people listen and think ‘I’d love to see this live’ so I wanted to keep that energy in there and use live instrumentation which I think artists like Celeste and Michael Kiwanuka do so well.
And it’s taken from your forthcoming EP ‘Concrete’ – what ties it all together as a body of work?
The idea behind the Concrete EP is that it all feels like late night London, the different aspects of London night life and the drama of it all. From late night lovers to afterparties and the lost souls you meet in between.
And you have Chromesthesia – how does this affect your process of crafting music day-to-day?
I think I’m used to it, in that I thought this is how everyone saw the world until I was about 19 in a music lecture about synaesthesia, so it’s not as if it’s something that I have had to come to terms with. But when I realised that it wasn’t ‘normal’ then I started to try and use it as a tool in songwriting and production, by keeping things sounding purple or trying to make the chorus pop with orange to give it a different feel to a green or violet verse.
You perform in a 7-piece band often – what do you love about this collaborative, lively process?
The guys in the Violet Collective are the fucking best. They all do their own things and work with various people but when we come together, for me it completely transforms the songs. There’s a new energy to everything, that human element that you can’t replicate. We bounce ideas off each other too for live arrangements like, let’s go round this bit again or, let’s bring the whole song up in energy and thrash through from the last chorus to the end and let the whole thing build and blow up gloriously… At least I hope that’s how it comes across, it could all be in our heads.
How does it feel releasing new music when most of the world is in lockdown/everything feels so uncertain – what do you hope your music will bring?
Very weird. It’s uncomfortable releasing music without having a live show to back it up or to show the song to people in a different light and with real energy. But I think now more than ever, people need these little distractions to take them out of reality and hopefully, my songs can do just that. Even to just provide music that might make the monotony of each day a little bit easier makes me happy.
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2021?
More music! I’ve found my stride in writing songs and I don’t want to take my foot off the gas so I’m looking forward to releasing more and more this year. And then when we can finally play live shows to full capacity, I hope to start playing again as much as I can with the Violet Collective and celebrate escaping these lockdowns. I’m also putting some ideas together for new merchandise involving sustainable vintage clothing so keep your eyes peeled for that.