Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
When I made my most recent single ‘Body Memory’, I was grieving an unexpected break up during lockdown in 2020. It was the hardest break up I’ve ever gone through, as it happened at the tail end of a lot of other difficult griefs, and also brought up a lot of dysphoria for me.
After waking up crying pretty much every day for two months, I began to reground myself, and when I felt ready, I knew that I had to pour it all into a song. I knew I wanted it to be a long song with several parts; I didn’t want to make an entire release about how I felt. A long form track would give me enough space to explore a journey of emotions.
Two months after the end of the relationship, I met up with my old friend Jo in a park. This park held a lot of significance in the relationship that had just ended for me, and it was the first time I’d visited since. That day, seeing Jo for the first time in years, I felt a new depth of friendship forming that has only deepened since. It was so healing to associate that place with new joys. As I cycled home, I began singing the repeated melody from the final third of the track: “New memory, write over the body memory”. As soon as I was home, I ran my mic through my vocal effects pedal and began recording. The rest of the lyrics and melody flowed out of me on the spot.
This final section of the track was actually the first part I wrote, and it was a few weeks later that I then reopened the project, wrote an entirely separate beginning section, and pieced it all together. I knew that I wanted the centre of the track to be instrumental - led by disintegrating arpeggiated melodies and strings - that stitched together the hopelessness of the beginning, and the epiphany of the ending.
As soon as I’d finished writing the demo, I emailed Mabe Fratti to see if she would like to play cello. We had connected in 2020 after I had invited her to contribute to a charity compilation I was curating as part of my ‘Desire Lines’ project. I was ecstatic that Mabe was up for it, and she recorded her cello parts in several layers and sent them back, and then the track was pretty much finished.
Serendipitously, Jo offered to mix a track of mine in return for a skill swap, and it made so much sense for him to mix Body Memory considering our meeting that began it all.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I tend to be very private when I begin a track. I can be quite self conscious about starting anything from scratch in front of others. Being alone at this point really helps me to experiment much more.
My favourite way to work is then, if a track needs it, to bring a demo to a collaborator in mind, and have them add some guest instrumentation. This way, I can start with a specific idea and give the track direction, but then bringing a collaborator in always pushes it to expand beyond ways I could ever dream or plan for.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
When I made my debut album, I felt very strongly that I wanted it to directly respond to the instability of world politics. I really wanted to make a record that reacted to things much larger than myself.
Particularly since the pandemic began, I’ve realised that there is actually something inherently political about making work that can help us escape reality, rather than reminding us of it. That rest is a form of resistance in a world that demands us to be constantly switched on. During lockdown, music, art and nature were lifelines and alternate realities in a time that was otherwise very scary and isolating. It was also a way to connect with loved ones
I made personalised mixtapes constantly for my friends as a child, and during the pandemic, I returned to that as a way to collectively feel and share in something that went beyond words.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
When I was nineteen, I knew photography wasn’t the only medium I could express myself in anymore.
I love the relationship music and video have to temporality, which allows a changing journey of emotions and stories. I think that is very fertile ground for dealing with those big topics in life, as you can capture how those emotions change over time, rather than being frozen in one moment. When I think of important shifts in my life, they are so often associated with what I was listening to at that time.
There’s been times, for example, when I’ve been grieving, where I’ve put on a song I’ve heard hundreds of times before, but the lyrics take on a new meaning when they are relevant to that moment - particularly a moment of such loss and hopelessness. It makes you feel understood.
Joanna Newsom has particularly done this for me many times over the years, probably because the vivid storytelling in her lyrics sometimes takes me a long time to fully understand. Listening to her album Have One On Me in fact inspired me to make this new single as a way of processing my heartbreak.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Both fields are absolutely invested in making some sense of our world.
I guess the merging of science and music really gained momentum alongside the emergence of early electronic music, and the perseverance of many artists who dream(ed) to see what’s possible next.
I greatly admire artists like Holly Herndon, who innovate new musical technologies and push to imagine what the future of music, and the music industry, can be.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I’ve always felt that creativity can be a part of everything we do. I try to bring that energy into when I cook, when I arrange the objects in my bedroom or when I’m gardening.
But I do think there is a difference between creativity and a creative practice. A creative practice involves a commitment to regularly return to an expression of creativity, improve on it, and learn from it. I think that then seeps into a larger fulfilment in life, and you may regularly spend time thinking about how to implement new ideas into that practice.
And that practice may well be, for some, perfecting the art of making coffee.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our eardrums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation of how it is able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Since I became chronically ill, I’m fascinated by how sonic vibrations have the potential to heal pain and fatigue.
A far-flung example is how cats not only purr to communicate content, but the vibration has also been found to contribute towards healing bone injuries - both their own, and for people they accompany. I’ve also found reading about the use of binaural beats to promote the production of the brain’s theta waves really interesting. It makes sense that we feel connected to vibrations, because it’s such an instinctive way of feeling physically present in the world – right back to the rhythms we must have heard when we were inside the womb. Babies sleep soundly to white noise.
I think, even if we can’t fully explain the emotions that overcome us when we we listen to music, or how a certain piece of music can affect individuals so differently – I think it is logical that specific vibrations can conjure up certain instinctual reactions, like fear or calm.