Congratulations on ‘Clash and Collide’. It’s a really cool track — it feels somehow simultaneously melancholy and upbeat at the same time.
Yeah, I was listening to a lot of Grimes and so I wanted to put synths on everything. Then when I was working with Tomáš [Kašpar, of ASTRYD], he came in and sort of subtly put his touch on it too. It was quite nice, because at one point it was really synth-y and almost sounded like Super Mario and then we found a nice middle ground (laughs). It’s definitely more upbeat than my older stuff, but it’s nice to do something different.
Did you engineer it with Tomáš?
He kind of took the reins on this one, but for my next releases I’m planning to record and produce myself. I really like Tomáš’s taste, and it’s really helped me to mature my style in production. I’ve learned a lot from his technique and it was really fun to work collaboratively. It’s so easy to get precious about tracks, so I think it’s important to get a second opinion.
How much do you mix and produce at the moment?
Going forward, I would like to basically do everything myself but I think it’s really, really nice to get other people’s ideas. It’s amazing when people can do everything themselves but for me it’s so much pressure to write, arrange, produce and mix alone!
You started out writing and performing on guitar. Is that how you go about making music now?
I like to switch it up every so often, maybe every six months or so I’ll change how I’m writing. When I got Logic for the first time I was still a bit scared of it, but then that flipped and I did everything on it and I didn’t touch my guitar for ages. It kind of unlocked a different creativity. Before, it was always voice and guitar first, but now it’s somewhere in between. These days, I usually start on Logic and make loops of drums and vocals and then bring the guitar in. But there’s not really a set way I work, it’s just nice to have a few different things at your disposal. It’s still really important to me to focus in on guitars and vocals just because I can get easily distracted by sounds and then my songs lose meaning. Well, then they don’t have the meaning I’m trying to create. I know some people’s work where sound is the thing that has meaning, but for me it’s very much voice and lyrics.
So what gear do you tend to use when writing?
Well on guitar I’ve been using an EQD Avalanche Run. It’s not actually mine but it’s just… wow! So many ideas have come to me just from using that. I’ve also got a MXR stereo chorus which is just great. I also use Ableton and play around with the effects on there, and then also my VoiceLive which I just love. It unlocks so many ideas for me. I tend to just plug it in and mess around with it for ages and record, and then chop up what I’ve made to make loops and samples.
It’s interesting, the VoiceLive keeps coming up with everyone I speak to.
They’re just so good. I think people often associate having effects with guitars or synths, but it’s so nice to have it for voice. It really brings out and sort of distorts what you can do with the voice and it’s great for writing melodies and harmonies. It sends you in new directions.
So you’ve set up Skivvy Records, a label for women and non-binary artists, with Ailsa Tully. Am I right in thinking Skivvy is old slang for a working woman?
Yes, ‘skivvy’ is a woman who performs menial tasks “such as cleaning”, I believe.
Why did you pick that name?
Well, we’d been playing around with it for a while. For Ailsa’s project we were going to use it as a band name, but we’re now just going to stick to performing under her name. But we were playing around with it cause we thought it was interesting it had that meaning, and the reason we’re doing this project is because we wanted to take power into our own hands. We’re very much learning on the go, but we’ve started it because we’ve both had a few bad experiences. Not all guys in the industry are bad! But there’s a lot of toxic masculinity in the industry, so we wanted to take on this project as two women musicians and we thought the name ‘skivvy’ was quite amusing. The irony of it, I suppose (laughs).
And ‘Clash and Collide’ is coming out on Skivvy. Do you have any other work coming out on the label soon?
So at the moment we’re keeping it quite close knit between Ailsa’s stuff and my stuff, but I believe we might be doing something with Ailsa, Catrin Vincent (of Another Sky) and Hana Williams who have just written an EP together. And of course, as time goes on we’ll be expanding so that’s exciting. We’ve got some more people we’d like to add but I can’t confirm anything yet. For now, we’re happy to keep it to our stuff — figure out where we’re going with it, get experience and get off the ground. So it’s Clash and Collide, and then in February/ March time we’ll be putting out some of Ailsa’s stuff. We’ve got things lined up and ready to go, it’s just a case of getting dates in place.
Do you envision the ethos of creating space for women and non-binary people carrying through to any live events or future releases?
Yeah, it’s not that we’re barring anyone who identifies as male from participating, it’s just that we want to celebrate the work of women and non-binary musicians. I think because we’ve both been in a position previously where we felt very much controlled by a male presence, and they didn’t have any reason to have any more say in decisions than we did, but somehow that’s what happened. We wanted to take some power back. We have our own opinions, and those opinions are more than good enough. Plus, I still don’t think there’s enough music out there by women and non-binary artists. However, we’ve talked about doing collaborations with other labels we know at which point I imagine we’ll work with male artists. But we have our thing, and that’s what we’re focussed on.
Was there a moment where it hit you that your opinions are valid? I’m asking because it seems to be a recurring theme in conversations we’re having, perhaps something to do with how young girls are socialised?
Yeah! This is definitely something we want to work on further down the line with young girls. I think there were two points for me. When I was studying Music Technology at sixth form I was one of two girls in the class and there must have been over twenty students in total. At first, I was like ‘I shouldn’t ask any questions’ because I had no idea what I was doing — you know, asking how to open Cubase or create a new track (laughs) and there seemed to be some people who started the class and already knew what they were doing. I had no idea. It was the first time I’d ever used software and I had none at home. I just went from asking every question in the book to, at the end of the second year, being one of the best — well definitely one of the more hardworking. And that was recognised. At that point I realised you have to be completely shameless in asking questions to be able to learn and get ahead. Then secondly, when I went to university it was great because everyone was so talented and had a different musical backgrounds — some people knew everything about jazz and nothing about engineering, or loads about engineering and not much about arrangement. It was so great to be in that environment because I didn’t feel judged and I felt like my opinions were as valued as everyone else’s.
So what’s next creatively?
I’ve got an EP I’d like to do. Some unreleased older songs that I’ve re-visited recently because I’ve got a new line up in the band, which is now Ailsa and Rosie Everett. It’s always great to play with new people because it refreshes everything, so we’ve re-done these older songs and I think I’d like to put them out. We’ll see. Also, I’ve got a gig coming up at Rye Wax on the 19th of February to support the launch of the label and single. And it’s free!