NEW RELEASE ~ BRAVER TIMES
Braver Times was born out of a late night studio session with producer and synth-guru Darius Timmer. We had put together the groove and were jamming, him on Rhodes and me on bass, until we had pieced together this bass line and Rhodes progression that got us both really excited. Before I started writing the melody, we got into a discussion as to what the song would be about. We both felt it had a brooding, almost threatening quality to it and at the same time something kind of intoxicating.
I had just finished re-reading one of my favourite books of all time, A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and I suggested that maybe this song could be based on the factory-like, brainwashed society described in the book.
The idea was for the verses to be the sneaky, whispering voice programmed to brainwash kids in their beds (In early sleep / there comes a whisper from your pillowcase).
We had the verses down quite quickly, but we didn’t have a chorus yet. We tried out about five different chorus ideas that built on the same mood as the verse, but none of them felt right.
It got really frustrating and felt like a dead end, so we thought: Let’s just totally change it up for the chorus. We replaced the Rhodes with big, majestic strings and ditched the bass guitar for a heavy bass synth, and starting playing with new chordal ideas. Then suddenly this grand chorus started to unfold, and we thought: this is it!
The switch from the intimate verse to this elevated chorus felt like a cool trigger for the lyrics: to contrast the brainwashing whisper in the verses, the choruses could represent the emotional voice of the reader, looking down at this society moving in cold, structured unison and pleading with them: ‘can’t you see what you’re doing? Wake up!’
The huge scale of the story was a big inspiration for us in fine-tuning the arrangement. There’s a lot of weird, sci-fi sound effects in there, but also big, powerful synth beds and Darius’ emotional outburst of a synth solo to send the story off into the sunset.
From Here started with that riff. I had just bought my favourite guitar pedal ever (a Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, for all you fellow geeks out there), and had fed my guitar through it and just started messing around, and the riff just rolled on out. It had a hypnotic quality to it, and I just obsessively played it for hours on end, leaning back in my chair, with a drumloop for rhythm. I felt there was an interesting duality to the melody, one minute it sounds like sinking into a warm, soothing bath, the next it carries a sense of melodrama and heart-ache.
So I thought: maybe this could be the story. One moment you’re the most confident, care-free person in the world, and everything seems to come naturally to you and you don’t give a damn, and the next you find yourself panicking about your future, or about your day-to-day actions, and it all suddenly seems pointless.
So I structured the song into carefree verses and a chorus that kind of turns back on it self and goes: “Wait.. what’s the point? How long can I keep this up?”
Putting the sound of the track together came quite quickly. It was a sort of hyper-focused three day production sprint, and then it was done. Basically, it’s all built around that looping drumbeat and the main riff. I wanted the verses to feel a bit muggy, sticky, like a hot afternoon. So I added some super messy percussion, a bass line that kind of lopes and pulls and drags, and those musing little extra bendy guitar lines that kind of feel like they’re talking back to the vocal melody. Like they have a bit of an attitude. I sang it as slurred and lazily as I could, to really capture the mellowness in the verse. In the choruses, the arrangement becomes tighter, the bass and the percussion are more on the nose, making the whole thing feel more sturdy. I used these shimmering synth sounds to open the track up wide, and towards the end I even pulled a super heavy grinding synth bass out of my Prophet to really give it that final oomph.
But all the way through, I was working to preserve the hypnotic quality of the riff and the groove. No matter how you feel, up or down, high or low, there's always a beat moving you forward, slowly but surely. To me, that's the heart of it.
PULL IT TOGETHER
You know how some artists have lots of songs about love? Or sadness, or teenage angst? Well, for a while a lot of the songs I was writing were about confusion. Pull It Together is one of those songs. It describes feeling out of sync with yourself, and being very aware of that, but somehow not being able to.. well.. pull yourself together. But the undertone isn’t an anxious one: it’s almost bemused. Like taking a step back to look at your haggard self from a distance and being able to shake your head and chuckle: “Oh, would you look at the state of me.”
The track has gone through many different versions, it took a lot of fine-tuning to get the arrangement and the groove to sit exactly right. The writing process started with the bass-line, and then that one vocal hook: I don’t know why I can’t.. pull it together… pull it together. I loved the almost ecstatic panic of it, it feels like shouting from the rooftops: “I AM SO CONFUSED RIGHT NOW, HAHA!”
I laid the first full draft down in one day. I remember being super hungry but thinking: “No, finish the bridge first, then food.”
I guess the promise of dinner is a really strong motivational tool to finish stuff.
Later on in the process I got some of my band members into the studio to re-record guitar, drums and some of the key parts. For a few months I just continued honing the track between live shows and studio days, learning from how the track developed in live situations and bringing those changes back into the studio until it felt ready.
The artwork, though it’s an abstract piece, reflects the feeling of disjointedness in the lyrics. Those loose elements, floating around in space, kind of feel like they’ve just been catapulted out of a weird toy box. Like they’ve gone from a single matching unit to disarray, each element facing off in a different direction.
So I guess Pull It Together is an ode to those who sometimes find themselves a little overwhelmed.
Trust me, I know the feeling.
DEBUT EP ~ CHAIN REACTION
FOR YOUR EYES
AND YOUR EARS
THOUGHTS ON MAKING
“CHAIN REACTION” EP AND VIDEO
Someone is a celebration of creativity, identity and optimism. It’s about doing what you love and being who you are, regardless of what others may say. I took that mindset into the studio with me, which resulted in five tracks that are stylistically quite varied. Each song represents a different turning point or moment of realisation that helped me get through a rather rough patch in my life. And put together it feels like a coming of age.
I recorded it all in my home studio in Amsterdam, supported by my friend and fellow musician Sergio Escoda on two of the tracks. From grungy and rocky to mellow and chilled, my goal was to simply make the music I felt like making at the time and I hope this enjoyment and sense of looseness has managed to trickle its way down into the songs.
To support the individual characters of the tracks I put together a series of short films, in collaboration with brilliant filmmakers David Spearing and Elliott Arndt. Each film focusses on a new, eccentric ‘someone’. An outsider, in one way or the other.
For The Deep we follow an unhinged inventor who thinks he’s discovered a way to pause time. Say Something is an ode to the infomercial, and feels like a lost VHS ad for a couples-therapy dance course taught by love guru Svend Emil Jacobsen. With Forget Forgive I got to let my inner Blade Runner run free! It’s about the lone survivor of an intergalactic war and her epic last fight to survive.
The fourth and final film, Chain Reaction, is a surreal story about a struggling author who accidentally finds herself the subject of her next book. Because it’s set in the 1920s I really wanted to explore old-style filmmaking, so no green-screens or special effects!We actually built an entire set, inspired by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and early Burton work, placing the film in its own little abstract universe.