Meet: Nico of X Ray Cat Trio and Black Moths Harriet Hyde after their collaboration on a fantastic 50s pop EP

After teaming up with Black Moths singer Harriet Hyde to create some sweet rock ‘n roll in the form of EP ‘Bubblegum’, read our review here. We had the pleasure in meeting Nico and Harriet and find out all about the album, influences and sharing guitar tab on their website.

First off. How are you guys doing during this current situation? How has the pandemic affected the band? Any messages for your fans? 

Nico – We’re doing fine thanks! The biggest effect it had on us was we lost a lot of gigs. We are working musicians and that’s all ended for now. We’ve done a few live streams to try keep it going but it’s not the same. I want to thank anyone who has been keeping in touch, buying our merch, watching our streams and being positive! 

For people who may not be familiar with the band. Can you introduce us to the band and tell us a little about how you formed and why you chose the style that you play? 

Nico –  I We started as a daft myspace project many years ago that was just myself recording things badly into a 4 track recorder doing instrumentals about chicken slop and samples of screaming cats and weird stuff like that. Soon after I managed to get Adam Richards to get involved with projects and finally Howlin’ Ric got roped in too. We used to spend a lot of our time touring, as much as we could. The style we choose to play in is the most fun for me as it’s not too complicated, most people can get into it, its easy to entertain a room full of drinkers with rocknroll and a catchy chorus or guitar part doesn’t hurt. Most of the musicians I look up to make pretty basic music and I find it inspiring when you hear something that anyone can do, and I don’t mean that in a bad way! 

One thing that does stand out about you guys are your wonderfully graphic and detailed cover work. How much do you as a band put into the artwork? Do you find that the album cover is a dying art now that streaming has taken over? 

Nico –  I think the artwork is such a big part of the music. I remember picking up records from a shop, when I was a kid, before the internet, it is still relevant in the streaming age, it ties in with all the merch and lighting on stage and colours used. I find it very easy to choose artists for covers and t shirt designs cause I just think what I would want to pick up from a band that I follow. Plus there are so many talented artists out there and the fact that some of them want to work us is amazing. 

There is also something about you guys that is more than just music. How much of your image is influenced by your sound or is it the other way round? 

Nico – I think the way we look is definitely influenced by the stuff we listen just as the bands we like influence our sound. As for the artwork sometimes I’ll have a better idea of what the cover art will be like before I know what the music will be.

Harriet Hyde has such a wonderful voice that works so well with your sound. How did you and Hyde come to meet and conjure up the plan for the EP? 

Nico – Harriet and I used to play together in a heavy band called Black Moth, which is very different to the kind of stuff we’re recorded on this EP, however they used be be more on the garage rock side of things which isn’t so far away. She has always loved the early rock and roll, doo wop and girl group stuff and I think we probably used to talk about one day recording something. I’m really glad we managed to do it. 

Harriet – I have fond memories of laughing with each other on tour with the Moth about how sometimes we’d rather be playing some sugar-sweet doowop, and the pleasing discrepancy between the two genres. One thing I particularly love is the inherent darkness, obsession and agony betrayed by the lyrics in the otherwise saccharine pop songs of the 1950s that sometimes feels heavier, to me, than the doomiest of metal!

How does a track develop within the band? Does one of you bring an idea or does the whole band work together to create and develop a song? 

Nico – For this EP I specifically had Harriet in mind for the tunes, I knew that the songs would come across a different way than if I was to sing them, In some ways that made the process easier as I knew I wan’t gonna have to be the one ‘baring my soul’ or whatever. Also it was really fun to write a duet. Something I hadn’t done before. It’s easier to get a narrative going if you have two points of view, seems quicker to get those verses written. Harriet was involved with the lyrics and phrasings and when I got stuck she helped get the songs rounded off. For Chainsmoke I was fairly stuck on the song, I had all the elements there but I just couldn’t seem to get it solid. I got some help from pal Tsar Nicholas III who writes almost constantly and is very inspiring and helpful. He has a very good discipline when it comes to writing and I always try and use that. The best tip was to always try and finish a song. No matter how bad you think it is, you can always go back to it, chip away at it. Or even if it does suck , at least you’ve created something. 

Harriet – I absolutely loved collaborating with Nico. I think because we have known each other as friends and musicians for years, there’s an intuitive connection and I felt anxious to do him proud as I’m such an admirer of X Ray Cat Trio. This time around I was delighted to have these gorgeous songs written for me to sing, but if we continue the project I’d love to have more involvement and contribute more original themes/ideas of my own, perhaps emphasising even further the shadow aspects of the genre that I mentioned above.

Nico – We have talked about doing a full album one day…

You guys seem keen into keeping things old school, using 16 track for recording etc. Is there any techniques, equipment or instruments etc that you think gives you your unique sound? 

Nico – Using tape helps mesh everything together, that’s a big part of our sound. Adam is the ideas man when it comes to recording. We like to try out different tape machines, styles and methods, it’s always gonna come out swampy and trashy though because that’s the way we like it. This bubblegum EP is probably the cleanest thing we’ve done and it’s still rough around the edges. We always prefer the raw sound over the perfect, auto tuned, stuff that you can get. 

Harriet – I’ll admit I was really nervous to record my vocals in this way – only a couple of vocal takes! But then I think the immediacy of this method captured a raw vulnerability and emotionality that compliments the music.

I noticed you have published guitar tablature on your website. Not just for your songs but also for teaching the basics to your style That’s not something you see from most bands but a brilliant idea and very punk – here’s 3 chords now go form a band. What drove you to sharing your knowledge? 

Nico – Thanks very much! It started from lockdown to be honest. I had nothing else to do and I remembered that my mate James Clark who is a massive supporter of the band and general good lad had asked for tabs of one of the songs, some guys on instagram had also asked for tabs I think I played a thumbicking version of a Disney Robin Hood song and I tried tabbing it out on some software I got, and then I thought I’d have a go at doing some videos to pass the time. It’s not all altruistic, the hope is that people will download backing tracks and maybe pay a little as a donation, also the whole YouTube channel thing is good for selling merch, so it all ties in for me really. We’ve got a few more followers that way, and I’ve mad a few new friends. 

Are there any bands past or present you would love to have played with or even been part of? 

Nico – I have played with the Damned a couple of times in other bands, never this one though! I would love to support them again. We’re quite lucky in that we have played with a lot of the people we look up to. Legendary Shack Shakers, Dan Sartain, The Polecats, and loads I have forgotten about!

Harriet – Black Moth got to tour with L7 a couple of years ago and that was sort of a teenage dream come to. They were the girl gang of my wildest fantasies growing up.

Difficult to talk about future plans, but what does the future look like for the band? 

Nico – Although the live gigs will probably never be the same, and certainly not touring in the EU thanks to Brexit, bands are going to have to turn to more online stuff. It’s not ideal but you have to work with what you’ve got. People will always buy records. Our vinyl for the last album ‘Love, Blood & Monsters’ arrived just after lockdown and I was worried that it might not sell as well as we didn’t have that face to face contact. Luckily though we have a pretty strong following that will snap up whatever we do and we are so grateful for that. The records have been flying out and I’m sure it will be the same with this release. 

Harriet – If we worked together more, I’d like to play with pushing towards extremes of darkness and light in the music. On the one hand channelling the misery of Scott Walker or even Suicide… Or on the other, making use of Nico’s French connection and throwing a bit of 60s Parisian pop into the mix… a bit of Francoise Hardy/Serge Gainsbourg or a Yé-yé vibe. Let’s see if I ever get a call back from them or whether they ghost me after these suggestions- haha!

Lastly what music are you digging right now? How do you find the North East and Leeds scene in particular? 

Nico – I’m going through a Gary Newman phase. Also I’m kinda enjoying the heavy stuff so I’ve been listening to some thrash metal, NWOBHM and black and roll stuff. As for local bands, we love Snakerattlers, The Black Lagoons. Magick Mountain. The Leeds scene is (was) amazing for live music. You could go out any night and find anything, there’s such a great mix of genres. We are spoiled for choice with venues. I just hope that they can survive after this. I know some have had funding but others like Boom and Sela bar need help.

Harriet – And I’ve been going through a Scott Walker phase… so perhaps the less said about that the better!

The EP is available from all the usual digital places from the 26th November and we will have a vinyl pre order here

Previous Rising: We interview new indie-Americana duo Sunny Bones - see 'Be Cool'
Next Track: French Cassettes - Santa Cruz Tomorrow

No Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.