London trio, Playing House make no apologies for their up-front alt-pop approach to life. Drawing reference to the likes of Talking Heads, The Slits and Everything Everything, the band are just about ready to release their debut EP ‘New Haircut’ on the world.
We caught up with Mel recently, to sit her down and find out what it means to be Playing House…
BM: Let’s start with the usual intro’s – who’s who? What do you do? and where did you all meet?
PH: We are Playing House; we are Mel (Vocals & Guitar), Izzy (Vocals & Bass) & Killian (Guitars & synths). We formed just under a year ago. We met at a gig last year and were all in different bands that knew each other at the time but really wanted to work together. We spent 6 months writing in a little bedroom in Hackney and then played our first gig in September 2015.
BM: You’ve already started drawing some rather lofty references, Talking Heads for example – how would you describe your sound?
PH: Bold, playful, infectious art pop. We’re obsessed with the science of creating pop and experimenting and playing around with 3 minutes of music to create something intelligent and thoughtful that’s still instinctive and accessible. We love to stretch and play with pop and make it more challenging. It’s really spikey and sharp and open, there’s a real sense of us stretching, experimenting and playing around. We’re influenced by bands like Talking Heads, Bowie, Future Islands, Everything Everything, XTC.
BM: What was it that you think drew you together? How did you bond as a band?
PH: One of the first things we all did together was sit and watch Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads). We all have such diverse influences but a love for songwriting and spontaneity and the sense of really free, pure music I suppose is the thing that brings us together. There’s an honesty and desire to not over-complicate things that runs through the band.
BM: You’ve got the EP coming out at the weekend, followed by a host of live dates. No strangers to the live circuit, I heard that your first live outing was a bit bigger than most …
PH: Our first gig was in September 2015. Rather than starting off in a little pub to just our friends, we were asked to headline Kal Lavelle’s We Love Shows at St Giles In The Fields (famed for nurturing Kimberly Anne, Jamie Lawson, Lianne La Havas) to hundreds of people at St Giles In The Fields. We also found out it was being broadcast live on TV. Just terrifying. The gig was amazing though, such a huge, warm audience and friends and family all came, everyone danced in a pit by the altar. Was the best start to our first year together. We’ve had an amazing time supporting some really great bands this year. Beverly at Lock Tavern last year was probably a highlight, it was in the sweatiest venue and was packed and they’re super lovely. They’re going to be really big this year.
BM: How would you describe your live set?
PH: It’s hugely honest and always different. We don’t go for cheesy on stage banter or posturing. We’re pretty bad at hiding how we feel, and like to really connect with our audience.
BM: You say that your mood, daily experiences, can influence how you interact with your audience – does it affect how you play your set?
PH: If I’ve had a shit day or an argument or a rubbish lunch you’ll probably hear about it, we’re pretty okay with telling everyone how sad/angry/happy we are at the time. It’s hugely energetic too; we like to keep the sets fast and short. We’re lucky enough to escape any clichés and pressures of being five guys in leather jackets so that freedom means we can just do what we want.We change our set all the time; we write so much so there’s usually at least one new song a month.
BM: What about crowd pleasers? Is there a particular track that gets everyone going?
PH: At the moment it’s just been amazing to see people’s reaction to our single (New Haircut) people just really let loose and get really passionate about it, it really seems to have stuck with people. It’s a really personal song and a pretty brave and strange one to release as a first single (we very nearly didn’t!) so that’s a really nice feeling.
BM: That comes out this week right?
PH: We’re releasing our debut 3 track EP New Haircut 8 April. With the launch on 13 April at Birthdays, Dalston; it’s going to be a really big night to celebrate the last 6 months and the release. The line-up is huge, Marine & Wide Skies, two of our favourite bands will be playing too.
BM: You seem quite influenced by whats going on in the world around you. Is there a theme / message attached to the EP?
PH: Even in such a short EP there’s definitely a theme. I guess it’s the first exploration into what we want to do in a full record, delving into those parts of life that are difficult and challenging and scary and playing around with them and exploring them. It’s a very bold, playful and honest EP; we didn’t want to make something purposefully pleasing to ease people in to us. We thought we’d start how we mean to go on.
BM: Is the songwriting a joint venture ? Or do you have a main scribe?
PH: It’s hugely collaborative, we all have our roles I suppose but songwriting is always done together and so the band has that unique sound that happens when people create something together. It’s also probably the thing we love the most so we keep the writing process playful and experimental – looking to oblique strategies, cut and paste, little yelps and sounds. We kind of lay it all out there and then strip everything until its simple and as close to what we feel is perfect pop. No one part more important than the other.
Sometimes we feel songwriting is really compromised at the moment by the trend of huge, overproduction. It’s like someone chooses the synth sound or beat first before the subject matter and then tries to make the song show a feeling– that’s something we don’t like doing. We like to keep things as raw and instinctive as possible – if we’re going to make a record about isolation then the guitars will be sparse and pressured and the song will make you feel that. We don’t ever want to make something that sounds better than it actually is. What’s the point if a song leaves you not being able to feel it or remember it? We want it to sound pure and instinctive.
BM: I really like the video that accompanies the release. It’s got a definite retro feel to it. Do you think it’s important for a band to have a strong visual image as well as good sound?
PH: Artwork and image is hugely important for us and is another way for us to be playful. Growing up inspired by Bowie & Roxy Music and the 80s, there’s so much to be said for image adding another layer to the music. Our music video for New Haircut is a really good example of how with such a bright and bold video it can give another layer to quite a sad song underneath.
BM: How do you go about choosing what visuals to use ?
PH: We’ve been lucky enough to work with one of our favourite animator/directors Ewen Farr who we pretty much give free reign on all our visuals. We have really similar visions and a lot of trust. The hype for our video he made has been amazing.
BM: You are obvioulsy (and quite rightly) proud of the release – what’s more important to you? Getting out there gigging ? Or been in the studio and laying down something a bit more permanent?
PH: The two are completely different but hugely important. We all feel hugely different too. Me and Killian are obsessive and perfectionists so we absolutely love it. Izzy hates the studio so much and prefers the spontaneity of playing live, so normally hates us by the end of recording because we spend forever doing it. But both are hugely important in creating our sound.
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BM: The EP is due out this weekend and the launch party soon follows – what happens next for Playing House?
PH: After our EP launch at Birthdays 13 April, we’ll be heading out on our first tour. We’re so excited to get out of London and play; we’ll be heading to Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff & Liverpool this April. After that it’s festivals and gigs then straight back in the studio to make our next record. We’re just getting started really.
BM: Good stuff. One last thing before you go. I ask everyone. Is there a story behind why you call yourselves Playing House?
PH: Playing House comes from the idea of all of us trying to mould and adapt into these functional people and the fear and anxiety of how to do it, how to be really. We look a lot to the feeling of growing and the fear and feelings that surround that pressure from the deep to the mundane, it’s all pretty autobiographical.
You can catch PLAYING HOUSE live at the following dates…
Wednesday 13th April – Birthdays, London (EP release show)
Sunday 17th April – Sound Control, Manchester
Wednesday 20th April – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Thursday 21st April – The Garage, London
Friday 22nd April – Sofar Sounds, Liverpool
Saturday 23rd April – Moon Club, Cardiff