We get sent a lot of songs. An awful lot. But one of the ones that’s captured us more than nearly all of them recently was ‘Waves’ from the brilliant Snowpoet. It’s this drop dead gorgeous, lilting slice of indie-folk, that laps against you’re ears, all aching guitars and melancholy, before its liberally decorated by this improvised jazz drumming.
Turns out the London band – Chris Hyson, Lauren Kinsella, Matt Robinson, Dave Hamblett, Nick Costley-White, Josh Arcoleo and Alex Killpartrick, have an album due out at some point in 2016. We caught up with Chris from the band to talk about Snowpoet, the album, and everything in between
Tell us about Snowpoet – where did you meet and how did you come to be Snowpoet?
Chris: We met whilst studying at the Royal Academy of Music. We played together as a group for a while, going through various phases and playing around with the music to see what worked best for us. After about a year and lots of playing and recording we became ‘Snowpoet’ and began putting music out.
Was it an immediate thing, that you knew you would all work well together?
I had written quite a bit of music before collaborating with Lauren who, at first, added melody and lyrics to the existing music – we then began to compose together from scratch. When we first started making music together we found that we had a lot of similar approaches and we heard things in the same way; though this took some time to develop. Much of our music has gone through many processes and developments to become what it is now.
We have been working with our other musicians (Matt Robinson, Dave Hamblett, Nick Costley-White and Josh Arcoleo) on other musical projects and have developed a great musical relationship with them too, so playing music with them is very easy and exciting to do.
Was there a record that you bonded over, or is there an artist or artists that have influenced you in particular?
We have many influences. Some that spring to mind are Joni Mitchell, Björk, Bill Evans, Feist, Aphex Twin, Tom Waits, Frank Sinatra, Miranda July, E E Cummings, Keith Jarrett, James Blake, Sufjan Stevens, Dirty Projectors. Björk’s ‘Vespertine’ and her new record ‘Vulnicura’ have been particularly influential to me – extremely creative and inspiring stuff.
You have an album coming out next year – can you tell us a little about it – where it was recorded and who with, what themes and moods purvey the record?
We recorded the album in early March at Giant Wafer Studios in mid-Wales. It’s completely remote from any real civilisation so you can really focus and get completely into the music without distraction. Alex Killpartrick engineered the session and also co-produced and mixed the record; Alex plays an important role in the process of developing the music and the sound of the record.
Our music covers a wide spectrum of moods and themes. Ultimately we want it to be a unique and personal experience for the listener; the lyrics have an ambiguity to them so they’re open to interpretation.
Personally the music comes from a place of love. There are lots of wondering and fleeting streams of subconscious thought. Mandy Parnell mastered the record for us and her sound gives the album a dynamic and sort of dreamy sheen to it.
How do you write? Is it from a lyrical start or is the music first – or a bit of an amalgamation?
Generally I come to Lauren with some very basic harmonic or melodic ideas, then we spend some time playing around – Lauren experiments with lyrics and melody until we have a sort of skeleton of a song. We then play with the rest of the band and see what happens – sometimes someone will have an idea that will change the whole direction of the tune. Once we have recorded the piece myself and Alex will spend a substantial amount of time pulling apart the tune: mixing and editing, rearranging it, adding more elements or subtracting. Some of the tunes have drastically changed from the original recording during the mixing process whilst others have stayed the same, it varies.
Your music seems rooted in folk music, but with elements of other things – guitar music, jazz etc – is that a conscious thing, or just the influences of the people involved? Or would you describe it differently?
I find it quite hard to label the music as something in particular. We have so many artistic influences that come through the music that it’s difficult to really define what it is. I suppose the element of improvisation is fairly integral to the way we compose. A lot of the little details that you’ll hear in the record were improvised in the studio. We like bringing the two worlds of natural acoustic sounds and electronics together to work in harmony; that’s definitely something that is apparent throughout the record.
We love ‘Waves’ – can you tell us a little about that song – it deals with some difficult issues, lyrically, right? Musically though, it’s beautiful – and that drumming!
Thanks! Dave Hamblett is our drummer – he has other projects too which are definitely worth checking out. The lyrics and music are intentionally enigmatic and open to interpretation. For me the song is about depression but it’s meant to mean different things to different people. I’m sure it will be about something else to the others in the band. We love to play with contradictory sounds and blend them. The soft guitars clashing with the crashing out-of-time drumming symbolise the natural flow of time playing against the timeless and unpredictable states of minds you can go through…
You’ve been gigging recently, right? Any plans for a ‘proper’ tour next year around the album release maybe?
We have our album launch on the 29th January at the St Pancras Old Church in Kings Cross. We do have a few gigs lined up – some abroad and some in the UK – which we’ll begin to promote as the album come out.
Finally, any more plans for 2016?
We will be developing the live performances and begin writing new material. We’ll keep you posted 🙂 xxxx