The story behind Tennis is very charming. The Denver-based band, made up of husband and wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, was born out of wanderlust. Sailing down the Atlantic coast, the pair embarked on their first attempt at making music together and created their premier album, “Cape Dory”.
Seven years later and now a “proper band”, they have come full circle: to create their fourth album, “Yours Conditionally” they sailed around the Pacific. Swooning love songs framed by dreamy melodies echo their romantic story but it’s evident that Tennis goes deeper this time around. Working out the complexities that define love, identity, and feminism, the latest album sees the band at their best yet, pairing their back-to-basics approach with a worldly confidence.
Twin catches up with Alaina to find out how it’s done.
Tell us more about the album title, “Yours Conditionally”.
It was about boundaries with regards to my relationship with the world. It included my marriage, my friendships. Over the years, I feel like I was unintentionally conforming to certain things and expectations and ideals of like how a woman should be, whether it’s a writer and a performer or a wife. I thought of how unromantic it would be if I signed a letter to Patrick, “Yours Conditionally”. And we were laughing about it but then he was kind of like, no, but that means so much.
So was it about a more mature and sensible love?
Exactly. I’m a little cynical towards romance and forever and all those things and yet here I am in this long term, straight, monogamous marriage. I try to challenge myself to do better. If I’m going to write a love song, I try to do something different. I want to write a love song that’s sincere and smart and not identity erasing or self-effacing, which love songs tend to be.
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How conditional do you think the record turned out to be?
I’ve actually made a conscious decision with this record to be a lot more open, taking more emotional risks, because I noticed that whenever I did do that with the song, I feel like people responded more, even if they didn’t exactly know what I was referring to within my own life. It’s like a symbiotic relationship. So I set that goal for myself, to do more work and be a little less guarded.
In terms of your process, were you looking to get back to the simplicity of the beginning?
That’s exactly what we were looking for. And I don’t think it had to be the sailing trip so much as it was eliminating the ways in which we were trying to prop up the expectations of the industry. We gave ourselves permission to undo everything we’d ever done for the sake of making whatever we wanted with the same sincerity and goal of just pleasing ourselves, as we had with the first record.
What was that like?
It just felt so good, I can’t explain it. It brought back the joy of writing, the freedom of the first record but with some measure of skill and ability of having made several albums.
Listening back to “Yours Conditionally”, how do you think your music has changed?
I definitely hear maturity. When I listen back to our previous records I hear all the ways in which we were experimenting and growing and trying new things. I hear that sort of transformation throughout all our records and this record is really a pleasure to sing because I was able to write myself in mind instead of pretending I was somebody else.
What are you and Patrick looking forward to as Tennis?
I am definitely looking forward to Coachella. That’s going to be a very surreal experience, especially having grown up going to the festival. I was nineteen when I went to see Radiohead, and now we are going to be playing on the same day as Radiohead!
That’s incredible, congratulations!
Isn’t it? It’s almost like a life achievement that I didn’t even know I would want. If someone asked me, make a list of life goals, I couldn’t have even thought of this one, so I am very pleased (laughs).
The third album from Canadian electronic band Austra, Future Politics, is a record for now. Using rich visuals throughout which lend an aesthetic sensibility to the album, Austra (led by by Katie Stelmanis) explores the themes of future: dystopia vs utopia, creativity through individualism and injustice in a closed world. Written, produced, and engineered by Stelmanis, her mellifluous vocals ride over a catchy synth beats to create a songs that are designed to inspire listeners to get involved and take control of their future. Twin caught up with Katie Stelmanis to talk musical influences, the challenges of a third album and Trump.
Why was it important for you to create this album?
I saw Massive Attack play a show a few years ago in Belgium and having not really listened to them previously, I was totally blown away by the show. I loved how they fused politics and music together in such a way that that felt emotional, rather than being lectured. I think when you receive political commentary through music it allows you to more easily welcome what you are hearing as it seems more genuine and compassionate. I wanted to try to do something similar with my new album; rather than speak about the sadness surrounding a personal breakup, I wanted to communicate the collective sadness felt by our generation and myself concerning the terrifying state of our world atm.
How has the social and political climate shaped the final product?
I actually completed this record months before Trump won the presidency, and started it years before he was even a candidate. So in a way the album wasn’t even intended to be a commentary on what we are currently going through though the themes fit pretty well. I was more obsessed with this idea of the future as being something mutable and controllable and something that we need to tackle with radical ideas, and I think this message is more important than ever.
How did living in Mexico City and Montreal influence and inspire the album?
I lived in Montreal during the winter when it was cold and dark and I hibernated for a few months. The songs that came out of that time are definitely the darker ones, I was feeling quite hopeless personally and also with the state of our world. When I move to Mexico I was immediately inspired and re-awaked, it is visually the complete opposite of Mexico with colour and light everywhere, and the energy of that city if reflected in the songs on the record.
This is your third album, how did you feel your sound developed on the record?
I actually feel like I reverted to old techniques in making this record being that I made the whole thing on my laptop, just like Feel It Break. I wanted to do that so I could maintain control of the whole process again. I did however learn a lot about production while making it, which is part of the reason I wanted to do it myself, to gain that knowledge and experience.
Does it get easier to put out an album with experience, or do you feel that you’re still learning?
I think it gets harder in a way. The more you know, the more critical you are. There is something so wonderful about naivety and what can come out of that, I often miss being in that place, although I feel that from where I am now I just have to keep learning in order to be able to make music that sounds like what I hear in my head.
Where there any challenges of creating a soundtrack that reflected and embodied your beliefs?
It is challenging to try to make your ideas come across as concise and sensical. When I was writing these songs there was like a million things I wanted to talk about and I had to work really hard to narrow it all down to a few key points. That was very hard!
Musically speaking, who are you influenced by?
This record was influenced by Massive Attack, Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane, Chancha Via Circuito, Grimes.
What are your goals with the album? And how will you be spending the rest of 2016?
My goal with this album is to get people really invigorated by the idea that the future is in their control – that we can start spreading ideas we want to become reality in the underworld and that those ideas will eventually make it through to the mainstream.
South African Carla Fonseca is a woman with many strings to her bow. She is an actor, director and artist, but it is her role as lead vocalist for the group Batuk that sees her performing in the UK this weekend. With influences spanning afrohouse, soul, zouk, kuduro, deep house, techno and traditional African music, Fonseca is joined in Batuk by South African producers, beat makers, directors and visionaries Spoek Mathambo and Aero Manyelo.
Given her creative background, Fonesca was responsible for art directing Batuk’s musiv videos for ‘Daniel’, ‘Forca Forca’, ‘Puta’ and ‘Call Me Naughty’. In addition to this, she has also displayed her work at the likes of FNB ART Fair, Turbine Art Fair, Cape Town Art Fair, Basha Uhuru Festival, GIPCA’s Biannual Live Art Festival, and Johannesburg Art Week over the years. Here, Twin discovers more…
Welcome to the UK, you’re doing a few shows here right now…is this your first time performing here?
It is my first time in the UK, and our first time performing here as a group. Spoek and Aero have both played here many times before.
How would you describe what you do to a complete stranger?
I am a performance artist. A lover of all raw and honest performance work.
Is your music political? Does it have a particular message you’d like to convey? Isn’t everything political? Even a party song can be political. We have many messages in our music. It is important for an artist to have messages serve as through-lines in their work….or else it becomes weightless. It is our duty. In Batuk’s music we speak about love, war, sexuality, drug abuse, dreams, family, culture. Everything that is important to us, everything that we want to address and interrogate and express.
How does the music scene differ here in comparison with South Africa? The Internet is alive, which allows people from all over the world to share and be influenced at the click of a button. We are all connecting news, pictures, videos, rhythms and sounds so quickly…there are many things artists share purely based on rapid and wide information exposure. There’s an insanely dynamic buzz in South Africa that cannot be compared. A buzz brewed by 12-year-olds on laptops producing out-of-this-world music that receives 100,000 hits after only a week of uploading. Our many rich languages and cultures and links to neighbouring countries give us a really broad and direct access to diversification and constantly new, fresh material.
Would you call yourself a feminist? And what is feminist scene like in SA? Being a feminist has so many definitions these days, sometimes it confuses me. So I will answer by saying that I am a person who supports the rights of women and girls and their incredible power. It is a wonderful and revolutionary time to be female in South Africa….a time where young women are standing up and taking their positions as leaders and as power sources. A time where patriarchal structures are really struggling to stay standing. In my work I am constantly creating protest pieces in honor of women and their struggles and their victories.
There is an essence of strong, very visual artists such as MIA and Solange in a few of your videos – the sense of identity and power are palpable. How do you come up with the concepts? And do they ever differ in reality? Hahahaha…I think women with bold ideas and good execution will most likely be compared to one another. They are both two incredibly phenomenal women, I’m flattered. Batuk’s concepts are all honest expressions…if we have an idea, we work together to make it as strong as possible…visceral and beautiful. My art imitates life, and life reciprocates the gesture.
How have you found the industry to be so far? Have you encountered much bullshit? I’m not into bullshit, I don’t accept it. If you bring bullshit anywhere near me, I move. Like any industry there is a lot of shit, but the objective should always be to stay focussed by not entertaining anything negative or anything that tries to come against you and your passion.
Who else, musically or creatively, is exciting you right now? There’s an artist/painter by the name Alexa Meade, she has recently just created work titled Color of Reality. It’s so incredible how her work absorbs me into a dream world. She is famous for inventing a technique that optically transforms the 3-dimensional world into a 2-dimensional painting. Absolutely insane and captivating work.
What should fans expect from your live shows? Expect a lot of energy…a lot of good, powerful, uplifting energy. An energetic exchange that’ll have them busting dance moves that they never thought they had!
Batuk will tour Europe this September and October, with a headline show at London’s Jazz Café on October 15th.
LA-based musician, Ramona Gonzalez, otherwise known as Nite Jewel, is quite literally going it alone with her latest album: ‘Liquid Cool’. Since making her way onto the music scene in 2008, creating songs with her husband using a portable eight-track cassette recorder, Gonzalez has caught the attention and imagination of many, including director Noah Baumbach who selected her track ‘Suburbia’ to appear in his film Greenberg.
Now, as she embarks on the road to play her brand new material in Europe, Twin caught up with the much-hyped electro artist to discover how solitude can be one of the best things to ever happen to someone.
You have said that you recorded much, if not all, of your latest album ‘Liquid Cool’ in various closets. How? Why?
Well, it just so turned out that the two places I ended up living in in Los Angeles over the course of recording ‘Liquid Cool’ had these large walk-in closets. I wanted the sound of the record to be very intimate, so I decided to set up shop in these spaces with just a few instruments, in order have privacy and go deep into that fantasy world I was creating.
Was there a specific event that lead you into leaving your previous label? And how did you feel, both creatively and personally, to go solo? No specific event, but just a general feeling of a poor fit over the course of our relationship. It’s a big commitment to get into a relationship with a label, not only a financial partnership, but a creative partnership as well. If you aren’t feeling like the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts, then it’s probably best to get out while you can. There’s nothing worse than giving away 50% of your rights/ownership/and profits to an entity you can’t get behind.
I’ve been releasing my music independently since 2008. ‘One second of love’ was the only release done with a label other than my own. The main thing Secretly Canadian [record label] and I agreed upon was perhaps I did a better job at releasing my music on my own independently. So it felt great to get that kind of reassurance. And generally it’s been a better experience doing it on my own, albeit more of a personal expense.
There is an oft-mentioned sensuality to your music, is this deliberate? If so, how do you achieve it?
Definitely not deliberate but perhaps just the way that I sing, coupled with the prominence of the bass and rhythm section.
How has your style and sound progressed over the past ten years? What do you want to say now, in comparison to what you wanted to say then? It’s progressed immensely and honed itself, but always been very much Nite Jewel. I think I’ve always toyed with similar themes throughout my career. The cross-section of love and technology has always interested me from the very beginning, and continues to be a theme in my work.
Your sound has also been described as “dreamlike” – what was the last thing you dreamt of? I have very vivid dreams, but the last one I can remember being woken up by, was one where I was doing some sort of very dangerous aerial gymnastics à la Cirque d’Soleil. I’m afraid of heights but have consistent dreams of daredevil type mid-air acrobatics.
‘Liquid Cool’ is said to look a lot at the idea of being alone, is this something you are, or previously have been, afraid of? Have your perceptions of being on your own changed over the years? I think aloneness is something I have always cherished, but at times it has been something I’ve grappled with being an artist. Aloneness is always directly linked to productivity/creativity. If that isn’t going well one day, aloneness can seem daunting, but most of the time it is a great thing. For ‘Liquid Cool’ I was more exploring the pervasive feeling of aloneness in a world where we are also so virtually interconnected. The internet can prove claustrophobic and crowded, but in reality we are experiencing that alone. That somewhat paradoxical dichotomy was what drove the concept of the album.
This album has been described as a “stripping back the pieces of our own lives until we can really see one another again” – is there anything in particular that you feel is particularly obstructive when it comes to communicating with those around you? Yes, our online lives/personas.
You’ve done almost everything on this album yourself, how does the feeling of seeing it finished and out there now compare with previous work? It’s refreshing! But also familiar. I have always done everything on my own, so it’s nothing new. Even when I have worked with other people, in the end, it’s my work, my voice.
This September in London is about one thing only: Björk. Riding high off the success of her critically-acclaimed album ‘Vulnicura’ she is set to play a number of London shows, as well as hold her own exhibition – ‘Björk : Digital’ – at London’s Somerset House.
For years Björk’s music and visual genius has proved to be both pioneering and iconic in equal measure, and now, the British capital is set to feast on her creative fruits in a variety of mediums. Following the high demand, and subsequent selling out, of her Royal Albert Hall performance on 21st September, an additional show has been announced at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo on the 24th, with tickets going on sale on Wednesday 17th August. These will be the artist’s first performances in London since the release of her latest album.
Meanwhile, the exhibition at Somerset House is due to feature a number of her digital works, such as virtual reality videos, interactive apps and archive music videos that were created in unison with some of the most spectacular talents from the worlds of visual artistry and programming. Booking is strongly advised.
‘Björk : Digital’ will be on from 1st September – 23rd October 2016. Click HERE for tickets.
Whenever I listen to Adam Green, I imagine him lounging in a martini glass, drinking a Dr Pepper and wearing a party hat. There seems to me no other way that Green could make the music that he does. His witty offbeat lyrics, which include cherished lines such as “everyone’s fucking my princess,” and ”Jessica Simpson, where has your love gone?” (amongst many, many more) twists and turns, rendering listeners bemused and delighted at the same time.
Green, who began in the cult indie group the Moldy Peaches, is the pied piper of the contemporary imagination. Whilst the band garnered mainstream adoration thanks to a flawless Juno soundtrack, Green was already hoarding accolades solo, producing gems such as Dance with Me, Friends of Mine, Emily and That Sounds Like a Pony. With a film already under his belt, it seems only fitting that Green has now turned his mind to a re-imagining of Aladdin, creating the soundtrack and movie, out this spring. Expect quirkiness aplenty and appearances from familiar faces which include Macaulay Culkin and Zoe Kravitz.
Ahead of the release, I caught up with Green to talk presidential castings, papier-mâché and getting pretty weird.
There seems to be quite a lot of edits and changes to this tale, why did you want to adapt the story of Aladdin as opposed to creating something new? I wanted to try reinterpret the Aladdin myth and try to see it through modern eyes. In my version the lamp is a 3-D printer that prints out an analogue version of the internet. And the Princess is sort of like a Kardashian who’s on the Sultan’s Reality show. I really like when directors make their own versions of classic stories, for example Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, Pasolini’s Canterbury Tales, or Fellini’s Casanova. In this case the goal is to create something completely new, but you have some basic symbolic framework to anchor the plot a little bit.
You have a lot of great people onboard. How did the film come about?
It began with a Kickstarter campaign where I made enough to rent a warehouse. Then I got together a group of people to help me build all the props and sets out of cardboard and papier-mâché. I wanted the effect of the movie to be that the actors were inside a real life cartoon, so we built 30 rooms and 500 papier-mâché painted objects. The build took four months! I had an amazingly talented group that helped me, some had gone to film or art school, or had worked in the art department of independent films. It was important to me that I painted all the black lines though because I wanted everything to look like my drawings. It was pretty surreal being inside the warehouse once we got going. There’s a “Making Of Aladdin” short film I’m gonna put out.
If you could cast American politicians in the roles, who would play who?
George Washington as Aladdin. Condaleeza Rice as the Princess. Ted Kennedy as the Sultan. Bill Clinton as the genie.
How did you get into film?
I made a movie called The Wrong Ferarri that was shot entirely on my iPhone. I began shooting it over a summer tour and it turned into a whole lifestyle. I liked shooting on the iPhone because it was so fast and that frenzy helped actors feel free to improvise. Also because I was on tour I could shoot scenes in Venice, Stuttgart, Rome, France, Belgium all within a few weeks of each other and I wrote the script in the tourbus as we were rolling along. It was a lot of fun. But I think after that I started thinking in terms of movies. I see movies as a great way to combine my visual art, music, and writing into one alchemical medium. It would be hard to go back to not making movies now!
The Wrong Ferrari is a self-described ketamine inspired surrealist gonzo feature. What were the influences behind Aladdin, from a creative point of view? Aladdin is a reimagining a materialist fairy tale. It’s a movie about technology where everything is made out of paper, glue, and house-paint. The ethos is almost the exact opposite of Dogme 95 rules where filmmakers had to shoot in all pre-existing locations and not bring any props onto the scene. It’s a comedy too, sort of a cross between Jodorowsky and South Park.
You co-wrote the soundtrack for Juno and you’re creating it for Aladdin as well. How does the process compare to making a stand-alone album, if at all? Do you feel more or less attached the music as an entity in itself?
I knew going into Aladdin that I wanted to make all the music in the film. I was writing a bunch of songs at the same time as I was writing the script. Sometimes I’d have a line and it was hard to tell if it would go into a song or into the script, so I’d put it in both. I recorded in LA and recruited some of my favourite people who live out there to be the players: Rodrigo Amarante, who people will know as the singer of Little Joy as well as his amazing solo-work, plays guitar and sings a little bit on the record. Stella Mozgawa, who is the drummer of Warpaint, slays the drums. And Josiah Steinbrick on bass, who I love to play with because he makes all my albums sound really Serge Gainsbourgy.
I think on one hand the Aladdin album is really the next solo-album I was going to make anyway. There’s lots of different moods which is important for a film soundtrack. But more than anything I was looking to make a groovy album that is fitting of a movie where everybody is wearing bellbottoms. I wanted a folk funk bubblegum psychedelic sound. I wanted it to be groovy.
The message of Aladdin is obviously deeply romantic, do you think there’s room for that kind of love in the arts more generally these days, or are people too jaded to engage? Well I found love and I was a pretty jaded nihilistic motherfucker, so I think it’s possible for anyone. Maybe people will find it easier to relate to an album that’s also a movie! I think sometimes it’s difficult to know where music belongs because people listen to playlists that have like a Madonna song and then a Kurt Cobain song right after it. I think it’s nice that the Aladdin album exists inside this fantasy movie world so it’s harder to take it out of context.
When will the film be coming out, and will we catch it in the UK? I’m doing a UK tour that starts in early May, so I think that the movie will come out then. I’m planning a London Premiere at the Prince Charles Theatre. And also I’m planning to bring a projector around with me so I can screen the film each night before my band plays a concert. I also want to paint a backdrop and dress like Aladdin so it can be a bit of a traveling circus. Also I want to screen the movie at various indie movie theaters as I come through town.
The Internet: with or against it?
If I was going to try and romanticise the internet, I’d say that maybe we will build something really great with it that is actually classic and timeless. Maybe people will see the internet like Ancient Rome someday, I dunno.
Last record you listened to? The New Har Mar Superstar album, it rules!
Favorite David Bowie song? I know it’s cooler to say something from the Berlin period, but probably “Life on Mars” or “Man who sold the world.” I love that scene in Christiane F. where he sings “Station to Station” and looks like Vampire James Dean.
Last film you watched? I watched four movies on the flight home from Paris last week and I’ve combined them all in my head. In my mind it’s Woody Allen and Joaquin Phoenix co-directing a Noah Baumbauch movie where Johnny Depp plays a tired old gangster man who’s married to Lola Kirke, who murders Anne Hathaway for being mean to the cast of Entourage.
What’re you looking forward to in 2016? 2016 is gonna be all about going around the world with my band and showing everybody what we made. I’m excited to go to people’s towns and hang out with friends, have some beers and get pretty weird.
“The storm was beautiful, but now there’s lots of it to slowly melt and just slush away” comes creator of Porches Aaron Maine’s melodic musings from out of my iPhone on a dismal London night. I’ve called to chat about Porches new album Pool, which has been three years in the making and marks a peak of Maine’s impressive output. Talking to the frontman, the sense of excitement about having an audience for the new record is palpable, which is understandable given that it’s been ready to go for months. And it’s been well worth the wait.
Sonically the album marks a new, more experimental direction for the band (which includes his partner Greta Kline aka Frankie Cosmos). Guitars are swapped for synths and drum machines to intoxicating effect. Indeed, speaking to Maine a couple of days after New York’s recent blizzard feels like apt timing. With a sound that’s both surprising and familiar, cosy and alienating; it’s wholly immersive and will whip up another storm in 2016.
You existed in a couple of guises and line-ups before Porches, what was it about this name and group that stuck?
I guess Porches the name and project started a while ago, like five years ago, when I came back from a tour with my rock band. Back then everyone was living in different places and we weren’t practising, so I made a new batch of songs that felt really different. I don’t really remember why I called it Porches though. I’m not particularly fond of it anymore but…. it’s just a name. And it took a while to start playing those songs live and to figure out how to do it. It wasn’t until Cameron and Greta joined the band that it felt like the kind of line up and instrumentation was finally something special. Before that we were messing with backing tracks and different members.
What was the inspiration behind the album?
I listened to more music, saw more things and experienced new things by living in the city. For me it was important to make something different, that made me feel different that made the audience feel different too. I was paying more attention to music that was being made currently and in drum machines and electronic music saw this cool, exciting potential for something new, and how far you could go with it. It feels really fresh still, even though its widely done to me it felt more exciting than guitar music.
Yeah, it feels like you’ve managed to create something surprising from what at first sounds familiar. I’m interested especially in the motif of water throughout the album, both lyrically and in the quality of the sound, was that a conscious thing or did that evolve naturally?
I was actively trying to make something that made you feel that way… Watery.
And when you’re writing, are you speaking from personal experience or as a character?
The songs are definitely personal. I know in this album the lyrics are pretty abstract, they’re not experiential or based on actual events in my life, but they are a collage of my mood, or whatever I was feeling like that day. Kind of like a set of emotions I put together to paint an emotional landscape.
They’re kind of like impressionist paintings?
Yeah and it was exciting to do that for the first time. I feel like I have always just clung to an experience and it was freeing to not have to experience something psychically to write about it. It taps into a different place. It’s not based on any specific instances so it’s just like a portrait of myself emotionally. Because of that I still feel in it (the album) and still like the songs and can get behind them.
So are you quite considered in your approach to making records?
I definitely live in the song for a while, or at least I live in the recording for a long time. I kind of like that vibe of a recording that’s been loved and given the attention that it deserves.
I’m interested in the eye contact element of performance. Do you ever find it uncomfortable? What’s your performing technique?
I actually made a conscious decision to perform with my eyes open. I realised that I was always closing them or looking down. It’s funnier and more interesting to scan the audience, to look at everyone and how they were feeling.
Have you ever got up on stage and completely screwed up?
Um (long pause) I mean I’m sure… I don’t know! I’ve l tried smoking weed before performing and I just can’t. It’s fun and sounds very special but I’d be psyching myself out. We try to be really focussed and professional. That wasn’t always the case, but it’s been like that for a while now! I
What was the evolution into music, could you have been a banker?
Hah, no. I went into college to study painting but always knew and felt more passionate about the fact that I truly needed to make music. And it was just a matter of time before I realised that it could be a thing.
It’s easy to romanticise creativity in the city, but what’s it actually like being an artist in New York these days?
There’s an insane amount of creative people but I don’t really know if New York embraces them, but at the same time that’s where people get their energy from. It’s something to, not rebel against, but to struggle with. It’s very not chill. You kind of have to be on your shit if you want to make it happen and want to stay around. I love that.
Intimate, considered and subtle, Emma Tillman’s photographs have had us captivated long before her husband (singer Father John Misty) stepped into the limelight. And whilst she may have earned thousands of new fans after the success of his second album I love you Honeybear, in which she is the proclaimed muse and inspiration for his complex lyrics and idiosyncratic melodies, Tillman’s accolades are all her own.
We caught up with Emma to find out more about her work, photographing love and not getting Instagram.
How did you get into photography?
When I was 12-years-old I took an after school class where the students took pictures and learned how to work in the dark room. My mother gave me a camera that had been hers when she was young and I became obsessed with the medium.
Light and shadow play a strong role in your work, what is it that you’re looking for when you take a picture?
I’m looking for a feeling.
Photography by Emma Tillman
Whether your subject is human or an object, there’s strong sense of intimacy in your photographs. What’s your process when you’re working?
I have a gift for communicating my emotions through the lens of a camera. All photographers who take compelling photographs have this gift. There is a supernatural quality to photography that is not often acknowledged, but in my opinion contains all the undeniable fascination of the medium within it.
Your photographs retain a sense of the individual behind the lens, and often you’re in front of it too. Do you find that photography creates and mythologises a character or uncovers the crux of an individual?
It is both. The moment is raw and alive, but somehow also a vitrine of an experience that is just beyond the viewers reach. It is a clear representation of an individual but yet you must put your own imagination into it to complete the story for yourself. It is mercurial, imagination runs wild. That’s the good stuff.
Photography by Emma Tillman
People regularly revel and empathise with other’s misery but in the photographs that you take of your husband there’s a clear sense of joy and celebration. Do you ever feel conscious of this?
I choose my moments. At this time in my life couldn’t take a photograph of someone I love in pain.
Your self-portraits and portraits of other women reclaim the idea of the gaze, like early Cindy Sherman photographs. There’s a sense of exposure without exploitation. Why is it important for you to capture the female body in this way?
I like to photograph other women naked because it is simple and the lines are lovely. There aren’t any distractions to contend with in the picture. As for photographing myself, I can’t help but be drawn to the endless mystery of it. I come back to it again and again. My own face, my own body. It holds a lot of secrets.
Photography by Emma Tillman
How has the rise of instagram affected your relationship with the lens, if at all?
Oh I can’t stand Instagram! To say too much about it would be to marginalise myself, but I can say that from Instagram I glean how much our culture relies in the comforts of sentimentality and try to run in the other direction, artistically speaking.
You’ve also worked in film, how was that experience? In terms of story telling, which medium have you found gives you more narrative freedom?
I don’t know if a comparison can be drawn. Film satisfies an urge for me which has always existed, to tell a story. Photography is more playful. The feeling about it changes, the style changes. It is more about subtraction than addition, which is how I think of film.
Photography by Emma Tillman
What was the last record you listened to?
It’ll be Better by Francis and the Lights.
Favourite equipment to shoot on?
I have a few cameras. A Pentax from the 1970s, A Nikon from the 1980s, a Minolta from the 1990s.
What’re your upcoming projects?
I am finishing a book of photographs, Born with a Disco Ball Soul. I’m also in pre-production on a feature length film I wrote. We’re shooting the film in Summer 2016, in New Orleans.
What’re you looking forward to for the rest of 2016?
My book, my film, and Christmas.
That’s 21-year-old newcomer Frances, the British vocal-powerhouse who could sing you out of the room in karaoke (watch out Adele), and who could also give Florence Welch a run for her money in the wonderfully wild red mane stakes.
Hailing from Newbury, she’s got a set of lungs that sound like they’ve been soaked in 90% proof emotion, serving up a high intensity of feelings to comfort you, before hitting you round the head with a massive chorus that stirs you. She’s already supported Sam Smith live, performed for Radio 1’s Live Lounge and sold out her first three UK London tour dates.
The new soulstress on the block you should know about, we caught up with Frances to talk love and fears, nostalgic moments and the best woah-oh-oh ever.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
Dancing around the house with my mum to ‘Poetry In Motion’ by Jonny Tillotson.
And when did you start performing? I had my first performance when I was three, but I’m not sure if that counts. I’ve always performed in some way since I was a toddler – it just felt so natural.
I first heard of you when I came across the track ‘Fire May Save You’ (the Cesare Remix), and I remember sharing it on my Twitter account as I loved it, and you messaged me back to thank me. Are you officially the nicest person in pop?
Haha! I appreciate so much any support for my music, so I think it’s so important and only polite to say thank you!
But what about when you become too famous to even peel your own banana, what will your tour rider consist of? Haha! Everyone should peel their own bananas, its part of the experience! Hmmm. Sparkling water, cereal bars for a quick energy boost in case I’m lagging, and some speakers for the tour tunes. That would do me fine.
Well as you’re so nice, I really want you to record a mellow stripped back piano version of Whitney’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ and totally belt it out – can you do that especially for me on the next EP please? That’s an amazing idea… I’m going to say YES!
Awesome, I’ll wait for it! And talking of vocal belters, you supported Sam Smith this past Summer for a live show – that must have been a pretty intense experience? It was an amazing experience – he’s such a star and the nicest guy on the planet. I loved every minute.
Were you and Sam trying to outdo each other back stage with who could sing the highest note? I’m pretty sure he’d win if we did!
What about other performers you admire…you might spontaneously combust if you found out you were sharing a stage with who? Carole King. That would just be insane.
Wow, what a duo, you two would be musical ear porn! How would you describe your own sound? Well it’s all about the song for me. So I want to sing songs that people can relate to and share with their loved ones. And in doing that I hope that my voice sings those songs in a way that people endear to, and feel they want to carry on listening.
And how have you evolved and grown with each release? I think I’ve grown as a producer. So I’m finding new ways of delivering my songs and how I can use some different sounds on top of the piano and my voice to enforce meaning in the songs, lyrically and musically. But I’m also maintaining that actually keeping things simple is still a great approach for me for some songs, as nothing gets in the way then.
What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve learnt so far on your musical journey? I’ve had to learn that other people do really care about my music and career. It can be hard to believe at first but once you work with the right people you learn that people have got your back!
You’re among the Next Gen of female singer / songwriters to make their mark on the industry – what other female performers keep you on your toes, for a bit of healthy competition and sisterly respect? I’ve got so much respect for so many female performers. A few that stand out though are Aurora, I think she’s incredible, so haunting and beautiful. Rukhsana Merrise is amazing too, I love her song ‘So They Say’. And then there’s of course Alessia Cara, Adele, Florence, Maria Mena and more.. I could go on forever!
What about if we looked through your record collection, would we find any embarrassing moments? I still have my Vengaboys CDs.. loved them. And I’ve probably still got my Aqua – Barbie Girl CD too, haha!
Ha! Well my Bucks Fizz Greatest Hits beats your Barbie Girl. What else makes you nostalgic? My childhood. It was so fun, I had (and still have) a wild imagination and just lived in a world of my own most of the time.
Is that why you’re quite emotively explorative in your lyrics, you’re very deep and reflective for someone so young? I’m very sensitive to emotion, both my own and others. I tend to over-think and analyse everything so that means I think about things at quite a deep level.. which can be good and bad I think!
Do you think it’s easier to love or be loved? I always say you have to love yourself before you can love another.. but I also think you need to know that you’re loveable.. so that’s a tricky one! I guess they both become easier if you have value for and love yourself.
Good answer. And are you fatalistic? In some ways I am.. but then I also believe you can create your own luck and opportunities. But ultimately we’re all destined to do something, whatever that may be. We all have our own piece of the puzzle.
What’s your greatest fear? Disappointing someone I love.
But you’re not ashamed to admit that you love…? I don’t think we should be ashamed to love anything, but I guess my love for Christmas films is quite intense.
And where is your happy place? Snuggled up with my dogs watching a great film. That’s just the best!
And when not snuggled up indoors, what’s your go-to feel good song before a night out? ‘September’ by Earth, Wind and Fire.
What about the best woah-oh-oh you’ve ever heard in a song? It’s got to be ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyonce! Or for a more emotional ballad-y one, it would have to be the ‘Oh’ section in ‘Viva La Vida’ by Coldplay.
Ok, so you’re off to karaoke – which three singers would you take with you and what’s the song you’re going to sing? I’d bring Sam Smith, George Ezra and JoJo and we’d sing ‘Lose My Breath’ by Destiny’s Child.
Ooh nice! So what’s coming next for you and what can we expect from your debut album? I can’t wait to do my album. It’ll be here next year sometime. It will be in a similar vein to my EPs, but a bit more accomplished I hope, I want to show I’ve grown and developed as a songwriter and for people to really connect and relate to the music.
So taking inspiration from the title of your latest release ‘Let It Out’ – how can we all really let it out today Frances?
Dance in a shop. If a great song comes on it deserves to be danced to. You’ll brighten up your own day and someone else’s!
The ‘Let It Out’ EP is out now and you can see Frances live on her UK tour which kicks off in 2016. For more information head to francesmusic.com
As the daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler, Twin favourite Eliot Sumner has some serious music credentials. Despite being just age 24 (she turns 25 at the end of the month), she has an uncanny knack of creating music that gives you the chills, and her latest track, Firewood, is no exception. It’s out now on iTunes, and her hotly anticipated album is promised later this year – although details are being kept very hush hush. If you’re lucky, you can catch her tonight, playing at the Kings Head Club. Check out her website for more details.
The music scene has been quietly abuzz with news of singer-songwriter Andreya Triana for some time now – her debut album was released in 2010 – but her sounds have yet to filter down to the masses. Collaborations with various prestigious artists including Bonobo (who produced said debut), Flying Lotus and Mr Scruff serve as true commendations in the music world, so, interest piqued, Twin headed down to favourite venue The Lexington to see her showcase tracks from her new album, Giants.
A combination of velvety-smooth vocals, catchy lyrics and beats peppered with brass melodies made for mesmerising listening, complimented by her wonderfully friendly, down-to-earth stage presence. Unsurprisingly, the set was sold out.
Favourite tracks include Gold, which is written about the simple love of music, as well as Giants, not to mention A Town Called Obsolete from her previous album.
The Southbank Centre is well known for its slightly off-piste yet very cool summer festivals: Udderbelly, the Festival of Love, London Wonderground to name but a few. It has also long embraced the burgeoning trend for feminism, with this year being its fifth annual Women of the World festival.
WOW, as it is better known, will be taking place from Sunday 1 to Sunday 8 March this year to mark International Women’s Day. The festival is designed to present, recognise and celebrate women, and this year’s line up is no exception.
With acts including electro-pop from tUnE-yArDs, afro-funk from Ibibio Sound Machine and jazz and soul from Bunmi Thomas, amongst others, the all-female event firmly cements ladies at the front of popular culture. The flagship event, Mirth Control, will fuse comedy and music in one night, starring Sarah Millican, Sharon D. Clarke, soprano Angel Blue, Southbank Centre’s vocal initiative Voicelab and an all-female orchestra conducted by Sian Edwards and Alice Farnham.
2015 looks to be an exciting year for our favourite Icelandic oddball export, Björk. Today saw her release Vulnicura, her eighth studio album, on iTunes, while fans wait with bated breath for her hugely significant MoMA retrospective.
The rush-release comes almost two months ahead of its scheduled release date, as the singer becomes the latest artist to have music leaked online. The CD and vinyl are being held back for the original March launch.
Björk will be putting on a series of intimate shows at Carnegie Hall and City Center to celebrate the launch, finishing with a performance at the NY Governor’s Ball music festival in June.
Combining the ideals of folk with the beats of electonic music may sound a bit strange, but for Sofie Winterson she’s found a common ground that creates a modern sound. Her songs could be labelled indie pop but we think her music is going to be much more than that. With only a few songs released, one EP under her belt and an album on the way Twin caught up with the singer/songwriter from Amsterdam to find out more. She even lifts the lid on the albums title.
Did you always want to become a singer? As a kid I wanted to be a writer until I got more and more involved in music and then it changed from writer to actress to singer. And now I can combine it in songwriting.
What’s your earliest musical memory? There were a lot of musical instruments in the house and I remember seeing the violin and hearing my father playing it, the instrument made a big impression. I started learning to play the violin myself at age 6.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing? That’s hard to say, maybe a writer or a doctor.
What does Said & Done mean to you? It means a lot of things but one aspect is the fact that something can feel so exiting and new even though it is something you experienced before.
What inspires you to make music most? I get a lot of inspiration for writing songs when I travel by car or train or when I read. And it’s really inspiring to play the first drafts of a song with the band. I love the moment when a song is finished and that you from then on can keep on playing and arranging it.
What was it like working with Pinar & Viola on the video? It was a special and lovely experience. There work is really creative and innovative and I was really excited about working with them. It’s always a special moment when you give your music to someone else and together create an image around it!
What can you tell us about your debut album? The album has a more melancholic and darker side as well. I arranged a lot together with my band members and it’s produced by Rimer London. It’s gonna be released on Magnetron Music this spring and I can also give away the title; Wires.
FEATHERS, the female four-piece from Austin Texas are starting off 2014 by releasing a new EP. Out on Monday 13th January, Only One will feature new tracks Wild Love and The Only One, as well as never heard before remixes of Believe and Familiar So Strange, both of which were originally released on the band’s debut album If All Here Now. A Twin favourite, FEATHERS atmospheric synth sound translates beautifully onstage with front-woman Anastasia Dimou’s mesmerising stage presence. With their European tour, supporting Depeche Mode, they will be heading to the UK at the end of January and have planned a headlinning gig at Birthday’s February 1st, giving you plenty of chances to see them live.
What can I say about Bleached… Firstly, they are two sisters (Jennifer and Jessica) who are effortlessly oozing the Twingirl attitude and energy. They follow no rules. But perhaps if they did, the pair’s understanding of regulative instruction would probably be something rather similar to those catchy slogans you find printed on stereotypical punk tees at festivals and Camden Market: ‘Live fast, die young,‘ ‘No Regrets,’ ‘Rock ‘till you die.’ The title of their debut album, ‘Ride Your Heart’ is another addition to this Bleached-Rule-Book…
Secondly, they also create some pretty awesome music. The sound is rough yet melodic, focused yet loud – Essentially a wonderful gnarly noise of bouncy punk-pop reminiscent of the music produced by fellow Rockin’ ladies, Vivian Girls and Wild Flag.
Ride you Heart is released tomorrow, followed by an extensive European tour.
This week we’ve been lusting over a girl. In particular a Girl Called Johnny – the latest musical project from ex-Ramona vocalist and front-woman, Karen Anne. The debut single Heaven Knows is a beautiful story of heartache and lost love featuring catchy heartfelt lyrics that can undoubtedly relate to any twenty-something-year-old girl (even those not called Johnny).
Since going solo, Karen has embraced the opportunity to create a completely personalised record whilst swapping Ramona’s staple punk-rock sound for a refreshingly mellow indie approach reminiscent of early sixties mod-pop, “Ray Davis is a major influence – he writes the most beautiful lyrics, especially about London,” she told Twin. “Also a lot of the other bands I love like The Smiths and New York Dolls are influenced by all the sixties’ girl bands so I guess it all comes from the same place…”
As well as her music, Karen Anne has also become renowned for her sugary-sweet boyish looks (think Debbie Harry meets Edie Sedgwick) after posing as the face of Burberry back in 2011. However music is most certainly on the top of her to-do list for 2013. “Expect an album for sure, I’m also working on a new video right now which is exciting!”
Twin decided to get to know A Girl Called Johnny with a quick either/or game…
Colleen Green is a single guitar, a drum machine and a pair of oversized sunglasses, whose catchy, fuzzy tunes fuse Nineties surf rock with pop-punk… If California were a sound, it would be the sound of Colleen Green.
Time In The World is the first song to be taken from her latest album, Sock It To Me available from 19th March with HardlyArt.
For this week’s Sunday Soundtrack we’re stealing time with Stealing Sheep, three very lovely Liverpool lasses (Emily, Rebecca and Lucy) whose shared love for three-part-harmonies, whiskey and an eclectic mix of experimental music genres first brought them together back in the summer of 2010. Their debut album Into the Diamond Sun was one of the most exciting new releases of last year that subsequently took them on numerous adventures touring around the UK and Europe. Twin spoke to the musical trio to discuss future plans, the Merseyside music scene and telepathic dinosaurs…
Your music has been described as everything from psych pagan folk to post-punk pop, but how would you describe your sound?
We’d say something like… dreamy, doom pop with hypnotic boomy beats, slinky pitch bendy guitars, voodoo folk harmonies, 60’s drone Synths and 16-bit fantasy style keyboards frilled with accidental percussions such as zithers, tuned cow bells and far away howls.
You’ve just finished supporting Villagers on their UK tour – how was that? Do you currently have plans for any other live shows coming up soon?
It was really nice – they are sound lads – very down to earth and into whiskey just like us! We went straight to Europe after that to join Alt-J (who we also toured with before Christmas) and that was well fun. It was great to see them again and watching them play was as great as ever! We’re looking forward to the festivals next and our dates supporting The Postal Service.
What ideas inspire your music?
We play a word game in the car. It goes like: Moon. Spoon. Lagoon. Lilly. Pond. Fish. Plate…etc. You sort of say whatever that word reminds you of and only get a split second to say it so it’s random and fresh. We write it down and put the words together to see what we can create. In Paris last weekend we created a Telepathic Dinosaur with a Death Mind. So that’s the start of a couple of new songs or a new illustration, animation, music video idea… anything! We also listen to loads of music on tour. We listen to anything from composers such as Gustav Holst (The Planets) and Vernon Elliott (Noggin the Nog and Clangers), to Alt-J or Ariel Pink. This really inspires a mixed bag of ideas.
You were one of the coolest new female bands of 2012 – who are you keeping your eye on for 2013?
Girl band wise we’d say Novella and Pins are looking pretty hot!
You girls are all originally from Liverpool – tell us a bit about the music scene there?
…and we’re still here! There’s a good healthy mix of old and new bands. They’re all pretty diverse and doing their own thing. There’s a really cool art collective called The Kazimier and they run a club and do loads of performing arts style nights which are really inspiring musically and visually. There is such a great crowd of amazing artists and musicians so it’s great to be here and be part of it!
Female solo artists seem to be dominating the music world as of late but there are still very few all female bands out there in comparison – why do you think that is? Is there an additional pressure on females trying to make it in the music industry?
Maybe fewer girls are interested in being in bands? We’re not sure really. We like working together but not necessarily because we’re all girls. We’re all into having three-part harmonies and naturally interested in similar things. Maybe with all girl bands you find a nice intuitive level between you because of how the female brain differs creatively… or does it? Music industry wise, there are different kinds of pressures for all bands depending on your genre and style. Whether you’re targeting audiences that are interested in the music or the style or the looks. It all depends what you are in it for, it’s how you perceive it. We don’t want to be pressured into anything: if we don’t want to do it, we won’t. So I guess it’s simple. It’s all to do with how strong-minded you are!
What can we expect from Stealing Sheep in the near future?
We’re designing costumes, new music videos, writing new material and we’re touring a hell of a lot, so come an’ see us!
It was back in May of last year when the Scandinavian siren, Beatrice Eli, first stole our hearts. Now with her latest single ‘It’s Over’ and a new EP due for a worldwide release later this month, we’re ready to fall in love all over again…