If CHVRCHES are like PURITY RING then PURITY RING are like CHVRCHES, except that PURITY RING were here first!
The duo consisting of Megan James on vocals and Corin Roddick in charge of synths, programming and multiple instruments, have been around since 2010, when their simplistic sparse sound heralded the arrival of special type of synthpopia.
Craftily, within couple of years, the Canadian pair were signed to the legendary 4AD and put out their first long player ‘Shrines’.
A true musical melting pot packed with inclusions of such wonders as 808 drums, monosynths and extravaganza of sampled vocals, the album was recorded in separate studios miles apart, one in Halifax and the other all the way in Vancouver, a fact rarely exercised back then, yet quite common nowadays, being enabled by various file sharing platforms.
The follower to ‘Shrines’, ‘Another Eternity’ saw the group honing on their sound, polishing it and refining the production, as well as audibly improving the vocal masterdom. The album was more commercially minded and one could say that is what CHVRCHES sound is all about.
Being far more ‘underground’ to CHVRCHES, who hit the commercial bubble beautifully, PURITY RING enjoy cult audiences, who often prefer “the real thing” to the newcomers. With that, this peculiar time introduces a peculiar album number three…
‘Womb’ is the intensification of its predecessor, it’s wholesome and polished, wavering the “music for the masses” aspect (no pun intended) for the more niche particulars, and the opening ‘Rubyinsides’ is a perfect example. Lyrically it is bizarre and worrisome, like listening to an audio horror show, juxtaposed with the sweetest of voices over gentle melody.
‘Pink Lighting’ with its coagulated male voice during opening, transferring to James’ delicate vocal floats over minimal base of dreamy electronica, while ‘Peacefall’ rings out with velvety qualities of a music box.
‘I Like The Devil’ rolls in with punctuated twisty synth, exposing further delicacies of the duo’s sound, transforming into minimal ‘Femia’, which nods towards their first album. The song was written after the tragic passing of the vocalist’s aunt, it’s a tale of passing life and the realisation that the fate leaves nobody standing. ‘Sinew’ continues with the nostalgic thoughtfulness, calmly melancholic and weirdly uplifting at the same time.
With ‘Vehemence’, the hope comes back, floating between gracefulness and luminosity, to ebb away on ‘Silkspun’, with its heavier synth qualities. Of course James’ voice softens it all, calming the angriest of seas, which is the case on ‘Almanac’ as well, with further vocal manipulations to suit any modern palate. The closing ‘Stardew’ recalls CHVRCHES the most, beautifully arpeggiated and very commercial, it’s just a perfect chill song.
If you like CHVRCHES and have never heard of the parents of the Scottish band’s sound, then give PURITY RING a go. Somehow the duo could appeal to you more so than the one who made it commercially.
More niche, much more experimental and far more endearing, Megan James and Corin Roddick created something greatly more extraordinary than CHVRCHES. Check for yourself.
‘Womb’ released as a CD, violet or black vinyl LP and download by 4AD Records
Like Sweden, as a country with a relatively small population in relation to land mass, Canada punches above its weight when it comes to its contribution to popular music.
Canada’s internationally famous artists may be Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Céline Dion, Bryan Adams and Alanis Morisette, but there have been so many more that have been far more interesting.
Canada has been a significant presence in synth from the post-punk pioneers such as NASH THE SLASH and CERAMIC HELLO, to international MTV-era hits from the likes of MEN WITHOUT HATS, TRANS-X and KON KAN, up to the present day via the mainstream profile of GRIMES, PURITY RING and CRYSTAL CASTLES. Meanwhile, it also has developed into a hub for the burgeoning sub-genre of Synthwave thanks to FM ATTACK and DANA JEAN PHOENIX.
Like in the UK with the availability of affordability of technology from Japan in particular, Canadian youngsters were taking up synthesizers. And while several were to attain cult status like RATIONAL YOUTH and PYSCHE, some such as the Winnipeg trio EUROPA were destined just to have their moment on domestic television without an official release to their name.
Today, the tradition continues with artists such as DEADMAU5, TIGA, KOISHII & HUSH, LOLA DUTRONIC and TECHNIQUES BERLIN covering a wide spectrum of electronic pop and dance music.
So here is ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s list of 25 tracks from the circuit boards of Canada, subject to a limit of one per artist moniker, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order. But notice a void in between 1990 to 2000 when it could be said that the likes of Dion, Adams and Morisette dominated the airwaves of the globe.
However, the number of electronic acts who have appeared in the 21st Century have more than made up for things.
CERAMIC HELLO Climatic Nouveaux (1980)
CERAMIC HELLO were a duo who hailed from Burlington in Ontario, formed by Brett Wickens in 1980 after leaving post-punk band SPOONS. He teamed up with Roger Humphreys who added a more classical bent to their minimal synth in the vein of JOHN FOXX and FAD GADGET. Their first release was the detached cold wave paranoia of ‘Climatic Nouveaux’. Wickens later moved to England to join Peter Saville Associates, making a major contribution to the artwork for OMD’s ‘Architecture & Morality’.
NASH THE SLASH opened for GARY NUMAN and was signed to Dindisc Records. It was during this period that he had his highest mainstream media profile with features in ‘Smash Hits’; it was with the pop mag that his best known recording in the UK came via a blue flexi-disc with an early self-produced stripped down version of ‘Swing-Shift’ sitting next to his label mates OMD’s live rendition of ‘Pretending To See The Future’. He sadly passed away in 2014.
Hailing from Montreal, ‘The Safety Dance’ was written by MEN WITHOUT HATS lead singer Ivan Doroschuk after he had been kicked out of a club for pogoing, thus it was effectively a protest song against conformity, a call for freedom of expression. it had been misinterpreted as a being about safe sex and as an anti-nuclear protest song. The bouncy almost medieval feel combined with Doroschuk’s vocals like a less doomy Andrew Eldritch to produce a huge international hit.
Hailing from Toronto and lead by Gordon Deppe, after the acclaim for the 1981 debut album ‘Stick Figure Neighbourhood’, the songs on the second ‘Arias & Symphonies’ were more European influenced. With JAPAN producer John Punter behind the desk, the title song was an perfect amalgam of prog theatrics, new wave gallop and synth pomp. SPOONS were soon to be opening for bands such as SIMPLE MINDS and THE POLICE. Today, Deppe is also the guitarist for A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.
STRANGE ADVANCE were a Canadian new wave band formed in Vancouver, made up of Drew Arnott (keyboards, percussion, vocals), Darryl Kromm (lead vocals, guitars), and Paul Iverson (bass). Utilising synthesizers and advances in programming technology, their music was a fusion of progressive rock and MTV friendly pop that struck a chord, with the lyrical couplet “The time is right / We’ll love tonight” of ‘Love Games’ capturing the mood of times.
The stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with Brett Wickens from CERAMIC HELLO on this charming pop tune which echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass while the dynamic production came from Steve Nye.
Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable
The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continue his university studies, but contributed synth programming to ‘Holiday In Bangkok’, a sinister overwrought warning about the dangers of becoming international drug mule.
Available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records
French-born Canadian Pascal Languirand was the man behind TRANS-X, and had previously been known for his spacey progressive rock solo albums like ‘Minos’ and ‘De Harmonia Universalia’. Originally issued in French as ‘Vivre Sur Video’, this cosmic octave-shifting electronic dance tune, with additional vocals by Laurie Ann Gill, became a massive hit worldwide after being re-released in 1985 and went onto to influence Electroclash artists such as FISCHERSPOONER and MISS KITTIN.
PSYCHE are the acclaimed dark synthpop duo from Edmonton, founded by the Huss brothers Darrin and Stephen. Of the foreboding overtones of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’, “Many think the main sequence sounds like ‘Tubular Bells’ and there may be some element of that as it was used in ‘The Exorcist’ movie which my brother loved” Darrin said, “It’s also inspired by JOY DIVISION, as I was really going for the sound of a world weary preacher and channelling the voice of Ian Curtis for that.”
“Love cannot attach itself to binding ugliness” goes the theatrical horror of ‘Dig It’; formed in Vancouver by cEvin Key of IMAGES IN VOGUE and vocalist Nivek Ogre, SKINNY PUPPY are widely considered as the pioneers of industrial. ‘Dig It’ was a big favourite of NINE INCH NAILS mainman Trent Reznor and heavily influenced his own track ‘Down In It’ which appeared on ‘Pretty Hate Machine’, so much so that he later confessed he had actually sampled it!
Mitsou Annie Marie Gélinas achieved the comparatively unusual feat of having a francophone pop hit across Canada with ‘Bye Bye Mon Cowboy’. But her best tune was the saucy Fairlighted ‘Les Chinois’ from the multicultural-themed album ‘El Mundo’. Written and produced by Jean Pierre Isaac who later worked with Céline Dion, she exclaimed “Non non non c’est pas comme ça, qu’on fait l’amour, regarde les Chinois”… was she trying to make babies?
The project of Barry Harris, the KON KAN name was a play on the policy of “Canadian Content” which enforced Canadian radio station to air at least 30% domestic music. Voiced by Kevin Wynne, ‘I Beg Your Pardon’ was not just content with borrowing off NEW ORDER but inspired by ‘Pump Up The Volume’, used samples of other songs like ‘Rose Garden’, ‘Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)’ and ‘Get Up & Boogie’, as well as National Lampoon’s ‘Disco Hotline’. This mash-up became a huge international one hit wonder.
Toronto-based Jason Amm is all about “synthesizers, drum machines, fx, knobs, buttons, wires, wave, electro, acid”. But while he is now best known for his documentary film ‘I Dream Of Wires’, he has a vast catalogue of music released under the SOLVENT moniker. With gentle vocoder treatments and glorious whirring synths, ‘Wish’ set a pattern for acts like FOTONOVELA and QUIETER THAN SPIDERS to follow in the understated melodic machine pop stakes.
Toronto’s DRAGONETTE comprised of singer Martina Sorbara, producer Dan Kurtz and drummer Joel Stouffer. The acclaim for their self-released self-titled EP led to a deal with Mercury Records and a relocation to the UK. Opening shows for BASEMENT JAXX and SUGABABES, the highlight of their debut album ‘Galore’ was ‘I Get Around’ which was previewed on Planet Clique and Lucky Pierre’s ‘Robopop – The Return’ compilation. It also was used in ‘The Vampire Diaries’.
Available on the album ‘Galore’ via Mercury Records
With ‘Drive’ star Ryan Gosling being a notable FM ATTACK admirer, Shawn Ward has concocted a unique hybrid electronic sound combining Gino Soccio and Giorgio Moroder with Italo disco, French house, new wave and post-punk, all with a fine-honed musicality. From 2009’s ‘Dreamatic’ album which opened up the gates and led the way for what was to become Synthwave, ‘Sleepless Nights’ crossed arpeggios with octave lilts for an enjoyable vocoder-laced romp.
Named after a line in ‘She-Ra: Princess of Power’ and capturing a gritty lo-fi electronic sound, Toronto’s CRYSTAL CASTLES were a world apart from other modern duos with chaotic live shows that had an almost demonic energy. With Ethan Kath’s deliberately distorted synthetic goth-punk and Alice Glass’ afflicted vocal presence, ‘Suffocation’ was haunted, yet captured an understated beauty. But in October 2014, Glass announced that she was leaving to pursue a solo career amid acrimony.
Named after the goddess of light in Latvian mythology, Toronto’s AUSTRA deliver a stark, baroque form of arty electronica fuelled by the sexual tension. Like a gothic opera which successfully blended light and darkness with fragility and power, Katie Stelmanis and friends borrowed from classic DEPECHE MODE and crossed it with THE KNIFE for ‘Spellwork’, their most accessibly brilliant synthpop offering from their debut album ‘Feel It Break’.
While Claire Boucher might be now more widely known for being the girlfriend of Elon Musk, she began as the kooky Montreal sensation GRIMES, sounding like LYKKE LI fronting KRAFTWERK. Presented in a fun leftfield lady meets pop princess fusion, ‘Oblivion’ was a sumptuously infectious tune that despite the almost unintelligible vocals and weird noises, was probably the most immediate track on her ‘Visions’ album which also featured less immediate but equally enjoyable ‘Genesis’.
Behind PARALLELS is Holly Dodson and on their second long player was a lovely synthpop version of GOWAN’s 1987 rock tune ‘Moonlight Desires’. She said of her love for the song: “We hear the original version it all the time in Canada. It’s always fulfilled all the necessary criteria – incredible hooks, the moon, magic melodies, nostalgia. I just recently learned that GOWAN’s actually heard the cover… and approves!! Which is SUCH a relief haha…”
Available on the album ‘XII’ via Marigold Productions
TR/ST began as the project of Robert Alfons and AUSTRA’s Maya Postepski. Although Postepski left to return to AUSTRA, the debut ‘TRST’ made a slow burning impact as Alfons toured his “Eeyore gone goth” electro template around the world. From it, the filthy ‘Gloryhole’ was a wondrous combination of sinister portamento and hypnotic dance beats. Postepski returned to the fold for the recent double album opus ‘The Destroyer’, but Alfons still remains something of an awkward character.
Bill Leeb formed FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY in 1986 after his short stint with SKINNY PUPPY under the name Wilhelm Schroeder. With Rhys Fulber as the other long standing member, they were influenced by acts such as CABARET VOLTAIRE, PORTION CONTROL, DAF, TEST DEPT and SPK. Having integrated guitars, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY returned to making exclusively electronic music on their fifteenth album ‘Echogenetic’, the highlight of which was ‘Killing Grounds’.
Hailing from Toronto, ELECTRIC YOUTH‘s collaboration with COLLEGE entitled ‘A Real Hero’ was included on the ‘Drive’ soundtrack’ in 2011. Their debut album ‘Innerworld’ finally came out in Autumn 2014 and one of its highlights was another collaboration, this time with ROOM8 called ‘Without You’. Echoing Aussie combo ICEHOUSE and ‘Great Southern Land’ in particular, its bridge and chorus were particularly tremendous with a nostalgic Brat Pack movie presence.
Available on the album ‘Innerworld’ via Last Gang Entertainment / Secretly Canadian
With CHVRCHES having had success borrowing PURITY RING’s electro template, the Edmonton duo’s sophomore album ‘Another Eternity’ was more focussed than its predecessor ‘Shrines’. Still utilising glitch techniques, booming bass drops and Corin Roddick’s rattling drum machine programming, ‘Begin Again’ made the most of Megan James’ sweet and dreamy voice. The pair off a major surprise by working with Katy Perry on three songs for her 2017 album ‘Witness’.
Self-described as a “Retro Synthwave Singer”, Toronto’s DANA JEAN PHOENIX isn’t a stranger to synthylicious ditties. Having moved away slightly from pure Synthwave styles, as one of the best live solo synth performers currently, she enjoys rocking out onstage with her keytar Jareth. The sparkling template of one of her most rousing numbers ‘Only One For One Night’ brought along a youthful escapism that reminisced about first loves and first disappointments.
Available on the album ‘PixelDust’ via New EmPire Entertainment
Behind the quirky avant pop of MECHA MAIKO is the talented Torontonian, Hayley Stewart. The delightfully odd ‘Apathy’ from her second album ‘Let’s!’ was an inventive oddball fusion of jazz swing Charleston, frantic techno dance beats and vibrant synthpop hooks. It showed she was not afraid to blend seemingly incongruous influences to get an end result and with a slight sprinkling of Japanese instrumentation to close, the eclectic creative cycle was complete!
Signed to Domino Records, home of FRANZ FERDINAND, ARCTIC MONKEYS and AUSTRA, over the last year, GEORGIA has been the artist that everyone is talking about.
Comparisons with LITTLE BOOTS are hard to avoid though; both got a profile boost on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ thanks to unusual live presentation.
In LITTLE BOOTS’ case, it was her use of a Stylophone alongside a Yamaha Tenorion while with GEORGIA, it was her standing drum ‘n’ synth. And that all without mentioning the BBC Sound nominations.
Gaining mainstream radio airplay in 2019, her singles ‘About Work The Dancefloor’ and ‘Never Let You Go’ were great, mining ROBYN and CHVRCHES respectively in the process, the former stating “I have no material gifts for you”. Here were the signs of a promising breakthrough artist.
But before that, there was ‘Started Out’ with its much groovier vibe with soulful influences and neo-ragga inflections going over the electronics, while the quirky R ‘n’ B pop of ‘Feel It’ was not that far from the urban DIY austere heard on her self-titled debut.
All four songs appear on ‘Seeking Thrills’, the second album by GEORGIA, the daughter of LEFTFIELD’s Neil Barnes who first found her musical feet drumming for Kate Tempest among others. So unsurprisingly, ‘Seeking Thrills’ is a showcase for rhythm, twelve tracks of exuberance with a bittersweet tinge.
With a definite move into more accessible pop territory, the new single ‘24 Hours’ does as the album title suggests, celebrating the thrill of night life and finding love with a bass rumble and a hint of PURITY RING. With throbbing synths and a drum machine backbone, our heroine declares with excitement that “If two hearts ever beat the same, we could be it”.
However, ‘Mellow’ with rapper SHYGIRL goes the opposite direction with some deadpan art school hip-hop while ‘Ray Guns’ explores similar territory although for ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK at least, neither quite hit the spot.
Back to avant electro, ‘The Thrill’ with its hypnotic shuffling beats, vocal layers, glistening arpeggios and gorgeous synths sees GEORGIA trying to stop herself “feeling so blue”, but a sudden switch to techno brings with it an extra lift for a terrific album highlight.
The remaining songs get more reflective as GEORGIA enters ballad territory. As with any hedonistic adventure however exhilarating, its inherent Ying and Yang leads to the inevitable and never welcome comedown. ‘Till I Own It’ is quite sorrowful and while ‘I Can’t Wait’ sparkles in places, it is tinged with melancholy.
Providing another of the album’s highlights, the gently crystalline ‘Ultimate Sailor’ delightfully comes over like a cosmic collaboration between VANGELIS and ROBYN. But appropriately closing the eclectic range of ‘Seeking Thrills’, the nocturnal cinematic soundscape of ‘Honey Dripping Sky’ is interrupted by an unexpected reggae-flavoured end section.
Yes, half of this album has already been issued as singles of some sort, but with an opportunity to potentially catapult her music to a wider audience, then why not? To have an interesting and varied body of work in one place helps an artist build a bond with their fanbase.
The mainstream audience are NOT hipsters (who are notoriously fickle anyway), so time must be allowed for them to catch up and savour. While some of these songs were released in 2017, this should not spoil things for the listener because good songs will last.
With a three year gestation period, ‘Seeking Thrills’ is a solid and varied pop statement. But for the next record, will she go the full pop hog like CHVRCHES or retreat to the underground? It’s going to be an interesting year for the Londoner.
‘Seeking Thrills’ is released by Domino Records in vinyl LP, CD, cassette and digital formats
GEORGIA 2020 UK + Ireland live dates include:
Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (3rd March), Glasgow King Tuts (4th March), Manchester Yes (5th March), Liverpool Phase 1 (6th March), Dublin The Workman’s Club (7th March), Leeds Brudenell Community Room (9th March), Birmingham Mama Roux’s (10th March), Bristol Thekla (11th March), London Heaven (12th March)
POLYCHROME describe themselves as “Neon Segawave”, probably an apt term of reference given their flirtations with synthwave and dreampop.
Modern glitch effects like PURITY RING with the girly synthpop resonance of Miami’s PRIEST and the chillwave air of the Sarah P. era of KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS permeate through the sounds of POLYCHROME, as exemplified by ‘The Call’.
However, the London-based independent duo themselves name the usual suspects of M83, COCTEAU TWINS and CHROMATICS as well as the polarising sub-genre of shoegaze as influences. Fronted by the angelic presence of Victoria Harrison, she is ably partnered by Oliver Price and both contribute vocals as well as production.
“We love it Lo-Fi, old drum machines, vintage microphones and Sega Mega drives!” the duo say, affirming their more rustic approach to electronic pop. Much of the POLYCHROME’s self-titled debut album released in 2018 was written in isolation around the serene surroundings of Grianain Eco Lodge near Fort William and it shows.
The ‘Drive’ influenced ‘Synesthesia’ reflects the union of the senses as suggested by its title, with its synthetic and vocal layers providing an electro-organic wash, accompanied by a rainswept video shot through glass for that suitably hazy effect.
The album closer ‘Don’t Be A Stranger’ provides an airy twist on the ‘Stranger Things’ theme with a slower variation on its iconic pulsing arpeggio, it could be considered POLYCHROME’s mission statement as to their next artistic intent as they move further into combining synthwave with dreampop.
Concluding their debut album campaign with a ‘Final Kiss’ and a manipulated voice hook, the song recalls the sedate synthpop of Canadian duo ELECTRIC YOUTH with chiming guitars and electronic drums complimenting the backdrop.
It will be interesting to see where POLYCHROME head next with many possible paths on the crossroads and while there is still perhaps some focussing to do dynamically, the musical potential is there.
Canadian synthpop trio PARALLELS rode on some well-deserved international momentum in 2017 following the release of their third album ‘Metropolis’.
Championed by the likes of Rusty Egan, the Toronto combo formed in 2008 and released the 2010 debut long player ‘Visionaries’.
However, PARALLELS went through some personnel changes prior to the recording of their sophomore offering ‘XII’.
In 2018, the line-up comprises of Holly Dodson, her brother Nick and one-time CLIENT collaborator Oliver Blair. With their catchy sweetly flavoured songs like the ‘Metropolis’ title song, ‘Catch’ and ‘Heart Of The Wild’, PARALLELS’ third long player was an audio document of how “we travelled… fell in and out of love… rediscovered the places we call home…”, with the end result sitting down well alongside the likes of PURITY RING, CHVRCHES and AVEC SANS.
Singer, songwriter and synthesist Holly Dodson took time out from rehearsals to chat about the continuing progression of PARALLELS and their first live appearance in London which is happening alongside German songstress NINA in March…
Canada appears to have become a centre for modern electronic pop with the likes of PURITY RING, ELECTRIC YOUTH, GRIMES, AUSTRA and TR/ST. What inspired you to head in this direction as PARALLELS?
Starting out, we were very inspired by Italo disco and synthpop from the 80s. Piano was my first instrument, so synthesizers were sort of the next step for me when I got more into production. I love the colour that synths add. And we wanted to make upbeat dance music with pop vocals… plus we didn’t know how to play guitar so it was partly a matter of circumstance 🙂
Your third album ‘Metropolis’ appears to have been your breakthrough internationally, how has the reception looked from your end?
I’m really truly grateful for the reaction it’s gotten so far! I’m usually most nervous to find out what our long-time fans think of new stuff… I really just want them to be happy and excited from the getgo.
Thankfully it *seems* like it was well received. It’s been an introduction for new fans as well, which is wonderful. As long as it’s connecting on some level… any level… I’m thrilled.
How have you viewed the band’s progression over the years since your 2010 debut ‘Visionaries’?
Seems like yesterday! I’ve sort of ended up being the thread that’s tying it together – which I didn’t anticipate. We went through some line-up changes that at the time were pretty emotionally challenging, but so many bands do. For me, it’s always been about making music and playing shows… so I wanted to keep focus on that. The seeds were planted so let’s grow the garden. It’s been truly rewarding on many levels, creatively, and I’m really looking forward to going deeper.
Your lovely version of ‘Moonlight Desires’ on your second long player ‘XII’ points to perhaps a youth possibly spent watching John Hughes and Brat Pack movies?
So happy you like it! I’m a child of the 80s, so naturally, yeah… plus GOWAN is Canadian. We hear the original version it all the time in Canada. It’s always fulfilled all the necessary criteria – incredible hooks, the moon, magic melodies, nostalgia 🙂
I just recently learned that GOWAN’s actually heard the cover… and approves!! Which is SUCH a relief haha… you never know.
Do you feel any affinity with North America’s current interest in the Synthwave sub-genre?
It definitely seems to be having a moment right now – it feels very buzzy and grassroots which is wonderful. It also seems like a bit of a gateway for new listeners to get into synth music and an excuse for long-time listeners to get re-excited. I love knowing these communities are forming and have some dear friends involved in the scene – so it’s inspiring to see it coming together.
Photo by Sarah Llewylen
The ‘Metropolis’ title track does have a CHVRCHES vibe, has the success of Glaswegians been an indicator that a potential worldwide audience is out there?
I’m definitely a big fan of CHVRCHES – it’s so cool to see synthpop rise to that level! I’d love to write with them one day. Yes, I’m a firm believer that synthpop is for everyone whether or not they know it 😉
In 2016 – the year everyone wants to forget – I had a big binge on PRINCE’s music, which inspired ‘Metropolis’.
Actually, until the last minute, it didn’t have bass on it because ‘When Doves Cry’ doesn’t, but I realized I was just grieving and so recorded the bass… it brought a bit closure 🙂
There’s a hint of ‘Running Up That Hill’ in ‘Catch’, how important has KATE BUSH been in shaping your take on music?
‘Running Up That Hill’ is one of my absolute favourite songs of all time – KATE BUSH is my home for inspiration. If I have insecurities or self-doubt, I put on her records. When I first played my demos to a family friend of ours, when I was 17 or so, he said my voice reminded him of KATE BUSH… and at that time I had no idea who she was. So I went and listened to the ‘Hounds Of Love’ album and, I’m not joking, everything made sense.
She changed how I understood creativity and represents freedom of expression in its truest form. Some people spend so much time trying to fit in that they forget to find their own voice. With KATE BUSH, it seems like she knew – and wasn’t afraid to experiment and take risks, push boundaries with grace. And I love and admire that so much. I could talk about this for hours… obviously.
You’re releasing a great new RADIO WOLF remix of ‘The Last Man’ as the new PARALLELS single. It’s quite different from the album version, what was the thinking behind having the track reworked?
Our good friend (turned band mate) Oliver Blair had wanted to do a remix – he said he wanted to speed it up and “paint it red”. I love what he did with the remix. He really brought out the edge in that song. The song is about holding ourselves accountable for our actions toward the earth and each other… which is becoming more and more urgent. So I think he really picked up on that with his interpretation.
So which have been your own favourite songs on ‘Metropolis’ and why?
Well in case the songs are listening, I love them all equally. But… Isadora’ is one of my favourites – it’s sort of a séance song. I’ve never been a part of one but would love to at some point.
‘Tell The World’ and ‘Metropolis’ are ones that mean a lot to me. They remind me of home, my family and friends. ‘Tell The World’ is about story-telling, learning from the past and how stories connect us. It makes me emotional when I hear it, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.
Photo by Sarah Llewylen
PARALLELS covered NEW ORDER’s ‘Age Of Consent’ for the ‘Civilisation’ EP in 2015, what made you choose that and do you have any other songs you would be interested in reinterpreting?
There’s a list! I’m working on one now but want to keep it a surprise. We used to jam to ‘Age Of Consent’ during practises and it’s one of my favourite NEW ORDER songs… it reminds me of being a teenager and not having the words to express my emotions. I’d just say… listen to this song… this is how I feel.
Electronic music appears to have more sister / brother combinations eg THE KNIFE, XYLO, FAKE TEAK than say in rock, why do you think that might be and how is your creative relationship with your sibling Nick?
True, I never realized that. Nick joined in 2011… I said “I’m looking for a drummer… want to join PARALLELS?” and he said “well, I play metal but I guess I could play your stuff” 🙂
He’s a true talent and one of my best friends – always there for a critical critique, and I trust his opinion.
PARALLELS are coming to London in March 2018; as well as the gig with NINA, what else are you hoping to do while you’re here?
We are! It’s our UK debut – we’re so thrilled to be playing with NINA. Would love to see Abbey Road, Soho… our band mate Oliver lived in London for years, so we’re hoping he will be our tour guide. Any insider advice?
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to PARALLELS