FIVE FAVOURITES: Bleach Lab

Working through unexpected grief majorly informed the songs on South London-based Bleach Lab’s upcoming EP, A Calm Sense of Surrounding. The death of bassist Josh Longman’s father and the breakdown of vocalist Jenna Kyle’s long-term relationship seeped into the band’s song-writing, as they began to musically explore the five stages of grief – anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Through Kyle’s emotive vocals and earnest lyrics and guitarist Frank Wates’ fluid, atmospheric riffs, the band soften the sharpness of their collective pain.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Bleach Lab to ask them about their “Five Favourites” – five songs that have inspired their song-writing techniques. Check out their choices below and scroll down to listen to Bleach Lab’s latest single ‘Flood’ at the end of this post.

1. Mazzy Star – ‘Halah’
Jenna Kyle (vocalist): My closest friend introduced me to Mazzy Star when I first moved to Brighton a while ago. She thought it would be right up my street, she knows me well. It’s hard to pick a favourite Mazzy song, but after a lot of rumination I concluded a while ago that ‘Halah’ takes the top spot. It quickly became a break up song of sorts for me and accompanied me on many wine filled nights. Hope’s dreamy, effortless voice floats above the guitar so flawlessly. The story that I take from the lyrics is not too dissimilar from the themes that I tend to find myself pulled into writing. The reflection and process of a break up that you can’t quite manage to move forward from. “Before I close the door, I need to hear you say goodbye, baby won’t you change your mind?” The story is a relatable one, it’s immersive and something that a lot of listeners can place themselves in. Something that I try to achieve with the way that I write my lyrics.

2. Radiohead – ‘Pyramid Song’
Frank Wates (guitarist): I remember first hearing this song on the TV soon after Amnesiac was released. It was the music video, the beautifully animated one where the diver jumps into the water and explores the submerged city. At the time I was probably around 10. I remember it really hit me emotionally, but I also remember being so confused about its rhythm and meter, which I later learned to be swung 4/4. I was tapping my foot along and totally failing to follow the beat and it really frustrated me. Granted I was only 10, but I think it really imprinted on me and it ended up being an important moment in my developing interest in rhythm. Rhythm is now the main thing I think about when writing my guitar parts and imagining how our songs will sound when fully formed. Melody and everything else come second.

3. Daughter – ‘Youth’
Jenna: ‘Youth’ was one of the first songs I fell in love with when I began the journey of figuring out my own style, back when I was around 16 and had previously only been singing over karaoke videos of Les Mis and Cats (the musical) soundtracks, whenever my parents left the house. I hadn’t really listened to any artists that ignited such a strong emotional response for me. I’m pretty sure it was a “this is it” moment when I heard it, and I couldn’t wait to learn the iconic guitar riff so I could play it myself. Elena Tonra’s lyrical style has always been a huge inspiration for the way that I have adapted my own writing. She writes visual stories with her words and her use of metaphors is effortlessly captivating. I would love to be able to quiz her on her approach and method to writing.

4. Interpol – ‘Rest My Chemistry’
Josh Longman (bassist): I have always been a big fan of Interpol growing up and have always been a massive fan of the simple guitar leads that just carry the song along from start to finish. I have always known of them, but only during my college days did a few of my friends entice me to dig deeper down the Interpol rabbit hole. The guitar tones and dynamic range throughout are spot on and the driving bass in many of their songs have influenced a few tracks for me as a bass player. When the bass isn’t driving, its simplicity really gives the guitars and vocals space to explore amazing melodies. Underrated band in my opinion, and I was happy to see them at All Points East when The Strokes were headlining, although for me I saw the festival as a good value of money as it seemed like there were 2 headliners that day.

5. Helena Deland – ‘Smoking At The Gas Station’
Frank: This is a really recent release, but I already know it will be one of my favourite records for a long time to come. I first heard it when I was listening through Helena Deland’s debut album Someone New for the first time soon after it came out. I was so excited for the album’s release as the singles were so gorgeously produced. Since sitting in on mixing sessions with the producer/mixer/engineer for our debut EP (shout out to Max), I’ve really started to pay attention to finer details around the mixing and production of any song I listen to. The song itself already features an incredible vocal performance, but I was absolutely blown away by its mixing and production. It has a really unsettling beauty to it to start but the song develops and finishes with one of the most beautiful and subtle outros I’ve heard. I’m starting to pay a lot more attention to writing powerful outros because of it.

Thanks to Bleach Lab for sharing their favourites with us!
Listen to ‘Flood’ below.

 

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Photo Credit: Isy Townsend

Track Of The Day: Nuha Ruby Ra – ‘Cruel’

As part of the promotion for her latest track, Nuha Ruby Ra was asked by the PRS Foundation to put together a playlist which featured, amongst others, such diverse names as Billy Fury, Nina Simone, Thee Headcoatees and The Birthday Party. Reading between the lines, if there’s one thing that links these artists (and the many other acts cited as influences by Ra in past interviews) and her latest single, ‘Cruel’, it’s an ability to craft narrative in song form, typically with a dark tinge. ‘Cruel’, the latest cut from forthcoming EP How to Move,  is perhaps even more darkly hypnotic than debut ‘Erase Me’, and sees Ra morph multiple genres into a singular whole.

Opening with a bass sound and vocalisation that most recalls the dark Swedish psych of GOAT, the track’s opening two minutes are compelling, if belying in what is to come. A middle eight bass breakdown, of sorts, breaks off the song’s first half, before Ra opens up her singing style in Siouxsie fashion and sax murmurings creep more prominently into the mix.  By the time the whole thing has simmered and come to a boil, its instrumentation, replete with drum rattles and guitar riffs, has moved closer to free jazz. Ra’s backing band – Ian Wilson (guitar) and Julie Hair (percussion) of the similarly dreamy Isolation Society, Interpol’s bassist Brad Truax, and Vestments saxophonist Nikki D’Agostino – are an ideal ensemble to accompany her voice, which is by turns eerie, insistent and direct, overlaying itself with whispered incantations that pre-empt or echo lyrics and give the song the hallucinogenic feel of fantasy and nightmare. Its lyrics are clearly deeply personal to Ra, confirmed in social media posts which discuss the topics cited, with the imagery of isolation, bondage, self-sabotage and self-consciousness perfectly evoked by her unique vocal style.

Credit has to be given for Ra too for the accompanying video which, due to recent restrictions, was filmed, directed and edited by the singer in her warehouse workspace.  Similar to the video for ‘Erase Me’, with its deliberately simple colour scheme, and holographic style of overlapping, its raw and (literally) stripped back styling reflects its creator’s willingness to lay bare her soul and her body for her art. Even just by her two singles, Ra is the breakout multi-hyphenate of the year: an artist, a performer, a musician, whose work is both self-reflective and self-reflexive, boundary-pushing yet relatable enough to carry along its listener. What follows will, no doubt, be fascinating.

Watch the new video for ‘Cruel’ here:

‘Cruel’ is out now. Listen on Spotify.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego