Informed by personal loss, the need for escapism and intense self-refection, London-based dark-pop duo Charlotte Spiral are preparing to release their upcoming EP, New Light, on 9th April. Co-produced by Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey (Kae Tempest, Bat For Lashes, Sia) the band’s latest offering was recorded both remotely and in-person over the last year in and out of lockdown, an experience which heightened the EP’s themes of connection and isolation.
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 Charlotte Spiral’s Amy Spencer to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that have inspired the band’s song-writing techniques. Check out her choices below and scroll down to listen to a live rendition of Charlotte Spiral’s latest single ‘New Light’ at the end of this post.
1. Laura Marling – ‘Fortune’
I’ve been listening to Laura Marling since I was in high school. I used to play guitar and sing and I was very inspired by her, especially as she was so young and already releasing records. I hadn’t heard of many singer-songwriters who were that young, and who also felt like they were doing something true to themselves.
Until her latest album Song For Our Daughter came out at the start of the first lockdown, I hadn’t listened to her for quite a while, but it became my lockdown soundtrack and continues to be on repeat. This song is one of the highlights from the record – it’s so elegant and it reminds me of ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles. I love the lyrics, in particular, the line “better off measured in coffee and wine” and the subtle arrangement of Laura’s vocal, guitar and strings. I also love that the record is written to a fictional daughter, it’s very poetic, and I’m always drawn to records that have an underlying theme throughout.
2. Rufus Wainwright – ‘Memphis Skyline’
Avi Barath (the other half of Charlotte Spiral) introduced me to Rufus Wainwright when we were at Goldsmiths University. I’d always known of his music, but I’d never properly listened to his records. When Avi and I went to Tel Aviv a few years ago, we had this song on repeat driving around in the boiling weather.
It’s a gorgeous song, the arrangement is unbelievably beautiful and it gradually builds to an epic ending. It was written about Jeff Buckley after he died. Rufus’ music is a mix of ballads, musical theatre and classical, which I think we have tried to capture within our music. The way the piano and vocal parts work together in this track in particular is an inspiration for us, and we have some new music coming out later this year, which I think feels especially influenced by Rufus’ sound. He’s a true hero of mine and one of our main references for the project. I think both of his albums, Want One and Want Two are beautiful, but this song is pretty much perfection!
3. This Mortal Coil – ‘Song To The Siren’
This track is a cover, originally by Tim Buckley, Jeff Buckley’s dad. I was recommended to listen to this song by my singing teacher when I was at Goldsmiths, she wanted me to try and embody some of Elizabeth Fraser’s vocal tone. I’ve always tried to sing this song the way she does and apply it to my sound, but it’s almost impossible because her voice is so unusual and unique. The way she sings here is with so much vibrato! It’s such a sad song, but she completely makes it her own. I think everything Elizabeth Fraser does is wonderful and I’ve always been inspired by her music, from the Cocteau Twins to her work with Yann Tiersen and Massive Attack. She has such an ethereal voice and her song-writing is one of a kind. A huge inspiration for me.
4. Moses Sumney – ‘Don’t Bother Calling’
I discovered Moses Sumney when he released his first record Aromantisism in 2017. I’d have it on repeat whilst I was working. Throughout the album, the focus is on his vocals, whether it’s his lead vocal or layers of harmonies and that’s something I’ve always loved to do throughout my music. I remember when we went to record our track ‘Wide Eyed’ from our first EP Ideal Life with Dan Carey, and he suggested Moses Sumney as a reference. This made me even more excited about working with Dan! ‘Don’t Bother Calling’ feels like a bittersweet kind of song, so dreamy and melancholy, but at the same time catchy – the perfect mix! And Moses’ falsetto is just incredible and his music is otherworldly. The lyric “the world is a wonderland scene” is beautiful.
5. Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’
‘Moon River’ has got to be one of my favourite songs of all time. I love the film and book Breakfast At Tiffany’s, but it’s the song that I truly love. If anyone asks me to sing something, I’ll sing this! Just after I graduated I was a nanny and I’d sing it to the baby I looked after every day. She started singing it too at some point! It’s so graceful and understated.
I love the strings at the end of the track and the line “my huckleberry friend / moon river and me,” always gets me. I’m definitely a pretty cynical person, but I’ve got some romance in me too, and this song is that bit of romance in me. I think you can hear this romantic, rose-tinted vision touching some of our music. ‘Moon River’ is a timeless song, and that’s something we try to capture throughout our Charlotte Spiral releases. I’ll try and sneak this into one of our shows one day, whether Avi likes it or not!
Thanks to Amy for sharing her favourites with us.
Watch the video for Charlotte Spiral’s single ‘New Light’ below.
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Photo Credit: Barbora Mrazkova