FIVE FAVOURITES: Charlotte Spiral

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.

Follow Charlotte Spiral on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

Photo Credit: Barbora Mrazkova

FIVE FAVOURITES: Sarah P.

Sarah P. (former front-woman of Keep Shelly In Athens) has shared her new EP Maenads with the world, and it’s a record that openly explores the theme of female power in all its magic, strength and “imperfect perfection”. The record is a triumphant return for the artist, who has been busy championing public conversations about mental health through the creation of her monthly zine EraseRestart, which aims to wipe out the stigma that surrounds it. 

We caught up with Sarah P. to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five artists or albums that have influenced her songwriting technique. Check out her responses below…

1. Sad Lovers & Giants – Les Années Vertes
This record is everything to me. Pure 80s sound, conscious-but-mysterious lyrics, eerie vocals. I’ve always loved the “hopeless romantic” vibe of the post punk-scene. Les Années Vertes is a classic, timeless piece of art. Even if the sound is now considered vintage, the lyric themes are easy to connect with. This album is a manifesto for the youth – I believe every generation can relate to it. I put on this record when I need a push in my life. It makes me feel powerful and confident. It takes me back to being a suburban teen with dirty converse shoes trying to grasp from the complexities of coming of age. And whenever I’m playing it, I think of this awkward child (that grew up to be an even more awkward adult), her tough years and how she overcame the hardships.

2. Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth
I guess I’m naturally attracted to haunting melodies, thought-provoking lyrics and quirky vocals. This is my favourite Nine Inch Nails album and one of my top records of all time. I remember listening to With Teeth for the first time and being genuinely impressed by the arrangements and how every sound is right where it belongs (pun intended). Also, it’s safe to say that NIN are the most amazing band I’ve seen performing live. The production of everything they do is so detailed-oriented and perfect, and always leaves me in their awe. ‘Right Where It Belongs’ is perhaps my most favourite song in the world. It’s so raw, authentic and honest – a truly inspiring composition. Most of the things I strive to be, I’ve learned courtesy of NIN and With Teeth.

3. Tim Buckley – Goodbye And Hello
When I was around 6 years old, my dad made me a mixtape and included ‘Phantasmagoria in Two’ on it. Boy, didn’t I fall in love? I asked him “who’s Tim Buckley?”, he showed me a picture and I was ready and committed to get married to him. Dad told me that Tim Buckley had died, but that didn’t matter, because he was set out to be my forever crush. An angel for me – a tortured soul, regardless. Goodbye And Hello is too pretty to be man-made. Vulnerability was Buckley’s strength. ‘Pleasant Street’ is a truly moving song about addiction, but there are far too many gems in this album. Buckley wrote from his heart – he never took a vocal lesson or cared for chords and song structures. To me, he’s one of the greatest artists to have ever walked on earth.

4. Anne Clark – Joined Up Writing/The Sitting Room
POETRY! Anne Clark, the ultimate siren – she’s so intense. ‘Our Darkness’ is obviously her most popular song to date, however the whole record is pure beauty. She’s one of the most fascinating artists, I’ve ever come across. I love how committed she’s always been to her artistry. I point that out knowing how tough the industry is with women who are not making what they like to call “mainstream music”. But Anne Clark is a true badass and never shied away from speaking truths on her songs. Beautiful arrangements, leaving room for majestic spoken words that make you shiver.

5. Dionysis Savvopoulos – Vromiko Psomi
‘Zeimpekiko’ is one of the songs that makes me very emotional. My parents played it every time they had their friends over – it brings back memories of their parties at home, the smell of cigarettes and whiskey, the breeze coming in from the open window, the muffled sound of philosophical conversations, music and the sounds of cars passing by. I’ve reconnected with this record while in Berlin – away from home. This record was released two years before the fall of Greece’s military junta. Savvopoulos was jailed twice during that time – the song ‘Dimosthenous Lexis’ is about him in jail thinking how life would be if he got out of jail (apparently, not too bright, because democracy seemed like a dream at the time). In times where fascism slips through even the tightest layers of our societies, it’s important to look back and learn from our recent history. Democracy shouldn’t be taken for granted and neither should artistry and talent that’s bold and brave to address topics
that our societies may not be ready to hear about.

Follow Sarah P. on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: George Geranios

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut