IT has been a real ball…
speaking with Will and Zia of jellyskin. The guys talk to me about their new single, Judder, and what its story is. I ask where they are heading now and what new material is coming; if they have tour dates booked and, as they are based in Leeds; I was curious to ask what the scene is like in the North.
The duo reveals new acts to watch and what music they are inspired by; how they spend their time away from music; what sort of music they grew up around – they provide some useful advice for new artists.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Will: Yeah, alright. It was nice to release some new music because we haven’t done that in a long while.
Zia: We’re in our final year at uni, so things are getting a bit stressful - but putting music out always cheers me up!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
Will: I’m Will and I play the guitar and sing a bit and tend to make most of the beats.
Zia: I’m Zia and I sing and play synth.
How did ‘jellyskin’ come to be? Zia and Will. How did you come to work with one another?
Will: We met at uni and started going out, and then decided to make music. I think it’s a bit problematic if you get bands that were first bands and then people start getting involved with each other. We had a life before the band for almost a year before we started jellyskin. I reckon it must be quite weird to start going out with a bandmate; almost like a cousin or something, but y’know, as they say, each to their own...
Zia: When we first got together, Will was in another band and I was making my own stuff, but we were always on the same wavelength in terms of the music we listened to or created. After a while, we thought it’d be fun to start our own band…
Judder is your new single. What is the story behind it?
It was a sketch that Will brought to the table and it was so promising. I helped to flesh it out with some ideas I had and we spent a bit of time honing it, then recorded it with our friend Theo Cookson at his studio. He engineered and co-produced the song, which was a great experience because he’s enormously talented and a really positive creative influence on us.
Will: It was nice having another pair of ears as, before Theo’s input, it was a little more monotonous; he encouraged us to break the song up a bit. I used his steel pan on the song too which was fun.
Zia: In the past, we’ve really enjoyed shooting music videos for our songs so we definitely wanted to release Judder with its own video. I think the visual aspect of the band is really important as it adds that extra bit of depth.
It was great to film in the Hyde Park Picture House as it’s such an iconic place.
Do you feel there will be more material coming later this year?
Definitely - and we can’t wait! We’ve got a couple of songs that are pretty much finished that we’re so excited about - we’ve got the writing bug at the moment.
Will: We’ll hopefully record them soon - and they’ll be out over summer.
Listening to Judder; it seems you have changed courses and stepped away from that dreamy sound. What was the decision behind that?
I suppose we just decided to make music with a bit more bite and we were probably just listening to more abrasive music. I like to think I listen to a wide range of music, but what usually happens is that I kind of oscillate between different types of music.
At the moment, I’m listening to poppy, pure ‘happy’ stuff like Michael Farneti, the Alessi Brothers; Arthur Lyman and Esquivel but, if I remember during Judder, I was exposed to the delights of artists like Kahn, Commodo and Pinch, and revisited stuff like Throbbing Gristle, Sote; Neubaten etc.
Zia: It wasn’t a conscious decision as such, but we definitely resented being categorised as a ‘Shoegaze’ band just because our first couple of releases half-fitted that description. We love trying new things. As lame as it sounds, we don’t want to be pigeon-holed as a certain type of band in one genre. As Will said, Judder was spawned from a period of listening to a certain type of music and that, inevitably, infiltrates your creative mindset.
Leeds is where you are based. What is the music scene like there? Do you think the North gets as much respect as it deserves?!
Will: It’s alright. We’re never sure whether there’s a ‘scene’ there or not and, even if there is; I don’t reckon we’re part of it - we wouldn’t want to be. We just like to do our own thing. Scenes have a tendency to be very cliquey - if they’re based around similarities in sound - so it’s probably best to (just) have a load of people doing different things in the same place, rather than any ‘scene’.
That’s an interesting question. I’d say that it probably does, simply for its long history of producing amazing stuff. It’s like anywhere, really. Everyone’s aware of music that’s come out of Manchester, Sheffield etc. Obviously, London seems a focal point for music and maybe this diverts a little attention away from smaller places like Bristol, Sheffield or Leeds for the ‘average’ music fan who isn’t hell-bent on finding new artists. But, in terms of respect, I think it garners lots of it.
Zia: The North is the best! We don’t feel part of a ‘scene’ but we’re very much aware and mutually supportive where we can be of other local bands, i.e. Hookworms, Team Picture; Girl Sweat etc. who are all fantastic in their own right. The North has that special atmosphere that you can’t quite pinpoint - the creative communities in the North just feel friendlier, more accepting and less ‘cliquey’ and stifling than some of the London scenes, which sometimes come across as unwelcoming or just too broad. But, yeah; as Will said, we don’t want to be lumped in with a group of bands – although, we’re supportive of our fellow strugglers.
Will: Also, with a ‘scene’; you will always be considered alongside and in relation to other bands. What people think of you isn’t hugely important, but it must be a bit disheartening for every comment to mention three other of your contemporaries.
What sort of music did you grow up around? Did you each come into music through different paths?
Pretty classic stuff that has mostly stayed with me like Doves, The La’s (an all-time favourite) and Stone Roses - fairly homogenous stuff, but good nonetheless. I grew up in Bristol so I was also exposed to Massive Attack, Portishead; Tricky - all that good stuff - and they’ve all stayed with me.
It took until I was about fourteen-fifteen to really start immersing myself in music. The main route in was having friends that were all getting into music at the same time, as well as all playing in bands and later on putting on gigs. So, you’re just exposed to more stuff earlier on and get that hunger to play live sooner. Having a good independent record shop (Trading Post in Stroud) was definitely influential too.
Zia: My parents were both active in the '70s/'80s Liverpool Punk scene, so I’ve always been into that stuff - but they have a whopping music collection that I’ve always been surrounded by, e.g. lashings of Dub, '60s Pop; techno, The B-52’s, Patti Smith; Soft Cell etc…just anything and everything really. As I got into my teenage years, I started expanding my knowledge a lot more as well and really delved deeper into the things I was brought up on like The Doors, Nick Cave...
I could honestly go on about my favourite music forever; so I’ll just stop it there.
Are there tour dates approaching? Where can we see you play?
Will: We’ve got a few things in the pipeline that are yet to be announced but follow us on social media to stay up to date.
Zia: Towards the end of May/early-June we’ll be out and about, so keep an eye out!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
Will: We’d love to do some bigger gigs and play new places. We really want to play a festival or two in 2019. That’s the dream.
Zia: My hopes for 2018 are to play to larger audiences, go on tour with a band we love and release some more music that we’re proud of. Glasto 2019 is one of my ultimate goals.
If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would it be and why?
Will: The first Velvet Underground album is unequalled for me. It’s as close to perfection that anyone’s got. Sublime. I think it was the first thing Zi noticed when she first came round my flat, too…
Zia: Yeah. The Velvet Underground & Nico is a special one for us. I think I’m going to go for Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, as it’s just loaded with memories for me; blasting it out of the car on family holidays, meeting Will; parties with friends…it’s the king of compilations. (Assembled in 1972 by Lenny Kaye, who went on to be the lead guitarist for the Patti Smith Group). I just love that it’s a collection of amazing songs by bands that never quite ‘made it’ in the '60s - it’s an important, influential time capsule.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Will: Supporting The Moonlandingz at The Leadmill was amazing. It’s the biggest place we’ve played and it was just a great experience. I also got recognised by Faris from The Horrors after one of their gigs in Leeds. We’d sent our music to them months previously and, for some reason, he remembered my face. They’re one of my all-time favourites, so that was pretty crazy.
Zia: I was so annoyed that I wasn’t with Will for that Faris encounter. Playing The Leadmill was pretty overwhelming (in the best way). But, we recently played a brand-new song at a gig and it went so well that we couldn’t stop grinning on stage - little moments like that are my favourite!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Will: Practically-speaking: just shout about your band/project as much as you can. Send your music to anyone you can: you never know who’s going to listen. Even if someone sees your name in the email or whatever and doesn’t think anything of it, if they chance upon your name again, it’ll ring a bell and they might check you out.
Also, write as much as you can. Have band practice as much as you can. I always remember what (John) Cale said about how he and Lou felt about making music in The Velvets: he said: “The work is more fun than the fun”.
I would also downsize as much as you can; it’ll make you think about arrangements and song structure more, also…life’s too short to be worrying whether the third guitarist will make it to band practice.
Zia: Don’t worry about pleasing everyone. I can be thin-skinned at times but I’m also good at not caring what people think about me or the band. You’ve got to focus on pursuing songs and making decisions that are right for you, before anyone else. You know your band best and if someone gives you advice or makes you an offer that doesn’t sit right, don’t feel guilty about not taking it.
Get some material behind you before you start making social media accounts and booking gigs, too. Write, rehearse; perform and spread your band’s juicy seeds wherever you can.
IN THIS IMAGE: The cover for Warmduscher's album,Whale City/ IMAGE CREDIT: Brian Rose
Zia: Mysteron from Sheffield! They deserve to be huge. They’re one of the most interesting bands out there - think Scott Walker covering The Fall.
IN THIS PHOTO: Mysteron/PHOTO CREDIT: Duncan Sandelind Stafford
Do you both get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Will: I suppose, in time spent outside of the band I like going to gigs, listening to music; partying, complaining - all the usual stuff. In terms of non-musical things, I try to read lots (usually fiction). I like (James) Joyce, (John) Steinbeck and Laurie Lee amongst others. Most of my interests are based on music, though.
Zia: As I mentioned before, we’re snowed under with uni work so it’s a frenzied time but, when we do get time to relax, we might stick on a Disney film with a glass of wine. I also keep a sketchbook, as I find it very relaxing to sketch and paint whilst listening to music. One of my main pastimes, though, is getting trapped in a YouTube vortex - it happens almost nightly.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Will: Seabird by the Alessi Brothers - This is my new musical obsession; there’s something very special about this song. I’m not really sure what it is though. You’ll have to listen to understand
Zia: I Heard Wonders by David Holmes - Also my new musical obsession; an absolutely magical song with not one single note of gloominess. Probably one of the most uplifting songs in the world - and it’s helped me through a really stressful time. With Martin Rev on lead vocals, how could you not love it?! I like to pretend this song soundtracks a jellyskin tour video montage when I listen to it…one day!