Interviews

In Conversation with…ETCHES

ETCHES are a band that I would like to call a ‘hidden gem’. Their music provokes a heightened state of sonic bliss, seeped in bristling textures and a mosaic of varied tones and musical harmonies, it’s like a musical awakening listening to ETCHES. Their creativity is boundless and their music is quite simply enviable.

ETCHES new single ‘Ice Cream Dream Machine’ which will be released on 13th October via Club.The.Mammoth, single launch gigs in London and Liverpool will proceed the release.

I caught up with bassist Paul, and guitarist Luke to talk about their new single ‘Ice Cream Dream Machine’, Liverpool, the processing of remixing tracks and much more.

Charlotte, Bitter Sweet Symphonies: Can you give us a few words to describe each of your band mates?

Paul (bass): Elliot is a great drummer and a bit of a masochist – his alternative plan involves writing comedy sketches for the radio, so two really easy career paths there…He’s obviously a glutton for punishment and destined for fame and fortune.

Owen is a quietly droll and very sharp guy – he‘s always messing round with his pedals and amp to make some amazing guitar textures. He’s great at working on new arrangements.

Ross is the front-man, which is a bit of a running joke in the band as the rest of us can happily fade into the background while he has to pout for the camera. He’s very motivated in terms of his music and trying to push us to do something special.

Luke is from Wigan. He’s heavily into vegetarianism, classical guitar and Black Metal.

Can you give us a brief history of how you came together as a band?

Paul: Suffice to say that we have all been involved in music for years, and we met each other through a love of writing and performing.

So as a base for the band, are you finding that Liverpool is a good fit?

Paul: It is a great, vibrant city to be a part of, and it has quite an eclectic scene. There are as many ‘adopted’ scousers as people who have lived here all their lives, and that mix of people all doing creative things makes for a great place to live and to make music.

Your cover of ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ is magnificent. What was your thinking behind the rendition of the song and do you enjoy reworking songs by other artists?

Paul: That song got some amazing feedback from all over. We decided to do a cover because as a band playing original music that is not poppy fluff, we wanted to give people something extra to latch onto in our live show, sort of an introduction to ETCHES. I was initially against covering such a classic, as James Jamerson and Marvin Gaye are untouchable.

We decided to try and do it justice by giving our version its own interpretation rather than a straight cover. I hope that people get that, and enjoy it as a respectful tribute, but it was an extremely difficult process and not one that we will be repeating very often. 

You recently remixed a track for fellow Liverpool based artist, Natalie McCool. When working on a remix for another artist, what’s the process like? How do you approach it?

Luke: I’ve built up a decent library of samples and patches over the years, so when it comes to remixes I can bounce off the vocal stem and quickly materialise ideas as they come, making sketches of different sections then moving them about.

The arrangement jumped around a lot over the two months and I almost abandoned it because I can’t actually mix properly, but Natalie was behind it so I pursued. Definitely more remixes coming from us in the future.

Your band name – Etches, to me signifies something original and organic, like the music you make. What does it mean to you? What’s the story behind the name?

Paul:  Anyone who has been in a band will know that the more people are involved with something like a name choice, the harder it gets to reach any consensus.  The idea of etchings was suggested by our manager, who thought about the idea of creating something new each time we make a song.

It went down well with everyone and one of the artists we work with, Richie Penno, has a certain style that is very scratchy and based around thin black lines, so that sort of helped the name settle.

Is it difficult to replicate the sound you make in the studio when you play live?

Paul: Very. There is a fine line between studio and live performance. We want our records to sound as live and organic as possible, but also appreciate that we’d be restraining ourselves creatively if we didn’t take advantage of the studio to record extra parts. It is the little details that really make a recorded song for me, and some of my favourite albums are ones that slowly reveal deeper levels of detail over repeated listens. 

We try to keep live performance in mind when writing for the studio, but the other side to that is that performance again adds an extra element to the tunes when we’re onstage. We’d rather not use backing tracks to make up for the fact that we can only physically play so much, so we often do different arrangements when planning how to play a new song live. For instance, Ross and Owen have laid down multiple vocal parts on the new single, and we’ve tried to share the most important parts so we all sing them live.

You played at the legendary Cavern Club earlier this year as part of the Sound City festival. How did the show go? What was it like to play that venue?

Paul: The show was amazing, and we had a really great time thanks to Dave Monks from BBC Introducing who was responsible for that event. If you live in Liverpool it is a little disheartening to see The Cavern hosting Beatles open mics and sing-alongs ad nauseum, so it was great to have a show of contemporary Liverpool talent. It is a great venue, and I hope to see more new Liverpool acts getting the chance to play there.

You’re gearing up to release your new single ‘Ice Cream Dream Machine’. Can you tell us a little bit about the track?

Paul: This one is perhaps more labour-intensive than our previous releases, as we have been working more closely with trusted friends and our producer, Al Groves, to try and create the best realisation of what was in our heads.

The process has been a little longer in terms of pre-production, and also shorter in terms of production and mixing, so I think it shows that we’re working together better as a band. I’m really happy with the end result, and I think our efforts in trying to do the song justice have paid off.

Lyrically your songs are quite dark and beguiling. Do you have to be in a specific state of mind when writing your songs?

Paul: Songs come from anywhere, at any time. Quite often there is a line that someone reads, or overhears, that has a certain resonance – that gets built upon and over time, with the input of the rest of the band, it becomes a song.  I think that wherever the initial idea comes from, all of our songs tend towards darker textures because of the collaboration involved.  It is like a distillation of all our influences and personal tastes. 

Can you give us some insight into laying the tracks down in the studio? What’s the process usually like?

Paul: As I said, we like to create records that sound organic and as live as possible.  When you record everything track-by-track, something often gets lost in the process, so we create demos of the whole band playing together as a guide, and then as much as possible recreate that process in the studio.

This time around we did all of the tracks in a very short space of time. It is a really relaxed environment when we’re in there, as we put a lot of effort into writing and rehearsing beforehand so that we are all able to nail our parts. 

Your music has been featured regularly on BBC Radio Merseyside. Knowing that BBC Introducing showcases the best new bands and artists from around your local area and around the UK also, it’s a great way to find new music. Are you regular listeners  to any of the regional BBC Introducing shows and if you are, has it introduced you to any bands or artists that you are now fans of?

Paul: Unsure if they have been featured but Liverpool wise White Blacula are killing it, as well as our friends Spring Offensive and A.p.A.t.T., both of whom you can catch at A Carefully Planned Festival. Also, Introducing were responsible for connecting us with Cavalry, who will be supporting us for the Liverpool single launch at EVAC on 2nd Oct.

If you could choose to have your music soundtrack any film or TV show, which would you choose?

Paul: Jorodowsky’s Dune. That film would have been incredible. (Not the David Lynch one with Sting – that was a bit pants).

Who are the artists that inspire you creatively and who are the artists that you listen to for comfort?

Paul: At the moment I’m listening to a lot of Elliott Smith, which kind of ticks both boxes.  We all come from different musical backgrounds. The funk, Hip Hop and Jazz that Gilles Peterson covers is common ground for all of us, as well as textural guitar bands.

What’s the plan for Etches going into 2015?

Paul: We are already well on the way to getting our EP sorted. We have most of the songs demoed already. Once the shows in support of Ice Cream Dream Machine are done, it’s back to work – more writing, new artwork, video, the whole shebang.

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A special thanks to ETCHES for this interview and for more info on the band, check out the following links below:

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Charlotte Holroyd
A lover of music and cinema. Constantly attending gigs and in search of a great experience.

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