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Music |

Interview: Sarah Williams White

Tuesday 25 September 2012

From humble beginnings working at her local bakery, south London crunch-pop cutie, Sarah Williams White is set to rip up the live scene and shake up your idea of pop music. Spindle caught up with Sarah Williams White on the cusp of EP release, which, as luck would have it, is available today!

Your Silence Is Killing Me is your latest EP: what can we expect to hear?

Four bittersweet tracks about confused relationships with people, myself and music as my other boyfriend. I finished off producing the tracks earlier this summer and got really into layering harmony and keyboard parts, more so than my last singles. You’ll hear plenty of vocal FX, and wobbly synth basses, including some of my wobbly bass guitar skills, as well as Timmy Rickard who recorded all the beats and mixed the EP at Monosole Music: one of London’s best kept secrets.

The single Your Silence Is Killing Me is dissonant and chunky at the beginning then opens right up by the chorus; it’s unexpected as it unravels, it’s beautiful. Will that flow be reflected throughout the EP?

Why thank you. I definitely see choruses as the biggest part of a song, so it feels natural to open them up a little, yeah. Always and Music Man flow out of their verses with a different kind of repetitive and rhythmic openness but grow into a similar energy to Your Silence as the songs go on, yeah.

Regarding your ‘big break’, you said, “I haven’t received it until I can quit my bakery cafe job ’round the corner.” How far away do you envisage your big break and what will that mean for you?

Right now I’d love someone to lend me money to make an album so I could put all of my energy into it without interruptions; I’d like to get some more musicians involved, get some badass engineers on the job, make it a big project like an album should be! And then fund a tour of it. That’s my dream of a ‘break’ at the moment. Or a collaboration with Jamie Lidell might also do the trick.

Why do you think you’re so often compared to Florence and Lily Allen? Personally I can’t see the link, you’re all vastly different.

Yeah, I think the Lily Allen reference has always just been because I chose to use my British accent over a fake American one too and maybe Florence because she’s a bit different and trying out her own thing? I dunno really. I guess comparing people is the quickest way to try categorise things when there’s no obvious genre to put you in. People are familiar with Florence and Lily so, because I’m a solo female artist, I get boxed with them too. Us humans do tend to be afraid of the unfamiliar.

You’ve already collaborated with Andy Spence, and Timmy Rickard among others, who would be on your wish list to work with at the moment?

Well my big brother, producer Paul White, has been on my wish list for a long time now as he’s always been a massive inspiration to me. And we are actually finally getting our shit together, which is massively exciting. And for other collaborations, how high can I aim? As I mentioned before, Jamie Lidell- yes please. The Roots- yes please. A big dream is to make an album with Russell Elevado and Bob Power- yes please. Or writing with some more British acts like Jamie Woon, Ghostpoet, Matthew Herbert, Ty, Fink, Omar, would all be amazing.

I found a photo of you sitting on the floor surrounded by effects pedals, cables and plug-ins, looks like much fun! Do you find yourself more drawn to analogue production or do you prefer to layer it all up digitally? Why?

 I would love to use all analogue if I could afford it. Personally I find it a much more natural and rewarding process than doing everything ‘in the box’. Sampling vocals, layering and looping things up as you go, and playing along just means my ideas are free to flow uninterrupted by clicking somewhere on a grid or cutting and pasting. There are definitely huge benefits to using a computer but I do love not having to look at a monitor or laptop to record and create music sometimes.

You said in the past that If I Smile At You was written about smiling at randoms on public transport to see what they’d do. What’s the strangest thing someone has done? Did it inspire this line: “Can I rub off on you? Yeah I would like to”?

I think the strangest thing is actually the feeling when someone smiles back. It’s uncomfortable for a second, like oh I’ve actually connected with this person, they can see me. It’s easier to be invisible on the train and just get where you’re going.

Hype has been building around you and your music, with supporters like XFM, Huw Stephens and John Kennedy just to name a few, how do you deal with the expectations placed on you?

I try my best to block those feelings out as much as possible worrying about what other people think. I did enough of that at school and growing up! I just hope things keep moving upwards and more people get to appreciate what I’m doing.

I’ve read that you’re practically gagging to get out and tour; what can the audience expect to experience at one of your shows?

 Just me singing my heart out and my wonderful band. I love the guys I’m working with at the moment, they’re all crazy talented. There’s Timmy Rickard on kit, Donna Thompson on backing vocals, Benjamin Burrell on keys, and John Atterbury on guitars. We had a great time playing BBC introducing at Reading & Leeds just recently too.


Tell me about your artwork and creative vision behind your album covers and videos; are you hands-on with the design and look of your work?

Yeah very much so. I’ve done all the artwork so far and website stuff. I can’t take credit for ‘Hide The Cracks’ video idea though, although I still helped to develop it. ‘If I Smile At You’ visuals I created myself in the middle of some sunny Spanish mountains with my iPhone, a laptop and a projector. I liked the idea of keeping it simple and hypnotic like the song. And the latest ‘Your Silence Is Killing Me’ video was influenced by my other artwork but I wanted to spread it’s wings a little further. So I got Gabriel Henrique Gonzalez and a small team of people involved to film something simple but a little fresher. For the EP artwork I’d had this image in my head of a dead me with black-crossed-out eyes and earplugs, kind of influenced by manga and comic book styles. So we used this character, a more queen like in-control version of me, and a ‘normal’ me to tell the song’s story. The “is it over” line also really grabbed Gabriel so we created this clock-like movement around the screen as time ticks away.

What have you got coming up?

So the EP is available for download on iTunes and the rest from 24th September, but the limited edition 7″ is available now with an exclusive b-side by my brother Paul White! This is only available at monosolemusic.bandcamp.com. I’m performing a stripped back set of some songs off the EP with Timmy on 30th Sept at Shoreditch Boxpark. Then I’m off performing and playing with Dan Le Sac on his UK tour throughout October, I’ll be doing solo support on most nights too.  There’re also a few more collaborations I’m starting to work on too, so a lot of exciting stuff!

One thing we all should know about Sarah Williams White?

I’m related to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

For more information on Sarah Williams White and her tour dates, check out iamSWW.com

Words: Brent Randall