Interview: Ursa Minor (Little Bear)

Ursa Minor (Little Bear), having just recently released their latest EP entitled Shell, gave some of their precious time to answer a few questions in which we discuss the ever inspirational James Murphy, being rubbish at A Level Physics – I failed too – and almost, just almost, embarrassing a friend in public!

We hope you enjoy this interview as much us, information on all things Ursa Minor (Little Bear) & those important links to spend some of your hard earned dollar on their wonderful new EP; simply visit www.ursaminorlittlebear.com.

First things first; I must ask, the name Ursa Minor (Little Bear). Do you have an interest in astronomy?

I’d love to be a science geek, but I’d be lying if I said I was. I leave that to Alex (Morris my co-writer on UM;LB). I took Physics A Level and it didn’t work out so well for me. Mostly because I discovered sex and dance music around that time and at 17 they seemed more pressing than learning about Red Shift. I’ve mentally dedicated my later years to the ascent of knowledge so I don’t feel too bad about that. My fascination with the universe comes more from a philosophical standpoint than scientific which is echoed in the music I guess. Why is life so hard at times and so glorious at others etc…

How was the writing process for material featured on your recently released Shell EP?

Writing Shell was not too dissimilar to an exorcism. I was relieved when the ghosts were gone.

Gabby, your voice is almost other worldly at times. Is it subject to many production techniques in the studio, or is it purely au naturel?

When I first started writing music I tried so hard to cut out the ‘classicalness’ of my voice (I was classically trained from 10-21). I was never happy with how I sounded until I went to go see James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem give a talk. He talked about the ‘Zeitgeist’ that played over and over in his head while he was making music no-one gave a shit about. Then one day he sat down and let the ‘Zeitgeist’ dictate what he created and out came ‘Losing My Edge’ and everyone went berserk over it. I don’t even care how gushy this makes me sound, hearing that changed how I made music.

The second I stopped trying to be someone or something other than myself I felt what I was creating. Alex Morris once said to me that the hardest part of making music was ‘getting people to give a shit’. There are hundreds of thousands of singers and songwriters churning out great music every day in the UK alone. What separates one artist from another…? Literally only that ‘people’, the ‘public’ or whatever care about what one artist is saying over another. My voice is exactly as it is when it comes out of me on my records. Anything else wouldn’t be the truth and that’s what my music is about. Even if my music is only ever liked by a select few (with fantastic taste) at least I was honest.

Your sound is very house driven; how do Alex Morris & yourself put together the material? Would you both say it’s a smooth process?

Working so closely with another person can never be wholly smooth but he’s the most patient person I know & I’m obviously a delight, so it works out.

Your videos/imagery remind me of evenings spent dancing away at The Warehouse Project up north; in that I mean it brings back happy memories. Do you take special care in regards to the overall image you omit & what, if anything, inspires your creative output?

About a month ago I went to see a performance choreographed by this artist called Seke Chimetengwende. The piece was 7 girls dancing but with such freedom and energy, I had never seen anything like it. You could see that every single person in the audience was having a totally different reaction to the person sat next to them. It was completely mental. Some people laughed and others looked really bloody uncomfortable. My overwhelming reaction was I had to get up and dance with them and had my friend not given me a ‘don’t you f-ing dare’ look I might have. I want Ursa Minor to have that same impact. That means some people will hate it and some people will love it and I am ok with that. It’s good that it brings back happy memories for you. Other people have said they cry every time they hear ‘Shell’.

Having recently featured on tracks by other artists such as label mate Mikill Pane, do you find collaborating with other creatives a welcome break from UM, or does it help to stoke the fire even further?

I love working with other artists. I’ve got a track coming out on 5 November with jozif on CrossTown Rebels called ‘The 508′ and I’ve been collaborating with various other names and producers for my next EP. Being appreciated by other artists is quite an amazing feeling, especially when it’s someone whose work you like.

What’s in the diary for the rest of 2012?

We’re playing some dates in London which are on our website www.ursaminorlittlebear.com . You can hear music there too and watch videos.

Finally, I know most of our readers like to keep their ears to the ground but a few gems always manage to slip through. Who have you been listening to recently that you think they’ll really enjoy?

I’ve currently got the Ame remix of ‘Howling’ on repeat. Artist wise, and I am seriously slow on the uptake here, but Frank Ocean is making me smile today.

Words: Gavin Bevan

Photography: Jean-Luc Brouard