Indie-pop three-piece Shadowlark today unveil the official video for ‘See Each Other Right’, exclusively on Spindle.
Hailing from Leeds, Shadowlark is composed of Ellen Smith on lead vocals and guitar, Chris Quick on keys, programming, and synths, and James Warrender on drums, and the three combine unusual electronic sounds with often haunting vocals to produce an intricate sound that begs for multiple listens. New single ‘See Each Other Right’ describes the heady period post-breakup where your body is waking up to its newfound freedom, and the video follows a group of friends through a night of alcohol-heavy hedonism.
We caught up with Chris and James from Shadowlark before the video’s release to discuss making their music, and what’s on the cards over the next few months.
Tell us a bit about how you started making music together.
Chris: We’d all sort of known each other for quite a few years and we decided to start a new project working on some material. There is an [urge] to record everything first and not really engage or have to do any live shows – we just sort of experimented trying to make music without having to do Instagrams, Facebooks or websites or any of that sort of thing, just really… ‘Cause we’d all done a lot of touring and playing before, in various different bands, but [we] sort of knew when we got together [the] sort of style of music we really wanted to make.
What are your influences as a band? Do you all have the same musical background?
Chris: We all have completely different musical backgrounds, don’t we James?
James: Yeah, well, yeah we do – we kind of have bands that we love that we share but then equally, we kind of all listen to very different stuff. But I think that’s really good for the sake of creating music, too, because you get a lot of different points of view and a lot of different reference points and it all feeds into the, the big pot [Laughs] at the start of the day. And I think, yeah, it helps keep us all on our toes, to kind of introduce one another to different artists. But yeah, we definitely have bands that we all love, like Fleetwood Mac or Bat for Lashes, Radiohead… Yeah, those three we kind of all totally adore.
What’s the story behind your song ‘See Each Other Right’?
Chris: I guess it’s kind of, um… It’s one of those songs that’s come from Ellen’s personal experiences, so I guess a lot of the lyrics are sort of… based on her experiences with a little bit of fiction in there as well. We were just chatting about some of the lyrics before, weren’t we, James? [Laughing] What were we saying?
James: Well, I think it’s just kind of generally about after having been in a long-term relationship, broken up with someone, split with someone, just finding your way after that, and kind of enjoying yourself while doing so. Yeah, other than that it’s kind of relatively open to interpretation. Yeah, I guess it’s sort of about meeting someone in a certain situation when you know it’s not gonna be right for the rest of your life but that you kind of both need each other in that time, you know.
How do you write your songs – where do you start? Do you start with a lyric, or does someone bring in something that they’ve been experimenting with? How does that work?
James: They generally start with relatively well-formed ideas, the basis for a song that works on its own with a little arrangement. And then we all get together and kind of work that into the finished product – you know, relay each bit and just really build it, and figure out what it needs to make it sound the way we feel it should and then trust it’s… yeah, the overall sound we’re trying to go for.
All the songs that we write have to first exist as acoustic guitar and vocals or piano and vocals, so it’s just a basic song, and so much led from the song itself – if the song can’t stand up by itself, then it doesn’t pass that stage, it doesn’t then get turned into a full arrangement. So I do suppose quite a few different bands might start with different keyboard sounds or riffs and stuff, [but] for us it’s all about sound production. We do it in our little studio […] we don’t even start thinking about riffs or extra things until we’ve got the main vocal melody, lyrics, and the initial chord progression down.
All the songs that we write have to first exist as acoustic guitar and vocals or piano and vocals.
You’ve had a great summer for playing live – what’s been the highlight?
[Both start talking at once]
James: … I was gonna say Glastonbury was definitely a highlight.
Chris: Yeah, well that was like our fifth gig […] as Shadowlark, performing live… So yeah, that was pretty damn good. And yeah – it’s always nice to get to go to Glastonbury!
Yeah! So when you’re writing songs, do you think about how they’ll sound live? You say you like to have them worked out as stripped-back as possible but do you think about how they’re gonna play to an audience when you’re writing them or do you try not to think too much about it?
Chris: We try not to think about that too much… [Laughing] which then gives us quite a major task afterwards! But yeah, we just try and get the songs sounding as good as they possibly can in the right way, and whatever that takes at the time we’ll do. The live element is a kind of separate entity.
James: Yes […] because we’re a three-piece as well, when we do the pre-production in our own studio, we’re all swapping around different instruments, [so] to get to the stages of starting to do one of the songs in the live set, me and Ellen sat there going ‘Did you do the piano on this or did I do it?’ Because we’re writing songs so fast, when it comes to actually playing the songs we don’t really even know how we play them, ‘cause we’ll have to go back in the recordings and pull the whole thing apart and then figure out how we can create it as a live thing. So live performance is really approaching it as a different piece of art – we put the recording first.
[Crafting the] live performance is really approaching it as a different piece of art – we put the recording first.
Chris: Yeah, it’s difficult when you’re just sat in front of one instrument to really get the most out of a song. So when we’ve got all the instruments we need in a room […] it means we’ve got less restrictions, we can be a bit more creative with it all.
There’s all sorts of random different sounds we’ve put on the recordings – a lot of the little keyboard sounds started out [when] I dug out a little toy keyboard I had when I was a kid […] and that started off as the basis of sounds of the first song we did, which was ‘Control’. And then from there I sort of hunted down lots of other little toy keyboards, and the majority of all the keyboard sounds are combinations of that as opposed to using your standard plug-ins and software stuff – it’s all basically ‘80s toy keyboards that we’ve used for stuff. And things like the just random sounds – we were using sort of weird objects or using knives and forks and dishwasher cutlery… So when it comes to playing live, we’re thinking we’re probably not gonna tour with, you know, knives and forks [Laughs]. So it comes [down] to how can we approach this in a different manner, and sample a lot of the old little toy keyboards so we can perform it live?
Yeah, that’s so interesting! If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be and why?
Chris: [Laughs] What are we missing? What could we do with?
Don’t ask me!
Chris: Well, we’ve been doing a lot of work with a producer called Dan Austin – I guess he’s our missing fourth member, really, in that respect, who we’ve been doing a lot of the production with. So he did the mixing of ‘Control’ and ‘Do Your Worst’, which were our home productions, and then he sort of come on board and really helped push us in terms of ‘See Each Other Right’. So he did the producing of that track with us, so I guess sort of having an additional person in the studio who’s essentially playing his instrument [which] is the computer in that respect, doing some extra stuff… For me, we’ve sort of found a great collaborator who we’ve been working on at the moment, but I don’t know… Who would you wanna pick?
I mean, I guess there’s all different people – when you’re a high school kid you sort of idolise these different musicians who’d be completely inappropriate to what we’re doing now! [Laughs] […] It’s a very good question. […] I think my favourite artist who I think is a bit of a chameleon is Beck. I think it’d be interesting to work with him, because you never know what he’s going to release next in sound or style or lyrically, so I imagine being in a room with him would be… entertaining. [Laughs] Yeah, you probably wouldn’t have a clue what he was gonna come out with.
James: I’d go for that, that sounds cool. [Laughs]
Last question – what are you most excited about doing in the next year? What are your big plans?
Chris: We’ve got some gigs coming up in the very near future, the next couple of weeks which are going to be really fun! We get to play at SCALA, supporting Betsy on the 30th – we’ve never played there, and Betsy is incredible, so that’s gonna be a lot of fun. And I’m just excited to be going on, to have a ticket to go and see her play, never mind the fact that we’re actually opening the show! [Laughs]
We’ve [also] got a 12-inch vinyl release that’ll be coming out that you’ll be able to pre-order from the 11th December. We’ve had an extended remix done of ‘See Each Other Right’, one of these old-school, twelve-inch mixes that kind of stays true to all the original sounds of the record […] so [we’re] really excited to get that out and for everyone to hear that. I think that comes out on the 24th November? Oh, yeah, it comes out online, doesn’t it – at that point, the 24th, you’ll be able to get it on the vinyl as well. And then… we’re doing some more recording soon, so, get back in the studio and get some tracks down. So yeah – lots of exciting stuff, releases, and then we’ll see where it goes!
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