Firmly heading up 2015’s Ones to Watch, Snowpoet are the collective that combine spoken word and melody to an improvisational effort indsired by the likes of Bjork and Ólöf Arnalds. With sounds reminiscent of early Laura Marling and chimes of dream folk pop, Snowpoet are creating not just music but uniquely an immersive experience through their marriage of songwriting skills, poetry and haunting chimes, piano and pattering drums. Sound interesting? We caught up with the leading core duo London bassist Chris Hyson and award-winning Irish vocalist Lauren Kinsella.
How would you introduce your sound to our readers that are perhaps just discovering you for the first time?
It’s a tough question, as it could be categorised as many different genres. There’s definitely elements of folk, electronic & jazz, and there is also space for improvisation. I like to call it ‘alternative’ as that seems to be the broadest genre type. The sound we go for is very pure and fluid, and we strive to make a well-balanced sound by giving our attention to the beauty in the subtlety of the instruments (guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, saxophone, percussion and the voice).
Who/what would you say your biggest influences/inspirations have been on creating this individual sound? Especially with the uniqueness of your use of spoken poetry?
Bjork is a big influence of ours, especially her album ‘Vespertine’. We also love Icelandic singer/songwriter Olòf Arnalds – she has a beautiful unique voice and a strong, original and honest way of expressing herself. Artists such as Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell & Nick Drake also influence the music. I’m really into some electronic producers such like Baths, Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Thomas Knak. and classical and jazz musicians like Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans and Ravel. I think our training in jazz and improvisation opened our minds to using spoken word and freely talking over the music.
As a music duo you’ve got a really great bunch of talented musicians and producers supporting you. How did this production come about?
We met whilst studying on the Jazz course at the Royal Academy of Music, aside from Nick (the guitarist) who studied at Guildhall. There’s a rich scene of musicians studying and working now in London. Alex Killpartrick, who co-produced and mixed the EP, has worked with me for a few years on various projects (including the piano EP’s with Kit Downes), and is a very talented sound artist and engineer.
At the end of last year you released debut EP Butterfly. The combination of melody, unique instrumentation and spoken word really produces quite an emotive sound, that’s heard throughout the EP. How did you go about producing these four tracks and what do you want the listener to feel when hearing this for the first time?
We record all together as a band, and we always want that feeling of a performance to come across. Some of the electronic sounds you hear are recorded live, some of them are created afterwards (and we’re not telling which is which). The whole point of the electronic music world is to create sounds which can’t exist anywhere else, it’s what makes it such an enchanting sound to listen to. But to stop the electronic and acoustic sounds ever overlapping and playing with each other takes the fun away. Björk has always managed to work with people from the synth and electronic world who are amazing at this, and it’s probably why her albums are so mysteriously beautiful. We hope this comes across when people listen to the EP.
To actually get the tunes together, we tend to record the bare-bones of the live tracks in a studio (usually as far away from the city as we can get), start to piece things and ideas together while we’re there then go the rest of the way back home. Often it’ll involve several trips between different studios and spaces to overdub various instruments, we did a few different keyboard overdubs at Alex’s and even took some audio off Chris’ phone. Mixing old and new technology also helps, we use computers and tape side by side, both do their thing and it all contributes to the final sound you hear. To be honest, we can’t really pin point one particular approach because it changes for each tune. Some of them came together really quickly, others took some time.
The one aspect which never changes is the live performance – if you can’t play it on your instrument then there’s no human connection, which is kind of the most important part.
What’s next for SnowPoet in 2015?
We have been writing more music and will be bringing out our first album by the end of 2015. We hope to release this digitally, on CD, and limited edition Vinyl. We also have some live performances, and will be adding more throughout the year.
24th January at Two Rivers HQ
5th February at Hackensack, Cardiff
20th February at 93 Feet East, London
26th April at Union Chapel, Islington
Listen to the debut Ep Butterfly from the ambient, alternative folk act, Snowpoet here