Tuesday 31 March 2015

We're Only Here For The Banter - Henry & Fleetwood

Collaborative duos are interesting creatures.  Generally speaking they tend to draw artists from different ends of the musical spectrum together, and Henry & Fleetwood are no different.  Comprising of Gillian Fleetwood, harpist with The State Broadcasters, and Martin John Henry, singer and guitarist with De Rosa, the duo are releasing their debut EP via Olive Grove Records next month.  I caught with the duo to find out more.

Hello! How the devil are you?

Gillian Fleetwood: Very well, thanks.  Hope all is well with you too.

It's the question everyone hates, but could illuminate our readers with a little bit about your music and your influences?

GF: We are from quite different backgrounds, which is part of what we enjoy about the duo.  I cut my teeth on traditional Scottish folk but there's a lot of common ground in that we're both interested in relationships between music and landscape.

Martin Henry: I've always been involved in indie-rock based projects, like my band De Rosa, so I was looking to collaborate with someone of a different background that I could learn from.  I was really fortunate to meet Gill.  The influences on my songwriting aren't always musical.  I like a lot of visual art, mainly photography.  I love the accent and language of Lanarkshire, and the things that the people around me say and do.

How did Henry & Fleetwood come together?

GF: We first met on tour round about 2011 when Martin was promoting The Other Half of Everything.  He came along as touring support for Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel while I was in her band so we'd find ourselves in a bus in Italy or Germany sharing mutual appreciation for loads of the same Scottish bands like The Blue Nile, Cocteau Twins, Michael Marra...  the list goes on and on.  Playing and writing together seemed like a natural next project.

MH: Yeah, the touring experience can be made really special when you form new ties with good people.  That tour was one of the greatest experiences I've had while making music, and mainly for the parts between shows – enjoying food and music with Gill, Agnes and a great Canadian band called Evening Hymns.  It definitely gave our project a solid foundation of friendship and the sheer joy of musical endeavour.

Tell us about your EP On The Forest Floor

GF: Birth, wildness, solitude and partnership are important.  Outdoors, space and playfulness are also themes we return to frequently and I think this helps us rein in and find focus.

MH: I think we've captured a mood, an atmosphere of wilderness or wildness, with ideas of threat and comfort as a part of that.  I think there's a yearning for the natural in there, and an awareness of its violence and beauty.  People who spend time in the most remote parts of Scotland will hopefully recognise this feeling.

What's your song-writing / creative process like?

GF: We are figuring that out as we go along and in part that's why we released the EP as it is.  We wrote that quite largely by email as Martin was living in England for a couple of years and are both really busy with other things, but we were really lucky in getting to go away on a residency last summer where we were given a week to figure out how to work and how best to make this what we want so the new songs are quite different from the EP.  Releasing the first batch as they are is a stepping off point.   We improvise a lot though.  Loads of jams.  It's really fun, but we both have rubbish memories, so we have to record ideas a lot too or we'd happily jam for hours but have nothing concrete at the end of it.

MH: My memory is just awful.  I've forgotten to record entire songs that should have been released on albums I've put out. S o I record everything and I've started keeping notes recently too.  I think this project is the first where I've written in such close partnership throughout the whole process.  With De Rosa, I write on my own and then bring demos to the band for development.  So writing from scratch with Gill is something new and really interesting for me, whether it's jamming around or writing lyrics and parts while drinking copious amounts of tea.  The social aspect of a partnership really helps the creative process - just chatting about music, creativity, what we're interested in doing with the project.

You're playing a launch show on April 11th. What could we expect to see from a live show?

GF: I'll be singing and playing harp, synth, and pedals.  We're trying to keep things sparse.

MH: The live setup is still evolving, with me playing guitar, bass, loop pedals and singing.  I agree that we're both really interested in slowness and texture, creating an atmosphere.  It's a challenge to make these sounds with just two people, but we're having fun figuring it out.  We're still very much in the middle of writing our album with that in mind.  The EP has a full band sound, but we've been trying to interpret that so that we can play versions as a duo.

What else have you got planned for the rest of 2015?

GF: Writing and recording the full album.  We're planning a video for On the Forest Floor  at the moment too.

MH: Yeah definitely promoting the EP then writing and recording our first album as a priority. We're also looking to play in new contexts to new audiences.

What are you listening to at the moment?

GF: The new Grouper album, the new D'Angelo album, loads of Tom Waits, I've just been revisiting Chicken Skin Music Ry Cooder which is amazing...  Ian Carr and Simon Thoumire made a brilliant album last year called He Thinks He's Invisible  which blows my socks off.

MH: I've been listening to Colleen, also Grouper, and Glenn Branca.

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