Austel on a newfound sense of inner strength and confidence.

Written on 05/29/2020
Julian Von Plato


Marie: Tell me how did you start out as an artist - how and when did it begin?

Austel: I started learning the piano when I was five, and was always involved in choirs, jazz bands and musical theatre productions growing up. When I was around 12, I began writing my own songs, recording them in my home and school studios. 

I moved to London when I was 19 to work on some music with my friend Sam Duckworth (Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly) and started performing and working with other bands, always working on my own music in the background. A couple of years ago, I started experimenting with a darker electro-pop style that I felt was deserving of a new identity, and so Austel was born. 

 

Marie:  Tell me more about the single - the recording process, who produced/engineered it and if they have any other successes?

Austel: I produced Now We're Here with my good friend and musical partner-in-crime Adam Stark at his studio in Peckham, South London. 

I'd already recorded a rough demo of the song, so we built it up from there; developing the structure, adding new arrangements, refining parts. Adam is a brilliant musician and a bit of a music tech wizard (he also works on the MI.MU Gloves with Imogen Heap and for Endlesss). We share a lot of the same influences and we're best buds, so it's a great working relationship. We're in another band together called Munro Fox and I'd highly recommend checking out his other band Rumour Cubes - also great friends of mine. 

Marie:  What is the single inspired by? What is the story behind it?

Austel: Now We're Here is fundamentally a song about waking up to the damage that toxic relationships can cause; harnessing a newfound sense of inner strength and confidence. 

In a broader sense, it comments on how we've managed to isolate and polarise ourselves as a society. In an age where communication devices are practically glued to our hands, most of us feel lonelier than ever. There's a yearning throughout the song for real human connection, rather than the cold, curated digital versions we present to each other. 

 

MARIE:  What is your writing process like?  Is it stream of consciousness type writing or more planned and thought out? Is there an underlining theme in your music?

AUSTEL: My writing process varies from song to song. Often, it starts with a lyric or phrase that I'll write down and then later expand upon. Sometimes, I sit at the piano or with my guitar and a song just arrives all at once. Now We're Here was more of an experiment for me - writing from a bass line and drum loop - so I think it encouraged me to write in a different way. 

There are definitely underlying themes and concepts that run through my music. My first EP Unfold was very much about forming an identity following a total loss of sense of self. The songs that I'm beginning to release from my upcoming second EP are the second chapter to that story - building on themes of mental health, human nature and seeking connection and strength in a turbulent world. 

MARIE:  Where was the new release written?  How does place and time influence you and your writing process?

AUSTEL: I wrote Now We're Here driving home in Devon on Christmas Day a few years ago. I had a bass line idea going round in my head, so as soon I arrived home, I started drafting out some parts on my laptop. I wrote the lyrics back in London - where I was living in an artist warehouse in Tottenham with lots of freedom to write on the walls / work on music throughout the night - and the words just poured out. 

I think environment and circumstance greatly affect my writing. While I love London as a hub of creativity and opportunity, I often find I need space and reflection to write. I'm really lucky to have a calm space at home to work on my music - I usually steal an hour or two every day to write and play. 

MARIE:  Were you listening or watching anything in particular quite a bit during the recording and writing process?

AUSTEL: At the time, I think I was listening to Bon Iver's 22, A Million, Wild Beasts' Boy King, a lot of PJ Harvey and Nils Frahm. I'm also obsessed with the Stranger Things soundtrack - that definitely had some influence on my writing at the time. 

MARIE:  Do you think there is a perfect time and place to listen to the single, does it lend itself to a particular listening experience?

AUSTEL: I like to listen to it when I'm gearing myself up to do something. It makes me feel confident and empowered, so I hope it has that effect on other listeners.

MARIE:  If you could hope that your music inspires someone to do something, what would that be?

AUSTEL: My upcoming single 'Choke' confronts the absolute mess of politics over the last few years, and how corporate greed and political corruption is impacting the climate crisis. It has the line 'are your dreams my dreams?' in the chorus, which is a kind of call to action for people to stand together and fight for what they believe in. 

Generally, though, any time people connect to my music is an achievement for me. Whether it inspires you, gives you a sense of release, makes you feel less alone... it's a beautiful form of contact. 

MARIE:  What or who are your musical influences? Are you hoping to achieve a certain sound or theme on your new release?

AUSTEL: I've always been really inspired by artists and bands like Radiohead, Bon Iver, PJ Harvey, The National, Daughter, James Blake, Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen, Bat For Lashes, Massive Attack... the list goes on and on. 

Lyrically, I tend to delve into the darker side of things. I think a song is most effective when it's raw and real. Sonically, I love experimenting with my voice, creating ethereal soundscapes and blending moody electronica with some neo-classical and alternative indie vibes. It all has to start with a good song, though. 

MARIE: Tell me more about you and your successes as an artist?

AUSTEL: I've had some brilliant experiences as a session musician - performing at Glastonbury with Get Cape, supporting Fleet Foxes as part of Lyla Foy's band, touring the UK with Rumour Cubes, Munro Fox and Stella Martyr. 

Getting my own tracks played on BBC 6 Music was a big tick off the bucket list, and we've performed some brilliant London headline shows. Nothing quite beats a great gig. 

MARIE: What are your hobbies/interests outside of music? Anything else I should know about you?

AUSTEL: I love writing poems, reading and drawing - I find it really relaxing and therapeutic. Walking, swimming, catching a cool exhibition, going to gigs, brunch with friends... all my favourite things. Animal: fox, colour: blue, drink: whiskey and ginger. Think that's all you need to know ;)