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'Being free; noodling about. It's organic': In conversation with Gotts Street Park

Epigram speaks to Gotts Street Park about their new album, working with Celeste and playing The Canteen in Bristol.

By Raf Nieto, Third Year, Law

On their latest album, On the Inside, Gotts Street Park saturate soul with a cinematic flair. Just before it came out, Epigram sat down with Joe Harris, the band's guitarist.

EP: Congratulations! On the Inside comes out tomorrow. Is tonight going to be a heavy night?
JH: Ah, no plans. Tom just had this mad eye surgery. I texted him. He says looking at a screen is like having a chilli in his eye.

First, I wanted to talk about the new album. You used to describe your music as 'smackiesoul'? Do you see On the Inside as a refinement of that sound?
See, I really don't like that term. I'm not sure who said it, but I'll go on the record saying ‘f* that term’. [F***] ‘smackie’.
On the older stuff, we tended to go darker. It had a sombre vibe. Whatever comes out still comes out, but we've got a bit of a bounce in our step now.
It's just how life has changed. I'm speaking for myself, but I was in a different place emotionally. I wasn't as happy as I am now. I think maybe we're all a bit happier. What's going on in life affects [the music] in some way. It's hard to quantify how.
But in microcosm, Fuego was written in the studio with a different take to the other tracks. It was very strict. It had to be played in this [particular] way. You can hear that. Then you can hear [other tracks] where we were just laying loose. Just jumping around and being free; noodling about. It's organic.

I wanted to ask you about inspirations. There's definitely soul / 60's Motown there. Are there any inspirations that people don't pick up on?
Initially, the soul influence filtered down from people like RZA and the Wu-Tang clan. RZA's samples, in particular. As well as Madlib and Dilla. So, the soul influence came via hip-hop production. That's not picked up on as much. I give those producers a lot of credit.

On the Inside is a short list of songs you've recorded over the last two years. You explained that you had no intention for a particular sound. How important is taking the pressure off when creating?

It's definitely the way. We like seeing how it goes and trying not to force anything. Just be open to whatever comes up. We're not conceptual with the music. We play whatever comes.

Are those off-cuts going to see daylight?
I don't know. We make lists, lose lists, and return to stuff. We'll have to see what the next project is.

Any hints on what that might look like?
I'd love to collaborate with just one artist on a release. That's high on the list.
Maybe composing soundtracks and film scoring. There's something quite cinematic and atmospheric about our music. So that's also high on the list.

Interesting. What film genre would you score if Gotts Street Park had unlimited freedom?
Nothing like a horror film, nothing violent or even super depressing. Something with a wholesomeness that tugs on the heart.

I want to talk to you about coming together. Were you friends before you started making music together?
Yes, we were in a wider circle of friends, all connected by music. Tom and I were at music college at the time. We ended up living together for quite a few years. We were getting together and making music. Tom started learning about recording techniques they used in 60s Motown.
We'd jam and he'd try to implement them. Straightaway, it had a cool sound. None of us were used to it. [The band] came out of that.

Do you still record like that?
Everything from source onwards is part of our sound. Since Tom mixes, it's all kept in-house. We have complete control of the sound.

You continue not to have a vocalist. Has that been a conscious choice?

It's not been a super-conscious choice. We've just worked with whoever we like collaborating with.It's also about the industry. Everyone's a solo act now. It's a business decision. It's easier to manage acts that are just one person. There's more money that way. It's not something I'm super stoked about.

Of course, that's meant you've worked with some serious vocal talent. Do you write with a certain vocalist in mind?
We write with them, not for them. They're often in the room with us. They influence us by singing on the track and saying, 'I like this and I don't like that'. It's collaborative.
Sometimes we have an idea and think: 'This will sound good for Rosie, or whoever', but we don't target people.

The most famous of those vocalists is Celeste. How did you guys meet?
Tom, the keys player, met her in London. They chatted about recording techniques, and he invited her to jam with us. For a couple of days, we were chilling and writing. We wrote a lot of music that has yet to see the light of day. It was before she gained all that exposure. Her voice was incredible. So was her creativity and her vibe.

You're about to start a tour of gigs. Are you excited?
I've been gigging since I was 14. It's a lot of fun. It's fantastic to explore the music live and to improvise. We don't want to tie it down, to play it the same every time. It keeps the tunes fresh for us.

Of course, you're coming to Bristol on the 14th of November at Dareshack. Have you ever been to Bristol before?
Not a lot, but I have played the Canteen.

Insane! We love the Canteen.
It's great. I've not been to Bristol to chill, but I did have fun at the Canteen. Cool place.

Featured Image: Harvey Pearson / Carry On Press

Gotts Street Park play Bristol's Dareshack, November 14.