"Every song has a story within it..."

The continual splintering of British bass music is producing some remarkable offshoots.

But perhaps the most intriguing development is the way that electronic production has re-invigorated the way some groups approach the traditional guitar set up. Take Nedry: the London based trio exist in the slipstream between bass frequencies and post-rock, the space between tradition and innovation.

Second album 'In A Dim Light' is a case in point. At places, Nedry seem to lie still, allowing their music to congeal into something recognisable. As soon as this happens, though, another idea emerges with the music splintering, shattering at the sign of progress.

ClashMusic caught up with the band, sending over some questions for Nedry (Chris Amblin, Matt Parker, Ayu Okakita) to answer in their own time. What we received back is often as enthralling and puzzling as the music itself.

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When did sessions for the album begin?
Chris: Writing and recording this record started properly in January last year and we completed the final mixes in early July. We'd had fits and starts the previous summer, one of the requirements of playing Roskilde festival in 2010 was that we had to play for a minimum of an hour, which was a bit of a 'panic' moment! We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to write more material and we did get a couple of new songs ready for playing live, but they were both very loose and about seven minutes in length each! I think as time went on we got more and more hesitant to commit anything to tape, we really wanted to be able to play the songs live before recording them and therefore spent a lot of time rehearsing. The result was that we burnt ourselves out a bit by the end of 2010, so the sessions started really slowly and we ended up spending the entire month of January just focusing on completing one song (Dusk Till Dawn). But after that things moved much more swiftly, it was a bit like building up our confidence again before taking on the task.

Do you feel that the process of making your debut helped get some mistakes out of the way?
Chris: I'm not sure, we were all making music for years independently before forming Nedry and I think we all can confess to a background of making mistakes and learning lots before coming to this project. I don't know if I would say our new album is an improvement on 'Condors', when we made that album it was an accumulation of our best ideas at the time, made using the best equipment we could get our hands on at the time and I think that's consistent with 'In a Dim Light'. It might sound a bit ridiculous but we didn't approach this album thinking, what mistakes did we make last time that we don't want to repeat, it was more a feeling of how can we use the best of everyone's skills and take things up a step sonically too.

How do you build up material? Do you work from the rhythms up?
Chris: For this record there was really no standard method, which was liberating, but also occasionally frustrating as you didn't really know how or where the song ideas would come from. We were far more collaborative; a song could begin as a piano sketch with a rough vocal from Ayu; a drum pattern; a guitar riff; or even just a bass line. The general rule was to not take an idea too far on your own before sharing it with everyone else. On Condors quite a few of the instrumentals were near finished before Ayu even heard them and this gave her very little room for input other than her vocal. This time as soon as one of us had a riff, rhythm, or set of chords together, we would share it and get the others input. The ideas would get passed around and after a number of weeks we'd have something truly collaborative… at that point, we would ditch it and start over again! There were many, many failed attempts because we hadn't tried this method before, we had to learn how to do it and eventually, we managed to find a way.

How influential was bass music in developing your sound?
Matt: I guess when we first started working together we did so with an agreement that we all really liked deep bass and moody atmospheres. It seemed to me at the time that all of the best dubstep producers were the ones that had this perfect balance of pumping the groove and bass but setting it alongside atmosphere. In particular I’m thinking of the output from Skull Disco and Pinch really. The majority of bass music was very much club orientated when we started out. The important thing for me at the time was that it didn’t really feel that anyone was trying to work on using these vibes to write songs. So I think we set out with a view of trying to use some of the essences of bass music but in writing songs with structures that weren’t your standard DJ friendly format. This isn’t to say that there weren’t loads of really interesting electronic music producers around, there were, and still are. Bass and groove were only ever really meant to be a part of our sound as we wanted to bridge it with more melodic elements from guitars and vocals. When we made Condors, we couldn’t seem to find anything happening to compare it to until maybe King Midas Sound. That’s probably half naivety on our part mind you.

Have your live performances influenced the way you approach writing / recording?
Chris: We love playing live and we've played a lot of shows since we formed in 2008. The majority of gigs we get are in small venues with bands that usually have live drums and stacks of guitar amps and minimal need for the PA. For Nedry, we're compact and our music is dynamic and moody, it requires a decent subwoofer on the PA for a start. We had to learn to step up our game and over time we learned that our more upbeat / beat based songs got the best responses from audiences. We put a lot of energy into the live performance and when we starting writing the new material there was much more of a consideration of making music with stronger rhythms…heavy music, weighty baselines, just something powerful. Ayu throws a lot of emotion into her vocals and we needed something really solid behind it.

Matt: From a technical point of view, we started making music together with the primary intention of playing live. Playing electronic music live is a huge challenge for many ‘bedroom projects’ like ours. I think when we first started writing, we thought a lot about how it would be performed in a live setting, taking Scattered from Condors as a prime example. In working on ‘In a Dim Light’, I guess we had more experience with our performance techniques; we were comfortable and felt they were ‘live’ enough and entertaining enough which made us feel comfortable writing a studio album without these technical issues; confident we would be able to resolve them at a later stage.

‘In A Dim Light’ has a cinematic feel, do you use visual terms when making music? IE comparing sounds to images?
Ayu: Scenery is very important to me. I get a lot of inspiration from films which help me visualise and contextualise my early inspirations. It can then help me create a visual or atmospheric image in the music I write.

Matt: I think I’ve always seen our music as something that would sit really well in a movie scene somewhere but so far the only thing our music has ever been played on was Skins! When writing 'In a Dim Light', I think in particular Ayu would describe our music in a visual or emotive way whereas Chris and I were probably a bit more analytical about the music, looking at it in a more formal sense. There were times that I remember Ayu trying to convey a mood for how a track should progress by gesturing with her hands. If someone was to ‘score’ our music, they would be well served to do so using a mix of standard and graphic notation.

‘Violaceae’ ends with rain; do you consider your music to be organic, reflecting your surroundings? If so, in what way?
Chris: I feel that the music we make definitely does reflect our surroundings, during the making of this album I moved to Bristol for 6 months, Ayu would get the bus or train down from London on the weekends and that was when we'd track the vocals. It was a respite from the intensity of London and I think this relaxed atmosphere inspired us to try new things and allowed Ayu to get in a very emotional headspace. There's a cliché that comes up a lot with electronic music made in London reflecting the loneliness of urban living, so I think being in Bristol gave us the chance to really escape a bit. At least you can see the stars at night! Ayu spoke to Matt and I a lot about the night sky and I can remember occasions of walking home and being stunned by the brightness of the moon! Those things come up in the lyrics too if you listen closely.

How important are lyrics to the band? Is there an overall meaning or do you focus on the sound?
Ayu: I put a lot into writing the lyrics and it is important for me. Unfortunately, not very many people can understand what I'm saying due to my accent! The sound I create with my voice is probably more important, but there is an overall meaning in my lyrics. Every song has a story within it which I could go into but I try to leave it to the listener to unpick meaning from the images and feelings.

How important is the classic idea of ‘an album’ to the band?
Matt: It was very important to us that we created a full length album. Following the release of 'Condors', people occasionally referred to it as an EP which was a bit frustrating for me personally. I’ve got a lot of time for albums. I’m not as interested in listening to individual tracks and playlists. Whilst there is value in ‘singles’ I don’t think you can ever really have an in depth understanding about a band or artist unless you hear a whole body of work.

An album reflects so much more than just what was the mood at one moment in time, it’s a collection of moods that tell a story and I believe that the listener gets taken on a journey. When I think of all my favourite songs, I pretty much think of them in relation to where they sit on an album. 'Time' on 'Dark Side of the Moon' by Pink Floyd, 'How to Disappear Completely' on 'Kid A' by Radiohead, 'Ten-Day Interval' on 'TNT' by Tortoise are all crucial songs that are part of great albums. I guess looking back at what I’ve just said; I pretty much appear to be in love with Prog!

What are your plans now?
Chris: We have a short UK tour lined up that we're really excited about, we're keeping a pretty open mind about the future, we have targets, things we'd like to achieve, the dream is to play on some of the bigger sound systems, venues like the Berghain in Berlin. At moment we're just really enjoying the fact that the album is complete and getting released, it feels like a huge achievement!

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'In A Dim Light' is out now.

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