Having spent her teenage years immersed in the local musical legacies of Joy Division and the like, she came of age with a burning love for art, graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University clutching a Fine Art degree in her paws.
Despite the inclemency of the music industry, she unwaveringly set about making the art project of her life: her debut album. “For as long as I can remember I wanted to be an artist, a painter in particular,” says Campbell. “I don’t see making music as being that different from making art; I see sounds, to an extent. Studying art has opened boundaries for me, of different ways of seeing and thinking, of being inventive.”
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An intrinsic love of her home city (the musical boom town of Manchester), led her to eschew offers of recording elsewhere. Instead she determinedly set about building a homemade studio in an abandoned mill, captivated by its shabby semblance. “I like ruinous places; railway arches, crumbling mills, murky canals,” Julie explains. And in four short weeks, ‘Nerve Up’ was complete.
From this sparse, renegade set-up, and with the help of co-producer Guy Fixsen (whose worthy pedigree includes My Bloody Valentine, Breeders and Stereolab), she’s created an album that is charged with taut understatement. Pacing ahead with a brisk backbeat lifted straight from the post-punk movement, her musicianship is crisp and together, Campbell playing everything other than the wonderfully pert drumming herself. At the forefront of the record is her angular, staccato guitar-playing, juxtaposed with ringing harmonics and searching vocals that haunt you; standout track ‘Marble’ dances evocatively in your head long after it may have faded away. At other times whispers of The La’s or early era Verve make themselves heard. But, despite the record being saturated with these worthy influences, it still feels bang up to date and is refreshing and entirely relevant.
Asked of her intentions on the battlefield that is the music industry, Campbell is unmoving, unswayed by fame or fortune: “Much of contemporary music, and the machine around it to me seems vacuous, lacking in magic,” she admits. “There is no Tube or Top Of The Pops, and the act or art of buying records has been corroded by the download market. I’m not against technology as such, but the golden era is lost, for now. I’m just trying to do something that means something; it’s a private motivation, not a business plan.”
As the album ebbs away with the downbeat ‘Fear No More’, its aching cello and solemn guitar fading into silence, you’re likely to find yourself reaching for the repeat button...
Words by Hannah Lanfear
What: Twisted electro-pop
Unique Fact: She played at SXSW in 2006
Get 3 songs: ‘Immaterial’, ‘Intuition’, ‘Early The Haste Comes’
Big Chill Festival 2010
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