In The Works: The Invisible

Clash peeks inside the studio, to see what’s coming out in the wash…

Inside The Invisible’s writing and recording space in east London, a roomy unit within The Laundry, successes to date are proudly displayed, prominent amongst them a commemorative disc marking many sales of Jessie Ware’s ‘Devotion’, produced by the band’s Dave Okumu. On a blackboard is an impressive list of collaborations current and future, but the here and now is occupied by music closer to the hearts of these three gentlemen.

In 2012, The Invisible followed their Mercury Prize-nominated eponymous debut of 2009 with ‘Rispah’ (review), a collection exploring more acutely personal themes than its predecessor. Dave lost his mother during the record’s gestation, which had a profound effect on the end product – an affecting collision of spiky electronics, insistent rhythms and soulful introspection.

Then, just ahead of the album’s release, the singer was electrified on stage in Nigeria. Inevitably, this period left an impression on him, one that has informed the writing of the band’s third album.

“I feel, after the Lagos stuff, like the luckiest man alive,” Dave says. “I feel a lot of joy, and relief. After losing my mum, and nearly dying myself, you’re always going to feel differently on the other side of that. There’s a real optimism in this new music – I’m grateful for being alive. I definitely feel this album is about embracing the joy of life.”

And how is that joy manifesting itself? A certain F-word is coming to the fore. “I remember us joking about wanting to find this funk,” says Dave. “It’s interesting to let these artistic objectives come around naturally. I had this moment where I thought back to (first album single) ‘London Girl’. That’s the closest I’ve come to connecting this new material with what we’ve done before.”

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'London Girl', from the album 'The Invisible'

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In addition to the optimism Dave feels in having come through a dark period in his life, two other factors are influencing The Invisible’s new set. Firstly, all three members have been DJing.

Says bassist Tom Herbert: “The enjoyment of DJing, sharing this music with people, and the identity you get from it, that’s exciting. We’re definitely reconnecting with that excitement, and not getting too caught up in details.”

Dave continues: “There’s this big picture thing in DJ sets, and that’s been very liberating in terms of how I’m writing. Being released a little from the detail.” Drummer Leo Taylor mentions how the “cohesive nature” of DJing is something that has bled through into the sessions for album three.

Secondly, Dave spent the start of 2014 in Los Angeles, detaching himself from the working patterns of old and finding himself. “I feel that I recognise myself when I’m writing properly,” he explains. “I get this confidence. And when I’m there, I don’t have to question myself. I walk into myself and I recognise that person, and that feels good. I didn’t know how I’d feel, going to LA, but I really enjoyed how the faders of life came down. I thought about these guys a lot, and about loved ones. That’s been shaping what I’ve been making.”

So it’s no surprise to learn that the new album’s working title is ‘Sun’. “At the moment, that’s what my working folder is called,” says Dave. “I feel that being in the sunshine had a great effect on me. That said, it’ll probably all change and it’ll be a doom record!”

It’s unlikely. After all, these men have earned the right to look on the brighter side of life.

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'Protection', from the album 'Rispah'

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Words: Mike Diver
Photography: Marc Sethi (online)

‘Sun’, assuming it’s called that, is pencilled for release before the end of summer 2014, through Ninja Tune. Song titles, at the time of writing, include ‘So Well’, ‘Venice Beach’ and ‘Save You From Myself’. Find The Invisible online: Facebook / Twitter

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