Ebb And Flow: Glows Interviewed

London creative outliers take time out at their new exhibition...

Glows held an exhibition to launch their new mixtape ‘LA, 1620’. It’s where I meet them, in a gallery off Hackney’s London Fields. It’s not the duo’s first rodeo – they’re core members of the influential Slow Dance collective and play in various outfits including Sorry

Wheeling my bike along Martello street, I bump into Marco (aka GG Skips), toting a takeaway coffee and a faraway expression. He lives just over the park. Their studio is nearby too. But from what they will tell me, it doesn’t seem like Glows are home birds. Their music is fizzing with a vitality that’s a byproduct of its creation, like Champagne.

‘LA, 1620’ is layered. Recordings have been traipsed across the city, dissected by the seaside, performed on a hilltop. Each mile leaves a trace. Tracks would leave and enter the computer project file as you would your flat in the summertime, knowing that the best is outside. 

The gallery is set into a Victorian railway arch. Overground trains from Liverpool Street rattle over our heads, treading the northern branch of the Lea Valley Line to Cheshunt. Felix meets us at the door.

Ebb And Flow: Glows Interviewed

So all these images might relate to a certain element in the release? 

Felix: All of the images have been used as some kind of musical reference. Some of them are super mathematical and gridded. You throw like a grid on that, then it can become like sheet music effectively. The cows would be notes…

And the horizon would be the stave?

Exactly. But some of them are more like: well, if we’re making a bass sounds, I want it to sound like that. It’s more like energy or atmosphere.

Say: cavernous, architectural…

Yeah, yeah. I guess the third reference would be places. With this [he indicates a photo of tube escalators, draped with dust cloths in gloomy light]: I snuck into Euston Station in lockdown and thought that would just be an amazing place to play sound in. And if you were to be able to do that, what would be the sound that you’d make for that situation?

It reminds me of that reverb device in Ableton Live, where they record the echo of certain rooms for you to use…

Felix: …the specific acoustics of the space? It’s interesting that you mentioned “architecture” as well, because a lot of the thought process that led me into doing this was through thinking about arranging more visually – spatially, almost. So it is architectural in that way. Especially with DAWS, you’re in the macro, zoomed-out view from the get-go. I don’t think I would have gotten into music if it wasn’t for that.

Ebb And Flow: Glows Interviewed

What’s the supervillain origin story of Glows?

Marco: We met in sixth form, and became friends quickly. Our school had a real focus on people expressing themselves in any kind of way – loads of people in that school ended up having gone on to do stuff. That’s where I met Asha and the others from Sorry, which I then joined.

What school was that?

Both: Marylebone sixth form.

Felix: They really managed to instil a culture of: it’s great to be proactive, interested, and curious in the world. It built up an atmosphere of people being excited to make stuff.

Marco: You’d make a weird demo and put it on SoundCloud, the next day everyone would be like: ah what a tune! Then people would play it at parties, and you’d listen to it on the bus home, and everyone would be sharing materials.

My goal when I was younger was to just make a song. Just one song. And then you feel: wow, I can’t believe you can actually just do that.

When did Glows become a duo?

Felix: For a number of years it was [Marco’s] solo thing, but during that time we’d been working together. The first things we did were art gallery / live music events. And then we ended up getting commissioned to do an installation for the Royal Academy.

Marco: They didn’t like it in the end! It needed to be more “cosmic”… Still, we’ve got a lot of love for them, and we still work with them.

Felix: The process that went into this mixtape is really the same thing that we did for the installation – which is building an archive of samples. Marco built a library of samples from different soundscapes and library music. And I did the same thing on the visual side. 

So maybe in this mixtape it’s the same thing, but the images inspire the arrangement of it?

Felix: With the samples for the mixtape we treated them in the same way, but now they’re all Marco’s recordings from when Glows was a solo project. For example, a voice note he did on the bus trying to get an idea for a melody down.

Marco: We wanted to capture the original “spill” – say, the first vocal take. It’s just more immediate; it’s what you wanted to do first when you didn’t quite know where it was going to end up.

Ebb And Flow: Glows Interviewed

Is there a blurred boundary between say: fan, friend, collaborator? 

Marco: That’s always been the case. It stemmed from that environment in school. All these artists, like St. Jude, I produced it with him, and he collaborates loads – like people’s housemates will do the mastering, then everyone comes to the show, and someone adds… It’s a social, because that’s the only way we know how to do it.

Felix: The first time we performed together it was in this group that we made called Emu. And that was the ethos of the whole thing, it was a rotating cast of people.

Marco: No rehearsals! 

Felix: It was audio-visual – I was using video as an instrument at that point. 

Marco: We’d be at a show and say: we’re doing this again next week, you want to join? And you’d see who’d turn up. People like Martha Skye Murphy, and Geordie from black midi.

But it was interesting because it’s a way to socialise as well. I always just think that music for me is just about friendship, and having those relationships.

Felix: And also those collaborations are folded in – it doesn’t have to be in a direct way of: are you on the record? It could be the conversation we had at a certain time that informed that thought process, which then led me to do this…

Ebb And Flow: Glows Interviewed

The mixtape feels atmospheric but still “songwriterly”. From the first track where there’s a wash of sound, to when it really kicks in – there’s a lot of play with transients.

Felix: I think we’re super into…

Marco: Ebb and flow.

Felix: Exactly. Stuff expanding, and contracting again.

Marco: It’s a cliche now, but when you’re on the bus or something, and you’ve got all this environment coming around you, that’s what real life is like – that’s the best time to listen to music. So when you’re making the tracks, you don’t want to just be looking at that. You want to feel like you’re moving as well.

A passage through time, rather than a moment in time?

Marco: Yeah – because I mean, all this stuff was made over seven years. And we had to include that. The fact is, that is a kind of growth.

The affable pair let me out through the steel mesh gate, and I head down the road into London Fields. Don’t be fooled by the title of Martin Amis’ novel ‘London Fields’, it’s actually set in Ladbroke Grove. Unlike the work of Glows, the book is about darts and murder. Yet I can’t help but feel the DNA of ‘LA, 1620’, with its intimately personal bedrock liberated through a practice of openness and friendship, is reflected in this passage:

Hand in hand and arm in arm we totter, through communal fantasy and sorrow, through London Fields.

Words + Photography: Bertie Coyle

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