In Conversation: Flyte

Exploring the London quartet's literate rise...

Flyte have never seemed like the sort of band who would rush things.

Each song feels like something to savour, immediately infectious yet with hidden depths, a love for lush melody coupled with a literate edge.

Slowly, patiently working on new material, the band finally surged forward earlier this year – live shows took on a new intensity, while Australian producer Burke Reid came on board.

Flyte's debut album 'The Loved Ones' arrives on August 25th, and it's worth the wait: a fresh, intelligent voice, one that captures their nascent live energy yet with a crisp studio feel.

Clash catches up with guitarist Will Taylor as the countdown to that debut LP begins…

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You’ve taken a lot of time over this record.

We have taken our time! It’s interesting, though. It felt frustrating at points. Taking your time over the music is always worth it, but sometimes you just want to get out there, and get on with it. We're glad we’ve taken our time over it because we think we’ve made something we can be really proud of.

Do you think the band needed to grow a little?

I think the band – relatively speaking – hasn’t been together all that long. It’s not unusual to take a few years to get to the point where you’re ready to really say what you want to say on that first record. Also the first record is the blueprint for all albums to come. And our hope with this one is that we’ve set out our stall as a band to be taken seriously. Creatively we’ve kept lots of doors open for ourselves. We haven’t limited ourselves from a creative point of view, in any way.

And I think we very clearly and precisely wanted to give ourselves the opportunity to be a band with longevity on this first album. And we were avoiding going for a big pop smash. Avoiding anything like that. We wanted to be creative and interesting, as much as possible, and let each song on the album be its own track, and let each song prop the other one up. I don’t want one song to stand out, I want each song to be its own entity. I want it to be a hit record, rather than have hits on it.

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We were avoiding going for a big pop smash…

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Was there a moment on this record where you felt you’d reached a new level?

I think it was maybe a culmination of some of the early tracks that came about when we were recording the record. A song called ‘Sliding Doors’ and there was ‘Echoes’ and then we did ‘Cathy Come Home’ as well.

They were all shows where we were really experimenting with the chords movements, and twisting melodies as far as we could. On ‘Sliding Doors’ instead of harmonising the main lead melody with the other voices we thought ‘why don’t we emulate the THX opening?’ That descending note. So we thought, what don’t we do that – we can meet in harmony eventually, but start on random notes and bring it together? Just getting a bit more art school about it. Disregarding a lot of the conventional structures and rules of the pop world, and go a lot more into the experimental way of writing a song.

And I think initially we were a bit apprehensive, and wondered about losing people, but I think we suddenly realised the only people we want to please on this record is ourselves. And the minute we started doing that the record became such a joy to make, it was so easy and it’s had the best reactions from people, from our friends and from people who we respect the opinions of. So we went from worrying about what people wanted from us, to worrying about what we would want on our record.

Those songs form the backbone of Flyte’s live set right now, did the live experience play a role on this record?

Absolutely. When we were in the studio we hadn’t taken them out on the road very much, a lot of them were conceived in the studio rather than taking them out and having them sculpted gradually while playing them live. So when we first took them out on the road it was quite nerve-wracking because we were really testing them out on a live audience for the first time, so we thought: God, this had better work out!

We had already recorded it, so if didn’t go down well with people there wasn’t much we could do about it. But thankfully, it was evident people were reacting differently and better than ever as a result of the direction we’d taken for the record.

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We thought: God, this had better work out!

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I think people are always pleasantly surprised by the odd little corners we turned around musically. I think live it’s even more satisfying because you can see us doing it in real time on the instruments. And also, we’ve always avoided using backing tracks, and I think some people want to re-create the recording live, and to do that you need some kind of electronics adding stuff that isn’t played live.

We had completely avoided that, and we were playing around with the tempos and the timing, the feel of stuff, even now, so that’s really helping everything stay as this living, breathing thing…

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Burke Reid came on board as producer – what impact did he have?

He was very supportive of keeping the integrity, and the adventurousness, and the instinctual nature of recording and arranging. That’s what he brought out of us – feeling good, in the moment, and if it isn’t then something has to change. Shift something here, tweak something there. He was never concerned with the outside stuff. So the music industry, or what radio might want to hear, or current trends – he was completely oblivious to that kind of stuff.

Which was helpful because it brought the most creative aspects of it out, and he’s a wild, bearded man who lives in the Bush in Australia, so he’s not concerned with any bullshit. He didn’t come with any extra baggage, so that was quite revelatory.

When you actually got down to recording this did you find that sessions went fairly quickly?

They did. The thing that actually took time was the pre-production rehearsals, because that was where we put all the work in. That’s where all the work went into, so when we came to actually record it, it was very quick. It was more or less completely live, with minimal overdubs. It was all right there, ready to put down on tape. Having just bashed it all out in the rehearsal room.

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It was all about the mourning of a lost time…

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There’s a real literary influence in the lyrics.

I think it’s a real combination of our environment… I grew up with two English teacher parents, so lots of reading, and lots of books lying around all the time. I was a very big fan of Evelyn Waugh, and his novel Brideshead Revisited is where we took the name of the band, actually – Sebastian Flyte. That’s why we called the band that.

It was all about the mourning of a lost time, the golden nostalgic eras that are now in crumbling ruins. I think that was one of the themes of that book. Something that we definitely moved over onto the band, it’s aesthetic, and the tones of the songs. We called the album ‘The Loved Ones’ because there’s another Evelyn Waugh novel called that. And it felt like a nice way to refer to the characters on the album – there’s Annie and Alasdair, and of course ‘Cathy Come Home’. Lots of real life stories being told, lots of characters, and it felt like a good way of tying it all together.

And also, you can mention Morrissey or maybe Ray Davies or even Nick Drake, but I think they were just probably in a similar situation to us, and obviously they were inspired by those writers too, but I think it’s a lovely combination when pop or rock ‘n’ roll or recorded music… lyricism, when it clashes with other things – like art, literature, film. I think that’s always for us the most satisfying aspect of popular culture, when those things clash together. So we were trying to bottle a bit of that.

There’s a definite immediacy to the songwriting, as well.

We’re always very concerned with gravity. We never want it to ramble on, and if we ever want to take risks then we do them in a lean and concise way. That’s something that we all share. PIXIES are a really good example of that, a band that ramble around and take lots of risks but they never take longer than two and a half, three minutes to do it. I think it’s very important to cut straight through to people. Especially on a debut, I think it’s important to be lean and concise and to the point. You want to say it in a sentence, not two sides of A4.

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I think it’s important to be lean and concise and to the point.

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You’ve mentioned that you want this record to become a blueprint for the band, so where do Flyte go from here?

There’s an enormous sense of relief this year, feeling like we’d arrived at our destined path. And now it’s a lovely feeling of there’s this path that we can see clearly cutting through the wild forest that we initially felt was a confusing realm to wander about in. We’ve got this nice clear path to walk down, there’s no shortage of songs – plenty of songs didn’t make the first record. They’re waiting to be made into something, and they’re waiting for a bit more to be finished now. There’s a real sense of relief that now quite quickly – having spent a healthy amount of time on this first one – our plan is to very quickly get onto the second, and hopefully the third. We don’t want to be the sort of band that takes four years in between each album, and bash them out because we’ve laid out our parameters for ourselves, that we know we can exist within.

Sketching out your own universe.

Exactly. The universe is being sketched!

So how will you celebrate the release day?

I think we’re definitely going to raise a tall glass. Other than that, I think we’ll be going around a lot of record stores – we’re doing Rough Trade East, a lot of stores around the country. Hopefully more than one a day! That’s really to connect with people live, give them a performance, but also to connect physically – I really hope people will buy it on vinyl or CD, and get something in their hands. And then it’s touring, across the UK and then Europe, and then hopefully a bit of America.

It’s just the beginning, really. It’s heads down, rather than a sense of ‘oh it’s done, let’s relax’. It’s the opposite – like, let’s get straight on with the next thing. It’s the beginning in many ways. Exactly. It’s essentially just the start, and we have our work cut out – which is incredibly nerve-wracking.

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Flyte's debut album 'The Loved Ones' arrives this Friday (August 25th). Catch the band live:

15 Southampton The Joiners
16 Brighton Patterns
19 London Scala
25 Cambridge Portland Arms
26 Norwich The Waterfront Studio
27 Wolverhampton Newhampton Arts Centre
28 Cardiff Gwdihŵ Café Bar
30 Leicester The Cookie

1 Oxford The Cellar
2 Guildford Boileroom
4 Hull The Polar Bear
5 Leeds Chapel
6 York The Fulford Arms
7 Manchester Neighbourhood Festival
9 Nottingham The Bodega
10 Birmingham Academy 3
11 Liverpool Buyers’ Club
12 Bristol Exchange

For tickets to the latest Flyte shows click HERE.

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