Next Wave #1083: Pale Blue Eyes

In Association With Vero True Social

There’s an age-old theory that to find any form of success in music, you have to succumb to London’s gravitational pull. Yet the origins of Pale Blue Eyes never quite intersect with the metropolis – they’re rooted in the DIY communities around Totnes, and this goes a long way to explain their defiant creativity, and the singular sound of wonderful debut album ‘Souvenirs’.

First, some basic bio. Lucy and Matt Board are married, having met at art school a few years previously. Matt works at Drift – one of the area’s truly vital record shops – and the two started making music together, building their own studio in the process. “There’s lots of creative businesses and creative people living in Totnes, and that stretches from DIY organisations to really cool businesses. Generally quite like-minded people,” Matt asserts. “A lot of creative people gravitate to it, perhaps because of the landscape, or the atmosphere.”

A little of that atmosphere drifts into their music. Chiming synthetic pop matched to a rhythmic chassis lifted from the endless expanse of Neu!, their debut is littered with moments of wit and invention. The sleevenotes state it was crafted at Penquit Mill, the band’s home-cum-studio-space. “It’s a sort of glorified pig shed!” laughs Lucy. “Matt’s mum became poorly, and we made a decision to move back in. And while we did that, we found an old pig shed, which we then extended and turned into a studio, a place to house our equipment.” 

“The album represents a period in our life where we built the studio, and we looked after Matt’s mum while she was poorly. Sadly, she’s passed away now, so we’re having to move out and the studio will move somewhere else when it all settles.”

A period of emotion and release, the creativity surrounding ‘Souvenirs’ became a space for Pale Blue Eyes to vent, and to find some form of catharsis. Initially, the band tried to use an outsider on bass, before Aubrey Simpson came into their lives. “We tried to get a bass player down from London, but they didn’t show,” Matt recalls. “And Aubrey was like, oh I play bass, I’ll give it a go! So we did one, and it worked OK. And within a week, we realised that this was the way the band was meant to be.”

Self-described as “Motown mad” Aubrey extended the band’s sense of groove, and this elastic use of space allows their indie pop to transcend those barriers. “My dad was a drummer and he loved 60s soul – so I grew up listening to James Jamerson’s bass lines. That’s what I heard, so when the others start talking about indie music, I feel a bit embarrassed about getting involved.”

The band’s debut single earned a seven-inch vinyl pressing, with local companies – ranging from a funeral company to a mushroom grower via a brewery – all getting involved on funding. Marc Riley played his copy on 6Music, with Full Time Hobby immediately travelling down to the band’s Totnes pig shed. Out now, ‘Souvenirs’ is a wonderful display of their precocious individuality, one that has impressed their peers – Sea Power were so impressed that they invited the band to come play their Cumbrian festival, Krankenhaus. “They’re the exception,” Matt enthuses. “People say you need to be in London to meet people, and get ahead… but they’ve proved that isn’t true. It’s an education. We really relate to that. It’s such a different way of doing things.”

Sticking to their guns, Pale Blues Eyes are currently on tour with another staunchly independent group. Completing some nationwide shows with Public Service Broadcasting, the band are loving every single show – but there’s a part of them that simply can’t wait to get back to Totnes.

Finishing, Matt reveals Pale Blue Eyes are already looking to their next project. “The next thing now is for the three of us to get in a room and work out how we can combine the multi-track, jigsaw puzzle of the first album with the performance element. It’ll be a combination of both things. We’ve got the bulk of the songs written, it’s just about where we’ll go next.”

Words: Robin Murray
Photo Credit: Sophie Jouvenaar

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