YOU cannot say there are that many acclaimed and hot bands…
emanating from Buckinghamshire right now. Maybe you can, mind. That is the thing with music: it produces all sorts of surprises and revelations. Blushes mix male and female vocals around dreamy Pop and scintillating songs. They are captivating and a sensational live act: performing at O2 Academy Islington and The Hawley Arms has solidified their talents and brought their music to new crowds. The single, Skin, has just been released: Private Viewing is the E.P. that follows on 22nd of this month.
The BBC has praised them as have many journalists and outlets. Not only are the band hosting their E.P. launch party on 22nd in Milton Keynes but will be busy in the coming months. I ask about the next few months and what Skin is all about. I was curious to learn more about that band name and what the Buckinghamshire scene, what there is, is like. They talk about their influences and why their sound is unique and hard to define.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! Yeah, we’re all pretty tired, I think: very busy week, Which is good.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
We are a four-piece Dream-Rock band with a large variety of influences from RnB to Post-Rock. We are Brad on vocals and guitar, Tiff on vocals and synth-bass; Sonny on lead guitar and Jacob on percussion.
Spare my cheek, but how did that band name (‘Blushes’) come about? You guys a bit klutzy or is it something less accident-based?
Klutzy in the weirdest way. Back when it was just me (Jacob) and Brad, we found out we both loved MC Devvo (of YouTube); so we’d spend ages just trying to talk in that accent. Of course, we ended up brainstorming names doing this, and we ended up just saying random words. We kept repeating ‘blush’ and its variations; trying to make it sound as creepy and drawn out as possible.
Then it both clicked for us that Blushes would be an alright name.
Skin is the new single and is both immediate and dreamy. What is the story behind the song and what has the reaction been like to it?
That’s very kind, thank you. Brad had the initial idea but that song, like many, has gone through various phases of change: playing it live and practising it, trying out ideas. One thing we liked was the irregular double-build-up structure and how that goes with the physical themes of the track.
The main tom-tom beat is very inspired by a Simon Philips groove from his early Toto days which helped give a solid foundation of the track.
I think it’s more conceptual than our other songs as well which is quite cool. People seem to latch onto that – they’re able to set the scene, as it were.
I believe BBC Introducing have been quick to praise it. That must give you a boost, right?
Getting BBC Introducing’s support is, of course, massive. It’s a privilege for us to be able to have this opportunity and have people actually listening live. We all admire many artists that have had the backing of Introducing – so we’ve been looking forward to it since we got told about it. Huuuuugely grateful. We’re on this Saturday between 8-9pm and people can listen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/threecountiesradio
Private Viewing is your upcoming E.P. (out on 22nd April). What can we expect to find in the E.P., in terms of ideas and subjects explored?
I think all the songs have a kind of narrative to them.
Some of them play out a certain situation and others are from a first-person-perspective but they all have romance and love as their main themes. Some of them are more ambiguous and leave it open to interpretation and others have some strong imagery that lets you paint it in your head as is written.
You’re launching the E.P. (on the same date) in Milton Keynes. Where are you guys playing and how can we come see you/get tickets?
It’s at the Craufurd Arms: a wonderful venue in Wolverton, M.K.
Tickets are £6 from here:
Blushes are based in Buckinghamshire. What is the music scene like in the county? Are there gig opportunities or is London go-to for you?
Buckinghamshire, over the last twenty-thirty years, has had a mixed musical history that has kind of shaped our gig situation. Aylesbury, our closest town, is a shell of its former self in terms of the music scene. There is absolutely no getting around that. It’s sad because it could be amazing – there is no shortage of great bands and skilled individuals who are passionate about it. I definitely think we feel like we’ve exhausted every opportunity from it (apart from playing at the Waterside (haha).
In my eyes, Milton Keynes has kind of taken the seat that Aylesbury has given up: The Craufurd Arms is such a reliably good venue and is the only genuinely decent venue in that area aside from the Bowl. Bands from all around the world are playing there; big Rock names too: Jamie Lenman and Reel Big Fish for example. It’s an incredibly important place to many.
Like a lot of other places around the country, young people playing music from here are going to Brighton as well. That’s kind of Tinseltown for Indie music.
High Wycombe and Amersham have great music programs that are helping to keep it alive for people who really want to play as well.
I think M.K. and London are our main avenues right now, yeah.
Speaking of London, you have played everywhere from Camden Assembly – you’re set to gig at 02 Academy Islington later this year. Do you guys connect with the city and how do the crowds react to your music?
Oh, we are very much still an infant in terms of playing London. It is so challenging for us to muster up a reliable crowd because of the distance factor right now – but when it happens people seem to have a great time so that’s really cool. I think, once more people know our name, it will be easier. Most of our effort is gonna (sic.) be on making these shows as good as possible.
One of your weapons is that mix of male-female vocals. Was that important to promote? Should more bands promote this kind of rare and potential-laden aesthetics?
Man, we are so incredibly lucky to have Tiff. Tiff and Brad definitely have something really unique going on in the way their voices rollercoaster around each other. We never really planned this at all: we just kind of called up Tiff because we knew her from school and that she sings (and my goodness can she sing). There was this cool mix. When we made the band, we just wanted to make a band – more than just me and Brad.
We weren’t thinking at all really about what sound we’d all make. When we got Tiff and George (blessed be his name; our old guitarist) we all thought: ‘okay let’s work with this for now’. But, we had actually stumbled upon something interesting. When we went on to create songs with them it felt very ‘right’.
Were you guys friends from a long time back? Is that how the band got together
Brad, Tiff and I went to school together. Brad and I were best mates by the time we left – doing music class together. Brad knew Tiff far better than me. Tiff was at college when we went on to do sixth-form so we didn’t know each other for a while. Brad called Tiff, and then Tiff called her college-mate, George (one of the most ridiculously skilled people I know. Dude can shred Jazz on guitar and piano is his main instrument).
So, we sort of all struck gold with who we got. Then, George had to go to Brighton of course (that rascal); so from the late Rawset, Sonny Ford caught the guitar as George ran for his train. Sonny is amazing.
He is such a focused guy and knows exactly what he wants from a melody and his guitar sound – and we are also incredibly lucky to have him here playing with us!
The Johnny Marr influence in him is really, really admirable, too.
Who typically comes in with a song idea? Does someone suggest lyrics; another music, for example?
Most of our setlist was born from Brad’s purely acoustic tracks that he wanted to put into a band-setting. So, once there was all of us in a room, we all helped write our parts to go on top of what he was already playing. Bradley made it clear he didn’t want it to be ‘The Bradley Ayres Band’ so we took the songs as far as we could before starting to play them live.
Now, however, it is a much more collaborative process: we all write music and lyrics. It can be stressful trying to creatively compromise sometimes but it is worth it when we’re playing the end product and it feels really magical.
It is hard to compare Blushes’ sound with anyone else but which bands and artists are you guys fans of?
It’s almost impossible really not to base your sound on something or draw influence from someone.
But, we do have quite a range of inspiration which covers everything between Amy Winehouse, The Stone Roses; Tame Impala, Incubus; Toto and Childish Gambino/Donald Glover. Of course, it could go on!
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Hume is a great friend of ours. Incredible jazzy fingerstyle guitarist with a great voice.
I am a big fan of Signals: a Math-Pop band from Brighton and Pinegrove: a band with wonderful poetically relatable lyrics and a great raw sound.
Sonny is really digging this band called The Bulletproof Bomb: lots of Indie elements and lots of Punk elements: lots of energy; really emotive vocals as well.
What advice would you offer songwriters coming through right now?
Anything you feel afraid to try, force yourself to do it – even if it’s really weird or doesn’t really sound like anything.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name any song you like (not one of yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.
Jacob: Thee Oh Sees – Turned Out Light
Sonny: The Smiths – Barbarism Begins at Home
Brad: Frank Ocean – Chanel
Tiff: James Vincent McMorrow – Cavalier