Necessarily auxiliary Roman numerals aside, The Night VI might immediately feel like a reunion with a once lost acquaintance. That is to say that if you’ve your ear to the ground and your finger glued to the perennially gratifying clack of a MacBook trackpad, you may well already have ambled down the rabbit hole of irresistibly throwback groove the London-centric, if innately multicultural troop promote. And despite their preposterously diverse cultural backgrounds – multitudinous origins of multifarious persuasions we’ll visit a little later – they sound decidedly contemporary and utterly compelling as a direct consequence. Indeed, you’d be hard pushed to hunt down a slab of hunky 2k13 melancholic pop capable of matching Thinking Of You on out-and-out urbanity, and so we ourselves felt compelled to catch up with two of the nocturne-conjuring sextet to have a chat about this and that. Inadvertently, it transpired to be their very first interview which, all things considered, they navigated with professional aplomb.
Overcoming initial technological difficulties – iPhone shortcomings, etc. – we hook up, albeit facelessly, with guitarist Jack Gourlay and lead vocalist Sophie-Rose Harper for a chinwag that’s elementary as it is (hopefully) informative. And, to kick things off in a congratulatory manner, felicitations are doubtless in order. For Thinking Of You is not only a work of resplendent popular refinement, but so too one which was omnipresently eulogised by all the right kinds of voices. Guided by online luminaries toward the right sort of rubescent audience, things have seemingly gone alright thus far.
“Yeah, I think so!” Gourlay concurs quite readily. “This is our first release; the first thing we’ve put out, and I guess your big worry is that someone’s going to rip it to shreds for whatever reason. But as you say, it’s all been really positive and I think to say we’ve been pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Nothing’s ever going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s totally fine. But there has definitely been a really strong response to the song, which has been really great.”
It’s an absolutely, and so too worthily accurate appraisal of all that’s been to date. Better is doubtless yet to come but for the time being, it’s intriguing to see whether they’re reading into every word written of them. It’s of course one thing to read, and quite another to read into. “Personally, I’ve tried to skim-read whatever’s out there without reading into it too much” Jack confirms, continuing: “Because I think it’s quite good to stay true to all that you’re’ wanting to do, as well as your influences. It’s best not to let your opinion on all those elements get too heavily swayed by what other people are saying. Invariably, you start hearing those influences and things that are there already in light of these external comments, but I obviously think it’s good to have your own instinct at the forefront. As far as reviews may be concerned, I think it’s quite easy to get a bit carried away with it all so we prefer to put ourselves in a bit of a bubble – particularly now, as we’re still working away on that same record.”
Though it was that same aforementioned single – Thinking Of You – that prompted not only a deluge of effusive praise, but so too a couple of ubiquitously cited elements and reference points which were duly picked up on – one of which was the French Lycée connection. The London institution became a formative hub for the band, but as can so often be the case I wonder as to whether it’s an affiliation they now wish to swiftly distance themselves from…
“Obviously it would be nice to have other aspects become more prominent with time, and for that link to eventually disappear” Harper affirms keenly. “Though that said, I think it’s really important in terms of where we’ve come from. For the three of us that went to the school, it was where we first me so it’s undoubtedly significant as it allows for people outside of our personal situation to get a better understanding of who we are. And because some of us speak French and others actually are French, that side of things has always been a really huge influence on us. So I actually think that by saying all that, it ties in with the entire aesthetic we’ve carefully cultivated and the French Lycée thing then becomes so much more than merely a school, really.”
And so to the other – the recurrent referencing of a little known multicultural outfit called Fleetwood Mac. It’s an indubitably complimentary parallel, but are they able to so readily identify such a flagrantly banal comparison? It’s none too taxing to envisage something so contrived becoming exceedingly enervating all too quickly, although Jack is never so pessimistic: “I think it’s a bit of a weird one, really: we’ve always felt that if you look at a picture of us playing live, you’ve got girls singing and writing with a boy guitarist; a girl on keyboards; drums, and then bass so there’s a certain inevitability to it. Were we to merely gather in a room, even before we were to start playing, there would be a real similarity there. We would never try to deny the likeness, because it’s therefore inherent. And that part obviously wasn’t intentional – that’s just how we initially came together. Recently people have, needless to say, revisited that same sound and touched upon recreating it to a degree, but I don’t think anyone has really gone for it as yet. And that makes it a really interesting thing to play with, but at the same time there are so many influences in there that it’s nowhere near as pronounced as it could have otherwise become. I really believe we’ve got a much better blend going on.”
Thus the Fleetwood Mac thing merely adds another dimension to an itself highly multifaceted band. Nonetheless strengthening the thread that bonds the two groups, as previously inferred The Night VI have found a home in London having originally descended on the capital from far and wide. And so just as Mick Fleetwood formed his troop right here in the southern heart of England from transatlantic components – namely Californian guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and of course Arizona vocalist Stevie Nicks – members of this highly precocious ensemble hail from anywhere and indeed everywhere from Birmingham to Bogotá, Colombia. Collectively worldly therefore, if never world-weary, their retrospective chansons have thus far proven themselves to be resolutely world-class with their newly released Still Thinking Of You EP teeming with sophisticated pop shimmer and urbane gleam. But what of the impact of these differing points of origin on their collective sonic identity?
“In a lot of ways, there are so many influences – particularly from Anna [Pesquidous, harpist]‘s side – that go way beyond the musical aspect of the band” Harper insists. “Because she is so instrumental in a lot more of our visual elements and having spent a substantial part of her upbringing in Colombia, she naturally has a very different outlook to us in certain respects. She’s very well educated in things that none of us are and in that sense, it really helps to have that alternative perspective in there somewhere. But musically, I think we’re all able to appreciate our every differing taste. I mean some of us are a bit more up on new music than others, but I’m not sure that’s down to us having been brought up in different places and in any case, the music that we all love has reached us in some way wherever we’ve been. So it all ties in pretty nicely.”
It’s an ethos Gourlay too buys into: “I think if anything, if you’ve got a group that is quite multicultural and thereby quite diverse and accepting by its very nature, then that’ll be reflected in the music and our appreciating of a greater musical diversity. We’re not like a punk band who only listen to a small circle of bands that are allowed, with everything else considered to be rubbish. It’s very open and eclectic in that sense – anything goes. So some people are into jazz; others into super cheesy contemporary pop, and everything in-between. It’s all very OK, and I think we’re quite modern and liberal in that sense.” Though as can so often be the case with so many London-based bands, nagging away at the back of every mind is that insistent voice forever quizzing as to how The Night VI might fit into the largely nocturnal musical culture of as artistically vibrant a metropolis as London. Harper counters: “We all grew up in London, and were always in and around bands. We were all going to the same gigs so were seeing the same things, and I think we’ve always been very much aware of what does and doesn’t work here. So there is that niggling thing instructing that we keep an ear on whatever’s going on at any one time but by living in London, there really is no getting away from all that anyway. Which really compels you to continually consider where you fit into it all though that said, if you’re trying to follow trend, then you’ll be changing all the time what with things morphing on an almost weekly basis. So we’ve had to block that out a little bit.”
And so without meaning to compartmentalise nor pigeonhole, we turn our attentions to the contemporary and to the pop epithet with which The Night VI have frequently been labelled. From an external perspective, theirs is a pop aesthetic that is markedly, and so too remarkably different to a lot of the almost excessively rhythmic popular fare of the present day. The six-piece seem instead to derive their most prominent of inspirations from epochs likely inhabited by their parents – a time when genre boundaries were less significant, if perhaps even more clinically defined. But mainstream music is, without question, in a far from clean bill of health contemporarily speaking, finding itself instead in something of a transitional lull maybe approaching meltdown. The same can of course be said of their now native London, where few would want to be branded with the iTunes-applicable iron that reads ‘POP’. But how do they perceive the perception?
“The weird irony is that when we started doing this three years ago or so, our style really wasn’t in vogue” Gourlay confides. “And that’s easy for us to say now, but it really wasn’t. So we’ve potentially been a bit fortunate to have had the likes of Lana [Del Rey] and HAIM really come into their own recently. ‘Song bands’ have certainly dipped back into a more mainstream consciousness but before, while we were putting our early demos together, people would frequently question what the fuck we were doing. That was only a few years ago, and the scene was then a lot cooler; so much edgier. So we were working off on something of a tangent, but we stuck with it as it was what we did and what came naturally. It’s just lucky that it’s come back in now.” Serendipitous in the extreme although to subjectively postulate on the evidence of the EP aforesaid, The Night VI may yet experience a more lustrous dawning than even the likes of Lana, Alana, Danielle and Este. “Fate’s taken good care of us” Gourlay proceeds. “We were listening to Fleetwood Mac and Lissie, and they were then viewed as guilty pleasures, really. But yeah, we just did what we liked, and liked what we did without thinking twice. So the irony of this game is that if you now decided to copy what we’re doing, then by the time you’d executed it, it would’ve already gone out again. It’d take you three years to get to that stage, by which time it’d be too little too late. So I think that’s another incentive to just do whatever it is that you want to do, and hope that if it’s timeless it’ll come through.”
It may be an attitude to heap an added pressure on the band, given such a conscious approach to the eschewing of obeying trend and their awareness of how flippantly these can come and go – not least in London of all places. Though staunch to the last, Harper corroborates: “I think that if you write good songs, then the rest will all fall into place – I really believe that. The only way for us to keep going is to focus on that and nothing else, ’cause if we concentrate on all that other stuff then we’re in danger of clouding ourselves out with negative thoughts. So if Jack and I keep writing great songs, then they will see the light of day. We can’t change with the times – it shouldn’t work like that. So as long as what we’re doing is good, the rest will follow.”
Destined to bathe in the warm light of day, critical acclaim and all else sooner rather than later, you’re best advised to make a date with The Night VI posthaste. For even in Still Thinking Of You they’ve an unblemished recording never clouded by even the slightest confusion…