INTERVIEW: Austel

Devon-born Austel teases her forthcoming EP with the release of haunting single “Anaesthesia”, a work built entirely around swelling harmonies for chords and the gentle pulse of an electrocardiograph for a beat. Within the first three seconds of listening, Austel’s spellbinding voice will have you totally entranced – go on, have a listen!

We were lucky enough to speak with her about “Anaesthesia”, her forthcoming EP and life as a Devon-born, London-based songwriter.

 

// Austel, a pleasure to speak to you! I’m sure this isn’t the first or last time you’ll get this question in your career – how did you choose the name ‘Austel’, and what’s the significance behind the name?

Hey! Lovely to speak to you too.

The name is derived from the Cornish market town of St Austell. I grew up in Devon and spent most summers camping or surfing in Cornwall, so the area holds a lot of fond memories for me. The moniker felt like a nod to my roots whilst adapting it to become something new.

 

// “Anaesthesia” is a beautiful and haunting slow-burner, seemingly stemming from a place of deep contemplation. What inspired the song, and how did the version we hear today come to be?

Thank you! ‘Anaesthesia’ was one of the first songs I wrote as Austel that signified a new direction and sound for my music; exploring my voice as an instrument and introducing more electronic soundscapes.

I’d recently bought some new music gear and was experimenting with vocal loops and effects. The electrocardiograph sound effect on the track immediately conjured up imagery of a sterilised, medical environment. I think this sound bed reached into my subconscious and drew out lyrics about isolation, numbness and disconnection – things I didn’t even realise I was feeling at the time.

I produced the track with Adam Stark (MI.MU gloves, Rumour Cubes) at his studio in Peckham, South London. We started working on music together a couple of years ago and both loved it. The Austel sound is a combination of my classically-trained / indie background with Adam’s experience as a composer and music technologist, and I think ‘Anaesthesia’ translates that pretty well.

 

// You’ve mentioned that your hometown is in Devon. How has growing up in (what’s considered to be) one of the most beautiful places in the UK influenced your sound, if at all?

It’s funny – for most of my childhood, I couldn’t wait to move to London and get away from the sleepy countryside! It’s only now that I realise how lucky I was to grow up in such a beautiful place. I think the stark contrast between humming city life and sparse, striking landscapes like Dartmoor and Cornwall have influenced a lot of my work.

I’m quite a solitary creature and enjoy long, contemplative walks. I feel this is something I’ve brought from Devon to London with me – I try to avoid the tube and public transport as much as possible! I prefer giving myself time to walk to places, take in what I see and give myself space to think.

 

// After having a quick stalk online, I’ve seen plenty of publications describe your songs as ‘beautifully formed’ and Turtle Tempo totally agrees! Are you a prolific songwriter, or do you prefer to take your time with each idea you have?

Thank you! I think I’m a bit of both… I write ALL the time and have hundreds of songs on the go. It’s a therapeutic outlet for me – I rarely think about writing, it’s all very spur of the moment. The production however is a lot more focused, and we enjoy spending time working on the structure and form of the song, and designing the space in which it resides.

 

// If you could write a song with anyone in the world, who would you choose to write with?

Thom Yorke, Nils Frahm or Jon Hopkins.

 

// You cite an eclectic mix of artists as inspirations – James Blake, London Grammar and Bonobo to name but a few. Are there any albums out there that you feel heavily shaped your current sound?

I grew up listening to a lot of singer songwriters, punk bands and indie artists and only really started exploring more electronic artists in my late teens / early twenties.

Thom Yorke’s The Eraser had a big influence on me, as did records like Bon Iver’s Bon Iver, Daughter’s Not To Disappear and Goldfrapp’s Seventh Tree. I’m also a bit obsessed with prominent vocalists like Jeff Buckley, Elizabeth Fraser and Eva Cassidy. Records like PJ Harvey’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, Elliott Smith’s Either / Or and Lykke Li’s I Never Learn tap into my darker, more raw side, too.

 

// What’s coming up over the next year that you’re excited about? We want to see you live!

We’re releasing a debut EP – ‘Unfold’ in July!

‘Unfold’ is made up of five songs that document a period of emotional turmoil and struggle with the search for identity. However, at the heart of the music is a positive message: the renewal of the self and finding solace in being alone. It’s a very special collection of songs for me and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

We’re celebrating the release with a launch show at The Finsbury, North London. Tickets are FREE and available to reserve on Dice FM here. It’s going to be a lot of fun, hope to see you there!

 

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