Hi Robert! Welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’m good thanks! Well, that’s a total lie actually. Honestly, I’m gradually losing grip on my sanity day-by-day, but I’m pretty sure everyone else is too, so it’s fine.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Must Stop”?
I released “Must Stop” a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve honestly been blown away by the response to it. It’s a pretty simple track, but it speaks really honestly and genuinely about the realities of a flawed relationship. I feel that has really resonated with so many people.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Not one event, no, but a succession of events. I think that is why the lyric of the song has struck such a chord with people – rather than being about one bad relationship, it talks about the embarrassing, spiralling, error-strewn, groundhog-day nature of how dating and being in bad relationships can feel. And if you are someone – as I am – who wears their heart on their sleeve a little, you can stand to get hurt.
How was the recording and writing process? What was it like to work with Sarah Barthel, and how did that relationship develop?
I wrote ‘Must Stop’ about a year ago. In it’s entirety, it took about an hour, it’s one of the simplest songs I’ve written. Lyrically, it felt like filling in a diary entry rather than creating something poetic!
It’s undergone several wholesale changes and cuts and edits in that time. It started as a solo track, but I began to feel that having another vocalist on there would really broaden the story of the lyric.
When I heard that Sarah from Phantogram (who I was a big fan of) had heard and loved the track, I knew straight away that was just going to work perfectly. I received her vocal – which was stunning – and started to completely reproduce the track! Suddenly I felt I had this license to go a little bigger, be a little more heartfelt in the delivery, because Sarah’s vocal could elevate the track in a way that mine struggled to on it’s own. It was a joy to work on.
How much did she get to influence the song?
I think as soon as I heard Sarah’s vocal on the track, I thought of the song completely differently. It was like suddenly I had a route map as to where the song was going, where previously I was being pulled in several different creative directions. The style of Sarah’s delivery instantly just “finished” the song for me in my head. It was a brilliant to feel that clarity.
Do you tend to take a different approach when collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?
It really varies track-to-track, but I’d say that without question, my favourite collaborations are ones like this with Sarah, or with Sander Van Doorn, or with Nile Rodgers on my track “Kill TV”, where we’ve worked almost entirely separately large spells of the process. For me personally, one of the greatest things about collaboration is that you can allow another artist the time and space and trust to handle something that you’ve already invested in. I find Zoom sessions quite difficult in that way, because quick decisions are being made all the time simply in order to finish something. That’s not really how I work. Having time and space to really consider how you’re going to treat another artists’ work is far more artistically rewarding for me. That process relies heavily on trust though!
What role does Scotland play in your music?
It’s hard to judge that personally, I feel. Certainly the isolation that I was accustomed to as a kid discovering music has had a huge impact on how I create and perceive music. It’s something I took completely as normal growing up, and only now do I realise how my surrounds at that time shaped my character and what style of musician I would be. I’ve become very used to travelling (well, ordinarily!), and I really enjoy seeing other cultures and countries, but there is something healing about being home. I’ve lived all over Scotland and it’s such an incredible part of the world. I feel very lucky to have spent so much of my life here.
People have been drawing comparisons to the likes of Modest Mouse and Miike Snow in your music, would you say they influenced your writing?
I love that! I was so late to the party with Miike Snow, but I remember vividly hearing and seeing the video for ‘Genghis Khan’ for the first time a few years ago, and instantly loving it. The only other artist or song I can remember having that same instant impact on me around that time was Future Islands ‘Season (Waiting On You)’.
Does the new single mean we can expect new material – how’s that coming along? Any tentative release date or title in mind? What else is happening in ONR’s world?
One of the few silver-linings of being locked-down and unable to travel is that I’ve been able to properly hunker-down in the studio and work on my record. I’ve got so much new material that I’m working on just now, and I’m also speaking with a few other artists about more collaboration work, both for my own stuff and for other projects, which is really exciting. There’s nothing confirmed as yet, but I’d hope we’d have something out in the new year. If the world is still revolving and we haven’t all gone full Mad Max by then…
Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNeyh_pfd8Q&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=ONR