An afternoon with Morningblind

  • Today, we are speaking with European act Morningblind. Can you both give us a little background information about yourself? How did you get into music?

Sandi: I started out as a dancer and actress, first here in Catalunya and then in Britain, in London. I went from dancing to singing after a break. I got fed up with the musical theatre world – it wasn’t the right kind of thing for me, all the endless bullshit and rounds of auditions and the falseness of it all. I’d always sung and loved singing. But in the late 90s I got a nodule on my vocal chords and that’s when I picked up a guitar for the first time. And it went from there, starting with covers and then starting to write my own songs, because doing covers is never enough. And then, the whole process of finding your voice, which when you finally find it, you’ve arrived. You can be yourself, you can defend your own work, it’s authentic, truthful.

Rich: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. And I’ve been into music since forever. I used to see bands all the time in London. The thing then was to see new bands. Playing music was different. I taught myself guitar when I was a teenager, but I never quite got the hang of rhythm and counting. Sandi rekindled my love for it, getting me involved early on in her song writing, and though back then I was the more experienced guitarist, she soon overtook me. I think I love words and communicating my ideas through words. Sandi’s musical skills help me do that better. She’s the rigorous one, the finisher, the polisher, the perfectionist, I’m the overview. I spent a lot of my life working in the theatre too, as a writer, director, technician and critic. That’s how the two of us met. We were both working for Disney in London. We were doing a live pre-show before the opening run of The Lion King film. I was backstage, mostly working on the flying rigs and Sandi was playing Ariel, you know the Little Mermaid, with giant red wig, conch shell bra and a fish tail. She had to “swim” around the stage miming to that song “Part of Your World”, and I was on the team of techies doing the flying, and you know someone had to catch her at the end and get her off stage, because she  was wearing the fish tail. That was my job. Quite an introduction.

  • You have just released an EP, The Spring (link to our review will be here); what was the writing/creative and recording process for the album like?

Sandi: We didn’t set out to write an album. We did it for the challenge. We started writing as a way to learn, to push ourselves creatively. It meant listening to a lot of music. Some of the songs on the EP go back a long way. Apocalypse Later for example, was written early on, and Rich’s lyric goes back further than that. But all the songs have gone through lots of changes, involving trial and error, lots of error! It was mostly a process we carried out in private. We didn’t play our own material live very often. We inspired each other; bringing ideas for lyrics, ideas for riffs and chord progressions, new approaches to the instruments, new music to listen to. It was a period of intense sometimes incredibly buzzy creativity followed by periods of consolidation, frustration and simply doing nothing. I push myself constantly, challenge myself in order to become more aware of my skills as a musician and song-writer. I don’t know how it happens, but something happens, some instinct takes you to a melody, riff or rhythm, and when everything comes together, when all the pieces make the right kind of contact, suddenly something happens, it surprises you. Other days, I’ll sit down and say, “Ok, today, I’m gonna come up with an intro or a bridge for such and such a song.” You can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike.

Rich: Yeah, our creative process is very collaborative, I contribute ideas for arrangements, lyrics, work on Sandi’s lyrics. We kind of grew together during the process. I lean towards the darker side; there’s plenty of the cynic in me, but I’m an optimist at heart too, a cynical optimist – expect the worst but always hope for the best. It’s a weird mixture. I don’t know when it all slotted into place, maybe about 2 years ago, I realised that we were developing a voice and a sound that was distinct. Seemed distinct, while still coming from roots in British, Irish and American folk and rock. In some ways, it was the decision to record that seemed to solidify things, made us really think about why we were doing what we were.

Sandi: In the same way, we didn’t set out to write songs for an album, we didn’t set out to record an EP. We wanted to record a few songs as demos. Our home recording set up is basically nothing. We didn’t have skills in that area.  So, we got in touch with Quico Tretze in the nearest town to the village where I live. He has a compact studio set up and he’s a recording artist himself, so it felt good. The recording process was drawn out (because of other commitments, expense) but got easier as we went on. I have some experience of it, from a band I was in back in London. Quico was very hands off, letting us decide on the sound we wanted, only intervening to tighten things up or push us to clarify things better. So, it started as demos, but Quico, after the first session, started saying, you know, this is better than just a demo. We weren’t sure. But then, coming into the studio one day, I heard this music belting out of the studio speakers. It was the first bars of The Spring. And it sounded great. And I think, maybe at that point I started to think, yeah, maybe this is something more, maybe this has some potential.

  • What’s your favorite track off of the EP (and why?)

Sandi: The Spring, because of the interplay of the guitars. Harmonically, if you hear them out of the context of the melody, they don’t seem to make sense. The melody binds it all together.

Rich: Apocalypse Later, because the combination of melody and lyric is so well meshed. Sandi’s light, floaty motifs with the driving power chords of the second guitar, plus the lyric means a lot to me. Organized religion is the root of pretty much all evil for me. Blind belief, the willingness to sacrifice everyone and everything for religious or magical beliefs, offends and infuriates me.

  • How difficult is the distance between Spain and England in furthering your career (recording music, collaborating)?

Sandi: We both live in Catalunya. So, the issue of distance is not a factor.

  • What does your recording set up look like (what do you use to record, what are your favorite tools)?

Sandi: We don’t home record. For years we didn’t have the money for gear, didn’t have the skills. But also, there’s something about recording a song that sometimes stamps it as done or finished, completed. Our creative process is not like that, there’s a lot of changes and developments, sometimes throwing away the music and beginning again with the same lyric, sometimes throwing away the lyric and re-writing from zero, but more often than not, it’s incremental, changes here, changes there, shifting the structures, developing it further. The songs don’t stay still long enough to bother recording them.

Rich: I always thought we should record more, but the difficulties and restrictions of time and money made it impossible. But I agree with Sandi, setting things in stone too soon is not good. We’ve got songs that are constantly and deliberately evolving, songs where we update the lyrics to keep them contemporary, where we add and remove structural elements. It keeps things alive.

  • Why did you choose Studio 13 for the final recordings?

Sandi: Studio 13 is local, pure geography at first. But now we’ve established a really good working relationship and close rapport with Quico. It’s personal, human, small-scale, but completely professional. We plan to continue that relationship.

Rich: Quico Tretze has been great for us. Very supportive. He’s helped us out in all sorts of areas since the recording too. It was definitely a good choice for us.

  • The Spring has a number of guest performers. Who did what and how did everyone contribute to the overall sound of the release?

Sandi: Actually, The Spring has only one guest artist: Santi Mendez. He’s a talented, local guitarist who brought expertise and helped me see that my idiosyncratic guitar style was legitimate. Other than that, all the guitars are played by me, except when Rich contributes about 20 seconds at the end of Golden Boy!

Rich: I should clarify. I’m a non-performing member of Morningblind. I’m just not good enough or agile enough with my guitar playing to keep up with Sandi. So, during the recording I listened and supported and offered my advice, but I barely played guitar on the EP. I think my 20 seconds is purely symbolic! Sandi’s the performer, the driving force, she fronts it all. It’s a strange situation, maybe, but it doesn’t mean I have no creative input, being a co-writer. It’s just the output that’s all Sandi. I do some of the management, live sound-mixing, look after the website etc.

  • Which artists are the greatest influences for you and your music? Is there a dream lineup of performers that you would like to perform with if given the chance?

Sandi: Jeff Buckley, Villagers (Conor O’Brien), Leonard Cohen, Vic Chesnutt, Radiohead, Howe Gelb, José Gonzalez, The Residents, Adrian Crowley…classical composers too, Bach, Pärt. My dream line-up? Nico Roig, Andrew Bird, M. Ward, I don’t know, too difficult, too many people to admire and work with.

Rich: Very different list to Sandi, though I share her tastes and maybe introduced her to some of those artists. For me, there’s Hawkwind and Bob Calvert as gigantic influences. Neil Young, Phil Ochs, The Blue Aeroplanes, Leonard Cohen. Dream line-up? I haven’t got one.

  • What should listeners expect from your music in the future? How can interested NeuFutur readers locate samples of your music?

Sandi: we have 12 songs lined-up for our first LP. We’re still writing and creating but not at such a fast pace. The music we make is getting more complex and richer both musically and lyrically. The LP will definitely feature more musicians and collaborations. Take a look at the video we made with Nico Roig for an idea of where we’re going and a preview of a couple of songs that will probably be on the LP. If you want to hear our music you can find it on our website, our Facebook page, on Bandcamp, CDBaby, Spotify…

Rich: The album will be sonically richer and fuller. We’re still thinking about it, but it’s not going to be anything too fancy. We want to keep the spirt of simplicity and clean sound that we approached the EP with.

 

  • Which sort of social media website have you had the best successes with? What about these online services are different from the traditional face to face meeting and performances that musicians utilize?

Rich: Times have changed. Publishing, film-making, music have all been profoundly affected by technology. It goes without saying. But I think, as a consumer you don’t see those changes so clearly. It’s when you start to use Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter and all that to promote yourself, to effectively run a business, that you realise how powerful these tools are (the amount of information you can get on who’s looking, how many people you’re reaching and all that – it’s astonishing). But the reality is that very few people are buying new music these days. It’s all streaming and free listens. It’s not piracy that’s killing artists, it’s this idea that somehow we don’t need money to be able to create our work. The thing about selling recorded work is that it can give you the space and freedom to create more, but if you’re gigging the whole time just to keep body and soul together, when’re you ever gonna have the time to sit down and write a song and take it through the creative process we talked about earlier? On the other hand, the potential reach and ability to contact people around the world is incredible. Me, I don’t think there’s any credible replacement for live performance and working face-to-face.

  • What does the rest of 2017 hold for you (what live dates do you have)?

Sandi: 2017 is all about live dates for us. It took us a long time to find the right guitarist to accompany me for live shows. Eventually, we tracked down someone that feels like the perfect fit for us, Victor Nin: stylistically, temperamentally, a great fit. So, we have a number of dates over the summer (small local festivals, mostly solo gigs) and then we have a series of higher profile shows in Barcelona. It’s all about building an audience, getting the music out there, reaching as many people as possible, building performance skills and then maybe next summer we can get a bit further afield – festivals in Europe and the UK…who knows. We don’t have a manager right now, so it’s a lot of work on top of everything else.

  • Thank you so much for your time. Finally, do you have any additional thoughts about life and the universe for our readers?

Sandi: Final thoughts about life the universe and whatnot? Read the lyrics! It’s an incredible privilege to have an opportunity to exteriorize our thoughts about the world, life, our experience, the images in our heads… to be able to transform them into tangible forms, send them out there into the world, have people listen to them, yeah, it’s a privilege. Thanks for talking to us.

Rich: What are my final thoughts? Someone once asked Oliver Stone what it was like being a writer, he said: “Writing is staring at a blank sheet of paper until your forehead bleeds.” That is kind of true, but it isn’t that hard to pick up a pen and write something, make something, sing something, do something, be something. Take your chances and never believe it’s too late – unless you want to be a world class athlete or ballet dancer, and then, yeah, you can definitely miss that boat.

 

 

Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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