Friday 3 July 2020

SKIES - Interview

Our friends SKIES have been one of the busiest bands around during lockdown, performing daily livestreams from their home in Kent, strengthening the bond between the band and their dedicated fanbase. They've released a live album, recorded with full kit in a bedroom, and a series of acoustic songs. Today they release their new single It's Alright and we caught up with Alie for a chat about the craziness of the past few months and their plans for the future.

Hi SKIES!  You’ve got a new single out called It’s Alright.  Could you tell us a little about what it’s about?

The song is about asking the question 'If you could live your life over, what would you do again?'. A lot of people seem to believe in an afterlife of some sort and it got me thinking if you can believe in another life or another world after this one, what about if that one ends? Would or could we go on forever from one world to the next, and could some of us stick together through it all and somehow relive all our most precious moments again? It was a nice thought and I felt like I wanted to write something that summed all that up so It's Alright happened. 

It was initially planned to be released to coincide with your May tour that got cancelled. Like a lot of other acts you chose to delay the release – what was the reason behind that and why does it feel like the right time now?

We were thankful that we were still able to hit pause on the release. As we're an independent band, we had the ability to hold the release without any major consequences. The main reason to hold off was because the song and the music video in particular hit me personally a bit too close to home and we wanted the song to come across in a positive and uplifting way. We hope now that the beginnings of normality are starting to appear, it's a better time.

Could you tell us a little about the video and its star performer?

My Grandmother, 'Nanny', (who is a legend haha!) is 97-years-old and she's lived in this little bungalow across the road for as long as I can remember

The time was coming for her to move out of her bungalow and live with my parents just across the road, in our family home - she actually used to live there - so it's a great place for her to go back to and have a little extra support from my parents. When it came to choosing where to film the music video for the 'It's Alright' release, I had this feeling… 

Every Wednesday I would see Nanny for lunch and I wanted to capture a lunchtime there before she moved out. We’ve never filmed anything like this so I wasn’t sure about it being a music video, but I put the idea to Jericho and he loved it! 

We filmed in April 2019, not long before she moved out. We waited to release this video because ‘Born Yesterday’ was due to come out first. We made plans to release ‘It’s Alright’ in Spring 2020 - but as everyone knows, a lot happened at that time. We delayed the release, partly because this video meant a lot to me anyway, but particularly as it was really hard not being able to see Nanny or my family during the lockdown. 

We wanted to wait until I could see her again, which thankfully we can and had fish and chips for lunch with her last week for the first time since lockdown which was amazing! Even as I write this now, I’m not allowed to hug her yet as part of the current guidelines, to try and keep her safe.

When we filmed the video, it was all about appreciating the things in life we can easily take for granted. It’s about cherishing the things that you would choose to do if you could live your life over again. This video is something I’m always going to treasure. Writing this song has given me the chance to make this video and I hope you enjoy it. 

The line “let’s do it all again” appears prominently in the song – and was the name of the tour that got cancelled. Does that feel like it’s become a motto for the band?

It's been quite strange to see how coincidental album titles appeared at this time, such as The Howl & The Hum's Human Contact, and The Slow Readers Club's The Joy Of The Return... things planned before lockdown have taken on new meaning. We felt the same with the tour title - it was quite strange when we postponed the Let's Do It All Again Tour - we were like, when we rebook it, do we just call it the 'Let's Do It All Again Again' Tour.

We decided to title our compilation CD release that too because it felt like a positive way for us to try and look at things, to look ahead to what we want to do again rather than looking at all the things we can't do. I think it has become a bit of a motto, or even an attitude for us at this time.

You’ve done a huge number of live streams from Jericho’s bedroom with acoustic songs and chat – over seventy in total which became part of your fans’ daily routine and a real crutch in the earlier days of lockdown. Was that the intention or did you think things would have been over in a couple of weeks?

It was a few days before lockdown officially began and there really was something in the air, we just had this feeling that we needed to do something, even if just a few people tuned in, we needed to reach out and also needed to just play some music to help keep our minds off things. 

The week before we had excitedly set out on our first living room gig and we were planning to tour the country doing that and so we were quite disorientated by it all. We felt right away we wanted to play daily livestream shows but had no idea we would end up doing over seventy shows! It has been, and still is an amazing experience - we feel like we have got to know people/fans so much better and it also created an online community between fans too which wasn't something we expected would happen at all but was great to see!

You’ve recorded acoustic versions of all thirteen tracks you’ve released so far and shared them on Bandcamp, which was an innovative way of both releasing new songs.  Where did that idea come from – and has it given you a different insight into your own songs given that the recorded and live versions sound very different?

We really enjoyed stripping it back a bit - I think because what you're hearing acoustically is really the original version of the song. When writing, SKIES songs begin with just my acoustic guitar and vocal. We love playing with drums and synths but really we just love playing and it's been great to appreciate the simplicity that comes with playing acoustically. 

We decided to release each track on a weekly basis as part of an acoustic album as people were really wanting an outlet to support us and we wanted to take some of the recordings from the stream and have them almost as a memory of Living The Stream for us and our fans to look back on. It felt like it would be a marker to point back to what we've all been through together. It just felt right to have that as part of our Bandcamp back catalogue and with the 'pay what you like' feature people were able to get the tracks whether they were struggling financially or not which felt important to us. 

We have noticed that new songs we're writing at the moment sound like they might be more at home on an acoustic but I think we just feel more at home with a stripped back feel at the moment, I think we'll always have a soft spot for massive synths and drums though!  

Instead of touring you performed live shows from Jericho’s bedroom with a full drum kit and live-streamed on yours and the venue’s Facebook and offered tickets to help support the venues. How difficult an operation was that to try and recreate a live gig experience in the bedroom?

We really felt like 'the show must go on'. All over social media were tour posters with 'cancelled' written over the top or statements apologising for cancelling a tour and I just wanted to post something other than that... 

So, we decided to announce that the tour would be happening via livestream instead. In a way we still don't see the tour as being cancelled, we just played it from home. Maybe that was just our way of coping, but the response to the tour was amazing and we sold over hundred optional tickets to split with the venues so it was something we're glad we did. With the logistics, thankfully we're a 2 piece band, and we live together! So we were very lucky in that respect during this situation. We picked up our drum kit from Alie's parents house just before lockdown as we realised things were getting more serious and we wanted the option to play full set up if we could. 

During this time, we've tried our best to see limitations as opportunities and so, instead of a bed being in the way, the bed became a drum riser! Also thankfully, Jericho is really on it with the tech side of things, so he knew what he was doing - I feel really lucky to be in a band with him for a lot of reasons and that's just one of them! He suggested we record each set from the tour and I'm glad he did as I think the recordings turned out really well under the circumstances and was great to be able to release them as a fourteen-track CD to remember the tour by.


You released a CD that contains the thirteen tracks you've released plus new single It’s Alright – and it really captures the essence of SKIES that you get from watching you live and feels like a greatest hits album in the sense it’s very full on from start to finish. Does it feel like this will allow you to draw a line under some of those songs as you write new ones?

I think it's been a great time to really take in what we've put out as a band over the last few years. It's given us a chance to look back at everything and I hope that gives us a better place to then look forward at what's next. We've always wanted to release an album and being able to put these fourteen tracks on a live CD that we're really proud of makes us excited for what we are capable of next - that we are capable of making an album in the future and this was a good test run.

Your next step, as lockdown restrictions are relaxed, is to go out and play in fans’ gardens – exactly how are you going to make that work and how can someone apply for you to come and play?

Yeah, we're now planning a Living The Stream Garden Tour for summer. We're keeping an eye on all the guidelines and want make sure we keep everything safe for our fans and us but we had a test run and it went really well. It's new territory for us and fans and we want it to work well - there's nothing like live music and we want to do whatever we can to bring that back to our fans. You can fill in this form if you're interested.

You’ve played a couple of new songs during these sessions – have they been recorded for release and can we expect to see another EP (or a SKIES album) in the near future with Born Yesterday and It's Alright featured?

We have a lot of new material and it's been great to play some of it acoustically and see how the new songs are received. It's all gone down really well so far... you'll have to wait and see but we have a lot of work ahead of us!

Has lockdown given you inspiration to write more, or have you, like some artists have stated, suffered from writer's block?

There's definitely been some new songs inspired by what's been going on. It would have been harder for me not to write during this time I think. Saying that, we've been so busy with the live streams, social media and creating hand-made merch I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to write but we'll make more time for that soon I'm sure.

You went full-time as musicians. Given everything that’s happening in the ensuing period, is it a decision you regret in any way?

It was literally the week before lockdown that we planned to go on the road and invest in making a living that way as musicians. The past few months have hopefully given us more of a foundation for when that can happen. Funnily enough, the work we had would have dried up anyway because of lockdown so it was nice to have quit by choice and it gave us a clearer head to approach making a living with the band. 

Thankfully we have been able to survive because of the band, because of the support we have received from fans during this time buying merch, livestream tour tickets and tipping us during our streams. We're so grateful for that. It has been a challenging but incredible experience and I think this has eased us in to relying on the band to make a living in a time you'd think the opposite would happen. Who knows what the future holds for the music industry or how musicians and fans will have to adapt to live music, whatever happens, we're excited to get back out there and do it all again...

Let's Do It All Again and Living The Stream is available on their Bandcamp digitally and the former on a limited to 68 CD.

SKIES' official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Even The Stars on Twitter at @eventhestarsuk and like our Facebook page for all the latest updates

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